What Kind of Democrats are Obama and Clinton?

Robert Gooding-Williams has an interesting post on the new Gender, Race, and Philosophy blog. He makes a good case that candidate Clinton is a democrat in the old elite style, while candidate Obama is a deliberative democratic. I’d love it if the latter were true. Whether it is so will be seen in practice, by how truly interested he is in cultivating and incorporating reflective public will. I don’t need any persuasion to agree that Hillary Clinton’s style is anything but participatory or deliberative. Recall her 1994 health care initiative: it was crafted behind tightly locked closed doors. No public input or oversight was welcome. Perhaps she thought this would be better somehow, but the results were predictable: the proposals that emerged were roundly dashed and never got off the ground. The same thing had happened in 1988 when AARP met behind closed doors with members of Congress to hammer out a catastrophic health care plan. The bill was enacted shortly before winter recess. Members of Congress returned home to find seniors up in arms over the new bill. It called for sacrifices that those subject to the bill had had no hand in shaping. They hadn’t had the chance to work through (in the Freudian sense, and the sense that Dan Yankelovich discusses) the costs and trade-offs. So when Congress recovened, one of the first things it did was rescind the new law.

Yankelovich once told me in an interview, “Any public policy that is not built on public will is built on sand.” Sand is what met the AARP bill and the HRC proposal. But I doubt that either learned that lesson. Obama seems to know instinctively that politics calls for drawing on public wisdom, not trying to manufacture public support after policy has been crafted.

what a day

What a day, stock market crashing, hordes massing at the Supreme Court lamenting the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, news broadcasts of the democrats dissing each other like children.  Yesterday was supposedly the most depressing day of the year, the day that the bills come home to roost after Christmas spending, a cold Monday. But it was also MLK day, so we’re supposed to still revel in our dreams.   Today, it just doesn’t look good. Maybe today was that bleak day. Cold in the morning, snow at noon turning to water by afternon. Can we still harbor some dreams? Hey, hey, MLK, we sure need you today.

Blacks v. Women

This is the best of times. We have an African American man running for president, with a real chance of winning, and we have a woman running for president, with a real chance herself. And we have more than one white man running with seriously progressive politics.

And this is the worst of times: we have to choose.

I’m saddened by the vitriol coming out in all corners — from the front pages of major newspapers to the listservs of feminist philosophical societies — pitting women against men, white women against black men, black men against white women. My kids are thrilled to pieces; they just wish, like many of us, that there was a black woman running for president.

Oh, we did have one of those — where’s Angela Davis when you need her? Angela Davis could give us the black creds of Obama, the feminist creds of Hilary, the progressive creds of Edwards and even Kucinich. But Angela Davis wouldn’t be a viable candidate for president now, for all these reasons.

This is the best of times and the worst of times. We have to choose. But let’s not choose on the basis of race, gender, or ideology, but on the basis of which of these progressive people seem to be right for the job — and the run for the job — right now.

Women Friendly Grad Programs

The American Philosophical Association’s Committee on the Status of Women has compiled a document of “women-friendly” graduate programs.  Here’s how to find it.  Go to the committee’s web page and scroll to the bottom. Click on the link for “women and feminist friendly graduate programs.” Here you will get a pdf of the document.  Many thanks to the CSW for their work on this!

David Cooper on Finding the Music Again

David E. Cooper’s recent piece for the Philosopher’s Magazine is a good reminder about the need for work that is integral to one’s life:

It was a bright morning in the summer of 1978, but my mood, as I entered my study to pick up on the previous day’s work, did not match the weather. There, stuck in my sun-lit typewriter, was the latest symbol-packed page of a book I had been writing for some months. The subject was the foundations of modal logic – the logic of notions like necessity and possibility. The work had not been progressing well. I had no natural facility with symbols, found the literature dry and difficult, and so far had come up with nothing especially original to say. But it was not this depressing awareness that the going was hard and the progress slow that triggered the sudden and vivid experience that was soon to follow.

As I sat down in front of the typewriter, gearing myself to the task ahead, my eye wandered to some other objects in my study and in the garden outside the study window – to a clarinet propped up against a music stand, to a shelf full of art books, and to a pair of walking boots at the entrance to a shed. And then it came to me. “Why on earth am I writing this book!? read more here

Perplexing Percentages: Women, Philosophy Faculties, and the Rankings

Last summer Julie Van Camp put up a list of the percentage of women tenured/tenure-track faculty in 98 U.S. doctoral programs. The range is from 50 percent at Penn State and the University of Georgia (brava!) down to six percent at the University of Florida and the University of Texas, five percent at the University of Michigan, and zero percent at the University of Dallas. Dallas has only eight people on the faculty so maybe it is just going through a bad spell. But Florida, Michigan, and Texas have no such excuse. Only one out of 17 faculty at Florida are women, only one out of 22 at Michigan, and an appalling two out of 32 at Texas. Shame, shame, shame. On top of it all, the 90 percent-male evaluators of the Leiter report ranked Michigan 3d and Texas 13th among Ph.D. granting universities, while the five universities with the most women on their faculty don’t even make the list. Surprised?

[Correction: I’ve learned that Julie Van Camp first started tracking the percentage of tenured/tenure track women in Ph.D. granting philosophy programs beginning in 2004 and updates the list a couple of times a year.]

The Deciders and Philosophy Rankings

Many people regularly visit this blog of mine to see what’s being said here about philosophy rankings, namely, the infamous Leiter report. Some say that if a philosophy Ph.D. program isn’t “Leiterrific” — if it doesn’t score well on the Leiter report — then it’s objectively not a terrific program. I beg to differ. The best evidence for objecting to the report’s credibility is the narrowness of the specialties of those who conduct the rankings. The evaluators simply do not represent the profession as a whole and so could hardly speak for what’s best in the profession as a whole. Look here to see the list of evaluators who filled out the reputational rankings for Leiter’s 2006-2008 report. It looks like fully half the rankers specialize in metaphysics and epistemology (M&E). Ninety percent of the rankers are male. And few, if any, work in continental philosophy, pragmatist theory, feminist philosophy, or Africana philosophy. And for the most part, the rankers are from the very same set of schools that are ranked at the top. True, they’re not allowed to pick their own institutions or alma mater, but they certainly pick their kissing cousins. Calling all you philosophers of science out there: does this look like good methodology? Doesn’t it assume what it’s supposedly trying to prove?

The day that deans and provosts stop taking the Leiter report seriously is the day that I’ll stop writing about it.

Not your old APA

I spent some of the final days of 2007 at the American Philosophical Association eastern division meeting in Baltimore.  What a change from years past.  There were some very good sessions, including one on the history of philosophy with attention to difference, featuring Robert Bernasconi, Eduardo Mendietta, and Penny Deutscher.  There were several feminist panels and a very good SPEP presentation by Kelly Oliver with a response by Tina Chanter.  The new eastern division president is Anthony Appiah and the next one will be Seyla Benhabib.  Altogether, it’s possible to discern a shift in the leadership and the program to things that, I think, matter. Moreover, the mood was very different — perhaps because the interviewing took place in a different hotel and because the meeting was in Baltimore. It was simply more laid back.  What a nice change.