Stats on Philosophy Grad Placements

Vindication is sweet. Contrary to earlier reports from a certain corner of the philosophy blogosphere, a good number of pluralist philosophy Ph.D. granting programs excel at getting their students into tenure-track jobs. And they are also exceptionally good places for women to study philosophy.

The database amassed by Carolyn Dicey Jennings and her colleagues (Patrice Cobb, Chelsea Gordon, Bryan Kerster, Angelo Kyrilov, Evette Montes, Sam Spevack, David W. Vinson, and Justin Vlasits) for the 2016 Academic Placement Data and Analysis show that of the roughly 117 programs for which there is data,

  • the pluralist (meaning not overwhelmingly analytic) departments  SIU, Oregon, Villanova, DePaul, Yale, Emory, Northwestern, and Duquesne are in the top quarter for students getting permanent academic positions;
  • also in the top half are Vanderbilt, Fordham, and Stony Brook;
  • of these programs, Vanderbilt, DePaul, Oregon, New Mexico, Emory, and Villanova are in the top half for percentage of women Ph.D.s
  • other solid programs for women and continental philosophers (meaning hovering toward the middle for job placement) include Northwestern and Duquesne

So, while no one goes into a philosophy graduate program for the great job prospects, anyone willing to take the risk of spending at least half a decade on the training is wise to follow her heart. If you want to study Dewey or Heidegger or Kristeva or Deleuze or whomever in a pluralist or continental program, such as any of the above, go for it.

You can see this all for yourself here at this sortable database. Just click at the top of the column your interested in to see how the programs line up.

(Caveat: if I have failed to include a pluralist department in the above categories, please let me know.)

 

Austerity’s Stupidity

When I was a graduate student in public policy, way back in the 80s, the professor who taught development economics told an anecdote about this brilliant plan to put get a North African country in the black by taxing bread. As he correctly explained, that didn’t go well.

So at 24 I already understood how plans to squeeze water from the already dehydrated was simply terrible economics. FDR knew that, and the New Deal that pumped money into the America of the Great Depression was genius, making America great. Full stop.

But since the 1980s the wealthy countries of the global north and west have made it a point to completely ignore this fundamental economic lesson. This hasn’t gone well. Austerity does not work. Worse, it destroys economies. Apparently, even the IMF is slowly coming to acknowledge this.

But mostly the IMF, the World Bank, and other spawns of neoliberalism ignore the science and plunge ahead with further austerity politics.

They blame those who accepted loans offered by predatory banks. They demand that those who are suffering suck it up and pay more. They know that the debt payments go to private bankers, not public coffers. They ignore the obvious need for debt restructuring. Are they stupid? Or just plain heartless, selfish, and evil?

I’m thinking the latter, though if it works better politically, let’s just call them stupid. For more on this, see this conversation between Yanis Varoufakis and Noam Chomsky.

Full transcript of the Yanis Varoufakis | Noam Chomsky NYPL discussion

The full transcript of my discussion with Noam Chomsky at the New York Public Library (26th April 2016) was just sent to me by Kelly Patrick Gerling. I thank him profusely. Here it is, just below the video window

April 26, 2016, LIVE from the New York Public Library, http://www.nypl.org/live, Celeste Bartos Forum

YANIS VAROUFAKIS: Good evening, we don’t have anyone to introduce us, so I’ve been asked to kick off by saying firstly that isn’t this wonderful that we are all here just to subvert the notion that nothing good can come out of the public sector? (laughter) Noam.

NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, the fact that I’m here, barely, actually has a relationship to that comment. I came from Boston, my wife and I came from Boston, it took seven hours, and any society that hasn’t been smashed by neoliberal policies of the kind you describe, it would have taken maybe an hour and a half, two hours. (laughter) There is a train, the pride of the public sector, which I took for the first time in 1950, and it’s about fifteen minutes faster now than it was then, (laughter) when it makes the schedule, which is a chancy situation, so we decided to come by airplane and spent most of the afternoon on the runway.

YANIS VAROUFAKIS: Well, Noam, what shall we talk about?

NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, we can talk about the neoliberal assault on the world’s population in the last generation, which you’ve written so brilliantly about.

Full transcript here.

Public Philosophy, on tap not on top

Over at Daily Nous a conversation is ongoing about public philosophy — who is doing it and what the public might want from it. This seems a good time to link to a document that Sharon Meagher wrote for the Kettering Foundation a few years ago, especially to make the point that the public-philosopher relationship should be something much better than a masses-expert relationship. Community organizers have a nice model, summed up in the slogan that experts should be on tap, not on top. So what drives the relationship would be whatever it is that is of concern to the public in its effort to ameliorate problems. (Okay, that’s my inner Dewey channelling.)

Here’s an excerpt from Meagher’s executive summary:

Philosophy has followed most other academic disciplines in seeking to make both its public voice and public value clearer and more explicit. Arguably philosophy has greater resources to draw on, given the deep civic roots of the discipline. In recent years, the American Philosophical Association formed a committee on public philosophy, following most other U.S. professional disciplinary associations in forming a committee intended to support and develop the public dimensions of the respective discipline. More recently, a group of philosophers founded the Public Philosophy Network (PPN), an association dedicated to the promotion of publicly engaged philosophical research, social action projects, and teaching….

As part of our role in fostering discussion and reflection on public philosophy, we focus on the following three questions:

  • How has the discipline of philosophy experienced a disconnection from public life and narrowing of its public role? How does public philosophy fit into the larger emergence of public forms of scholarship across disciplines?
  • What are the core characteristics of public philosophy? How does public philosophy differ from applied philosophy, scholar-activism, and other more familiar approaches?
  • What does publicly engaged philosophy have to contribute to addressing the public dimensions of complex public issues?

[Meagher proposes] five theses intended to provoke further reflection and discussion….

Thesis 1: Public philosophy should be transformative

Thesis 2: Public Philosophers should not be understood as “experts”

Thesis 3: Public Philosophy demands collaborative and interdisciplinary work

Thesis 4: Public Philosophers must be committed to assessing their work and being accountable to their public partners

Thesis 5: Public philosophy demands that we work to make philosophy more inclusive and representative of various publics

The full report is here.

I think the hardest part of this for many philosophers, along with other academics, to get are theses one and two, namely that engaging the public may call on us to change how we do our work and that the relationship should be mutual, not hierarchical.

However slowly, this is beginning to change, especially as more philosophers enter unfamiliar territory, from teaching in prisons to working with NGOs on issues of climate, poverty, race, and gender.

Robert J. Kingston

My dear friend and colleague at the Kettering Foundation, with whom I edited the Kettering Review since 1991, passed away on August 20 at the age of 87. Snatched too young.

IMG_0526

I took this picture in the summer of 2015, at the home he shared with his wife Carol Vollet Kingston. The Kettering Foundation has posted tributes to him here.

Here’s mine:

In the fall of 1988, when I was doing freelance work in Washington, DC, a friend called me at my row house in Adams Morgan to say that I was about to get a call from a Bob Kingston who was looking for a writer to work with something called the Kettering Foundation on something about democracy.

Sure enough, a few minutes later, sitting on the wooden staircase, I got a call from this very distinguished gentleman, speaking with a British lilt, with a tad of wry irony, about democracy and the foundation’s work—which all seemed rather vague but well-meaning—and would I meet him the next Tuesday, he asked, at the foundation’s Washington office?

I don’t really remember what he said at that Tuesday meeting but I distinctly remember him piling a stack of Kettering Reviews in my arms on the way out. A few days later I was flown to Dayton to meet with the president of the foundation, David Mathews, who took me on a tour of the foundation and then at the end of the day gave me an assignment to revise a speech of his for publication.

I seemed to be interviewing for something, but I had no idea what, nor did I know that this odd new-not-really-a-job job would be the most significant one of my entire life, that it would involve working out ideas with these people over many long meetings that I would almost always find fascinating, spirited debates over drinks and dinner about politics and public life, frequent ‘memo wars’ about things like virtue and purpose, and a far flung network of intellectuals and democratic practitioners all over the world.

A couple of years later, the lovely poet who had been Bob Kingston’s associate editor for the Review, Judd Jerome, passed away. And then Bob asked me if I’d like the job. Little did I know that this would be a role that I’d keep for the next 23 years, working with Bob issue by issue to say something that would help the foundation both with its own work and with its intellectual outreach. All the while I hoped that I’d never get promoted—for a promotion could only arise if something bad happened to Bob.

So I was not at all happy when two years ago, as Bob’s health began to fail, that I was promoted to coeditor. And now with his loss I find it surreal to be the sole editor. Yet, now when I take my pen to paper to mercilessly edit something for the Review, I mimic the curving lines he’d use to excise whole paragraphs; I try to link together the remaining words into the more concise little essay that the piece was waiting to become under Bob’s hand; I hope to carry on a bit of his brilliance.

Analyzing Trump

Just after his second birthday, his mother gave birth to a baby brother and then she almost died. After childbirth she got an infection, had to have a hysterectomy then several other surgeries. From a psychoanalytic point of view, for the boy this was surely terribly traumatic. First there was this brute fact that mommy was going to give birth to a rival, then there’s possibly some murderous rage for her doing this, then after that murderous rage she does in fact almost die, and then she’s gone—for how long?—in the hospital, almost dead, almost gone. The boy’s one true love has first defied him by giving birth to a rival, then in fantasy has been killed by him, then almost dies and is gone, and he feels terrible guilt and is unable to repair it. The good mother that most of us are lucky to have had and internalized is not there for him.

If this admittedly armchair analysis of Donald Trump is right, then that early crisis could explain a lot about his subsequent character. From an object-relations point of view, the early loss of his mother, even if temporary, coinciding with his infantile murderous rage would set up what Melanie Klein called a “paranoid schizoid” position (where everything is black and white, persecutory of idyllic, alternating with fears of being devoured from the outside and phantasies of killing the other from the inside). This is a normal part of development, usually followed by a “depressive position” in which the child is overcome by grief about its sadism and seeks to make reparations so as to internalize the good object of the mother, an internalization that provides some ballast through life, the ability to tolerate ambiguity and forego paranoid phantasies. But the child who does not negotiate this passage well may grow up to have an obsessional character. Or as Freud put it in 1926:

In obsessional neurosis and paranoia the forms which the symptoms assume become very valuable to the ego because they obtain for it, not certain advantages, but a narcissistic satisfaction which it would otherwise be without. The systems which the obsessional neurotic constructs flatter his self-love by making him feel that he is better than other people because he is specially cleanly or specially conscientious. The delusional constructions of the paranoic offer to his acute perceptive and imaginative powers a field of activity which he could not easily find elsewhere.[i]

In fact, the boy Donald grows up to be a bully, likely trying to undo that early trauma. In a traumatic situation one is rendered helpless and bereft. All subsequent anxiety, Freud noted, is a “repetition of the situation of danger.”[ii] But why repeat this and not simply forget it? In order, perhaps, to undo it. Maybe this time it will turn out differently. Undoing, Freud also notes in this essay, is the obsessional neurotic’s attempt to “blow away” the original event. Akin to a magical act, repeating offers the possibility of trying again in order to undo what was done, to undo the terror of the loss of the primary object, mother.[iii]

At his private school where his wealthy father is a big benefactor, the young Trump becomes a troublemaker and little tyrant, and eventually his teachers persuade the father to send him elsewhere. At military school, the boy learns the lessons that he is special and great and, in the course of this, he almost kills his roommate for not folding the linens correctly. He becomes fastidiously neat and develops a fear of germs, of anything that might invade his body. He goes on in life to purge any imagined invaders, including in his fantasies Muslims, Mexicans, and those who’ve deigned to ruin his imagined perfect kingdom.

And he imagines that he is the king! He perfects the great defense of undoing, trying to do something all over again in a way that turns out better. How to undo mother’s death from his life when he was just beginning to become a little self? Maybe he could be a big self, maybe he could be so perfect and important and big and great that she would finally notice and love him. Maybe he could be so important and smart and wealthy that she would love him more than anyone else in the world.

Maybe also he could avenge his father’s loss, his father who had to grow up and take over the family business as a young adolescent when his own father died, the grandfather who made his wealth as a poor immigrant by setting up brothels where fools went looking for gold. And in the process maybe he could avenge his mother’s shame, a poor immigrant “domestic” from Scotland, leaving home at 17, arriving at 18, with only $50 in her pocket. So now he rails against all those low-skill immigrants trying to take away the jobs of real Americans—just as his Scottish mother took from America?

So the child who suffers these losses and shames sets out to avenge and to undo the harm. He cannot help himself; he isn’t even conscious of what he is doing. His loss turns into narcissism and grandiosity. At his rallies, he throws out protesters and crying babies; he proclaims that he’ll build a wall, which his enemy will pay for; he derides his imagined enemies as rapists and thugs; he excoriates women, grieving parents, disabled people, and anyone else in order to show off his omnipotence. He doesn’t see his effects on other people, though most everyone around him is painfully aware of this great malformation. There’s an immense disjunct between how he acts and how he thinks of himself. Something is terribly wrong with him. In public he makes great proclamations about his greatness, intelligence, bigness, and more bigness, and has no sense of how bizarre all this sounds. He insults other people for their “smallness,” and seems totally oblivious that he is exhibiting his own obliviousness. In this respect, he is thoroughly delusional.

He is like a person play-acting being a person, a person who is big and great and wonderful, whose enemies ought to be imprisoned, purged, or done off by a firing squad. He is the quintessential false self, playacting being Donald Trump, a person who within is nothing but desert buffeted by hot air.

He has no tolerance for criticism, no ability to appreciate other points of view, no capacity for self-reflection. Or as 50 Republican national security former officials put it in a letter denouncing his candidacy,

He is unable or unwilling to separate truth from falsehood. He does not encourage conflicting views. He lacks self-control and acts impetuously. He cannot tolerate personal criticism. He has alarmed our closest allies with his erratic behavior. All of these are dangerous qualities in an individual who aspires to be President and Commander-in-Chief, with command of the U.S. nuclear arsenal.

In all his attempts to purge his imagined perfect world of invaders, he purges his own internal shames and demons: the mother who entered the country as a poor domestic servant, the grandfather who made millions by prostituting land and women, all those immigrant foreigners who are trying to infect us. He befriends those like him, other authoritarian figures. He belittles anyone who doesn’t try to be as strong as him.

And because of his appeal to all those in his country who harbor similar wounds, who feel cheated, infiltrated, abandoned, and wronged, the people project their own anxieties into his anxieties and identify with his ways of acting out. He does for them what they cannot do for themselves. Where they are trapped in powerlessness, he can be their power player, their avenger, their hero. And so they nominate him to be their candidate for the presidency of their country.

And here’s the real rub: from a democratic point of view he has all the credentials he needs to run for this great office; but from a psychological point of view he is tremendously out of touch with how his own internal fantasies are at great remove from reality. In other words, he is thoroughly delusional, and that should, one would think, disqualify him from office.

If the people of a democracy get this, then the dilemma can be solved. They could say no to electing someone delusional, someone whose internal world is at a great distance from the real one.

[i] Freud 1926, 99.

[ii] Freud 1926, 137.

[iii] Freud 1926, 137-138.

Kettering Review 2016

The latest issue of the Kettering Review, a journal I co-edit for the Kettering Foundation, is now available for free online here. It includes pieces by Iris Marion Young, Daniel Yankelovich, E.J. Dionne, Vaclav Havel, and other luminaries.

To get a sense of the overall issue, here’s the start of my editor’s letter:

Over the past 60 years, the fortunes of democracy have been tumultuous. In the mid-20th century, dozens of countries in Asia and Africa won their independence from colonial rulers; but shortly thereafter the Cold War polarized the world for decades. Nixon’s 1972 trip to China pointed to an end of a 25-year estrangement between East and West, but it took another decade for this to move forward. In 1980, Polish workers in the Gdansk Shipyard formed the labor union Solidarity, which opened up the possibility that authoritarian goverments might meet their match in public dissent. Mikhail Gorbachev’s appointment as leader of the Soviet Union in 1985 led to Perestroika and Glasnost and the hope for some kind of global rapprochement. And one day in November 1989, a German bureaucrat haplessly announced the opening of a passage in the Berlin Wall from East to West, which within days led to the utter destruction of that edifice that had divided the world in two. Since then and continuing through today, ancient enmities have flared even as new democratic governments form and falter.

For the past 30 years, Kettering Review has chronicled many of these journeys. Just as Carol Vollet’s painting, Approach Blue, which we are delighted to feature on this issue’s cover, points toward a bright spot in the midst of tumult, we have tried to identify those elements that are so central to democratic self-governance. Over the years we have taken as our point of departure the question, “what does it take for democracy to work?”—not just here in the United States but throughout the world. As a “Review” we have published pieces old and new, taking liberty to bring the words of Aristotle, Dewey, and Arendt to these pages, just as we have published new pieces by many of democracy’s living philosophers and practitioners. We were publishing during the last years of the Cold War when many thought that if only communism would end then democracy would prevail. But in the past 25 years we’ve found that democracy raises more questions than it answers: Who are the people? How do they organize themselves as a public? What kind of power and knowledge can they have?

Click right here to go to the pdf.

Humanity & the Refugee: Another Stab at Universal Human Rights

I had the great pleasure of giving a keynote address today to the North American Society for Social Philosophy. Here’s how it starts and a few excerpts….

“The minimal definition of humanity, the zero degree of humanity, to borrow and expression from Barthes, is precisely hospitality.”  —Julia Kristeva

Introduction

Writing in his curious little book of 1967, The Medium is the Massage, Marshall McLuhan noted that with the new invention of the television we were thrown into a world of radical new responsibility for each other. The television had turned the world into a global village. All those other people I could previously ignore? Now I turn on the television and they are in my living room. “Our new environment compels commitment and participation,” McLuhan writes. “We have become irrevocably involved with, and responsible for, each other” (McLuhan and Fiore, 24). Nearly fifty years later, as refugees pile up at borders of nations that are becoming increasingly xenophobic and nationalist, this technological determinism seems hardly warranted. For all our new media, millions of people around the world are bereft.

Statistics on the Refugee Crisis

According to the United Nations High Committee for Refugees (http://www.unhcr.org/en-us/figures-at-a-glance.html) , the world over,

  • 5 million people have been forcibly displaced from their homes, that is, one in every 122 people in the world
  • Of these 59.5 million people, 38 million have been displaced within their own country and the rest are refugees or seeking asylum abroad
  • 5 million people are registered refugees, 51% of whom are under 18
  • every day 42,500 people are forced to flee their homes due to conflict or persecution, and
  • Additionally, according to the UNHCR, 10 million people are stateless, meaning, they have been “denied a nationality and access to basic rights such as education, healthcare, employment and freedom of movement”
  • During 2014, only 126,800 refugees were able to safely return to their country of origin. This was the lowest number since 1983. http://www.unhcr.org/556725e69.html
  • 3 million people live in what the UNHCR deems a protracted situation, that is, a situation in which 25,000 or more refugees of the same nationality have been in exile in the same country for at least five years trying to get asylum. http://www.state.gov/j/prm/policyissues/issues/protracted/

On average, a refugee will spend 17 years as such, possibly spending as many as 25 years there.

Overview

In this paper I take up the questions of (1) how the refugee crisis exhibits the fault lines in what is an otherwise robust human rights regime and (2) what kinds of ways of seeing and thinking might better attune us to solving these problems. There is surprising agreement internationally the content of human rights, though, as I’ll discuss, there is a huge gulf between international agreements on human rights and their actual protection. The subtitle of my talk, “another stab at universal rights” has a double entendre: In the midst of a crisis that is stabbing international agreements on human rights to its core, I will take a stab at using the crisis situation to point a way forward toward a cosmopolitan social imaginary that uses human imagination, not just as an ability to represent in one’s mind what one has seen elsewhere, but also as an ability to imagine something radically new, something entirely different from what already exists, like the end of racism or democracy throughout the Middle East. Not too long ago, envisioning marriage equality called for such an imaginary.[1] Imagination is indeed powerful, perhaps even more than our technologies.

A cosmopolitan social imaginary is not a new thing, but the shape it takes now is new. In ancient times it took the form of identification with human beings as such; in early Christianity cosmopolitanism meant an understanding of all people being God’s creatures; and in modernity it was a matter of all having the same kind of rational nature. These were various views of how, despite ethnic and national differences, no matter how foreign someone else seemed, there was something that connected us all. Today’s cosmopolitanism, I venture, grows out of a political imaginary of a global world, inaugurated in part with the television and with that first photo of the earth taken from space in 1968 and published on the cover of the Whole Earth Catalogue, which profoundly shaped popular consciousness, literally showing the world without borders.[2]

But this image is not enough, nor are all the screens in our world. A cosmopolitan imaginary is in part an effect of ways of seeing, not just what we see but how we see it, what our vantage point is (vertical? horizontal?) and how we see ourselves relating to what we see.[3] ….

Refugees, stateless and exiled, interned in camps, living in states of extremity, waiting for months and even years to be taken in by a host country, are denied their own humanity. And this is not only or mainly because of deplorable living conditions, however dreadful, but because they are boing denied their right to politics.[1]

Even if and when they are taken in, more is to be done. So long as they are treated as foreigners and not as members, I argue, they are denied their humanity. To live in a society without full membership in that society, including the political capacity to shape it, means being alienated from others and from one’s own humanity.

This is not just a problem for the refugee but for anyone with second-class status in a country, including those who hold green cards in the United States as well as ex-felons who are denied the right to vote. Living in a society that does not allow them equal standing to shape that society’s direction is flatly undemocratic and inhumane. [Insert discussion of the figure of the migrant; refer to the argument in the book of this name and point out that the migrant is a figure much broader than the refugee, something much more widespread, and for whom the right to politics is increasingly endangered.]

This way of putting the matter only deepens the Arendtian paradox. Qua refugee, a living being has no humanity and no political opportunity. To the extent that human rights are rights that humans can have, the refugee is not the kind of subject we can fathom as having any rights at all — unless, that is, we see the performative and relational dimensions of humanity. Unless we performatively recognize and treat the refugee as human with full political rights, we are all stripped of our own humanity.

A fundamental human right that is insufficiently enshrined in international law is, as I will explain shortly, the right to politics, a right that under neoliberalism is under attack even for full-fledged citizens of democratic nation-states, but is completely denied to refugees, those in asylum, and even those with full resident status.

On the Meaning of Humane

I would like to attempt to solve the Arendtian paradox by focusing on the meaning of “human” in both the phrase “universal human rights” and in the history of philosophy. While the term human has been used horribly, often to exclude those rendered less than human, there is in the word a germ of possibility, especially if we think of human as an achievement, a kind of activity and disposition, and not as a being with given attributes. That is, human is not a category of beings but a way of being. The distinction is similar to Heidegger’s distinction between ontic and ontological. I am not interested in the ontic understanding of the human being but of an ontological understanding of what it means to be human.

The word “humane” helps; for in it we can hear its relational and dispositional meaning in three ways. First, one is not humane by oneself but always in relation to some other creature. One might be humane one moment and inhumane the next. It is not a static category or anything remotely like an essential attribute. I want to argue that being human is like that. If we find out that someone we know takes pleasure in torturing puppy dogs, our estimation of that person will certainly change: from human to monster. Our humanity is an achievement that can be sundered by our failure to act humanely.

Second, we treat others humanely when we think that they have some kind of dignity, even if it’s the dignity of a pet gerbil. We treat some creature humanely when we realize that it is not just a thing for our own pleasure but a creature that should in some way, however meager, live for itself. So our own humanity is relational, dependent on extending humanity to others.

So, third, intrinsic to the idea of what is humane is the Kantian notion that others are ends in themselves and for themselves and that they should decide their own ends.

Behaving humanely toward another is a way of acknowledging the dignity of the object of our attentions; but more so it speaks volumes about our own humanity. We think of those who treat other creature inhumanely as less than human themselves. The sociopath is a strangely inhuman creature, lacking the ethical sensibility that seems so central to others. So I venture to say that to be human is to acknowledge the humanity of others. And to be in a world in which all are acting humanely is to be given the special gift to be an end for oneself and to decide one’s own ends. (I think this is what Kant meant by a kingdom of ends.) Political communities that acknowledge all its members their rights of collective self-determination humanely treat people as human. Political communities that deny any of its members the prerogative of self-determination are forgoing the humanity of some of their members as well as their own humanity.

[1] Footnote essays by Albena Azmanova.

… to be continued in a future book….