Ranking Philosophy Programs

There are now two sets of rankings of Ph.D.-granting philosophy departments in the United States: Brian Leiter’s Philosophical Gourmet (PG) and Academic Analytics’ Faculty Scholarly Productivity Index (FSPI). The latter only ranks the top ten, so I’ll stick with comparing both rankings’ top ten. Only two universities are listed in both rankings: Princeton and Rutgers. The rest are entirely different. FSPI ranks Michigan State first; PG ranks NYU first. Here’s the run-down:

Academic Analytics’ Faculty Scholarly Productivity Index

1. Michigan State University
2. CUNY Graduate School
2. Princeton University
4. University of Virginia
5. Rutgers
6. University of California – San Diego
7. Pennsylvania State University
8. The University of Texas at Austin
9. SUNY at Stony Brook
10. Rice University

Brian Leiter’s Philosophical Gourmet ranking

1. New York University
2. Rutgers
3. Princeton University
3. University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
5. University of Pittsburgh
6. Stanford University
7. Harvard University
7. MIT
7. UCLA
10. Columbia University
10. Univ. of North Carolina –Chapel Hill

The discrepancy can be explained by different methodologies. FSPI is based on data generated by a web-crawler of individual faculty members’ productivity in terms of scholarly publications, honors and awards, and grants. Comparing the sheer volume of scholarly publications is, I think, a bit dicey, since it equates publication in more- and less-selective presses and journals. However, the honors, grants, and awards criteria, a better gauge of quality, probably balances things out. Also FSPI takes into consideration whether one’s journal articles are cited in others’ journal articles — certainly an excellent indication of the influence of one’s work.

The Philosophical Gourmet’s methodology is as follows, according to its web site:

This report ranks graduate programs primarily on the basis of the quality of faculty. In late September and early October 2006, we conducted an on-line survey of 450 philosophers throughout the English-speaking world; over 300 responded and completed some or all of the surveys. The survey presented 99 faculty lists, from the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, and Australia and New Zealand . Note that there are some 110 PhD-granting programs in the U.S. alone, but it would be unduly burdensome for evaluators to ask them to evaluate all these programs each year. The top programs in each region were selected for evaluation, plus a few additional programs are included each year to “test the waters.”

Leiter lists the names and affiliations of the people who filled out his survey. The full list is available here http://www.philosophicalgourmet.com/reportdesc.asp. Note that there is no one on the list from Michigan State, Penn State, or Stony Brook: and only one each from Rice, and CUNY — and none of these schools show up in his top ten even though they do show up in FSPI’s top ten. But four of Leiter’s responders are with NYU; nine have been affiliated with Stanford; thirteen with Michigan; twenty-two with Pittsburgh; and another twenty-some with Harvard — and all of these schools show up in his top ten. Leiter notes that no one who has received a Ph.D. or taught at a particular institution may rank that institution. That’s goood. But still one might suspect that the entire pool of respondents comes from a particular orientation and holds a certain set of conceptions of what counts as quality faculty. Few hale from truly pluralist departments, and so it’s not suprising that truly pluralist departments don’t end up on PG’s top ten. In fact several of PG’s top ten bill themselves on their own web sites as working solely in the analytic tradition.

Note the following.

Schools ranked in the top ten by Academic Analytics that don’t appear in the top ten Philosophical Gourmet rankings:

Michigan State University (lots of strengths in ethics, continental philosophy, feminist philosophy, social and political philosophy, and philosophy of science)

CUNY Graduate School (mostly analytic, diverse interests)

University of Virginia (strong analytic department with strengths in ethics and political philosophy)

University of California San Diego (analytic faculty, strengths in philosophy of mind, history of modern, ancient)

Pennsylvania State University (some faculty have left since the study was done, but it still has its characteristic strengths in continental philosophy, pragmatism, and feminist theory)

The University of Texas at Austin (at the time of the study, it had a bit more strength in continental philosophy – Louis Mackey and Robert Solomon have since passed away)

SUNY at Stony Brook (a school exceptionally strong in continental philosophy, feminist theory, and critical race theory)

Rice University (also has strengths in continental philosophy)

Schools ranked in the top ten by the Philosophical Gourmet that don’t appear in the top ten Academic Analytics rankings (links can be found here ) :

New York University
University of Michigan – Ann Arbor
University of Pittsburgh
Stanford University
MIT
UCLA
Columbia University
UNC-Chapel Hill

No doubt these are excellent programs, but to say they are the very best based on the judgment of an unrepresentative cohort of faculty selected by someone with already marked views about what counts as quality is simply bad logic. I’d opt for the Academic Analytics’ Faculty Scholarly Productivity Index any day. It more accurately reflects the productivity and range of scholarship in philosophy today.

EDIT: More on this topic can be found in this subsequent post.

Charles Taylor Wins Templeton Prize

The philosopher Charles Taylor was awarded the 2007 Templeton Prize of $1.5 million on Wednesday. I like it when good things happen to good people. I also like how Taylor questioned the very notion of the prize “for progress toward research or discoveries about spiritual realities.” An intellectual might indeed wonder whether there are spiritual truths “out there” waiting to be discovered, but of course this is the raison d’etre that Sir John Templeton set up the prize. See the New York Times article in which Peter Steinfels writes, “Professor Taylor immediately noted that the idea of ‘discovery’ in spiritual matters was ‘an analogy to scientific discovery in chemistry, physics and so on.’ In answering a question later, he went further, worrying aloud that ‘the notion of discovery here by analogy with natural science a little bit falsifies the picture.'” No doubt.

Martha Nussbaum on philosophy & public life

I just came across this interview of a few months ago. Note some interesting comments about Catherine MacKinnon and Andrea Dworkin…

Interview with Martha Nussbaum, “Philosophy and Public Life,” by Stelios Virvidakis for Eurozine

Political philosopher Martha Nussbaum discusses philosophy’s capacity to influence public life; the future of political liberalism and the role of the state; and her critique of radical feminist thinkers including Catharine MacKinnon and Andrea Dworkin.

Stelios Virvidakis: What do you think about the possibility of philosophy playing a more active role in public life, education, applied ethics, and so on?

Martha Nussbaum: There are many possibilities. And countries are very different. I find that the US is in a way one of the most difficult places for philosophy to play a public role because the media are so sensationalistic and so anti-intellectual. If I go to most countries in Europe I’ll have a much easier time publishing in a newspaper than I would in the US. The New York Times op-ed page is very dumbed down and I no longer even bother trying to get something published there because they don’t like anything that has a complicated argument. So I find the US very frustrating. At the other end of the spectrum…[continued here]