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.)


The favorites’ favorites — another round of PGR rankings of continental philosophy

I see that Brian Leiter has posted a preview of the five 20th century continental programs that his reviewers like best, certainly all fine programs: Columbia University; Georgetown University; University of California, Riverside; University of Chicago; and University of Notre Dame. I wasn’t surprised by the absence of “spep-ish” departments, as the bleiterites are wont to put it, for it is rare that a “spep-ish” continental philosopher serves as an evaluator. (Never mind that the big tent called the Society for Phenomenology and Existentialist Philosophy is the second largest philosophical society in North America, next to the American Philosophical Association, and, I would hazard, the largest continental philosophy society in the world. So to call a program with strengths in continental philosophy “spep-ish” is like calling any program in philosophy “apa-ish”  —  it’s practically trivial.)

(Also, I am not at all surprised by the omission of the Emory University program for we simply do not participate in the rankings.)

I have long argued that the fatal flaw of these reports is that the evaluators do not represent a cross-section of the field.  So, to try to make this point a bit more pointedly, take a look at the names of the 24 evaluators for 20th Century Continental Philosophy programs:

James Bohman, Steven Crowell, Maudemarie Clark, David Dudrick, Gordon Finlayson, Max de Gaynesford, Charles Guignon, Gary Gutting, Beatrice Han-Pile, Scott Jenkins, Pierre Keller, Michelle Kosch, Brian Leiter, Dean Moyar, Stephen Mulhall, Brian O’Connor, Peter Poellner, Bernard Reginster, Michael Rosen, Joseph Schear, Iain Thomson, Georgia Warnke, Mark Wrathall, Julian Young.

This is a great group, including many I personally know and admire.  But let me explain how it does not at all represent a cross-section of philosophers doing work in 20th Century Continental Philosophy.  I took a couple hours this evening to consult the websites and phil papers sites, etc. of members of this group, and made notes of what areas they worked in — in their own words.

Only three-quarters specialize in any area of 20th Century Continental Philosophy. (Unless I am mistaken, Maudemarie Clark, Max de Gaynesford, Scott Jenkins, Michelle Kosch, Brian Leiter, and Dean Moyar have specialties elsewhere, but not here.)

There is a solid group doing work in existentialism, phenomenology, and critical theory, but only four of the 24 specialize in post-1968 French philosophy.  Of those four, only two of the 24 evaluators (Stephen Crowell and Charles Guignon) profess to have any expertise on any of the major thinkers of French poststructuralism after Foucault.

Nietzsche scholars were very well represented (nine of 24), including many who have been published by or with the author of the reports.

So for students interested in the full range of important work in 20th Century Continental Philosophy, especially work post-1968, I encourage a trip to the library, not to the PGR.

Ranking Continental Philosophy Programs

I just noticed Brian Leiter’s list of what he deems to be the top continental philosophy programs. Save for a few that obviously belong, the list is bizarre. The ones that seem most to belong here are those with asterisks or pound signs, meaning ones that had to be ad-hoc’d into the list.

Group 1 (1-3) (rounded mean of 4.0) (median, mode)

Georgetown University (4, 4.5)
University of California, Riverside (4, 4)
University of Chicago (4, 5)

Group 2 (4-10)  (rounded mean of 3.5) (median, mode)

Cambridge University (3.75, 3)
Columbia University (4, 4.25)
#University at Stony Brook, State University of New York
*University College Dublin
#University of Essex
University of Notre Dame (4, 4.5)
University of Warwick (3.5, 4)

Group 3 (11-31) (rounded mean of 3.0) (median, mode)

*Boston College
Boston University (3, 3)
Harvard University (3, 3)
*Loyola University, Chicago
*New School University
New York University (3, 3)
Northwestern University (3, 3)
Oxford University (3.5, 3)
#Pennsylvania State University
Stanford University (3, 3)
Syracuse University (3.25, 3)
University College London (3, 3)
University of Auckland (3, 3)
University of California, Berkeley (3, 3)
University of California, Santa Cruz (3, 3.25)
*University of Kentucky
*University of New Mexico
University of South Florida (3, 2)
*University of Sussex
University of Toronto (3, 3)
*Vanderbilt University

* inserted by Board
# based on 2004 results, in some cases with modest adjustments by the Advisory Board to reflect changes in staff in the interim

It’s easy to understand why the list is so strange.  For years I have noted that the problem with Leiter’s methodology is that it is based on reputational rankings from a group of rankers he has self-selected.  Here is the list of rankers for this continental philosophy ranking:

Evaluators: Kenneth Baynes, James Bohman, Taylor Carman, David Dudrick, Gary Gutting, Beatrice Han-Pile, Pierre Keller, Sean Kelly, Michelle Kosch, Brian Leiter, Stephen Mulhall, Brian O’Connor, Peter Poellner, Bernard Reginster, Michael Rosen, Iain Thomson, Georgia Warnke, Robert Wicks, Mark Wrathall, Julian Young.

I have been involved in continental philosophy circles for over many  years, but I only recognize four of these philosophers as in any way qualified to assess continental philosophy overall. Others may be familiar enough with the field to recognize which programs have individuals doing work in continental philosophy (from a certain bent). But it would be a huge stretch to say that as a whole they are deeply familiar with what is going on in the field.

Objectively speaking, the best measures for success in any given area of philosophy are these: getting published in the major journals of the field and by the major publishing houses of that field, getting papers accepted at the major conferences in that field, and excelling at  job placement.  Data on the 3d point is lacking because of lack of will or coordination, but the first two are simple enough to assess.  For continental philosophy just look at the programs of the past years’ meetings of the major societies, e.g. SPEP, which is the second largest philosophical society in the U.S. and identify the leaders of these organizations, whose papers are getting accepted, and which doctoral programs are training emerging scholars. For publications, look to who is getting published in the leading journals in continental philosophy (such as Continental Philosophy Review, Philosophy Today, Constellations, and Philosophy and Social Criticism) and by the academic publishing houses that have lists in the field.

Any student serious about going into continental philosophy would be wise to dismiss this obviously biased ranking. Any reputational ranking has serious limitations, but at the very least a reputational ranking of a field should consult those who know the field well: for continental philosophy this would include the leaders of SPEP and other continental societies; the authors and editors of series published by Columbia, Indiana, SUNY, Routledge, Rowman & Littlefield; and the editors of the main journals in the field.

Otherwise the report just confirms the reporter’s preconceived ideas about what counts as philosophy. And if continental doesn’t count to him, despite the fact that continental philosophy is one of the most vibrant and innovative fields in the humanities today, then the results are bound to be twisted.


For what it’s worth, of U.S. doctoral programs in continental philosophy I’d easily recommend these to my students (in alphabetical order): CUNY grad program, DePaul, Emory, the New School, Penn State, Stonybrook, Vanderbilt, and perhaps Boston College, Boston University, Loyola, Memphis, Northwestern, and Syracuse. No doubt there are other good and emerging programs that I’ve missed, so please post a comment if you notice any such omission.

Edit: I’ve subsequently found that the reason so many continental programs aren’t ranked (at least without an asterisk or pound sign) is that they have opted out of the rankings by not submitting a list of faculty to the PGR. Nonetheless, the basic problem remains (and this may be why so many continental programs have opted out.)

Analytic & Continental Philosophy

Yesterday the Australian philosopher Paul Patton was featured on Australia’s Philosopher’s Zone radio program. First, let’s give a huge round of applause to Australia for having a radio program devoted to philosophy.


I’ve met Paul Patton a few times and I have always been impressed.  The main point he makes here is that the analytic / continental division in philosophy is part and parcel of the larger division in intellectual circles between science and the humanities. Patton notes that as a higher ed administrator in a research university he has come up against the perplexity of scientists who wonder just what new knowledge the humanities are discovering.  At the same time, Patton makes an impressive case that the humanities’ sort are much more engaged in the real world problems of actual peoples, especially those who have been marginalized, like the Australian aboriginal people.

Patton also notes a difference between analytic and continental philosphers over what is taken as given and taken for granted.  Analytic philosophers often take rights as given, and then they worry — quite rightly — over how such rights ought to be distributed.  [Edit: should read how goods should be distributed on the basis of these rights, not rights distributed.] Continentals worry about how such rights might, or might not, emerge at all, especially in contexts where “the other” is barely recognized as worthy of recognition.

I have been working between these traditions, mostly from the continental side but also mostly trying to engage the issues that analytic political philosophers care about more than continental philosophers seem to do.  This always gives me a sense of vertigo or imbalance. Currently I am finishing up an article on democratic “epistemology” though I feel like I am hardly getting off the ground because I can hardly recognize what epistemology, in the usual sense, has to do with democratic deliberation. I have to constantly do a self-check: am I on Neptune or are these other folks on Neptune?  Fortunately I have had lots of experience on planet earth with people actually engaged in democratic life so that I can pause and say to myself: I have something to say here.

In the end, the analytic / continental divide is best checked by  lived experience — not a seminar in modal logic.