Saturday, February 28, 2009

Wittgenstein: greatest philosopher of the 20th century?

So claims Jim Holt here. Is he right? (No, he's not.)

UPDATE: It's really quite an entertaining review. I laughed out loud several times, mostly at suicides.

2ND UPDATE: You can vote on the greatest 20th century philosopher over at Leiter's place. Astonishingly, Wilber is nowhere on the list.

The Hermes Petition and the APA

What are the odds that the APA will act on, or even respond in any way, to this petition? Given that the APA seems incapable of doing almost anything, even when the issue is pressing and a certain course of action is clearly indicated (e.g., come up with an online jobs database), I'm not optimistic. I wonder, is there a formal, precedented way of petitioning the APA that Hermes is following? If so, then the APA might be forced to act in order to comply with its own rules.

Anyway, I'm hoping the APA will surprise me, and I encourage you to sign the petition if you are a member of the APA and haven't already.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

A bed of laurels

A number of well-known philosophers have reached a stage in their careers where most of the articles they write are invited and appear in anthologies, in book symposia, or in invitation-only venues like Philosophical Perspectives. I've been appalled by the quality of several pieces of this sort that I've read recently. (Of course there are also lots of very good invited pieces out there--I'll dispense with such caveats in what follows, but please do mentally insert them wherever you see fit.) The authors seemed uninterested in offering a careful and comprehensive defense of their views. They do offer some arguments, of course, but these arguments invite obvious objections that they don't bother addressing. They often seem much more intent on making jokes than on producing a lasting, high-quality piece of philosophy. No junior philosopher submitting a piece to a refereed journal would dare to offer such a casual, even flippant defense of his or her views. A lot of these pieces are also replete with typos. Part of the problem here is that academic publishers now outsource their copy-editing to India or Singapore, where not much in the way of copy-editing gets done as far as I can tell, but again, philosophers who are not tenured and famous do their best to correct their spelling and grammar before sending off their work. Maybe I'm overly prickly, but I actually feel insulted having wasted my time reading something that was clearly not the writer's best work, and that reflects such an arrogant, complacent attitude.

I'd say if you want to read really good work, seek out articles by unknowns writing in very selective journals, and avoid the invited pieces.


Isn't there something inappropriately condescending and self-important about this motto, found on a t-shirt sold by the APA and the title of a book by Simon Blackburn? Doesn't it seem to suggest that one is only really thinking when one thinks philosophically?

Thursday, February 19, 2009

G*** B*** update

Here are the candidates:

George Bartlett (Florida)
George Barton (Tulane)
George Beiswanger (George State)
Gustav Bergmann (Iowa)
George Burch (Tufts)
Gary Brodsky (Connecticut)
Geoffrey Bridges (San Luis Rey)
George Boas

Thanks to an anonymous poster for looking this up (on JSTOR).

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Coming out

An anonymous poster asks:

Do referees for journals ever "out" themselves once the piece appears in print? Have you ever, upon getting a paper published, gotten an email saying, "I was the anon reviewer ..."

Monday, February 16, 2009

Best and worst conference presentations

Thanks to Chrono for the suggestion. I would very strongly urge you not to name graduate students or untenured faculty in the 'worst' category, for obvious reasons, though you could of course describe their talks without naming names.

Update: While we're on this topic, what does reading a paper as opposed to informally presenting it say about the speaker? Should first-timers start by reading the paper, or should they jump in the deep end right away?