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Lynch Wins 2019 NCTE George Orwell Award

Michael P. Lynch, Board of Trustees Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at the University of Connecticut, is the winner of the 2019 George Orwell Award for Distinguished Contribution to Honesty and Clarity in Public Language from the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE).  The award “recognizes writers who have made outstanding contributions to the critical analysis of public discourse.” The NCTE states: The Orwell Award emphasizes the importance of honesty and clarity in public language, and Michael Patrick Lynch’s book Know-It-All Society: Truth and Arrogance in Political Culture reminds us that honesty and clarity is more than just listening to speakers behind a podium; honesty and clarity in public language also refers to how we interact every day with those around us. Lynch accessibly explores aspects around and within public language, including the ideas of how our convictions affect both our worldview and the resulting discourse, and how intellectual arrogance and intellectual humility shape our interactions with others. Relying of the frameworks of philosophers from Dewey to Montaigne to Socrates, Lynch offers us a path to consider for how we speak with and listen to others in our 21st century political landscape. The award was established in 1975. Previous winners include not just other academics, such as legal scholar and bioethicist Katie Watson (Northwestern) and David Greenberg (Rutgers), but also entertainers such as Jon Stewart, authors [More]

What Should Search Committees Initially Ask For?

A reader draws my attention to the advertisement for an assistant professorship in philosophy at Duke University as an example of the problem of schools asking for excessive information for the first round of applications. Applicants must send in: a cover letter a full CV a sample of written work (10,000 words max) a one page dissertation summary a research statement a teaching statement teaching evaluations (where available) a diversity statement, indicating how your skills and experience could contribute to campus equity, diversity, and inclusion efforts at least 3 letters of recommendation The reader writes: “This is definitely the most extreme example of a trend in philosophy job ads to keep on asking for more and more material. The thing is, you know they won’t look at most of it. It looks to me like they’re requesting on the order of 50 pages of material per candidate. So if they get 200 candidates, that means they’re asking for 10,000 pages of junk. That’s silly, and isn’t a good use of anyone’s time.” At least they don’t ask for a transcript. Or for applicants to create a special website just to apply to their job. It is not clear to me that there is much of a trend in asking for more material. Over the past 15 years the normal list of materials to send in has looked roughly similar to the one above. (The exception is the diversity statement, requests for which have gained in popularity only over the last few [More]

The moral mathematics of letting people die

Imagine that, while walking along a pier, you see two strangers drowning in the sea. Lo and behold, you can easily save them both by throwing them the two life preservers located immediately in front of you. Since you can’t swim and no one else is around, there is no other way these folks will […] The post The moral mathematics of letting people die appeared first on OUPblog.         Related StoriesJohn Duns Scotus – The ‘Subtle Doctor’ – Philosopher of the MonthReading, writing and readability—appreciating Rudolph FleschWhat American literature can teach us about human [More]

Teaching Students How To Ask Philosophical Questions

“Question asking… is a skill all-too-often undervalued in philosophy pedagogy and philosophy pedagogy research” So writes Stephen Bloch-Schulman (Elon) in a recent post at the Blog of the American Philosophical Association, in which he reports on video-conference he held on the teaching of philosophical question-asking. Observations from the video-conference include: “How important teaching a single distinction is and how it can, if infused into subsequent dialogue, lead to sharper questions.” “Categorizing types of questions is a useful way to help students get a handle on what can feel to them like an amorphous knack that some people have and others lack” “One particularly useful strategy asked students to think from others’ perspectives to try to voice what others might ask in a particular circumstance.” Professor Bloch-Schulman writes that, “In the end, there was little consensus about whether and to what extent we can teach, and ought to teach and grade, question-asking as a skill.” Given the centrality of question-asking to philosophy, the relative neglect of this subject in the study of philosophical teaching is surprising. It would be useful to hear from those who have experience with or thoughts about teaching students to ask philosophical questions. What makes for a better or worse philosophical question and how do you convey this to your students? What assignments or exercises do you have students [More]

Schoenfield from MIT to UT Austin

Miriam Schoenfield, currently associate professor of philosophy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), has accepted a position as associate professor of philosophy at the University of Texas at Austin. Professor Schoenfield had previously been an assistant professor of philosophy at UT Austin from 2012 to 2015. She specializes in epistemology, metaethics, philosophy of race and gender, applied ethics, and logic. You can see some of her work here. Professor Schoenfield returns to UT Austin for her new position there in January, 2020. (via David Sosa) The post Schoenfield from MIT to UT Austin appeared first on Daily [More]

“Frustration, Mediocrity, and Drama”

A year in the academic life of the typical Nigerian philosopher is a long one defined by frustration, mediocrity (either self-imposed or externally imposed) and drama. The drama aspect revolves around violent student activism leading to university closures, Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) industrial actions, blood-letting on university campuses by students who are members of violent cults, the intrigue surrounding the selection of new vice chancellors, the latest corruption scandals, political interference in university administration, or accusations of sexual harassment directed at prominent professors… Those are the words of Ada Agaba (University of Calabar, Nigeria) in a post at The Philosophers’ Cocoon that highlights the challenges faced by philosophers in Nigeria. Poor research funding, outdated libraries, and corrupt administrators and colleagues are common problems, and give rise to frequent strikes by the university teacher’s union, which in turn means that the public universities have, in practice, “no fixed academic calendars.” Political and ethnic favoritism “is the norm” in hiring. The “collapsing academic system” in Nigeria hinders education and research there and the opportunities for interaction between Nigerian philosophers and those elsewhere, and so provides yet another example of the ways in which “what philosophy is” is affected by the contingencies of economics, politics, [More]

Philosopher Awarded £977K Grant for “Mindreading”

Philosopher Richard Moore, who will be moving to Warwick University from The Berlin School of Mind and Brain at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin next year, has been awarded a £977,000 (roughly $1,200,000) grant from the UK government to fund a project on “mindreading.” “Mindreading” here refers to our cognitive capacities related to predicting the behavior of others and attributing various mental states to them. According to Dr. Moore, the project “will conduct empirical and philosophical research on the developmental relationship between mindreading in communication in ontogeny, phylogeny, and in human history” The funding was in the form of a UK Research and Industry Future Leaders Fellowship from UK Research and Innovation, Those interested in the project and positions it may fund can follow Dr. Moore on Twitter at @CommunicatMind. The post Philosopher Awarded £977K Grant for “Mindreading” appeared first on Daily [More]

“Academic Philosophy Is Ruining Our Marriage”, Non-Hegel Versions

By now many readers will have seen the Reddit post written by a physicist seeking advice about what to do about her Hegel-obsessed philosopher-of-science husband. It was posted in the Heap of Links the other day, and all over social media—to the extent that “Hegel” was trending on Twitter. The post begins: My husband and I are both academics. We’ve been married for 3 years, and been together for 6. He is an academic philosopher and I am a physicist. He has recently expressed displeasure that I’ve never seriously engaged with his work. Now, I’ve read a bit… Unfortunately, everything he’s shown me has just seems completely insane. Here’s the problem: his work apparently involves claims about physics that are just wrong, and wrong in a very embarrassing way! She details some of those claims, points out various problems, and claims his pre-occupation with Hegel “has reached the point of creepiness,” noting that “he keeps a framed picture of Hegel on the nightstand in our bedroom.” The problem grows and culminates in a fight: Recently we got in a huge fight because he was trying to demonstrate an example of the Hegelian concept of the “unity of opposites” (whatever that means) by claiming that right and left hands are opposite but also identical. I told him this is just wrong and that right and left hands are not “identical” in any meaningful sense (chirality is a basic concept [More]

New AOS: Public Philosophy & Prison Education

Marymount Manhattan College is looking to hire someone with expertise in both public philosophy and prison education, neither of which have been listed as areas of specialization in a philosophy job ad before, to my knowledge.  (Correct me if I’m wrong about that.) The job is a two-to-three year visiting joint appointment as a fellow at the College’s Geraldine A. Ferraro Institute for Breakthrough Civic Leadership and its Department of History, Philosophy, and Religious Studies. The chief responsibilities of the position include teaching courses on public philosophy, social and political philosophy, philosophy of race, and related topics, teaching courses in the school’s prison education programs, developing and overseeing the programs, providing professional development opportunities for other faculty teaching in them, and helping the department revise its philosophy major to have a focus on public philosophy. You can check out the ad here. (via Thi Nguyen) The post New AOS: Public Philosophy & Prison Education appeared first on Daily [More]

The State of Contemporary Metaphysics

“I think metaphysics is what it’s always been—and it’s hard to say what that is!” That’s Ross Cameron, professor of philosophy at the University of Virginia, answering a question from interviewer Richard Marshall about the state and content of metaphysics these days. He continues: I think it’s in a pretty good state: we’ve emerged from the darkness of logical positivism, ordinary language philosophy, and conceptual analysis, and are once again unapologetically trying to say something about reality! I suppose one thing that might surprise someone coming from near pre-Lewis/Kripke times is the variety of phenomena that are taken to be legitimate subjects of metaphysical theorizing. (Although it wouldn’t be at all surprising to someone from farther back in the history of philosophy.) People still do the metaphysics of time, possibility, existence, etc., but also the metaphysics of race, gender, disability, social groups, sexuality, etc. One sociological change is that it’s become absolutely standard to see these topics in metaphysics textbooks, being taught to undergraduates, being presented at mainstream metaphysics conferences, etc. I think that’s a very good thing. In the interview, Professor Cameron explains his views on a number of topics in contemporary metaphysics, including philosophy of time, grounding, mereology, and vagueness. His remarks are interesting and informative throughout. For example, in his answer to a question about grounding, he [More]

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