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Leiter's ad hominem against critics


Duns Eith
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Breaking news: philosophers from unranked programs in their specialties think the PGR is...

..."unreliable," "weird," "misleading."  I gather a team of crack psychologists is working on a study to try to explain what's going on here.  It is mysterious.

http://leiterreports.typepad.com/blog/2018/03/breaking-news-philosophers-from-unranked-programs-in-their-specialties-think-the-pgr-is.html

 

Because no one could have legitimate concerns about methodology, bias, bootstrapping, data tossing, etc. Surely the best explanations for grievance is that critics are all sour grapes about PGR ranking, or that PGR ranking tracks some intelligence which would obviously recognize PGR's beauty and refinement. Leiter's arrogance is alone sufficient to justify the existence of a different blog that communicates useful data (faculty movement, say) without all the BS that BL spouts out.

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P.S.

:rolleyes::rolleyes::rolleyes::rolleyes::rolleyes::rolleyes::rolleyes::rolleyes::rolleyes::rolleyes::rolleyes::rolleyes::rolleyes::rolleyes::rolleyes::rolleyes::rolleyes:

5 minutes ago, Duns Eith said:

legitimate concerns

I forgot to mention another concern: that placement is highly correlated, but there are plenty of counter-examples, to the point that no one should make a decision between PhD offers by a mere difference of rank. The concrete data of these individual program placements should be considered while ignoring PGR ranking. This will give the applicant far more robust information.

Edited by Duns Eith
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It's nice to see Leiter has learned to start using his words, rather than his poop, to make ridiculous ad hominem attacks.

(For those not in the loop: https://www.buzzfeed.com/katiejmbaker/professors-receive-packets-of-poop?utm_term=.rtkYRQWre#.xjEMn2qv0 )

 

Edited by iunoionnis
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On 3/26/2018 at 6:02 PM, Duns Eith said:

P.S.

:rolleyes::rolleyes::rolleyes::rolleyes::rolleyes::rolleyes::rolleyes::rolleyes::rolleyes::rolleyes::rolleyes::rolleyes::rolleyes::rolleyes::rolleyes::rolleyes::rolleyes:

I forgot to mention another concern: that placement is highly correlated, but there are plenty of counter-examples, to the point that no one should make a decision between PhD offers by a mere difference of rank. The concrete data of these individual program placements should be considered while ignoring PGR ranking. This will give the applicant far more robust information.

To be fair, he never says that students should base their decision just on the PGR rankings. 

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10 hours ago, prtrbd said:

I've never had the sense that there was anything particularly wrong with the Leiter rankings. With Leiter himself, that's a different issue.

I agree, and the whole point of it is to help people like us make informed decisions. I think most of us would be lost without it, especially as it relates to speciality rankings. Take it with a grain of salt, to be sure, but to act as if it’s useless strikes me as bizarre. 

Edited by machineghost
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Just chiming in to agree with the last two replies. As with most things, just as it's bad to blindly accept the PGR rankings, it's also bad to blindly reject the PGR rankings (obviously, I'm not accusing anyone here of falling into either of the above camps, but people of both of those varieties are definitely out there). Regardless of how objectionable Leiter's past conduct has often been, the PGR rankings are useful and remain a fairly accurate measure of certain factors that are really important when choosing a graduate program.

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The specialty report ranking is more or less useless when it comes to 20th century continental, mostly because many if not most of the evaluators aren't even working in that area. Methodological problems aside, one would think that would be at least a basic criteria for including someone as an evaluator.

So it would at least be nice if that bias—namely, that many people in the analytic tradition don't consider it to be "real" philosophy (I even had one professor compare them to a group of androids)—was more explicit rather than providing a ranking for 20th century continental that includes programs (e.g. UC Irvine) where essentially no one is even working in that area.   

 

Edited by lyellgeo
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Also, it's sort of odd that they still include Leiter's original "analytic vs. continental philosophy" guide, even though it's misguided about a whole range of points, e.g. that analytic philosophy is about style. (A much better explanation can be found here.) 

And, to use another example of poor thinking from Leiter's guide:

Whatever the limitations of “analytic” philosophy, it is clearly far preferable to what has befallen humanistic fields like English, which have largely collapsed as serious disciplines while becoming the repository for all the world’s bad philosophy, bad social science, and bad history. Surely humanity “celebrities” like Stanley Fish and Judith Butler are fine contemporary examples of “the man of letters who really isnothing but ‘represents’ almost everything, playing and ‘substituting’ for the expert, and taking it upon himself in all modesty to get himself paid, honored, and celebrated.…”) 

Regardless of whether philosophers even agree with this statement, is this really the kind of thing we want to be telling undergraduate students? That English and History have collapsed as serious disciplines? That Judith Butler—one of the more influential feminists of this century (regardless of whether one agrees with her work)—is a fraud? 

Edited by lyellgeo
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Clarification: The PGR is not useless. I can see how someone might get that from my follow-up post. I think the PGR is very helpful, but the authors should be open and frank about legitimate criticisms.

Instead of scholarly dispositions and honest acknowledgements of its limitations (in its method, or in its validity for assessing quality of program), we see Leiter's histrionic preoccupation with what people think of him and his persistent displays of winning over critics. The way he just posted his condescending Tweet exchange with a grad student reminds me of Mr. Orange Stubby Fingers's Twitter habits.

Edited by Duns Eith
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7 hours ago, lyellgeo said:

The specialty report ranking is more or less useless when it comes to 20th century continental, mostly because many if not most of the evaluators aren't even working in that area. Methodological problems aside, one would think that would be at least a basic criteria for including someone as an evaluator.

So it would at least be nice if that bias—namely, that many people in the analytic tradition don't consider it to be "real" philosophy (I even had one professor compare them to a group of androids)—was more explicit rather than providing a ranking for 20th century continental that includes programs (e.g. UC Irvine) where essentially no one is even working in that area.   

 

That last point you made is just not true. The programs ranked highly for "continental philosophy" have some of the most significant contemporary scholars working on the major figures in that era. What Leiter takes issue with, rightly in this case (in my mind), is the methodological/scholarly decline of work that now more commonly appears in comparative literature departments thn it does in actual philosophy departments. 

Edited by GuanilosIsland
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There are two specialty rankings, one for 19th and one for 20th. I was specifically talking about 20th century continental. Of course there will be some overlap, but it's still a hundred or so years of differences to sort through.The 19th century rankings are much more helpful than the 20th century ones. 

Edited by lyellgeo
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54 minutes ago, GuanilosIsland said:

That last point you made is just not true. The programs ranked highly for "continental philosophy" have some of the most significant contemporary scholars working on the major figures in that era. What Leiter takes issue with, rightly in this case (in my mind), is the methodological/scholarly decline of work that now more commonly appears in comparative literature departments thn it does in actual philosophy departments. 

Both of these claims are false. 

The top schools listed are all "analytic" schools with a few continental people on the side. In the case of Irvine, there is LITERALLY ONE PERSON working on Husserl, and the rest of the faculty are analytic. 

They do not list the top continental schools, such as DePaul, Villanova, Duquesne, Emory, or Boston College. These programs aren't even mentioned on the list. 

Your second point is pure propaganda. 

Edited by iunoionnis
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Since we know that Leiter personally hates continental philosophy, this should come as no surprise. The rankings are bullshit.

The obvious intention behind their design is to create the false image that all "serious" continental philosophy is being done by Dreyfus, Pippin, Rorty, or Brandom.

Edited by iunoionnis
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2 hours ago, iunoionnis said:

The obvious intention behind their design is to create the false image that all "serious" continental philosophy is being done by Dreyfus, Pippin, Rorty, or Brandom.

I makes me sad, but I think that this image is taken very seriously by a lot of folks, too. 

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1 hour ago, iunoionnis said:

Since we know that Leiter personally hates continental philosophy, this should come as no surprise.

I'm sorry, but this is ridiculous. There are lots of criticisms that one can make of Leiter and many of them are apt but saying that someone whose work centers on Marx and Nietzsche hates continental philosophy is just silly. (For the record, I strongly disagree with Leiter's reading of Nietzsche, but I also think it's a formidable reading that anyone working on Nietzsche needs to take into account).

 

9 hours ago, lyellgeo said:

The specialty report ranking is more or less useless when it comes to 20th century continental, mostly because many if not most of the evaluators aren't even working in that area. Methodological problems aside, one would think that would be at least a basic criteria for including someone as an evaluator.

By my count, 4 of the evaluators for 20th Continental philosophy are really Kant/19th Century scholars (Clark, Guyer, Novakovic, and Leiter) although most of them have a legitimate claim to some degree of engagement with later continental traditions. As far as I'm aware, however, the rest have some serious research interest in the period with interests ranging from phenomenology to existentialism to the Frankfurt school. A fair criticism might be to say that phenomenology, and a specific reading Husserl/Heidegger/Merleau-Ponty at that, dominate the rankings. One might also note the nearly complete absence of post-structuralist thought. But claiming that many or most evaluators aren't working the area doesn't seem to hold up. For a variety of reasons, 20th Century continental philosophy seems to produce a greater variety of opinions as to what counts as "good" scholarship that other subfields, which makes rankings here tricky. The other issue is that many of the programs strong in this area are unranked (some by choice)  and are thus listed at the bottom. From how I understand the sub-rankings, this doesn't mean they are to be understood as any weaker than the ranked programs in this area, just that evaluators weren't given a chance to evaluate them but thought that they would do as well as other ranked programs in this area had they been evaluated.

10 hours ago, lyellgeo said:

Also, it's sort of odd that they still include Leiter's original "analytic vs. continental philosophy" guide, even though it's misguided about a whole range of points, e.g. that analytic philosophy is about style. (A much better explanation can be found here.) 

I agree that Blattner's account of a sociological distinction is much more convincing than Leiter's stylistic distinction. However, it's interesting that both accounts point towards the uselessness of this distinction, whereas many posts on these boards recently seems to be reifying it in one way or another. You're certainly right though that Leiter can't seem to stop himself from making unnecessary parenthetical remarks.

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3 hours ago, iunoionnis said:

Both of these claims are false. 

The top schools listed are all "analytic" schools with a few continental people on the side. In the case of Irvine, there is LITERALLY ONE PERSON working on Husserl, and the rest of the faculty are analytic. 

They do not list the top continental schools, such as DePaul, Villanova, Duquesne, Emory, or Boston College. These programs aren't even mentioned on the list. 

Your second point is pure propaganda. 

What do you even mean by "continental" programs? You claim that these schools have a sort of sovereignty or ownership of an entire branch of philosophy, but this is just obviously not true. Just because psychoanalysis and Derridan(?) obscurantism have fallen out of favor doesn't mean that schools like Chicago and Columbia don't engage/partake in "continental philosophy" (again, whatever this means).

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2 hours ago, Glasperlenspieler said:

By my count, 4 of the evaluators for 20th Continental philosophy are really Kant/19th Century scholars (Clark, Guyer, Novakovic, and Leiter) although most of them have a legitimate claim to some degree of engagement with later continental traditions. As far as I'm aware, however, the rest have some serious research interest in the period with interests ranging from phenomenology to existentialism to the Frankfurt school. A fair criticism might be to say that phenomenology, and a specific reading Husserl/Heidegger/Merleau-Ponty at that, dominate the rankings. One might also note the nearly complete absence of post-structuralist thought. But claiming that many or most evaluators aren't working the area doesn't seem to hold up.

I agree, but even just including just those 4, that's almost 25% of evaluators (4/17), which is quite a lot. And if we were to ask instead how many of those scholars primarily work in 20th century continental, you would get an even higher percentage. That amount of ambiguity just doesn't seem to hold true of any of the other specialty rankings. 
 

2 hours ago, Glasperlenspieler said:

I agree that Blattner's account of a sociological distinction is much more convincing than Leiter's stylistic distinction. However, it's interesting that both accounts point towards the uselessness of this distinction, whereas many posts on these boards recently seems to be reifying it in one way or another. 

Yeah, I think it's an interesting problem, and I'm not sure how to work through it myself. When it comes to writing and reading I just ignore it (I've taken plenty of coursework in both "traditions"), but it's harder to ignore the sociological division when making decisions that ultimately will impact one's academic career.

If anything, I do think it is helpful for applicants to know that there are a number of unranked programs (e.g. Stony Brook, DePaul, Villanova, Penn State, etc.) where a lot of 20th century work is being done, and that those programs are often both extremely competitive to get into and occasionally have good placement for teaching (i.e. non research) positions. I also think there's quite a lot of good work being done at these programs, though that's my own personal bias. At least in my own case, it would have been helpful to know just how competitive some of these programs are, despite their "unranked" status. (And, to be fair, many people on this forum did warn me, I just didn't quite internalize it until afterwards.)

Edited by lyellgeo
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1 hour ago, prtrbd said:

The evergreen hullabaloo about continental philosophy makes me really glad I'm going into a field that everyone agrees is coherent and useful - analytic metaphysics. ;)

Here here! To real philosophy!

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