[lit-ideas] Re: Shaming, Shocking Editorialising Etc.

  • From: John Wager <john.wager1@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Thu, 29 Nov 2012 20:27:44 -0600

I would agree with you more completely, except institutions and their reputations are what create "schools" of thought. Students who go to Oxford know they are going to get a lot of British analysis and empiricism, because British schools are the schools for those schools of thought. One would no more go to Paris to study Witters than to go to Oxford to study Jaspers. These are larger issues than individuals forming informal groups; they are matters of institutional identity in many cases. "Continental philosophy" and "British analytic philosophy" are usually NOT found at the same institution, and even if faculty want to expand in one direction or another, it can be extremely difficult to do so. American graduate schools are only slightly less rigid in this respect than European schools.

But this whole discussion also underlies a slightly different issue: Hiring new faculty who "fit in" best at an institution. Those who "fit in" best are usually most like the current crop of people there. Feminists have been vocal about how this tends to exclude those who don't "fit in" and thereby silence interesting new voices and perspectives. Until universities start hiring people who DON'T fit in, both the problem of sexism in philosophy and the problem of rigid, narrow curricula will continue.

Part of the reason this shows up more in philosophy than other disciplines is philosophy is the discipline of disciplines, still. It's the subject that is not defined by a strict method or accepted range of methods, so it's less open to charges of not "following" proper sociological approaches and procedures.

John McCreery wrote:

I wonder if treating the university as the relevant actor in the case isn't a case of misplaced concreteness. Aren't the relevant contingencies which professors are already in place and make hiring decisions and whether they be approve of the new hire's scholarship and what she wants to teach? Which is not, I hasten to add, to denigrate concern with the quality of ideas. It is just to recognize the reality that reputations are built or destroyed by their passage through particular individuals who make judgments about them. The institutional structure is relevant insofar as it empowers certain individuals to act on their judgments, with results that others may deplore.

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