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31 March, 2004

Transaction Analysis

RSSS … acquired E/M Tyler Doggett from MIT for cash and future considerations.

The research school always seems to be on the losing end of trades involving people going out, but when was the last time they were on the losing side of a trade involving people moving in? It’s almost not worth commenting on them. Doggett is a five-tool player who has put up impressive results at every level. He was due to be Michael Smith’s understudy this year, but the Tigers recent acquisition of Smith means Doggett might see more PT, which could make him a fantasy sleeper. He should make the adjustment to the bigs with ease and be a productive contributor from day one.

Here’s the official announcement.

The Philosophy Program at RSSS, ANU is pleased to announce the appointment of Tyler Doggett. He will join the ANU in the middle of 2004 for a year as Postdoctoral Fellow. He will initially work with Michael Smith on his ARC project ‘Reasons and Rationality.’ Doggett went to graduate school at MIT. His philosophical interests include ethics, metaphysics, philosophy of mind, Descartes, and Leibniz.

I couldn’t figure out how to work it into a transaction analysis, but I should add that without Tyler’s assistance I couldn’t have written either of my imaginative resistance papers. I’m both very happy that he’s landed such a cool job, and very happy for the RSSS that they hired wisely – again. It will be good for both parties if they can find a way to tack on some extra years.

Posted by Brian Weatherson at 2:41 am

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We’re #n

I think Brian Leiter should have left comments open on this post so people could lobby publicly in advance of him “post[ing] a few thoughts on the “hierarchy,” as it were, in a bit, in light of the various moves.”

We had a little debate in the TAR offices about where we should claim Cornell now stands. After some heated debate, we agreed that Peacocke leaving for Columbia probably didn’t mean we’d moved above NYU. Funnily enough, those who thought Cornell was now better than NYU were exactly the same people who thought Tampa Bay’s one game lead over the Yankees could hold up over the final 161 games. So if the D-Rays are ahead of the Yankees come October, we might be in a position to claim we’re the best department in New York state.

Given that we aren’t #1 in the state yet, let alone the country, where should Cornell be ranked?

In the category I most care about, philosophical strength of the department members in their 30s, Cornell is presumably about #2 in the world right now, just behind Rutgers. I think Charles, Andrew, Mike, Tamar, Delia, Benj, Zoltan and moi provide as good a young foundation for a department as you’ll find anywhere outside New Jersey. Obviously that group is a little biased towards MME&L, but that means there’s more chance for joint work, collaborative seminars and the like which are good for students. And since Cornell is already a world-class department in history and ethics/political philosophy, a bit of specialisation at the youth end won’t harm the department’s breadth. (In this context it’s worth noting the breadth of interest of Cornell’s grad students, something that probably reflects the department’s across-the-board strengths.)

It’s an interesting question whether young departments are systematically undervalued in a reputational survey. A priori it would seem they would be, since for most philosophers the value of the variable actual quality minus perceived quality will be steadily declining from sometime in their 30s until retirement. Having many young philosophers among those surveyed will help correct this a little, since many people are familiar with the work of their contemporaries. But it can’t correct the entirity of this bias unless you suppose that young philosophers are as (un)familiar with the work of their more senior colleagues as senior philosophers are with the work of people who have only recently appeared on the scene. Ultimately this is an empirical question, so a priori speculation can only go so far, but there’s some reason to think reputational surveys will undervalue young departments, so one of Cornell’s big strengths may go a little undercounted in the gourmet reports surveys.

As for what difference adding me makes, it’s probably easiest to start with the speciality rankings. The biggest differences between the current rankings and how good Cornell now is don’t come primarily from adding me, but I help in each case.

In Philosophical Logic and Philosophy of Logic and Language, defined as “such topics as identity, truth, vagueness, reference, negation, logical form, paradoxes, etc.”, Cornell is listed as Notable, although by now I think we’re plausibly in ‘Excellent’, though the discrepancy is as much due to undervaluing Delia’s and Zoltan’s work in the past as to adding me.

In epistemology we probably move from off the board to Good. As well as hiring me, Cornell has added Tamar and Andrew (who were both hired since the previous rankings were compiled) to a program that already had Dick Miller and Dick Boyd in epistemology and Gail Fine and Charles Brittain doing important work in history of epistemology. And that makes for a solidly Good program.

(Now that I look at it, we’re probably a little better than Good in history of epistemology. Like most people, Brian breaks down history of philosophy by era in his speciality rankings, so history of epistemology is not a category, but if you break down history by subject matter so it existed as a category, we’d look pretty strong in it. As an undergraduate I took a two-semester course in history of political philosophy from the pre-Socratics to the present day, but all the other history courses I remember were organised by period not subject matter. I presume that if I knew more history of philosophy I’d understand the reason for this.)

In metaphysics we move from off the board to either Good or Notable, though again that’s because we were undervalued in the past. And in decision theory we arguably move from off the board to Notable.

Just for kicks, I went through the speciality rankings for each department, and gave each department a score using the following metric – 5 points for Excellent, 3 points for Good, 1 point for Notable. Currently Cornell comes in 21st by that measure, which seems quite low. We’re ranked 16th overall right now, so this metric isn’t doing us any favours. (We aren’t the only ones it undervalues. Rutgers is 7th, only a point ahead of Texas, which says something bad either about the method or the rankings.) But if we make the changes in the previous paragraph, Cornell vaults to 12th, which seems a lot closer to being correct.

Having done that, it seems it leaves something out. Which of the ‘traditional’ categories does the stuff Tamar and I have been doing on imaginative resistance and related topics fit in? From Tamar’s perspective, it’s sort of Mind and Cognitive Science with some epistemology tossed in. In my perspective it’s sort of Mind and Language, crossed with metaphysics. And we’re both presenting papers on it at the American Society for Aesthetics conference in October. So who knows? This is reflective of the fact that Cornell people are generalists. And I think because of this breadth, Cornell is producing interesting work across-the-board. Cornell’s going to be one of the more interesting places to be in the next few years.

Posted by Brian Weatherson at 2:33 am

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30 March, 2004

Eric Hiddleston

Eric Hiddleston, my successor-but-one as the Sutton Faculty Fellow at Syracuse, and of course a recent grad of my employer-to-be has a papers page up with many, many papers on metaphysics.

I’m a little surprised that he regards Humean supervenience as the current metaphysical orthodoxy. I’m a Humean superveniencian, more or less, but I don’t feel like I’m on the majority side of many metaphysical debates. I certainly don’t think I’m going to feel like I’m in the majority at Cornell, but really anywhere outside New Jersey or Australia Humean supervenience has to struggle to retain its position.

Posted by Brian Weatherson at 3:24 pm

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Papers Blog – March 30

The papers blog is up, with a new paper by Eric Schwitzgebel and Josh Dever on the two-envelope paradox being the only news.

Posted by Brian Weatherson at 10:23 am

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29 March, 2004

Papers Blog – March 29

The papers blog is updated for March 29, with dozens of new papers. It’s somewhat absurd to highlight any of these in particular when there’s so much, but let me just mention Tom Baldwin’s SEP article on Moore. This was rather timely since I spent a large chunk of my travel time reading Principia Ethica. I’ll write more about this later, but what struck me more than anything was how Moore turns out in chapter five (“Ethics in Relation to Conduct”) to be an inductive sceptic. Of course, Principia Ethica is well before Moore’s anti-sceptical papers, so the clash with the Moore we know and love is not as vivid as it might first seem, but it is still odd to see Moore, of all people, presupposing the truth of inductive scepticism.

Posted by Brian Weatherson at 3:42 pm

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Truer

turns up, albeit in scare quotes, in a paper John Bell just posted on Causal Sets and Frame-Valued Set Theory. What’s interesting from my perspective is that Bell doesn’t assume truer, or “truer”, is a linear relation. In the particular case he writes about, truer determines a Heyting lattice. So one more data point for the claim that it is not constitutive of the relation truer that it is linear.

Posted by Brian Weatherson at 3:14 pm

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Papers Blog Changes

I’m thinking of dropping the ‘Subscription Publications’ section of the papers blog for the following four reasons. First, many readers can’t access subscription publications, and it might be simpler to stick to open access publications. Second, other services, like Philosophers Index already index these. Third, it is much messier to track journals than personal homepages, because many webpages announcing journal publications (especially at Kluwer) are designed to be hard to ‘deep-link’ to. So the accuracy and comphrensiveness of that section is very poor. Fourth, it is by far the slowest and most tedious part of the daily entry to compile. If, however, people find that section particularly valuable I’ll leave it in.

Posted by Brian Weatherson at 2:58 pm

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Princeton/Rutgers Grad Conference

The Princeton/Rutgers graduate conference has posted its schedule and the conference papers. In case you can’t or won’t visit their site (and I was having some troubles getting in using Firebird), here are direct links to the papers.

New Work for a Language Module? Bryan Baltzly (UMD)

Fuzzy Link Externalism: Fixing the Problem of Dead Cats and Mental Tails: Mike Tamir (Pittsburgh)

Thought-experiments, Intuitions, and Descartes on his Essence: Elliot Paul (Syracuse)

Demonstratives as Pronouns: Eric Swanson (MIT)

Luck, Leverage, and Equality: A Bargaining Problem for Luck Egalitarians: Matthew Seligman (Berkeley)

Physicalism and Illusions of Epistemic Humility: Alyssa Ney (Brown)

Computationalism versus the Locality Principle: David Longinotti (UMD)

Skill, Luck, and Folk Ascriptions of Intentional Action: Thomas Nadelhoffer (FSU)

Posted by Brian Weatherson at 2:51 pm

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Philosophy Talk

In the comments below, Kent Bach linked to an article in the San Francisco Chronicle on Philosophy Talk

There’s a theme between the last two posts. Both the SEP and Philosophy Talk originate from Stanford, they both provide great public services, and, it seems, both need some extra funding to continue.

Posted by Brian Weatherson at 2:45 pm

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Stanford Encyclopaedia

The Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy is looking to do some fundraising to cover its (very modest) costs. The details are here.

At risk of offending practically every reader of this site, I think this is one of those rare cases where a little advertising would go a long way towards covering costs. If the SEP set up an Amazon associates account, and converted every reference to an in-print book to a live Amazon link, they could raise a huge amount of money with minimal intrusiveness. And it might lead to more philosophy books being sold, which seems to be a good thing.

Posted by Brian Weatherson at 2:36 pm

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