Arche Methodology Conference

Unlike the John McCain campaign, Arche sends it announcements out through the intertubes, not by Betamax tape. So I can happily announce this

Call for Papers: Philosophical Methodology: 25-27 April

The AHRC Project on ‘Intuitions and Methodology Project’ at the Arché Philosophical Research Centre will host a major Conference on Philosophical Methodology 25-27 April, 2009, at the University of St. Andrews.

Invited keynote speakers:
David Chalmers (Australian National University)
Jonathan Schaffer (Australian National University, Arché)
Ernest Sosa (Rutgers University)
Tamar Szabó Gendler (Yale University)

The purpose of the conference is to explore questions about philosophical methodology. Potential topics include:

  • The nature of philosophical intuitions
  • The role of intuition in philosophical methodology
  • The bearing of experimental philosophy on philosophical methodology
  • Comparisons between approaches to methodology in various subfields of philosophy
  • The subject matter of philosophy
  • The significance of disagreement in philosophy
  • Comparisons between philosophy and other disciplines
  • Apriority
  • The epistemology of modality
  • Scepticism about philosophy
  • The role of linguistics in philosophical inquiry

We hope to consider both methodological questions about philosophy at large and considerations specific to subfields of philosophy (e.g., metaphysics, ethics, philosophy of language, etc.).

Submitted Papers:
We now invite submissions for 40 minute talks on any area of philosophical methodology. Please send an abstract (400-word maximum) and a CV (1-page) via email to Jonathan Ichikawa by 1 January, 2009. Notification of acceptance will be sent by 1 February, 2009.

Further Details:
Contact Jonathan Ichikawa or Yuri Cath or visit the conference website.

Naturally, I’ll be getting to St Andrews about two weeks after this, so I’m not sure I’ll be able to go. But it looks like it should be a great conference.

Improve “Jobs for Philosophers”

Over at the Philosophy Job Market Blog, there’s <A href=>a discussion</a> about “how the JFP (in roughly something like its current form—print and online copies) could be more user-friendly and helpful for folks on the market.“  And apparently Kevin Timpe, one of the members of the relevant APA committee, is listening.  So if you have any suggestions for things that could be standardized about ads (or perhaps reasons why some of the suggested standardizations would be problematic), or thoughts about how the geographic and alphabetical ordering could be improved, or anything else <A href=>go over there to comment</a>.  I know it seems to be traditional there to leave comments completely anonymous, but I’m sure for something like this it might be useful for the APA committee to have an idea at least whether the person giving the suggestion is someone who’s tried to write a lot of these ads, someone who’s been spending lots of time lately trying to read these ads, or of a different sort of demographic category.

Writing Samples

I hadn’t actually thought about this question before, until Nate Charlow raised it

Would someone do me the favor of explaining why, e.g., writing samples for job applications are generally expected to be double-spaced with one-inch margins? Is the implication that single-spaced documents with wide margins are difficult to read? Do these same people find articles in competently type-set journals difficult to read?

I didn’t even realise that was the expectation. I guess a lot of the samples I’ve read have been like this.

Here’s the thing though. We’re going to be getting writing samples on 8.5*11 paper. (Or, if we’re lucky, A4.) A full page of single spaced text on a page like that is actually difficult to read.

Now that isn’t Nate’s suggestion. His suggestion is that we have basically a journal type page in the middle of a sea of white. (If I’m reading it right, he’s suggesting the default LaTeX look.) But I’m not sure that’s much easier to read. I think I find double spaced easier to read than a journal, though of course it’s much less efficient paper-wise. (I think I personally prefer 1.5ish space to double space, but your mileage may vary.) So if people are sending in writing samples that are double spaced, I think that makes my (sometime) job as a writing sample reader somewhat easier. If everyone feels the same way as me, then double spacing is good for candidates to do.

So what does everyone think? If you’re reading writing samples, does it make a difference to you if they look like, say, journal submissions (double spaced, normal margins) rather than page proofs (single spaced, massive margins)?


Donate!I’m basically bedridden with some kind of seasonal, or at least mid-semester, illness. Hopefully it’s just a 24 hour bug. In the meantime, apologies to all those whose emails I’m not responding to, and here are a few interesting links.

  • If anyone wants to chip in more money, even just $10, to the Obama fundraiser here (and in the sidebar) it would be greatly appreciated!

Sakai is still Awful

I’ve occasionally read people complaining that it is too hard to get their universities to use more open-source software. I think any such people should be careful what they wish for. At Rutgers-New Brunswick, the course management software we’re forced to use is a terrible program called Sakai. The upside of Sakai, I guess, is that it is open-source and free.

The downsides are basically all of the downsides you’d expect with open-source software. If you use the software the way the makers intended, it works tolerably well. But it’s completely user-unfriendly, and has no error correction. One effect of this is that it is incredibly hard to navigate around, and find the various features that you might want to use. The interfaces have pretty clearly been designed by someone who knows just where to find all the features, so doesn’t have to worry about looking for them. One reason it is so unfriendly is that although it is web-based, it basically disables the use of the “Go Back” command. And it is really hard on screen to tell where to get back to where you came from. (Often there will be no single click that does so, or at least no apparent click, and “Back” doesn’t work.) So errant clicks can lead you down long dead ends.

And when you make a mistake, the program makes it impossible to make up easily. I just finished composing a long email to a group, but accidentally clicked the wrong group of users to send it to. The effect of this was that I was trying to send an email to an empty group. So rather than checking whether that’s what I really wanted, the program simply threw up an error screen. And of course from the error screen it’s impossible to get back to the email.

Happily at other Rutgers campuses they still use professional-quality course-management software, rather than the amateur hour product we have to use at New Brunswick. Hopefully New Brunswick can follow suit.

UPDATE: Oh, and Sakai thinks that various PDF files are really HTML files, so when you go to download uploaded PDFs, you get the raw source code of the PDF. Worst. Software. Ever.

Decision Theory Notes

I’m teaching an upper level decision theory course at Rutgers this semester, and I thought I’d try and write detailed notes for each of the classes I’m teaching. I’m not sure it’s been a great success so far – largely because I haven’t really had time to carefully edit the notes. But still I thought there might be some interest in these beyond just my class, so I’ll post them here.

These notes take us through the first 14 of 28 planned classes.

Decision Theory Notes, Classes 1-14.