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The Moral of the Story 7/e is Out! April 15, 2012

Posted by Nina Rosenstand in Education, Ethics, Nina Rosenstand's Posts, Philosophy Profession.
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I’m happy to announce that the seventh edition of my ethics textbook The Moral of the Story is now available:

The cover painting is by Karen Barbour, Bay Area artist, and every edition of the book has had a painting by her on the cover. She has a wonderfully visionary style, and I love being able to maintain the visual consistency in this new edition. This image in particular perfectly illustrates the maze of thoughts we often find ourselves in, in regard to moral issues. (And as with all mazes, there is always a way out, even if it is not within view…)

McGraw-Hill has a website where you can check out the Table of Contents and other features of the new edition. Instructors can request a desk copy. Among the new sections are a thoroughly updated Chapter 1, and sections on Happiness studies, Moral Naturalism, updated research on ethics and neuroscience, ethics and empathy, a new Nietzsche section, an updated Ayn Rand section, and several new movies and novels including Avatar, State of Play, True Grit, The Invention of Lying, and A Thousand Spendid Suns. And  Chapter 10 has a picture of Dwight Furrow! 🙂


Good Work If You Can Get It January 7, 2010

Posted by Dwight Furrow in Dwight Furrow's Posts, Philosophy Profession.

Brian Leiter, links to a list of the 200 Best Occupations. Actuary ranks #1. Look where philosophy is:


I don’t know how they get these rankings. They must be assuming that a philosopher is a tenured professor. There are lots of good adjunct philosophers with PhD’s who have to scrounge about for work every semester and make little more than a beginning clerical worker.

And if you’re on the market this year, your chances of getting a job are about as good as your average auto worker.

And why are the historians ranked above us?

book-section-book-cover2 Dwight Furrow is author of

Reviving the Left: The Need to Restore Liberal Values in America

For political commentary by Dwight Furrow visit: www.revivingliberalism.com

A Step Forward November 19, 2009

Posted by Dwight Furrow in Ethics, Philosophy Profession.
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Via The Leiter Reports:

Apparently, The American Philosophical Association has adopted a new policy on religious institutions that discriminate against gay men and women (see here for previous post on this):

The American Philosophical Association rejects as unethical all forms of discrimination based on race, color, religion, political convictions, national origin, sex, disability, sexual orientation, gender identification or age, whether in graduate admissions, appointments, retention, promotion and tenure, manuscript evaluation, salary determination, or other professional activities in which APA members characteristically participate. This includes both discrimination on the basis of status and discrimination on the basis of conduct integrally connected to that status […]

There has been no official announcement yet, but according to an unofficial report by Professor Alistair Norcross:

This statement will be displayed on the page where institutions buy ad space for JFP, and they will be asked to check a box to indicate that they are in compliance with our statement. If they do not check this box, a flag (i.e. a symbolic marking, like the dagger sign currently used to flag censured institutions) will automatically be added to the ad. The flag will say something like this: this institution has not indicated that it complies with the APA Nondiscrimination Statement.

In addition, the APA will fully investigate any complaints about institutions that may not be in compliance with our nondiscrimination statement, a flag will be used to mark ads taken out by any institution that is found not to be in compliance, and this flag will state that, following a full investigation, the APA has determined that the institution is not in compliance with the APA Statement on Nondiscrimination.

This is good news and about time.

book-section-book-cover2 Dwight Furrow is author of

Reviving the Left: The Need to Restore Liberal Values in America

For political commentary by Dwight Furrow visit: www.revivingliberalism.com

Why Are There Few Women in Philosophy? October 12, 2009

Posted by Dwight Furrow in Dwight Furrow's Posts, Philosophy of Gender, Philosophy Profession.
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Via the NY Times:

Writing in The Philosophers’ Magazine, Brooke Lewis says tallies of full-time faculty at top American and British colleges show women make up less than a fifth of philosophy departments in Britain and little more than that in the United States. This suggests “that gender representation is far less balanced in philosophy than it is in many other humanities subjects.”

What is the explanation for the relative lack of women in philosophy?

Helen Beebee, director of the British Philosophical Association, says one reason may be that women are turned off by a culture of aggressive argument particular to philosophy, which grows increasingly more pronounced at the postgraduate level. “I can remember being a Ph.D. student and giving seminar papers and just being absolutely terrified that I was going to wind up intellectually beaten to a pulp by the audience,” she says. “I can easily imagine someone thinking, ‘This is just ridiculous. Why would I want to pursue a career where I open myself up to having my work publicly trashed on a regular basis?’ ”

This doesn’t strike me as the right explanation. Philosopher’s engage in vigorous debate and I have on occasion heard excessively hostile remarks at symposia or in seminar but “intellectually beaten to a pulp by the audience” does not characterize any philosophical discussion that I have witnessed. To suggest that women can’t handle the ordinary give and take of critical discussion is demeaning to women.

Moreover, there are lots of other disciplines that involve argument—the law for instance—in which women are well represented.

Rather, as with any complex social phenomena, I suspect there are multiple explanations that converge to create a pattern of under-represented women.

There is far less overt discrimination than there used to be as well as conscious attempts by many departments to be more inclusive. But unconscious stereotypes or other biases may influence hiring and publication decisions. (Here is an interesting discussion of empirical studies on this issue. In reading the comments, it appears the empirical data is equivocal)

It takes a long time for an “old boys network” to unravel despite deliberate attempts to eliminate bias. Until there are more women in the field who function as role models and advisors, and more women in the canon, women are likely to feel they don’t quite fit, even in the absence of explicit bias.

Also, it takes decades for senior positions in philosophy to reflect the make up of the pool of students who are going into philosophy. It would be interesting to have data regarding the gender make-up of undergraduate philosophy majors today compared to 30 years ago.

Finally, the peculiarities of philosophy may contribute as well. Some areas of philosophy lack a practical dimension, and philosophy is a discipline that involves some degree of isolation. Perhaps some significant portion of smart women self-select for disciplines that involve more collaboration or “real world” impact.

book-section-book-cover2Dwight Furrow is author of

Reviving the Left: The Need to Restore Liberal Values in America

For political commentary by Dwight Furrow visit: www.revivingliberalism.com

Ethicists Are Not Ethical June 18, 2009

Posted by Dwight Furrow in Dwight Furrow's Posts, Ethics, Philosophy Profession, Teaching.
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Via Inside Higher Ed:

According to a paper written by two philosophy professors, Eric Schwitzgebel of the University of California at Riverside and Joshua Rust of Stetson University, a college professorship in ethics does not necessary translate into moral behavior. At least, that’s what the people who work with ethicists say.

Their results:

Most of the 277 survey respondents reported no positive correlation between a professional focus on ethics and actual moral behavior. Respondents who were ethicists themselves shied away from saying that ethicists behave worse than those outside the discipline – generally reporting that ethicists behave either the same or better – but non-ethicists were mostly split between reporting that ethicists behave the same as or worse than others. Even those ethicists who did rank their peers’ behavior as better than average said their moral behavior is just barely better than average – hardly a ringing endorsement.

I don’t find this surprising. Why think that people who study ethics are morally superior to people who don’t. Are psychologists more mentally stable than non-psychologists? Are chemists better cooks?

One of the paper’s authors goes on to express some doubt about whether ethics courses improve student’s behavior:

“People do sometimes justify ethics courses on the assumption that taking ethics courses will improve students’ behavior down the road,” Schwitzgebel said, noting legal and business ethics as examples, although they are separate from ethics courses in the philosophy department. “I think there is a potential this line of research could undercut the justification for those classes.”

But, as Schwitzgebel was quick to point out, his study does not imply that. The jump from ethics professors’ immoral behavior to students’ benefiting (or not) from ethics courses is a long one to make, he said.

I think there is some confusion here.  People who behave well tend to be well-motivated. But theorizing about ethics probably has little influence on motivational states. People who lack moral motives because they are narcissistic, excessively selfish, authoritarian, etc. will not acquire moral motives through theoretical reasoning. (My Kantian friends might disagree.)

However, if a person is well-motivated, studying ethical theory can give her the tools to think more clearly and consistently about ethical behavior. Studying ethics makes well-motivated people better; scoundrels will need more than a finely-honed argument to get well.

For an entertaining debate about this, head over to Crooked Timber.


book-section-book-cover2 Dwight Furrow is author of

Reviving the Left: The Need to Restore Liberal Values in America

or Visit the Website: www.revivingliberalism.com


APA Anti-Discrimination Update April 2, 2009

Posted by Dwight Furrow in Dwight Furrow's Posts, Philosophy Profession.
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I posted recently about the petition demanding sanctions for colleges that discriminate against gays and lesbians.

Via the Leiter Report, a petition opposing sanctions against the primarily Christian colleges that forbid homosexuality is now available.

You can follow the debate in the comments section of the Leiter Report.

The APA and its Anti-discrimination Policy March 6, 2009

Posted by Dwight Furrow in Current Events, Dwight Furrow's Posts, Ethics, Philosophy Profession.
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The APA (American Philosophical Association) is embroiled in controversy over its job postings. (See Brian Leiter’s Website for a blow-by-blow)

The APA’s anti-discrimination statute forbids discrimination on the basis of race, gender, sexual orientation, etc. Yet, it accepts ads from Christian colleges that require all employees to sign contracts in which they promise not to engage in various “un-Christian” behaviors, including having a gay partner.

These ads would seem to be a clear violation of the anti-discrimination policy. Approximately 1,200 APA members (myself included) have signed a petition requesting that the APA refuse to accept ads from colleges with such contracts.

As might be expected, some Christian philosophers object to this petition, arguing that Christian colleges are in full compliance with the APA’s anti-discrimination policy. Their argument is that these contracts permit hiring persons of any sexual orientation so long as they do not act on that orientation. Hence, there is no discrimination against persons or their sexual orientation, only a prohibition against particular actions. And they support this distinction by use of analogies, e.g., one could rightfully hire an alcoholic but forbid her drinking.

It never ceases to amaze me how highly-trained philosophers in the grip of a dogma can trot our such bad arguments. Human beings define themselves and are defined by others through their actions. And our dispositions, proclivities, and preferences acquire their full meaning and significance only they are directed toward action. It is a profoundly alienating experience when central features of one’s identity cannot be acted on. (I doubt that being an alcoholic quite qualifies). The reliance on this distinction between sexual orientation and action is just a smokescreen for abject bigotry.

There is another side of the issue that the APA must grapple with. Private, religious institutions have a right to teach their own traditions and define them as they see fit without government interference. The APA has always defended principles of academic freedom and religious liberty and rightfully so. But the APA is not a government entity. It is a private association, and many of its members do not want their offices to be used to promote bigotry. The petition does not seek to control what religious institutions teach or whom they hire. It seeks only to decline to run job ads that openly discriminate in violation of its statutes.

Bright Future for Philosophy Students! April 7, 2008

Posted by Nina Rosenstand in Nina Rosenstand's Posts, Philosophy, Philosophy Profession.


I’m often asked by my students what they’ll be able to do with philosophy as a major. The latest answer, according to the New York Times and The Guardian, is, anything you want! Philosophy has emerged as the latest fad major, not for the first time, but this time around it actually appears as if there is some solid reasoning going on, not just in the minds of philosophy students, but in the minds of employers. According to The Guardian,

“Figures from the Higher Education Statistics Agency show philosophy graduates, once derided as unemployable layabouts, are in growing demand from employers. The number of all graduates in full-time and part-time work six months after graduation has risen by 9% between 2002-03 and 2005-06; for philosophy graduates it has gone up by 13%.

It is in the fields of finance, property development, health, social work and the nebulous category of “business” that those versed in Plato and Kant are most sought after. In “business”, property development, renting and research, 76% more philosophy graduates were employed in 2005-06 than in 2002-03. In health and social work, 9% more….

…Fiona Czerniawska, director of the Management Consultancies Association’s think tank, says: “A philosophy degree has trained the individual’s brain and given them the ability to provide management-consulting firms with the sort of skills that they require and clients demand. These skills can include the ability to be very analytical, provide clear and innovative thinking, and question assumptions.””

 This is, of course, what we philosophy instructors have been saying for years, but we’ve generally considered it a nice bonus added to the major benefit of actually enjoying doing philosophy. And according to the New York Times, it is a lot of fun—and it is also useful (hmmmmm):

“Jenna Schaal-O’Connor, a 20-year-old sophomore who is majoring in cognitive science and linguistics, said philosophy had other perks. She said she found many male philosophy majors interesting and sensitive. “That whole deep existential torment,” she said. “It’s good for getting girlfriends.””


APA’s Anti-Discrimination Policy May 9, 2007

Posted by Dwight Furrow in Philosophy Profession.
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Should the APA allow schools that violate their anti-discrimination policy to advertise in Jobs for Philosophers?

Catch the debate here.