PIKSI 2011 GRADUATE ASSISTANT CALL FOR APPLICATIONS
The sixth annual meeting of Philosophy in an Inclusive Key Summer Institute (PIKSI) will take place from July 31 – August 6, 2011, at the Rock Ethics Institute on the campus of Penn State University in State College, PA. At least two graduate students will assist Ladelle McWhorter, who will direct the Institute. In addition, one graduate assistant will come from the Penn State philosophy department. We expect that, as was the case in previous summers, the home institution of the other graduate assistants will fund their positions. (The philosophy departments of the University of Memphis, Binghamton University, Villanova University, Michigan State University, University of Colorado at Boulder, Stony Brook University, Dalhousie, American University, and DePaul University generously supported PIKSI graduate assistants in 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2010.)
We invite those of you teaching in graduate programs to nominate graduate student assistants for PIKSI. The applications will be screened according to the graduate student’s accomplishments as a researcher, a teacher, and mentor; the relevance of her or his research to the topics of the institute; and the home institution’s willingness to fund the student (approximately $2000, including travel, housing, and stipend).
Applications should include a cover letter from the graduate student in which they discuss why they would like to be a graduate assistant for PIKSI, the graduate student’s CV, a letter of support from a faculty member, and documentation of institutional support, if available. Please email complete applications to Ladelle McWhorter, Philosophy Department, University of Richmond, 28 Westhampton Way, Richmond, VA 23173, by March 7, 2011. If you have any further questions please contact Eva Feder Kittay, PIKSI Board Chair, at firstname.lastname@example.org <email@example.com> or Ladelle McWhorter, Director of PIKSI Summer 2011, at firstname.lastname@example.org
MINERS: 10 miners are trapped in a flooding mine; they are either all in shaft A or all in shaft B. Given our information, each location is equally likely. We have just enough sandbags to block one shaft, saving all the miners, if they are in the blocked shaft, but killing them all if they are in the other. If we do nothing, the water will distribute between the two shafts, killing only the one miner positioned lowest. On the basis of these considerations, (1) seems true:
(1) We ought to block neither shaft.
While deliberating, though, we accept both
(2) If the miners are in A, we ought to block A
(3) If the miners are in B, we ought to block B.
We also accept
(4) Either the miners are in A or they are in B.
And (2)-(4) seems to entail
(5) Either we ought to block A or we ought to block B.
In a forthcoming paper, (“’If’s and ‘Ought’s,” JPhil), Niko Kolodny and John MacFarlane argue that the best way to resolve this paradox is to give up modus ponens. Instead, I’ll argue, acceptance of the contextualist semantics for modal expressions I advocate (in “A Flexibly Contextualist Account of Epistemic Modals” and “A Flexible, Contextualist Account of ‘Ought’”, http://www.unl.edu/philosop/people/faculty/dowell/dowell.shtml), together with a Kratzer-style semantics for the indicative conditional, allows for a resolution of the paradox without giving up on MP. This seems to me a clear advantage.
At the end of this month, I am due to respond to
Brian Leiter's essay
"Moral Skepticism and Moral Disagreement in Nietzsche",
on the National Humanities Center's web site On the Human.
In this essay, Leiter develops a Nietzsche-inspired argument, according to which
moral scepticism is strongly supported by the kind of
moral disagreement that exists among moral philosophers.
This made me wonder, To what extent do moral philosophers disagree about
moral questions? Of course, they disagree about the abstract foundational
of ethics: Aristotelians, Kantians, consequentialists, and the like, all
have different answers to these foundational questions. But to what extent
do they disagree in their moral verdicts on concrete cases or types of case?
At the "start of the year" college meeting last week our dean showed some Powerpoint slides listing the number of majors in each department over the last few years. The point was to illustrate how the college is growing across the board. Philosophy wasn't exactly a good illustration of his point, however. In F08, the latest year for which he had data, we had only 39 majors. That was more than in F03, but not only is it a small number in absolute terms, it is less than in the prior two years. Next year's number should be slightly higher, and I think that we may not be getting credit for a few double majors. Still, we don't have the number of majors that we should have, and among other problems this means that important and worthwhile courses are being canceled for lack of enrollment---theory of knowledge and philosophy of natural science being two recent examples. As department chair, I need to do something to help the department recruit more majors. But what?
Many senior American philosophers strongly advise their graduate students that publishing while in graduate school is a bad idea, and hurts the students' chances on the academic job market. The argument, so far as I understand it, is this.
If the sample of written work that you send in with your job application is drawn from a thesis that is still a work in progress, it will be judged by more lenient standards than a published work, which will be taken as the candidate's final word on the topic.
Your published work will be so salient in the minds of the philosophers who are assessing your application that they will find it hard to forgive you for any flaws that they think they see in the published work.
Indeed, to be ready to write something that is truly worthy of publication, one must have a depth of learning and insight that one can only achieve by first completing one's doctoral dissertation. (It might even be thought somewhat vulgar to rush one's ideas into print -- such people might even stoop to -- blogging ...!)
This argument does not seem even remotely persuasive to me. But I'd like to know what PEA Soupers think!
Some philosophers are bold; they defend strong positions with few hedges or caveats. Others are cautious; they defend weak positions with many hedges and caveats. Which of these two approaches, bold or cautious, is better?