Francesco Guala Wins APA’s Philosophy of Social Science Award

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 13/12/2018 - 10:51am in


award, philosophy

The American Philosophical Association (APA) has given its 2018 Joseph B. Gittler Award to Francesco Guala, professor of philosophy at the University of Milan, for his book, Understanding Institutions: The Science and Philosophy of Living Together.

The $4000 award is given “for an outstanding scholarly contribution in the field of the philosophy of one or more of the social sciences. The range of the social sciences is construed broadly so as to include anthropology, economics, education, government, history, psychology, sociology, and any other field that is normally located within the social science division in contemporary colleges and universities.”

Professor Guala’s book, according its publisher, Princeton University Press, “proposes a new unified theory of social institutions… that combines the features of three influential views of institutions: as equilibria of strategic games, as regulative rules, and as constitutive rules. Guala explains key institutions like money, private property, and marriage, and develops a much-needed unification of equilibrium- and rules-based approaches.”

In a press release, award committee chair Edouard Machery (Pittsburgh) says, “The book moves seamlessly from the philosophy of social science to social science itself, and brings together scientific and philosophical considerations. Its limpid style makes it accessible to a large audience in addition to the more specialized audience of philosophers of social science.”

Previous winners are listed here.

(via Erin Shepherd)

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Philosophy Chairs at All SUNY Campuses Come to Defense of Fredonia Dept.

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 13/12/2018 - 9:34am in

As reported last month, the administration of the State University of New York (SUNY) at Fredonia has proposed eliminating the school’s Department of Philosophy. In response, the chairs of the philosophy departments at all fifteen other SUNY campuses have now written a forceful letter to SUNY Fredonia’s president, Virginia Horvath, objecting to the proposal.

The letter advances several arguments against the elimination of Fredonia’s Department of Philosophy. These arguments appeal to the centrality of philosophy to a liberal arts education, the exceptional performance of the department along many relevant metrics, and how eliminating the philosophy department contravenes a core purpose of the SUNY system.

The whole letter is below.

The letter is also downloadable as a PDF here.

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The “Information is Beautiful” Awards and Philosophy

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 13/12/2018 - 5:12am in


art, philosophy

The Kantar Information is Beautiful Awards aim to recognize “excellence and beauty in data visualizations, infographics, interactives &  information art” in various categories.

No explicitly philosophical entries were among this year’s winners, which have been announced over the past week. However, an interesting interactive visualization of the I Ching, by Peiyuan Tang and Han-wei Shen, did make the longlist. There’s a still image from it at the end of this post, and you can play around with the interactive version here.

Looking over the entrants from the past few years, there have not been very many in philosophy. I’ve posted about some of them (the Evolution of Kant’s Lexicon, the Structure of Philosophy, and a History of Philosophy Timeline), and there have been other visualizations I’ve noted (for example, a Visualization of Influence in the History of Philosophy, a couple of projects on Spinoza’s Ethics, a subway map version of Wittgenstein’s Tractatusand Six Degrees of Francis Bacon, to name a few).

I’m putting up this post, first, as an excuse to ask for more examples of philosophy visualizations, so if you know of any recent ones I may have missed, either post them in the comments or email them to me. But second, I’m posting it to encourage philosophers to be thoughtful and creative with the presentation of their ideas (I haven’t yet picked up this book but I would bet it is very helpful, and there is always this classic), and maybe consider submitting to the Information is Beautiful awards. The next deadline will be in June, 2019.

Still image from an interactive visualization of the I Ching, designed by Peiyuan Tang and Han-wei Shen


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Summer (2019) Programs in Philosophy for Graduate Students

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 12/12/2018 - 8:38am in

Last week’s post about upcoming summer programs in philosophy for undergraduates prompted a few requests for a similar post for summer programs in philosophy for current graduate students

If you are affiliated with one of these programs, and would like it listed in this post, either email me a brief description and a link, or provide that information in the comments on this post, and I’ll add it. (See the post on undergrad programs for examples of what to include.)

*  *  *  *  *

  • Diverse Intelligences Summer Institute, University of St. Andrews, Scotland, June 30 – July 20, 2019.
    We believe that pushing back the frontiers of intelligence requires pulling down the barriers between traditional disciplines. It requires the constitution of a new “community of practice” focused on diverse intelligences, in which promising young scholars are connected across disciplinary lines. The Diverse Intelligences Summer Institute will build a community of early career scholars dedicated to actively breaking down transdisciplinary boundaries in investigating the frontiers of intelligence. We seek scholars in fields such as (but not limited to) anthropology, artificial intelligence, ethology, cognitive science, computer science, sociology, and philosophy who are interested in pursuing interdisciplinary, collaborative research in recognizing, programming, and shaping intelligences.
  • Public Philosophy and Social Ontology: Rights and Responsibilities for a Just Society, The Centre for Philosophy, Politics and Economics at the University of Groningen and the Dutch Research School of Philosophy (OZSW), the Netherlands, August 26-30, 2019.
    How do people live together? And how should they live together? Answering these questions requires a conception of society, and of the role that social practices, institutions and organizations play in it. But what are these social structures? What are their functions? And how can they contribute to a just society? This summer school brings together experts in social theory, social ontology, ethics, and political philosophy. It serves to bring recent developments in social ontology to bear on public philosophy. (Speakers: Christina Bicchieri, Sally Haslanger, Stephanie Collins, Andreas Schmidt, Titus Stahl, Justin Bruner, Frank Hindriks.) The summer school is targeted at PhD students in philosophy with a background or interest in the social sciences. Research Master students and post-docs are also welcome to apply.
  • Center for Ethics and the Rule of Law (CERL) Internship Program, May 28-July 19, 2019
    The Summer Internship Program offers professional and graduate level students an opportunity to further CERL’s efforts to promote and protect the rule of law in national and international security practice.  Summer interns will interact with national security experts on the critical and cutting-edge problems facing our nation today. CERL is a non-partisan interdisciplinary institute dedicated to the preservation and promotion of the rule of law in 21st century conflict, warfare and national security.  CERL draws from the study of law, philosophy, and ethics to answer the difficult questions that arise in times of war and contemporary transnational conflicts. CERL unites scholars and policymakers from various fields in a multi-disciplinary conversation on some of the most challenging issues of our time. Law students, as well as graduate students in philosophy, political science, international relations and other related fields interested in examining the intersection of rule of law values, applied ethics, and national security are encouraged to apply.

photo by J. Weinberg

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Philosophy and the study of technology failure

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 12/12/2018 - 4:03am in



image: Adolf von Menzel, The Iron Rolling Mill (Modern Cyclopes)
Readers may have noticed that my current research interests have to do with organizational dysfunction and largescale technology failures. I am interested in probing the ways in which organizational failures and dysfunctions have contributed to large accidents like Bhopal, Fukushima, and the Deepwater Horizon disaster. I've had to confront an important question in taking on this research interest: what can philosophy bring to the topic that would not be better handled by engineers, organizational specialists, or public policy experts?

One answer is the diversity of viewpoint that a philosopher can bring to the discussion. It is evident that technology failures invite analysis from all of these specialized experts, and more. But there is room for productive contribution from reflective observers who are not committed to any of these disciplines. Philosophers have a long history of taking on big topics outside the defined canon of "philosophical problems", and often those engagements have proven fruitful. In this particular instance, philosophy can look at organizations and technology in a way that is more likely to be interdisciplinary, and perhaps can help to see dimensions of the problem that are less apparent from a purely disciplinary perspective.

There is also a rationale based on the terrain of the philosophy of science. Philosophers of biology have usually attempted to learn as much about the science of biology as they can manage, but they lack the level of expertise of a research biologist, and it is rare for a philosopher to make an original contribution to the scientific biological literature. Nonetheless it is clear that philosophers have a great deal to add to scientific research in biology. They can contribute to better reasoning about the implications of various theories, they can probe the assumptions about confirmation and explanation that are in use, and they can contribute to important conceptual disagreements. Biology is in a better state because of the work of philosophers like David Hull and Elliot Sober.

Philosophers have also made valuable contributions to science and technology studies, bringing a viewpoint that incorporates insights from the philosophy of science and a sensitivity to the social groundedness of technology. STS studies have proven to be a fruitful place for interaction between historians, sociologists, and philosophers. Here again, the concrete study of the causes and context of large technology failure may be assisted by a philosophical perspective.

There is also a normative dimension to these questions about technology failure for which philosophy is well prepared. Accidents hurt people, and sometimes the causes of accidents involve culpable behavior by individuals and corporations. Philosophers have a long history of contribution to these kinds of problems of fault, law, and just management of risks and harms.

Finally, it is realistic to say that philosophy has an ability to contribute to social theory. Philosophers can offer imagination and critical attention to the problem of creating new conceptual schemes for understanding the social world. This capacity seems relevant to the problem of describing, analyzing, and explaining largescale failures and disasters.

The situation of organizational studies and accidents is in some ways more hospitable for contributions by a philosopher than other "wicked problems" in the world around us. An accident is complicated and complex but not particularly obscure. The field is unlike quantum mechanics or climate dynamics, which are inherently difficult for non-specialists to understand. The challenge with accidents is to identify a multi-layered analysis of the causes of the accident that permits observers to have a balanced and operative understanding of the event. And this is a situation where the philosopher's perspective is most useful. We can offer higher-level descriptions of the relative importance of different kinds of causal factors. Perhaps the role here is analogous to messenger RNA, providing a cross-disciplinary kind of communications flow. Or it is analogous to the role of philosophers of history who have offered gentle critique of the cliometrics school for its over-dependence on a purely statistical approach to economic history.

So it seems reasonable enough for a philosopher to attempt to contribute to this set of topics, even if the disciplinary expertise a philosopher brings is more weighted towards conceptual and theoretical discussions than undertaking original empirical research in the domain.

What I expect to be the central finding of this research is the idea that a pervasive and often unrecognized cause of accidents is a systemic organizational defect of some sort, and that it is enormously important to have a better understanding of common forms of these deficiencies. This is a bit analogous to a paradigm shift in the study of accidents. And this view has important policy implications. We can make disasters less frequent by improving the organizations through which technology processes are designed and managed.

The Future of Politics: by John Burnheim

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 11/12/2018 - 11:10pm in

Politics is about constructing those public goods that are necessary for communities, are a minimum to deal with problems that threaten life itself.

In our present situation, the most serious problems are all posed on a global scale, as a result of the scale of our management of nature, the growth of populations, threats of nuclear war, the international monetary system and so on.

Our efforts to deal with these problems within the frame of nationalist politics are often counterproductive. If each is bound to put its national interests before all others, reasonable compromise is impossible.

Democracy is not helping, as long it pits the people of a nation-state against another, pits nation against nation. But the prospect of a global sovereign authority; like a magnified state threatens a horrific concentration of power.

The solution is a range of very specific independent authorities that each define the changes needed to solve their specific problem and demand that states accept and implement them. Many such authorities already exist, especially in such fields as communications. They work because there is little to be gained from defying them and dangers of retaliation.

They lack close democratic control. They are responsible mainly to expert opinion, which is inadequate to ensure general trust. Public opinion needs to be assured that the authority is needed and that is constitution is appropriate. As it operates it must be subject to a competent independent audit that assesses its work. My suggestion is that in each case this audit should be carried out or at least supervised by a small committee statistically representative of the most affected by decisions in the relevant domain.

In my view it is highly desirable that we start experimenting with such auditing.


Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 11/12/2018 - 2:49pm in


Links, philosophy

Here’s the latest edition of Mini-Heap.

  1. Is “shmidentity” culturally shminsensitive? — on the philosophical practice of using the “shm-“ prefix for properties that resemble other properties but for some stipulated feature
  2. Nervous about that philosophy exam? Does it help to learn that David Lewis failed his metaphysics exam when he was a grad student? — he mentions this in a letter to David Armstrong
  3. Fortunately, very few philosophers have signed onto the latest episode of academic mobbing — it concerns a fellowship appointment in psychology (via Nathan Cofnas)
  4. A key machine learning task is “modeling fuzzy, changeable patterns implicit in human behavior” — and that’s a central goal of the humanities
  5. The New X-Phi Blog, focusing on the “new experimental philosophy” — it’s new
  6. The two types of Jane Austen fans — a philosophical look at the distinction by Eva Dadlez (Central Oklahoma)
  7. Where’s that paper you once glimpsed at on the web that you’re now trying to recall the details of for something you’re writing now? — here’s a free tool that makes that search much easier

Mini-Heap posts appear when about 7 new items accumulate in the Heap of Links, the ever-growing collection of items from around the web that may be of interest to philosophers.

The Heap of Links consists partly of suggestions from readers; if you find something online that you think would be of interest to the philosophical community, please send it in for consideration for the Heap. Thanks!


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Saudi Government Introduces Philosophy Into Its High Schools

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 10/12/2018 - 11:38pm in

Last week, the Ministry of Education in Saudi Arabia announced that it is adding a philosophy course to its secondary school curriculum. Prior to this, philosophy had been wholly absent from education at all levels in Saudi Arabia.

The course is called “Critical Thinking and Philosophy” and will be part of the nationwide high school curriculum, which is mandated by the Saudi Ministry of Education. The government has contracted with DialogueWorks, a British educational consultancy focused on philosophy, to train teachers for the course.

I asked one person familiar with this development why the teaching of philosophy hadn’t been allowed before in Saudi Arabia. He said, “There is no official statement of the reason, but there used to be a stigma around philosophy in Saudi Arabia. Some religious people think it is in conflict with Islamic traditions, so it must not be taught. They are the same people who were against women’s driving. Now, the government is ‘socially’ more open-minded, so they allowed women to drive for the first time last year, and this year allowed teaching philosophy.”

The newly developed textbook for a new philosophy course to be taught in secondary schools in Saudi Arabia

Hassan Alsharif, a graduate student in philosophy at the University of Kansas (who appears to be the first person ever from Saudi Arabia to have pursued a PhD in philosophy*), is interviewed about the introduction of philosophy into the Saudi Arabian high school curriculum here (in Arabic). In an email, he says, “I’m so happy that my country is getting more open-minded to other intellectual works, especially philosophy.”

*UPDATE: This turns out to not be correct. Ahmed Alenaizan writes: “Dr. Nader Alsamaani (a Saudi professor in Qassim University in Saudi Arabia) has earned his PhD in philosophy from the University of Birmingham in the UK; he was supervised by Professor Yujin Nagasawa. I personally am pursuing a PhD in philosophy at the University of Connecticut.”

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Take the Wheel

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 10/12/2018 - 7:00pm in


philosophy, cars

Statistically, SOMEONE will break into this car.

Online Philosophy Resources Weekly Update

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 10/12/2018 - 4:36pm in

Here’s the weekly report on new entries in online philosophical resources and new reviews of philosophy books.

Below are recent updates to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (SEP), Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy (IEP), 1000-Word PhilosophyWireless Philosophy (Wi-Phi), as well as new book reviews at Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews (NDPR). We are also now including links in these posts to reviews of philosophy books in the popular press. (If you come across one in your own reading please email me the link. Thanks!)




  1. Ancient Political Philosophy, by Melissa Lane (Princeton).
  2. Saint Augustine, by Michael Mendelson (Lehigh).
  3. Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi, by George di Giovanni, and Paolo Livieri (McGill).
  4. Fatalism, by Hugh Rice (Oxford).
  5. Japanese Aesthetics, bøy Graham Parkes (East China Normal University) and Adam Loughnane.
  6. Harriet Taylor Mill, by Dale E. Miller (Old Dominion).


  1. The Liar Paradox, by Bradley Dowden (California State-Sacramento).


  1. Carolyn Culbertson (Florida Gulf Coast) reviews Proto-Phenomenology and the Nature of Language: Dwelling in Speech I (Rowman and Littlefield), by Lawrence J. Hatab.
  2. Christopher Gauker (Salzburg) reviews Visual Experience: A Semantic Approach (Oxford), by Wylie Breckenridge.
  3. Sophia M. Connell (Birkbeck, London) reviews Evil in Aristotle (Cambridge), by Pavlos Kontos (ed.).
  4. Brian Talbot (Colorado-Boulder) reviews Epistemic Consequentialism (Oxford), by Kristoffer Ahlstrom-Vij and Jeffrey Dunn (eds.).
  5. Julia Borcherding (New York, Cambridge) reviews Early Modern Women on Metaphysics (Cambridge), by Emily Thomas (ed.).

1000-Word Philosophy

  1. Possibility and Necessity: An Introduction to Modality, by Andre Leo Rusavuk (Birmingham).

Wireless Philosophy

Recent Philosophy Book Reviews in Non-Academic Media ∅

  1. Morten Høi Jensen reviews I Am Dynamite!: A Life of Nietzsche, by Sue Prideaux, at the Los Angeles Review of Books.

Compiled by Michael Glawson.

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