Imagination, philosophy, and imitation games

Via Daily Nous, I came across a blog post by Justin Smith-Ruiu about creative writing as philosophy. The post is, ultimately, an argument that philosophy can be “incitement of the imagination, by creative means, to see the world in unfamiliar ways.” I agree with that! But there are digressions along the way that range from false speculation to attacks on the kind of philosophy that I (sometimes) do.

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A grue by any other name is just as likely to eat you in the dark

Over at the APA blog, Noël Carroll whinges about the fact that the blog categorizes his post as Philosophy of Film. He acknowledges that the label is used for a particular philosophical subdiscipline, but he doesn’t like it. On the one hand, the subdiscipline addresses not just movies but also television and video games. On the other hand, “film” in an original sense is strictly photographic. Today even most movies aren’t on film.

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The paradox of edited volumes

Consider these facts:

When discussing another scholar’s research record, it is common to not give full credit for essays in edited volumes. Some people disregard book chapters entirely when assessing a CV. But it is more common to give a kind of discounted credit, counting a chapter in an edited volume as less than a journal article. Mindful of this, some people list journal articles and book chapters under separate headings in their CV.

When discussing their own productivity, philosophers are quick to mention collections that they have edited. It is common, on a CV, to see edited volumes under the heading of books alongside monographs. Even though philosophy is no longer a book-driven discipline, a monograph carries more weight than a journal article. So putting the edited volume under the heading of books puts it where important things go.

The puzzle is how assembling an edited volume can be prestigious and important work if the chapters assembled in them are insignificant. If it is not quite a paradox, it is at least a tension our professional norms.

Everyone is risk-averse; and not

Over at Daily Nous, there’s discussion of an argument by John Symons that academic philosophy has become more risk-averse. Symons writes that

…the current incentive structure of academic philosophy in the United States favors cautious and modest research agendas for early career philosophers. Philosophical inquiry thrives when it is conducted in a spirit that risks overreaching a bit and welcomes criticism. Philosophy thrives when its creative, skeptical, and self-critical core is not subordinated to excessively cautious American-style professionalism…

The trick, though, is that any system where there are more researchers than jobs must hire some of them but not others. This creates an incentive structure for scholars to do work that tends to get people hired.

In a system which rewards provocative overreaching, a risk-averse young scholar who wanted to maximize their chance of a job would portray their work as provocative overreach. This would probably mean not citing too much other work (so as not to make one’s project look too in-the-box) and, when citing things, doing so only with disapproval (so as to suggest that one is against the system). Someone who is genuinely interested in formalizing the context sensitivity of epistemic modals would have to include a fiery introduction that explains why their work sticks it to the man.

Ultimately, risk-aversion can arise in any incentive structure.

Moreover, no young philosophers are truly risk-averse. They have spent years of their life pursuing a PhD in Philosophy, which is a risky proposition regardless of the research topic. The genuinely risk averse young adults didn’t become philosophers.

UAlbany hiring in Philosophy of AI

The University at Albany is hiring dozens of faculty across the disciplines to launch the UAlbany AI Institute. One of those lines is a tenure-track position in Philosophy.

As part of this enormous cluster hire, the schedule is not the usual thing. The JFP ad just went live today, and we’ll begin review of applications January 12— so the search is open for just over a month. And the job starts Fall 2023.

Note that, although the new person will need to teach AI Ethics, this is not specifically an Ethics search. It is in Philosophy of AI broadly construed, which includes relevant value theory but also philosophy of mind and philosophy of science.

If that’s you, please apply.1 If you know someone who would be a good candidate, please encourage them to apply.

Why I love my publisher

My book, A Philosophy of Cover Songs, was published by Open Book Publishers. They are, as their website says, “a not-for-profit Social Enterprise run by academics who are committed to making high-quality and prize-winning research available to all, and… the hub of choice for a rapidly increasing international network of scholars who believe that it is time for academic publishing to become fairer, faster and more accessible.” They were my first-choice publisher for the book, and my experience with them has been great.

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Presumptuous invitation

It feels a bit cringe to think in terms of professional networking, but a few recent posts have me thinking about the personal and professional connections that maintain philosophical life.

TL;DR: 1. I should be better about keeping in touch and attending on-line events. 2. If you feel like you’d benefit from being in touch with me, feel free to reach out.

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Open access and the falsest of false dilemmas

It’s been a while since I’ve complained about the narrow understandings of open access that too many people have got, but I’ve been meaning to post about Keith Burgess-Jackson’s provacatively titled Why I Publish in “Predatory” Journals—and Why You Should, Too. He argues rightly that open-access journals have several advantages over traditional journals, but fails to imagine relevant alternatives. To summarize the advantages he discusses:

  1. Audience: More people will read a freely available article than one that’s only available to subscribers and pirates.
  2. Publication speed: Traditional journals can be slow both to review an article and to put it into print.
  3. Length: Traditional journals often won’t publish papers longer than 7-8,000 words.
  4. Ownership: Traditional journals often require authors to relinquish copyright.
  5. Referees: Journal referees often respond in obtuse ways. They either reject a paper for weird reasons or demand unnecessary changes.

On the basis of these reasons, he argues that (a) we should stop publishing in traditional journals and (b) we should start paying open-access journals to publish our papers.

This is the falsest of false dilemmas, and the recommendation he arrives at is pretty bad.

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