Say a crime has been committed. You are a detective and your task is to determine who committed the crime. Who should be charged with this crime? The thing you do is try to tell the story of the crime, given the evidence, in such a way that all the pieces fit together. You have some idea of how the crime was committed. Say it was a robbery. You have some account of the motive. The criminals, whomever they were, thought there was a lot of cash collected on site on that day. You have some idea of how it was done. There must have been an insider who gave the thieves information. That’s the only way, say, that they could have obtained access to the actual cash at a time when it was most vulnerable. And you have a list of suspects who were available, people without alibis, who might have done the deeds.
There is always a question about, well, how good are you in your chosen field? Can you do good work? In many academic fields, the test is whether you can get into and do well in Graduate School, and then, perhaps, teach or publish books about what you’ve learned.
Given the economy and the general plan to create a lower cost labor force, it is understandable that Graduate programs in the humanities, for example, studies in philosophy, et al, are being strangled.
The following article is from The Chronicle of Higher Education. It talks about realities.
Nearly six years ago, I wrote a column called "So You Want to Go to Grad School?" (The Chronicle, June 6, 2003). My purpose was to warn undergraduates away from pursuing Ph.D.'s in the humanities by telling them what I had learned about the academic labor system from personal observation and experience.
It was a message many prospective graduate students were not getting from their professors, who were generally too eager to clone themselves. Having heard rumors about unemployed Ph.D.'s, some undergraduates would ask about job prospects in academe, only to be told, "There are always jobs for good people." If the students happened to notice the increasing numbers of well-published, highly credentialed adjuncts teaching part time with no benefits, they would be told, "Don't worry, massive retirements are coming soon, and then there will be plenty of positions available." The encouragement they received from mostly well-meaning but ill-informed professors was bolstered by the message in our culture that education always leads to opportunity.
I take it we think about philosophy when we have questions about the things and the people we love and care about. What's going on when people we care about suffer? I think one of the problems with philosophy, as well as other academic disciplines, has been the way our education infrastructure has done so poorly. But, is this true? Does America do a bad job teaching kids? Could philosophy be better if schools did better?
Can the important things to know in life even be taught?
Here's a TV report from 20/20 discussing education in America:
I'm wanting to say a little about philosophy. I recently quoted a discussion that spoke about blogs and blogging. I thought it said having a blog, writing on one, and thinking out philosophy on a blog is very helpful. I want to agree.
I also have ideas about the way we understand philosophy. I found this very brief statement, a comment on a question in a class. I think it summarizes the way analytic philosophers often think of their business. Here's the part I liked,
I'm trying to study drawing and painting. I've always doodled and every once in a while taken some course in drawing. Lately I've decided to try again. About 15 minutes from where I live Ed is putting together his atelier, a drawing and painting school - very realist, french academy,...barque drawing,...lots of studies from other drawings and castes. I would learn a lot more if I could spend the time. And I had the money. Ed says the money
I have been making several claims about Socrates, and most of them are difficult to establish. But, as we are facing several catastrophes for humanity, involving climate change, economic collapse, militarism, political corruption, all leading up to a very real apocalypse, we need to understand better what we are doing and thinking. We need to step back from the table, and rethink what's happening.
I had a professor who kept mum. I sat for years in his classes. They were all interesting to me. But, during any discussion of a philosopher's arguments, we could never get him to declare himself. He kept mum.
I thought he was trying not to intimidate his students. I assumed we were being forced to consider the merits of the philosopher's arguments without being able to use our leader's opinions as a crutch. I have to admit this might have been a possibility. I took my first course from this particular instructor and I was hooked immediately. We were discussing some question about an argument over God's existence. One of the students stood to ask a question. His question turned out to be his testimony about the importance of Jesus Christ to his life and his recommendation that the rest of us should get on board. The previous summer I had made my decision to leave the church I had faithfully attended over the issue of salvation. I could not accept the minister's account of what happened to people who did not make a choice for Jesus. So, I was sensitive to this effort by this student to introduce talk about salvation in my new school. The Professor pointed out that he respected the views the student had, but his discussion was not relevant to the discussion at hand. There may have been some comment that the class was trying to get clear about certain issues and it was going to take time away from that task if everyone's attention was sidetracked into something else. I guess I was impressed with the limits drawn on the ever present religious doctrines I had so recently escaped. I was grateful.
After awhile, I suspected that he was a christian, of a sort. He may have kept his personal views out of class discussion because he wanted us to consider the merits and importance of the arguments we were reading, instead of his own views. Maybe he wanted us to think he would be impartial in the evaluation of our own views.
In the last few years I have wondered whether this Professor, as well as the others, were right to keep mum. So, for example, I wonder if he was really impartial, where his silence about his own views was merely an effort to keep these commitments and preferences from becoming an issue with his students.
This professor, as well as most of the instructors in the department at the time, were impressed by or interested in Wittgenstein and ordinary language philosophy. Students were expected to adopt a similar reverence for the issues of the movement, if not the answers to the philosophical problems then being developed by the depertment's faculty. I suppose this is to be expected. If you take a course from a Kantian, the student should expect to ask themselves whether it would be best to go easy on Kant criticism in favor of soaking up whatever understanding the instructor has to give. I don't want to say that you couldn't express unrelenting opposition to what they took to be important. But, doing so wouldn't win you friends or much support.
In a way, all these professors were keeping mum. The movement was important to them. Wittgenstein was supposed to have powerful questions, if not definitive answers. But, there seemed to be little done to convince or defend this assessment on a national forum. Maybe they had problems getting published. Maybe they were more interested in teaching than in publishing. Maybe they made tons of arguments in seminars and conferences all over, and I was never aware of it. But, in the years since, I think ordinary language philosophy has come and gone without much of a peep made by the professors who talked about it when I was in school.
There were a few squeeks. Prof. Frank Ebersole and Prof. John Cook tried to argue for the continuing importance of "investigative ordinary language philosophy." Cook argued that the arguments of the movement were never seriously considered by the philosophical community. He understood the movement to have good arguments against empiricism, for example, and when they would be given a decent concideration, philosophers could chuck empiricism in some proverbial "dust-bin" of history.
I appreciate the books that Prof. Cook has written. When they came out, I snatched them up. I expected he would give me a clear picture of what my other professors believed when I took class from them. I'd finally get a chance to evaluate whether my trust in them was well founded. I had been completely intimidated by their style of argument and the sense of inevitability they presented. It had been impossible to see how to come up with a p[osition of my own that would not be immediately undermined or belittled.
I think the important points to get from Cook are his method of "backtracking and unraveling," and the claim adopted from Ebersole that, as Prof. Levi put it, "the meanings of words are determined by the details of examples of ordinary discourse." The effort by Prof. Cook, at least, to reject all the philosophical ideas of empiricism rests on these two doctrines. Unfortunately, as far as I can see, these doctrines make "IOLP" just a variation of Platonism.
I cannot expect anyone to be persuaded by this mere accusation that ordinary language philosophers, and possibly Wittgenstein himself, would best be understood as updating the theory of forms. But, keeping mum and being touchy about what they valued kept this student from considering the possibility that the favored position of the time was fundamentally going over old ground.
Hence, I think blogs are a good idea for philosophy. All students and professors should develop one so that philosophy education becomes a lot more like standing around in an Athenian forum, or on soapboxes, for example.