On Sunday I traveled from Pittsburgh to Boston for an interview at the APA. Unfortunately, I went through Washington, D.C. and got stranded until Monday evening. Upon arrival to D.C. I dashed from C terminal to A terminal, attempting to catch the earlier (and very last) plane into Boston. Having arrived at the gate with 6 minutes to spare, the woman at the counter informed me that it would take too long to change my ticket. ‘You know I’m going to get stuck here tonight’, I muttered as I walked away. By the time I arrived back at C terminal, my 2:30pm flight was canceled.
The airline gave me a deep discount at an airport hotel and booked me for a flight out of D.C. at 10pm on Monday. My interview was scheduled for 2pm on Tuesday. With the slim chance of catching a morning flight, I was also put on standby for the 10am Monday. All the morning flights were canceled, but I made it onto the 4:50pm flight, having been slotted at #17 of 129 people on standby. It was nice not to arrive into Boston at midnight.
Some schools and interviewees never made it. Sessions were canceled. According to some, it was a ‘disaster’ APA. The whole thing has provided ample fodder for anyone wishing to see the APA job interview abolished. My interview went as scheduled, and I could not have asked for a better team of interviewers. I felt welcomed and decidedly not like I was under interrogation. My experience at the so-called ‘smoker’ was unexpectedly pleasant and relatively empty of awkwardness. (For anyone not familiar with the ‘smoker’, Google it.) Frustratingly, I saw Peter Gratton from Philosophy in a Time of Error, but was unable to introduce myself, as I would like to have done.
Other positives included time spent with familiar faces, a delightful dinner with a couple of friends from Duquesne, and a few productive chats with academic press representatives. I even bought a book. My hosts, Lauren and Mark, made sure I arrived to and from the conference hotel without any hassle. For now, I will wait to hear again from my interviewers and come up with a suitable gift of gratitude for my hosts.
According to this article, the University of Wisconsin at Madison has received a $20 million grant to fund their humanities programs (including $2.5 million for a chair in Ancient Greek philosophy!). Half of the cash is from the Mellon foundation; the other half is from the state itself. This is an unlikely award these days, as the article points out (and we in the humanities are reminded every day). The article closes with a paragraph that pithily summarizes the value of the humanities:
In prepared remarks delivered Monday, [Biddy] Martin [chancellor of UW-Madison] likened an education without the humanities to living without the benefit of memory, or of imagination. “We are, by nature, cultural beings. We are learners. Our cultural environment shapes us,” she said. “If we fail to understand how it shapes us, we forfeit our freedom and our responsibility to think about what we learn and who we are.”
Leiter is not sure if he should be taking Levi seriously.
[Update: I should add that the excerpt from Levi's blog that Leiter cites could very well have been lifted from Michael Pollan's The Botany of Desire. I don't see what's so surprising, unless you think Pollan's a quack.]
In addition to Marder’s forthcoming book on plants and Morton’s recent talk on plants, SUNY has a forthcoming book called Plants as Persons, written by Matthew Hall. Now the question is: who will be the first to list ‘Philosophy of Plants’ as their AOC?
Michael Marder has responded to the so-called ‘Jewish poker’ assault launched by Brian Leiter and Michael Rosen before the Thanksgiving holiday. Leiter responds in turn and provides the relevant links here.
Well, now we have an actual, substantive disagreement underway. This is what one would hope for from the start.
Over the Thanksgiving break i had the luxury of reading Calvino’s If on a winter’s night a traveler. Marvelous book. I’m now reading DeLillo’s Mao II. Here’s a line from it:
Home is a failed idea. People are no longer home or not home.
It’s true. I should always have a fiction text underway. Read it in the morning, first thing. Fiction always gets ideas flowing, especially philosophical ones. Maybe that says something about the things I write, or the nature of philosophical ideas in general. If philosophy is not at least in part about fiction, or fiction itself, I don’t know what it is or is about.
The one thing that books have on e-books, DVDs, CDs, tapes, records, videogames, etc., is that they do not need a second device for use. They’re ready to go out of the box. Perhaps this is insignificant compared to the capacity of the Kindle or iPad to carry countless ‘books’ around. But if you drop that iPad into a puddle of water that kills it, you lose everything. If I drop my paperback in the puddle, I grab another off the shelf.
At the risk of sounding like a Luddite, which I’m not…
Crispin has an op-ed piece laying out his ‘misgivings about environmentalism’. You can read it here.