Tuesday, November 14, 2006

A Call to Critique

We're a bipartisan group of philosophy graduate students interested in hearing arguments for and against the Philosophical Gourmet Report from those in the profession. The latest issue of the PGR is now out and the overall rankings of graduate programs in philosophy can be found here. A breakdown of programs by specialties can be found here.

Our aims in creating this blog include the following:

  • To encourage healthy and spirited debate about the usefulness of the PGR to the profession;
  • To debate the influence of the PGR on (a) attracting prospective graduate students to programs and (b) hiring decisions at both the junior and senior faculty levels;
  • To debate the value of the PGR as a guide to faculty quality in philosophy;
  • To debate the value of the PGR as a guide to graduate program quality in philosophy;
  • To make available in a single resource various views on the PGR for those considering an academic career in philosophy;
  • To air in a public forum suggestions on improving the PGR.

    We should state from the get-go what will not be accepted on this blog. Insults, ad hominem attacks, or remarks of a generally vicious nature will be removed. Good arguments will be applauded. Bad arguments will be tolerated, but will be met with merciless criticism. Appropriate blog-etiquette should be displayed at all times.

    The PGR has achieved a long-standing status in the profession and across the globe as a prominent guide to faculty and graduate program quality in philosophy. We are of a view that the report is here to stay, but that this shouldn't preclude healthy discussion on its merits, methods and limitations. Since its origins, the PGR has been controversial in the profession, provoking strong views in both dissenters and supporters. We expect this to continue with the publication of the latest issue of the report, but we hope that this blog serves to convey these views in a respectful and open-minded way.

    Approximately every month or twice a month, we'll create a post looking to stimulate debate among graduate students and professors in philosophy on the benefits and drawbacks of the PGR to our profession. For now, we've decided to allow anonymous postings to encourage frank and straightforward discussion, but we expect those who have less at stake in making their views known to be open about their identities. (If you do choose to remain anonymous, please come up with a catchy moniker so we can keep track of who you are.) In cases where issues or concerns are raised that deserve further discussion, we'll give them posts of their own.

    If you would like to communicate directly with the administrators of this blog, you can send an e-mail to

    For examples of the sort of debate we expect on this blog, we direct your attention to the following links, which provide a summary of the controversy surrounding the PGR:

    • In 2003, Richard Heck created a site while at Harvard University listing several criticisms of the PGR. That site can be found here. Included is an open letter signed by just under 300 members of the profession expressing concern about the influence of the PGR at the time.
    • The letter prompted a vigorous defense of the PGR by a number of philosophers, principally Keith DeRose at Yale University here, where you'll find a number of letters in support of the report.
    • Brian Leiter at the University of Texas at Austin and current editor of the PGR subsequently provided an open letter of his own here in reply to Heck and others.
    • Heck has remarked on the debate here, with a comment on Leiter's reply here. Currently at Brown University, he has updated and expanded on his criticisms of the PGR here.

    We'll inaugurate this blog with a challenge that DeRose raises. Speaking of those who criticize the PGR, he writes:

    "We should eventually judge them by how they put the concern for prospective graduate students that they express in their letter into helpful positive action, but we should give them time and even those of us who strongly disagree with them over the value of the PGR should wish them well in their positive efforts. [. . .] Let's see what they come up with."

    So here's the challenge: if not the PGR, then what?