Thursday, May 15, 2014

On last things

[The post's title quotes this but refers to dmf's comment here.]

This is a good response to one aspect of the bad stuff reported here. Selected highlights:
We know from reading the brief only that some future program shall exist, taking ‘the best parts’ from each of four programs: Religion and Culture, Philosophy, Women and Gender Studies and Modern Languages. Forgive us if we remain sceptical of the virtues of such a combination. The attitude of presumption that must be required for university administrators to suppose that they, and not the cumulative force of tradition, are sufficient to develop a new program from the base materials of these four programs is beyond us, and our understanding.
The problem with the creation of a such a unique program is that it is unclear what such a program could look like. The four programs that the university wishes to combine are not obviously similar in so many ways as to make their combination attractive. We must, then, suppose one of two things. Either we lack the imagination required to see the intellectual virtues of such a combination, or the administration lack the imagination required to see the intellectual vices of such a combination.
One gets the impression of an unguided flailing on the part of the university, as it responds to unhappy political decisions and poor financial ones by maintaining, as if hope could make it true, that all of these changes are beneficial for the university.
For more details it's worth reading the comments at Leiter Reports too.  


  1. as a protest that letter is terrible

    1. There is one sentence, possibly the last one I quoted above but possibly not, that struck me as delightfully old-fashioned. That probably isn't a good thing in a protest letter. I'm not sure that any letter will make a difference though. Although lots of signatures might.

  2. unless someone offers an alternative (and viable) economic plan I don't see much coming from writing response papers (no matter how many signatures are attached), what strikes me is how the logic of the administration echoes calls from within many faculty/student circles for "interdisciplinarity" (and how many continental philosophers are already in English and foreign language/lit programs?). Will be an interesting test for all those faculty in humanities/social-science who feel that they are somehow in the business of offering models/modes of political/economic alternatives and or resistance to "neo-liberalism", can they do more than something like write lit-crit protest letters/papers, and if not what have they been selling all this time?

    1. Yes. Interdisciplinarity means different things to different people, some good and some bad. It can mean collaboration between people from different disciplines (which I think can be very good, but isn't necessarily any better than non-collaborative work). It can mean work in areas between traditional disciplines, which might be groundbreaking or turn out to be a waste of time. And sometimes it just means mushy crap. I do think it's important for people in different disciplines to talk to each other, but whatever good there might be in some interdisciplinary work makes it easier for administrators (who might be ignorant or dishonest or both) to save money by pushing ill-conceived kinds of interdisciplinarity.