Note (October 2009) - With the impending demise of Geocities, I am faced with the task of finally transforming and updating this website. I hope to have this completed by the middle of December 2009. Stay tuned, and feel free to contact me with whatever ideas or information you might deem pertinent. Thanks!
Introduction and Updates
The Leiter Controversy, and Leiter on Continental Philosophy.
Introduction, Updates, etc.
This is the May 2003 version of the report. As of October 2009, I am beginning to revise and rework it. I hope to have it completed by the middle of December 2009.
(back to table of contents)
The Leiter Controversy, and Leiter on Continental Philosophy
In the past few months, the online philosophical community has witnessed something of a revolt against the hegemony of the Leiter Report, in which the well-known ranking of graduate programs by UT Austin professor Brian Leiter has been rather strongly criticized by Harvard's Richard Heck and defended by Yale's Keith Derose. Leiter himself has been drawn into the fray with his 'Open Letter to Students,' which deals directly with Heck's criticisms. Most recently, he has penned a rather vitriolic reply to a review of Bruce Wilshire's new book, which admittedly is rather heavy handed in its criticism of Leiter.
I do not want to repeat Heck's criticisms; on the whole, I find them to be accurate, if a bit strongly put. Without doubt, Leiter offers a valuable service to the philosophical community (and to would-be graduate students in particular). This service, however, comes at a cost -- the manner in which his report is taken to be the holy grail of departmental evaluation and reckoning of departmental worth. What I do want to do here is take up the problem of Leiter's severe antipathy towards what are traditionally considered to be Continental departments. I think it belies a fundamental misunderstanding of what Continental philosophy is today, and what it should be.
[Let me note here that I'm working from Leiter's 2001-2002 version of the report. Eventually, once he posts his new 02-03 update, I'll rework this.]
In Leiter's reports -- both the 'regular' and 'Continental' varieties -- there is Leiter's explicitly stated bias towards the kinds of 'Continental scholarship' that is done at predominantly analytic programs, and against the kind of work done at programs traditionally considered to be Continental in orientation. There also seems to be at least two unspoken presuppositions: that having one or two thinkers in an area constitutes a strength in that area, and that post-Kantian philosophy is what is meant by Continental philosophy.
So that I am not said to misrepresent Leiter on this point, let me cite Leiter's own words : "It is no surprise, then, that the best work on so-called "Continental" figures is done largely by philosophers with so-called 'analytic' training. ... [additionally], Students beware: marginalized departments frequently advertise their 'pluralism,' which is usually a code word for lack of intellectual standards, not diversity of philosophical offerings." Or, in a more extended passage directed against his perceived enemies, here is the first footnote to his rankings page:
"A vocal fringe organization, the Society for Phenomenology & Existential Philosophy ("SPEP"), has been waging a campaign against this Report, apparently alarmed at the prospect that prospective students should be made aware of the facts about mainstream sentiment in the profession about where to study Continental philosophy. Although SPEP claims to be the second largest professional organization of philosophers in the U.S. (which may be true, since there is no real competition), it is worth noting that its philosophical membership is heavily concentrated in just a dozen-or-so departments: e.g., SUNY-Stony Brook, Penn State, Northwestern, Vanderbilt, Dusquesne, Villanova, Memphis, Fordham, DePaul, Loyola-Chicago, Boston College, Binghamton, among others. In fact, a significant portion of those who belong to SPEP and participate at its conferences are actually not philosophers, but academics in disciplines like English. Despite SPEP, the fact remains that this is now a golden age for scholarship on post-Kantian German and French philosophy of the nineteenth- and twentieth-centuries. And while some of this work is being done by SPEP-affiliated philosophers, the vast majority of it is not."
Leiter's point in these statements, and others like them, is to call the quality of the scholarship of certain philosophers -- namely, those who might frequent SPEP -- into question as regards "post-Kantian German and French philosophy of the nineteenth- and twentieth-centuries." Put more directly, Leiter thinks that scholarship at the majority of Continental programs is watered down, and that the level of thought at these programs is rather low. One wonders, however, how Leiter comes to these conclusions. Aside from the rather insulated group of respondents for his survey (more on this in a second), Leiter offers what might be the best summary of his criteria for evaluating graduate programs in his advice to would-be graduate students. Among these criteria are the kinds of job offers that faculty have received, honors and awards received, job placement of students, and the journals and presses which publish faculty scholarship. In all cases, Leiter's criteria are skewed so as to favor analytic programs and scholarship. For example, given that analytic programs are more highly ranked in Leiter's analysis, the fact that they hire analytic philosophers is somehow indicative of the quality of the programs producing their hires, instead of the fact that these programs hire analytics because they themselves are analytic in orientation. Or, in terms of the kinds of journals which are taken to represent the standards of scholarly rigour and quality, Leiter's list consists entirely of journals which are predominantly analytic, with no mention of Continental standards like (for example) Continental Philosophy Review, Husserl Studies, or The Journal of the British Society for Phenomenology. Is it any wonder, then, that philosophers affiliated with Continental programs are seen to be 'publication-challenged,' given that the journals they value are not taken into account?
There is also the issue of the respondents chosen for survey by Leiter. While they are certainly an impressive lot in their respective fields, one cannot help but notice the lack of respondents who work predominantly in Continental philosophy, and not merely 'post-Kantian' or 'German Idealism.' On Leiter's list of respondents on his Methods page, for example, I found only two names whose work I could immediately identify as being related to 20th century Continental. Perhaps this is a failing on my part; perhaps not. One wonders, however, as to the validity of Leiter's methods and results regarding Continental scholarship when comparatively few Continental scholars, broadly construed, are among those polled.
Such methodological questions are underscored once we turn to the results of Leiter's survey and analysis. For example, we might turn to Leiter's list of programs which are of special interest for those wanting to work in phenomenology. On Leiter's account, the two best schools for the study of phenomenology are Georgetown University, home of John Brough and William Blattner, and UC Riverside -- both excellent programs, no doubt. Leiter lists programs such as NYU, Boston University, Oxford, and UC Irvine as 'good,' and names Northwestern and Loyola (Chicago) as 'notable.' The problem with Leiter's analysis is immediately obvious to anyone who seriously follows scholarship and faculty moves in phenomenology. How is it possible that programs like Penn State (Sallis, Schmidt, Scott), Stony Brook (Welton, Casey, Ihde), or Villanova (Caputo) are left entirely off the list? And how on earth does an overtly analytic department like NYU get listed as a 'good' place to do phenomenology, even taking the presence of John Richardson into consideration? Classes with a token phenomenologist do not a 'good' department make. In no way, shape, or form should NYU be taken as a better place to study phenomenology than _any_ of the programs listed in this report. Like the majority of his musings on relative strengths of various Continental facets of philosophy departments, Leiter simply gets it wrong.
Additionally, although this is somewhat outside the scope of a report on Continental departments, Leiter gets his analysis of departmental strength in American philosophy just as imprecise. Here, I can be blunt. If you want to study classical American pragmatism in a PhD program, you go to one of three departments: Penn State, Vanderbilt, or the best of the bunch, Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. [Yes, I'm doing my work at SIUC. However, I work primarily in Continental, and so will claim to have retained a bit of critical distance on this point.] Leiter misses the boat here as well.
But the real issue here is this: Leiter seems to think that having one or two faculty personnel in Continental philosophy makes that department suitable for students who want to work in Continental philosophy. Simply put, this is about as wrong as wrong can get. Continental philosophy is not simply 'post-Kantian philosophy,' but a way of doing philosophy, a way of thinking about a set of problems and issues. It takes a positive departmental attitude towards a Continental problematic -- one which is sorely lacking in the majority of the American philosophical mindset, and of which Leiter's antipathy towards SPEP is a primary instance -- and a critical mass of faculty who actively work in the area. It takes a positive departmental attitude -- let's call it 'pluralist' -- towards such fields as queer studies, race studies, various kinds of feminism, deconstruction, post-colonialism, contemporary phenomenology, etc. It does _not_ mean that such a department would have to embrace each or any of these theoretical mindsets; rather, it means that this department would have to be one in which a student could be responsibly trained in these kinds of fields, many of which are only now gaining some respectability in American philosophy (notice the increase in Continental and American papers at the APA, for instance), and that the student would feel at home in receiving such training.
Certainly, even Leiter would argue that a department with only one analytic philosopher, even if that person were simply smashing, would not be a department of choice for analytically minded students. How, then, would a department with one person working in Continental thought such as NYU be understood as even remotely suitable for a budding post-colonialist or phenomenologist?
It is not my point to deny that departments like Princeton, Harvard or NYU are excellent; nor is it my point to deny that some work on Continental thinkers or issues done by thinkers generally taken as 'analytic' is excellent. Rather, it is to deny the premise that Continental philosophy done in an 'analytic atmosphere' is necessarily better than that done in Continental programs. Valuable as his report is, and despite his working on Continental figures, Leiter consistently undervalues and misunderstands the kind of philosophy and graduate training done at Continental programs.
The work undertaken in this report should be taken in no uncertain terms both as a direct challenge to the validity and hegemony of Leiter's report as it regards Continental philosophy, and as a more accurate (despite my admittedly unscientific approach) source of information for students who want to study Continental thought.
(back to table of contents)
Purpose and Methodology
This web site, and this report, is/are intended to be a repository of knowledge and facts regarding such Continental-friendly programs, so that the young philosopher interested in, say, 20th Century French Thought might have a source to help her find a program suitable to her needs. It is also unabashedly a corrective to the Leiter Report as it regards Continental programs and philosophy.
A few notes:
1) 'Ranking' is a relative term in this report, as (on the whole) none of these programs are ranked highly. Such coveted spots go to the Harvards and Princetons of the philosophical community in the various 'statistical' surveys. This is not to say that these schools do not deserve their reputation -- they most certainly do! -- but rather that such rankings are skewed in favor of analytic programs, thus pushing Continental programs down the list. Rankings themselves may be 'evil,' but in this day and age, ranking and knowing which departments are strong in different areas is how the game is played.
2) Instead, I offer groupings of what I take to be various tiers of excellence in Continental thought. This is a rather subjective ranking/rating, based solely upon my study of the situation. Further, I favor schools that offer at least some coursework in analytic studies as well as providing strength in Continental thought, as I feel this is vastly superior to the Continental-only situation. Sources for my work include:
The Leiter Report: a ranking of American graduate programs in philosophy, but with a section on "Continental-friendly analytic programs." (See also the new "Continental" rankings.) Much more comprehensive than this report -- a must for all students thinking of applying to a PhD program. However, keep in mind the kinds of issues discussed above -- Leiter's report, despite its size and popularity, is simply wrong about a host of issues related to Continental philosophy.
Various Departmental Webpages
The APA Guide to Graduate Programs in Philosophy
3) Finally, the most important note of all -- I need YOUR INPUT in order to make this page better and more comprehensive. Please, if you found this page of interest or use, or if you have a different view regarding some school or other, let me know. You can e-mail me by clicking on my name (or right here!) at the top of this report.
And, with these preliminaries out of the way, on to the schools! (Or, if you like, back to the table of contents.)
The Top Programs:
Penn State: Fantastic. Mixes Continental and American very well. Note that Lingis has retired, and Nancy Tuana has moved from Oregon to Penn State. Also, note that Dennis Schmidt has moved from Villanova to Penn State, and John Stuhr is moving to Vanderbilt.
SUNY Stony Brook: A "personal favorite." (I received my MA from Stony Brook.) Strong in Continental as well as Analytic (Gary Mar, Patrick Grim), this department is very well balanced but does not forget its strength in 20th Century thought. Notables on faculty include David Allison (Nietzsche, Contemporary European thought), Ed Casey (aesthetics, post-structuralism), Mary Rawlinson (aesthetics, philosophy of literature) and Hugh Silverman (deconstruction, aesthetics, philosophy of literature). Kelly Oliver (feminism, Kristeva) is a new appointment and currently is the Chair. There is also Donn Welton, an outstanding Husserl scholar and editor of the recent 'The Essential Husserl,' Don Ihde, who can be thought of as one of the 'founding fathers' of the growing field of 'technoscience,' Ken Baynes, who is a fairly well known person in Critical Theory circles, and Dick Howard, who is much better known on the Continent than in the States for his work on Marxism. Jeff Edwards (Kant, history of modern) is a rather underappreciated Kant scholar, and one of the hidden gems of the department is Allegra DeLaurentis (Hegel, modern).
U Memphis: A very strong program, and one which values a pluralist (mostly Continental and Analytic) approach to the education of graduate students. Faculty includes Len Lawlor, who has translated Hyppolite's "Logic and Existence" and works on Deleuze, Merleau-Ponty, and Bergson; Robert Bernasconi, who has written on Levinas (among others) and works in race theory, and Thomas Nenon, who works on phenomenology. It should be noted that Terrance Horgan (analytic) and Tina Chanter (French feminism, Levinas) have recently left the department, and while replacements have been hired, it remains to be seen how these departures will affect the department as a whole.
Villanova: With John Caputo (Heidegger, Derrida) and Walter Brogan, the faculty looks pretty good. Note well that Dennis Schmidt is moving to Penn State, which hurts Villanova in these 'rankings.' Still, one of the top schools in contemporary phenomenology, especially for those with a religious (Catholic) bent.
Emory: will be researching this for the next update. [This time, I really will be!]
Northwestern: Traditionally a Continental favorite, and currently about as strong a department as one can find here in the States in Continental terms. There are a good number of high octane Continental folk: Tom McCarthy (critical theory/Habermas) , David Levin (Phenomenology/Existentialism), Penelope Deutscher, Robert Gooding-Williams, Cristina Lafont, Terry Pinkard, and recently, Jurgen Habermas. I have heard some rumours regarding an (administration) movement towards analytic thought, but this seems unfounded.
Boston College: I really like BC. Being the Foucault buff that I am, I noticed James Bernauer almost immediately, and then paused to also note names like David (not Dennis, the former Yankees pitcher) Rasmussen, William Richardson (Heidegger), and the ubiquitious Jacques Taminiaux (Nietzsche and Continental). Furthermore, there is strength in other areas, including ancient/medieval and philosophy of religion. However, I don't see much analytic interest in the faculty... worries me slightly, but not enough to really bother me.
Depaul: David Krell (a major Heidegger translator), Will McNeill (Heidegger/Nietzsche), Bill Martin (critical theory) and many others make this a quite intriguing place for the Continentally minded. Tina Chanter, the well known feminist scholar, has recently joined the faculty, as has Kevin Thompson (formerly of SIUC), who is quite the comer in Hegel studies. However, the overly focused emphasis on 20th Century thought could be seen as rather narrow.
Loyola U. of Chicago: A very balanced department, with some strength in continental that warrants a look. Hugh Miller works on Levinas, Adriaan Peperzak (Schmidt Chair, formerly held by Sallis, among others) has written on Hegel and Levinas, and David Ingram is well known in critical theory circles. All this at a externally analytic, Catholic university. (Pluralism seems the word of the day here.) Well worth a visit to their page.
SIU Carbondale: Generally known as a department strong in American philosophy, especially given that the papers of John Dewey reside here, SIUC is quietly building a Continental wing. Anthony Steinbock is a well known phenomenologist and Husserl scholar. Stephen Tyman is a hidden talent, offering courses in Kant and a number of 19th century figures. Other faculty working in areas related to Continental philosophy are Randy Auxier (Bergson) and Ken Stikkers (Scheler, Foucault). Kevin Thompson is moving to Depaul, and this will temporarily hurt the Continental aspect of the department, but it appears that we will be hiring for Fall 04 to replace him. [Note that I am studying here currently, and so take with your accepted salt dosage.]
Notre Dame: Gary Gutting (Foucault), and of course, traditional Catholic university strength in Heidegger, etc. Very diverse. If you're looking for cutting edge stuff, i.e. Derrida or Deleuze, this might not be your pick, but it does seem good for 19th Century and early 20th (Husserl, Heidegger.) Simon Critchley (Levinas, Derrida) was recently a visiting professor there. Strong.
U of Texas at Austin: Texas is kind of an enigma. Solomon, Higgins and Leiter are there, but both Kelly Oliver and Doug Kellner have left, and the department seems to me to be very narrow in Continental scope -- essentially, if you want to do Nietzsche, consider Austin. But the loss of Oliver and Kellner is huge, and should be seen as having a negative effect. Furthermore, I have heard that the department is moving much more towards analytic philosophy, and the recent hires listed on their site seem to confirm this, as has recent correspondence with people close to the department..
The New School: Faculty, especially with the addition of Nancy Fraser, is excellent, but there are certain trade-offs -- the lack of any financial aid or fundiing, the 8+ year average time to completion of dissertation, etc.... Note also that Simon Critchley has joined the faculty, and this is a fairly big coup.
Duquesne: Tom Rockmore is quite well known, as is Wilhelm Wurzer. Most of the figures prominent in contemporary discourse are covered by the department, but again, I detect a lack of analytic training available. However, this might be covered by a cross-registration agreement with some of the other Pittsburgh area graduate programs...
Boston University: Henry Allison is one of the most important interpreters of Kant around, and Daniel Dahlstrom (Heidegger, phenomenology) also teaches here in this very pluralistic program.
U Oregon: John Lysaker seems to be a focal figure for Continental folks in the department, specializing in the Frankfurt School and pragmatism. Mark Johnson also makes his home here. I've heard that the department has recently suffered a few losses due to external raiding, most notably Nancy Tuana (to Penn State) but is looking to fill these gaps with some scholars of interest. Also, I'm of the understanding that the graduate school in general favors a very interdisciplinary approach, which may be of benefit to those interested in continental thought.
(back to table of contents)
This page will be added to as time goes on, and as my schedule allows. Please provide feedback to this, as I am very interested in both hearing opinions on this work, and also obtaining more information to make this page even better. Future plans include noting both the ranking (in the NRC's report) and the number of tenure-track positions obtained by graduates of each and every school. Also, more schools will be added, and schools without links will have links attached to them -- after all, this ain't it, folks!
(back to table of contents)
(to my homepage)
� John Hartmann, all rights reserved