You may have heard that academic philosophy is in the middle of an identity crisis. The Philosophical Gourmet Report (aka the Leiter Report, after its founder Brian Leiter) has been central to English-language academic philosophy’s self-concept. It has defined what counts as good and/or real philosophy for nearly 20 years. But in the last few weeks the administration and the validity of the PGR has been called into question by the parts of the discipline that had, up till now, supported it. If you want to read up on the scandal and the ensuing debate, check out Leigh Johnson’s “Archive of the Meltdown.”
At the heart of the debate is whether ranking philosophy departments and programs is something we ought to do in the first place. For reasons articulated here and here, I don’t think ranking philosophy (or any discipline’s) programs is something we ought to do. Rankings actively discourage meaningful diversification of a very non-diverse discipline, and help reinforce existing inequities.
One thing that actively encourages meaningful diversification of philosophers and philosophical practices is PIKSI, the Philosophy in an Inclusive Key Summer Institute. This is a summer program for philosophy students from groups traditionally underrepresented in the discipline; the point is to given them the encouragement and tools they need to successfully apply to graduate school in philosophy, and thus help remedy the discipline’s “pipeline problem.”
However, though the American Philosophical Association has traditionally funded PIKSI, this year it chose not to. So, PIKSI’s organizers are running a crowdsourcing campaign. Herreticat from the XCPhilosophy blog does a great job explaining why you ought to donate to PIKSI:
The subject matter of PIKSI is also crucial to its success. By focusing on the relationship between lived experience and philosophical reflection, the institute emphasizes the importance of students bringing their own concerns and questions to the table. Many students remark that the institute is the first time they learn there are “philosophers like them” and that they could have a role to play in philosophy. It is often the first time students participate in seminar discussions about anti-racist and feminist philosophical work. The testimonials in the PIKSI video also demonstrate the importance of this approach.
If you are a first generation college student, PIKSI could entail learning about what going to graduate school even means. If you are a low income student, it might mean learning concrete details about graduate stipends and having conversations with people who understand what it is like to have to support your family while in grad school. It involves talking to other people who get it about what it is like to be the only queer person of color, or woman with a disability, or first generation college student, and how to find the community that will allow you to not just get through, but thrive. It gives you email addresses and phone numbers and support networks.
Here’s where to go to donate. I know most of Cyborgology’s readers aren’t academic philosophers, but you should still care about diversity in philosophy (a) if you care about ideas, and/or (b) if you care about social justice in general.