Thoughts on the Pac APA...

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This is my second year on the Pac APA program. Last year, we were getting ready to head to England (and, to be honest, going through the 'why did we want to do this?' stage). So I thought I'd put down some various thoughts about what goes into putting together the second largest philosophy conference in the States. These are not particularly well thought out or related, but rather just some observations.

1)      It's a huge job. The final count isn't in yet because of the extended deadline from Irene, but there have already been 407 submissions for blind review. That's up about 12% just from last year. Even though there are nearly 30 people on the program committee, that's still a lot of submissions to referee. I've done 17 thus far. And this isn't to mention that 60+ invited sessions on the program, not to mention all the group programs.

2)      The coordination on something this large must be exceeding difficult. One problem is that the Pac program committee is dependent on the national office for various things (they receive the submissions, for example, and then send them out west), and we all know how well organized they are.

3)      It's largely a thankless job that most people don't even think about unless they've been on the program committee before.

4)      Being the chair of the program committee must be orders of magnitude more work than just being on the program committee.

5)      Even though there is a poster option starting this year, I've yet to see a poster submission.

6)      There's a built in incentive for a large program. There is no suggested acceptance percentage, nor a cap on how many papers a given program member can accept. Given that (a) you referee submissions only in your area, (b) you tend to like your area and would prefer there to be more papers in your area than not, (c) the belief that the APAs are a great place for junior faculty and grad students to give papers and get good feedback, I suspect that these factors work together to produce an unintentionally large program.

7)      I'm pretty sure that neither the national office nor the Pacific division enforce the wordcount on submissions. Perhaps I'm wrong here, but I don't think so. A person on the program committee can turn down a paper simply because it's too long, but that would require doing a wordcount on each PDF (which for me would involve cutting and pasting into Word) and I'm just too lazy.

8)      Getting on the program is still largely, and unfortunately, a function of who you know. Say, as rough numbers, that there are 60 invited sessions, each involving 3 people. (This is conservative, as some invited sessions involve 5.) Say that 300 of the blind submissions are accepted. So far, that's 180 invited to 300 blind participants. But for each non-invited session, we still have to get a commentator and a chair. There is a database that we can use, but my guess is that it is more common for individuals to fill commentator and chair slots largely with people they know (remember, since we only referee sessions in areas where we work, we're likely to know someone we'd like to see at a conference that would be good to comment on a paper we've accepted). So my rough guess is that over half the people on the program are there because they are known by someone on the program committee. I don't think we intend for it to be that way, but I suspect that's what actually happens.

Two rather unrelated work issues, other than I've been addressing both today.

First, here is the penultimate draft of a chapter for a forthcoming volume on different models of God that I wrote this spring. Any last minute advice welcome.

Second, I'll be in Grand Rapids next summer, co-directing a summer seminar on the virtues and vices for visiting Chinese philosophers and grad students at Calvin College. More details in the coming months.

In the fall of 2006, I first taught a course at USD called "Virtues and Vices." All USD undergrads were required to take three philosophy courses, one of which was an ethics course. The department offered 8-10 different ethics coures and while "Virtues and Vices" was on the books, it hadn't been taught in over a decade.

This came to be one of my favorite courses that I taught there. And the materials from the course began to bleed into my research as well. It led, for example, to the second IEP entry that I've written. And now it's lead to a book project.

For the past year and a half, I've been trying to put together a collection of essays dedicated to the virtues and vices. And I'm now very pleased that my co-editor and I, Craig Boyd, have secured a contract with (drumroll please).... OUP. Here's the anticipated contents for the volume, tentatively entitled Virtues and Their Vices. I think we've put together a great line-up of scholars to help us pull it off:

Introduction (Kevin Timpe and Craig Boyd)

Section I: The Cardinal Virtues

(1) Temperance (Bob Roberts)

(2) Fortitude (Daniel McInerny)

(3) Justice (Annette Baier)

(4) Prudence (Thomas Williams)

Section II: The Capital Vices and the Corrective Virtues

(5) Lust and Chastity (Colleen McCluskey)

(6) Gluttony and Abstinence (Bob Kruschwitz)

(7) Avarice and Liberality (Andrew Pinsent)

(8) Sloth and Diligence (Rebecca DeYoung)

(9) Wrath and Patience (Zac Cogley)

(10) Envy and Compassion (Kevin Timpe and Timothy Perrine)

(11) Pride and Humility (Craig A. Boyd)

Section III: The Intellectual Virtues

(12) Trust (Linda Zagzebski)

(13) Phronesis (Jay Wood)

(14) Episteme (John Greco)

(15) Sophia (Jason Baer)Section IV: The Theological Virtues

(16) Faith (Robert Audi)

(17) Hope (Charlie Pinches)

(18) Charity (Paul Wadell)

Section V: Virtue across the Disciplines

(19) Virtue in Theology (not yet finalized)

(20) Virtue in Political Thought (not yet finalized)

(21) Virtue and Positive Psychology (Everett Worthington)

(22) Virtue and Neuroscience (Michael Spezio)

(23) Virtue and Feminism (Ruth Groenhout)

There's so much that I like about this line-up and I'm incredibly excited to work with these folks on the volume. After all, how hard can 250,000 words be, right?

Research update...

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It's amazing how much writing you can get done when you don't have teaching to do! (I'm already looking forward to sabbatical in a few years.)

And it's been a very productive time here, which is good. This week, I wrote an endorsement for a new forthcoming book by a friend, Yujin Nagasawa. The book was a real pleasure to read, as Yujin weaves a compelling narrative in a way I've seen few philosophers pull off. I also finished a chapter for a forthcoming book on models of God that I've been working on the past month or so.

The last 6 weeks have also been good on the contract front. I now have a contract to do a second, and expanded, edition of my first book. It'll be up to 85-90k words (from 65k) and aimed at being a course text. It will also come out initially in paperback as well, so it shouldn't be as prohibitively expensive as the first edition was.

I also have a contract with Continuum for the project that's the focus of my Templeton fellowship this year. (An earlier description of the project is here, but it's changed a fair bit since this application.)

And I have even more good news about contracts, just 2 days ago, but I'm going to wait until a few more details are ironed out before I post about it. But it's sweet news.

This spring is full of paper presenations, most of which are related to chapter two of my Templeton book project. In many ways, that's the key chapter to the whole project (and once it gets finished, I think the other chapters will come relatively easily) and the feedback I've received on it so far has been very helpful and constructive. I'm very excited to be writing these days, and it's going pretty well. We go for a week's holiday the end of next week when some friends from Idaho come visit us from spring break. I hope I can keep the momentum up until they get here.

Spring Travel...

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As of today, we have fewer days left than days that we've already been in England. So it's all downhill from here...

It's the second week of Hillary term here at Oxford. Not that such things matter much to me, given that I'm not teaching. But some of the reading groups I'm in are back in session, and I'll be sitting in on parts of a BPhil course taught by Brian Leftow.

We haven't left Oxford at all in January. But the coming months are going to going to change that. In fact, I think we'll be doing a fair bit more travel the second half of our year than the first half. Here's what's on the calendar so far:

February:

  • a trip back to Dublin to give papers at UCD and Trinity College
  • a trip to Croatia, hopefully via train with a stop in Germany to see some castles (if I can figure out how to plan that)

March:

  • three of our good friends from NNU are coming over for their spring break. We'll be travelling with them, though I'm not exactly sure where. I think plans include both France and Germany

April:

  • though the scheduling isn't final yet, we'll probably be going to Amsterdam so that I can do a workshop with some philosophers and theologians

May:

  • another paper here in Oxford
  • a conference in Birmingham
  • Glasgow
  • and another conference in Oxford

I've also been asked to give a paper during Trinity term at Cambridge, but I don't know when that will be yet. I was asked today to take part in a workshop in Saint Malo, France, but it's a few weeks after we head back to the States and I had to decline.


It's been a very productive time here so far. Though nothing's official, and so I'm hesitant to give specifics, it looks like a number of projects I'm working on will be green lighted. I should know for sure in 2-3 weeks and then again 2-3 weeks after that.


One of the great things about this year--in addition to the travel we get to do and the simple fact that we're in Oxford--is that I have time for reading. Last year, with the move from USD to NNU and all the teaching and new preps that included, I barely had a chanch to read at all. Add on top of that two youngens running around and there were probably weeks when I didn't get to read at all. 

This year, I'm making up for it.  I've read more for pleasure the past four months than all the prior months since the first spawn was born combined.  Some of it's been mindless fiction, but I've also read books connected to our trip--Irish history, an anthropological study of the English, etc....  But I've also got to read a lot of philosophy.  Much of it is related to the projects I'm on, but a bit broader than what I've read in past years: the emotions, rationality, some Kantian inspired action theory, a book on Arius.  I must say that I'm really enjoying it.

By my count, I refereed at least 7 articles for 6 different journals during 2010.  (I say 'at least' because the exact cound depends on how one individuates referee's reports with respect to R&Rs.)  While a few of these were specialist journals (such as Faith and Philosophy), most were generalist journals.  Some of them were flagship journals (still no requestions by J-Phil for me, but the other ones are among the set), other were very-solid-but-not-flagship journals (AJP, PS, etc...), and one was a lower-teir journal (my act of refereeing for this journal doesn't appear on my cv, so you can't traingulate that way). 

A few months ago, I read a discussion on one of the philosooblogs about whether or not a referee should apply the same standards across journals.  I tend to think not, believing that some stuff that doesn't deserve to be published in, say, Nous nevertheless deserves to be published.  If there is an argument for the uniformity of standards (in terms of quality, not areas), across journals, I'd like to see it.  And I think that some editors at flagship journals think the same way I do, as the requests to referee for them will include specifics about how high their standards are. 

Today I received an email from the editor of a very-solid-but-not-flagship journal.  Along with the usual content of such emails, it also contained the following (the all-caps is the editor's, not mine):

BECAUSE WE CURRENTLY HAVE A LARGE BACKLOG OF ACCEPTED PAPERS, I AM ASKING REFEREES TO USE ESPECIALLY STRICT STANDARDS.

Despite my acceptance that different journals should have different standards in terms of quality, I find this request by the editor to be a bit strange.  I understand the practical concerns that surely motivate it, but it's not clear to me that the number of accepted-but-yet-unpublished articles by a journal should effect whether or not a new submission clear the relavant bar.

What say you?

Logos 2011...

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The timing on this isn't perfect (as we just get back from England the week before), but I'm headed to Notre Dame for the 2011 Logos Workshop.

There is nearly always an unremarked upon elephant that lurks in rooms where philosophers discuss free will.  In this instance, the elephant may be more difficult to ignore.  The elephant is the role of religion in motivating and sustaining various libertarian accounts.  It would, I think, be revealing to do a survey of the religious beliefs of contemporary libertarians and compatibilists.  My guess is that we would learn that a disproportionate number--perhaps even most--libertarians [in the philosophical community] are religious and, especially, Christian.  I suspect that we would also learn that the overwhelming majority of compatibilists are atheist or agnostic... [I] think that understanding the difference religion can make may be a key to understanding some important methodological differences between religious libertarians and their interlocutor.  Though one might be a libertarian who is religious [...], a religious libertarian in my sense is one who, antecedent to and perhaps independent of philosophical inquiry, is committed to a strong belief in a particular divine moral order that requires a strong notion of human freedom.  In the doxastic economy of the religious libertarian, libertarianism is inextricably tied to a religious framework (Vargas, "Libertarianism and Skepticism About Free Will: Some Arguments against Both" 408).

The recent release of the correlations from the PhilPapers survey has given justifcation to Manuel's speculations.  And in an unpublished paper I've been reading this afternoon, the author argues from thesim to libertarianism.  However, in his recent book, Stewart Goetz indicates that for him it's the other way.

In Vargas' terminology, I am a libertarian who is also religious, not a religious libertarian.  Thus, I do not espouse libertarianism because of my religion.  Rather, I espouse my religion because I am a libertarian.  I am inclined to think that there is a supreme agent who acts for purposes because I am aware that I am an irreducible, substantive agent who acts for purposes (7).

I'm thinking about starting to put together a volume which aims to address the correlation between theism and libertarianism directly.  I'm currently thinking that about 1/3 would be previously published stuff on the link--e.g., Plantinga's free will defense which directly appeals to libertarianism, Lynne Baker's paper on why theists should not be libertarians, etc....  The other 2/3 would be new papers on aspects of this issue.  I'd like it to contain a wide variety of issues, perspectives, methodologies, etc....

If you have suggestions of what you think should be in the first part, indicate it in the comments.  If you think you might be interested in contributing a paper to the second section, sent me an email. 

"In choosing a topic for philosophical work, the importance of the topic can matter less than the likelihood that one will have something to say that makes a difference to the discussion of the topic." ("Philosophical Autobiography," in Metaphysics and the Good, 19)

A Sense of the Project...

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I confess to being a bit more hesitant to post drafts of things I'm working on, as at the last papers I've given I've encountered someone who was familiar with the Timpest.  So evidently at least some people do read this; I hope they understand that what's posted here is often times very rough drafts.

During these first two months at Oxford, I've gotten a fair bit of writing done.  I have most of a draft of what I anticipate being chapter three, and a third to half of what should be the final chapter.  Working on these parts has helped me get a better sense of what I need to do in general, and the shape of the project has shifted.  Chapter two will be on a completely different topic than I anticipated (the old topic of chapter two needs to be a book of its own, though perhaps one that I'm not best equipped to write).  The introductory chapter has also become a bit more methodological, and less a summary of my earlier book. 

An initial draft of chapter 1 can be found here; it should give you a pretty good sense of what I'm aiming to do this year.  As always, feedback would be welcomed warmly.

"In a way that will be familiar to any reader of analytic philosophy, and is only too familiar to all of us who perpetrate it, this style tries to remove in advance every conceivable misunderstanding or misinterpretation or objection, including those that would occur only to the malicious or the clinically literal-minded."

Implicature Question...

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Suppose you see a philosopher making the following sort of claim:

I believe A, but not because of B.

Does this suggest that the philosopher in question:

(i) thinks that B is false

(ii) thinks that B is true, but that is not his reason for thinking A is true, or

(iii) is committed to neither the truth nor falsity of B, but thinks that even if B were true, that would not be his reason for believing A.

Thoughts?

So far here in the UK, I've given two different papers twice each.  One of these was about half done when we came, and the other was barely begun.  And I've made progress on other writing projects as well.  So I've been getting some decent work done.

This is going to be a busy week.  First off, I'm teaching a course for a friend from Loyola Marymount University on Tuesday morning.  And then we head to Belfast on Wednesday.  So after dinner monday night, we're catching a bus to London, and staying two nights there before flying up to Northern Ireland.  Thursday is World Philosophy Day (yeah, it sounds like a made-up holiday to me too!), and I've been asked to give a public lecture at Queen's University Belfast to help celebrate.  Rather than a research talk, they wanted something aimed more at undergraduates and anyone from the public who may be interested.  Here is a draft of the paper I'll be reading (warning: the footnotes are a mess, and it bears the usual marks of being a rough draft).  And a Powerpoint I'll be using is here.  This is a paper for which I really have no plans to try and publish, largely because of the nature of it.  But I'd still be open to any thoughts readers may have about it.

We're going to stay in Belfast a few extra days, both for me to try and connect with some of their faculty, and to see at least a bit of Northern Ireland.  We have plans, for example, to take a tour of the Giants Causeway.  But I look forward to coming back and getting back to reading and writing.

Intro to φ and x-φ...

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After the adjustment period that I should have expected but didn't quite count on, the past two weeks have been pretty productive for me here.  I've gotten enough work done on two papers to present them at three different venues, where I got very valuable feedback.  But I also had a pretty big editing/writing obligation that's taken quite a bit of time.  As you, my fair readers (Do I have fair readers?  Do I have any readers?) may remember, I took part in an NEH summer institute on experimental philosophy during the summer of 2008.  One of the results of that institute, which was fantastic, was a contract with OUP for a new intro to philosophy text that incorporates not only traditional readings, but relevant experimental and empirical work.  (I'll post a description of the book from the proposal below the fold.)  I'm the unit editor for the sections on religious belief and normative ethics.  For each of these, I had to select the approximately 25k words, as well as write a roughly 5k word intro, short intros for each reading, a 'for further reading' list, glossary terms, and study questions.

Today, I finished the second of the introductions and should get all the materials turned into the general editors by tomorrow.  (Technically it was all due on monday, but I'm a little behind.  I don't like the feeling of missing deadlines.)  It feels good to have this done and to now be able to turn my attention more fully to the stuff on free will that I'm working on.