Saturday, November 22, 2014

Waiting for Ferguson

We continue awaiting the decision of a grand jury on whether or not to indict Darren Wilson, a white police officer, who shot and killed Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, exactly 15 weeks ago today on a suburban street in Ferguson, Missouri. News reporters from across the globe have been camped out in Ferguson for months, their expectation of an announcement teased and disappointed several times in the last week alone.  On Monday, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon declared a state of emergency and activated the National Guard in advance of the grand jury's decision. Yesterday, President Barack Obama, in what can only be judged to be an anticipation of Wilson's non-indictment, preemptively urged protesters not to use Ferguson as an "excuse for violence."  In the meantime, demonstrators of various ilk remain on standby, rallying their troops, refining their organizational strategies, painting their oppositional signs, standing vigilantly at the ready for whatever may come.

But what are we waiting for, really, as we wait for Ferguson?

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Missing: An Image of "The Worker" Today

This semester I have the very good fortune of teaching a graduate course in the History of Theory and Criticism at Memphis College of Art. (Check out my syllabus here and the class blog here.) For their final projects, my students are required to employ one of the theories we studied during the semester to present a thorough critical analysis of a single artwork.  In last night's seminar, one student presented a Marxist analysis of the 1897 etching to your left, March of the Weavers by Käthe Kollwitz, This piece was one in an extended series of works by Kollwitz, inspired in part by Emile Zola's Germinal and depicting the uprising of Silesian weavers on the eve of the revolution of 1848. I was struck by the fact that, throughout our seminar discussion last night, we all consistently referred to the figures in Kollwitz's etching as "workers"-- this despite the fact that the title of Kollwitz's piece explicitly indicates that they are a particular ilk of workers, namely, "weavers."  We all clearly shared some implicit, generic recognition of what representatives of the category "workers" look like.  We knew who the workers were, what they represented, what they meant, what they stood for and what they opposed, how we were permitted and/or forbidden to talk about them.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

#SPEP14 Tweeter/Absentee "Buddy System"

Daniel Brunson (@danieljbrunson) asked me if I could figure out a way to connect (1) people who won't be attending #SPEP14 but who are interested in hearing specific panels and (2) Tweeters who will be live-tweeting those same panels. I think something like a digital-philosophical "buddy system" is a great idea, especially for those unfortunate souls who won't be able to make it to New Orleans.  (Incidentally, I've been in NOLA for two days already, and I'll be here through the end of SPEP.  I'm happy to report that the weather is beautiful, the food is delicious, the drinks are strong, the music is loud and the people are as endearingly weird as ever.  Looking forward to seeing you all in a few days!)  Anyway, here are a few suggestions for how we might make the #SPEPbuddysystem work:

First, SPEP-Tweeters should use the comments section below this post in the next few days to list sessions that they know they plan to attend/tweet, along with their Twitter handles.  Those not attending can check that list, see if anyone will be tweeting the session you're interested in, and "follow' that Tweeter during the live session.

Second, anyone who plans to be tweeting at #SPEP14 should register their names on the list in the comments section to CFT (Call for Tweeters) post from last week.  Those not attending can "follow" any or all of the live-Tweeters that way.

Third, starting on Thursday, and throughout the conference, it would be great if Tweeters could tweet which sessions they plan to attend that day sometime in the morning.  If you tag me in your Tweet (@DrLeighMJohnson), I'll RT all of them,so at least there will be one central source for pairing up live-tweeters and absentees. Just a reminder :the SPEP program is here.  Since we only have 140 characters (minus 17 if you tag me), I'd suggest that Tweeters list the sessions they're attending by the number on the official program.  For example, a Thursday morning tweet might look like this:
"Live-tweeting #SPEP14 sessions #TI10, #TII11 and #plenary today. @DrLeighMJohnson"
Fourth, I suppose Tweeters could act as free-agents at any point, too.  Got a Twitter account and no preference for which session to attend?  Just send out a tweet asking for a#SPEPbuddysystem assignment from one of the absentees!  Again, be sure to tag me in your Tweet and I'll RT it.

This is all a just a work-in-progress at the moment.  Feel free to offer other/better suggestions in the comments below (or tweet them to me!).

Thursday, October 16, 2014

The Leiter/PGR Archive Is Now Closed (and, A Note from Your Archivist)

This has been a strange month for academic Philosophy, for professional philosophers and, as a more or less direct consequence, for this blog.  A little less than four weeks ago, on September 24, I began collecting various posts, essays and articles related to what I then anticipated was going to be, at the very least, a semi-significant series of events vis-á-via the controversial behaviors of one of Philosophy's most prominent bloggers, Brian Leiter, and his controversial (but highly-influential) rankings of Philosophy graduate programs in the Anglophone world, better known as the Philosophical Gourmet Report (PGR). In the weeks since I first posted what I called an "Archive of the Meltdown," that Archive has had a number of "hits" that is nearing 2x the number of members in the largest professional organization for Philosophers in the world, the American Philosophical Association (which, if you're doing the math, has a membership of roughly 11,000). A shorter version of the Archive, which I posted as an Interactive Timeline of the Leiter/PGR Controversy, has gotten about half that traffic (which still outnumbers professional Philosophers in the United States).  All that is just to say, my original suspicion that this was going to be a semi-significant series of events for professional Philosophy was more than confirmed.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

CFT (Call For Tweeters) #SPEP14

Last year's meeting of the Society for Phenomenology and Existential Philosophy (SPEP) was the first such conference, as far as I'm aware, that was live-tweeted by a significant-enough number of participants to be noteworthy.  I was one of the SPEP Twitterati last year in Eugene, and I wrote a post about that experience after I returned home from the conference.  If you're interested, take a look at the tweets from #SPEP13, which Chris Long (@cplong) of Penn State collected and "Storified" here to be preserved for posterity.  This year's conference in New Orleans is coming up in just under two weeks (Oct 23-25), so I wanted to send out a CFT for #SPEP14 as well as provide a central place for SPEP-Tweeters to find (and follow) one another.

[First things first:  I'll be at SPEP and I'll be live-tweeting it again this year.  My Twitter handle is @DrLeighMJohnson.  The Twitter handle for this blog is @RMWMTMBM.  You can easily "follow" both of us by clicking the appropriate icons in the Twitter columns to your right.]

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Interactive Timeline of the Leiter/PGR Controversy

As readers know, I have maintained an Archive on this blog with links to most (if not all) of the public essays, statements and posts regarding the recent controversy surrounding Brian Leiter and the Philosophical Gourmet Report.  A lot as been said over the last few weeks and, if you're interested, you can trudge through all of it day-by-day by visiting the Archive.  On the other hand, if you only want the highlights, what follows is for you.

I've created a curated an Interactive Timeline of the 2014 Leiter/PGR Controversy.  The interactive timeline only traces the general narrative arc of the last several weeks (and leaves out most of the nuance and detail) so please read it with that caveat in mind.

I will continue to update the (detailed and exhaustive) Archive of the Meltdown as long as it seems necessary.  I also ask those who wish to share the interactive timeline to please link to this post (rather than linking to the timeline directly).  Of course, I welcome any any comments or suggestions you may have regarding the Archive or the Timeline, which you can post in the comments section below.

Thursday, October 02, 2014

What You Can Do To Support PIKSI (which you *should* support) OTHER THAN Donating Your Money (which, if you are able, you *should* also do)

It's been a busy (in fact, record-breakingly busy) month here on RMWMTMBM, so I wanted to take a momentary break from the Leiter/PGR/SeptemberStatement brouhaha--about which this blog has more or less unfortunately become something akin to professional Philosophy's version of TMZ-- and instead remark upon an initiative as important to our discipline as, and not wholly unrelated to, the recent Sturm und Drang vis-á-vis "civility" and "rankings." In the interest of performatively enacting for intro-Philosophy students everywhere the importance of an appropriately-situated thesis statement, let me just explicitly avow here: IF you are a professional Philosopher who has bothered to take an even passing glance at the demographic data of our (unfortunately and WOEFULLY retrograde) profession, you OUGHT consider yourself ipso facto obliged to contribute whatever discretionary material means you have at your disposal to support PIKSI (aka, the Philosophy in an Inclusive Key Summer Institute).

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

A Note on "The Archive"

This is just to let readers know that I continue to update the Archive of The Meltdown daily.  I'm trying to catch everything substantive that shows up in re the recent events surrounding Leiter, the PGR and the September Statement-- and I'm aiming to avoid redundancy as much as possible-- but there has been a lot of material and I cannot, alas, read the whole Internet every day. I am sure I've missed some things.  If you see glaring omissions, please leave links to them in the comments section below the original Archive post (or below this post), or you can email them to me at

Predictably, and thankfully, it appears that the focus of many posts are moving away from the particular case of Brian Leiter or the PGR toward more general considerations of professional civility or the merits/demerits of rankings, respectively. To that end, I want to make note of a new page established by Richard Heck that aims to collect "Discussions of Philosophy Rankings"and to encourage readers to notify Heck when you write/read something that would be appropriate for inclusion at that page.  I will, of course, continue to add the same to my ongoing Archive here.

Until the number of relevant posts diminishes past the point of being worth tracking, I will continue to update the Archive on this blog daily, though probably only once daily (in the evening) going forward.

Thanks for your patience and assistance.  You can follow this blog on Facebook here or on Twitter here for more regular alerts.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Professional Philosophy Triage

Justice tempered by Mercy
Because I'm maintaining an Archive of (what I've called) The Meltdown here on this blog, I think I've read most, if not all, of what professional philosophers have said publicly in the last several days' scrum regarding  Brian Leiter's objectionable behaviors (or "civility" more generally) as well as the merits and demerits of the PGR (or "rankings" more generally). What professional philosophers are witnessing now must look, to non-philosophers, like something straight out of a Jonathan Franzen novel, replete with all of the deep, intra-familial dysfunction that tends to play itself out in brutish arguments over allegedly "shared" values via impossible-to-decipher shibboleths, subtext-laden misdirection, condensing, cathecting and projecting.  In my view, it would be flatly obtuse at this point, if not also egregiously unreflective and irresponsible, to not concede that something is very, very wrong here.  Professional philosophy has continued to run an infirm engine at full throttle, unattended and obviously overheating, for a long time now.  An incredible amount of cultural pressure has been building up, unabated, and now it appears we have have blown a gasket.  The blistering steam we see being released, from various fissures and clefts that have appeared where there were once (at least in principle) corrigible vulnerabilities, is manifesting in a number of predictable ways:  frustration, indignation, resentment, exasperation, vexation and, of course, anger.

It's time to triage.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Archive of The Meltdown [Now Closed]

If the current results of Brian Leiter's poll (which asks whether or not he should continue producing the Philosophical Gourmet Report) are any indication-- it's 1709 to 1118 in favor of "No" votes as I write this-- and if Leiter intends to take those poll results as some sort of mandate, then Philosophy may very well be witnessing the end of the PGR as we know it.

That's a pretty big deal all by itself... but it's happening coincidentally with what appears to be a bigger deal, i.e., the public unravelling of Leiter himself, one of the "biggest" (in terms of exposure, if not also influence) personalities in professional Philosophy.  Over the last 48 hours, Leiter has been publicly exposed as (and widely chastised for) being at best intemperate and uncivil, at worst bullying and threatening.  Things happen quickly and non-centrally in cyberspace, so I've decided to try to collect a running archive of the articles, letters, posts, petitions and the like related to  this incident, which may be a significant turning point in the professional life of academic Philosophy.