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Valerie Tiberius’s Advice to her Friend, Philosophy. Plus Important Survey Data from over 2500 Philosophers.

A draft of Valerie Tiberius’s Presidential Address at the Central Division of the APA is linked to below. The text below is her teaser for the address. Her advice to Philosophy is informed by important data, revealed below, from a survey of over 2500 philosophers.

Of this piece Valerie writes “I am really hoping that the survey (and my discussion of the results) will be helpful to other philosophers.  I’m very grateful to the editors of PEASoup for linking to it and hosting a discussion.  I’d love to hear your comments and I would be glad to answer questions. (I might be a little slow to answer certain questions about data, or to respond to requests for data, since I’ll have to ask my collaborator about these).”

Here now is Valerie:

I have been writing about well-being and about how to think about well-being when we are trying to help our friends.  In this context, I believe we should focus on the values of the person we are trying to help and on how those values could be improved in light of shared norms and the facts about personality and environment.  Well-being, on this view, is success in terms of appropriate values over time, or “value fulfillment” as I call it.

Given my research, I started thinking… what if PHILOSOPHY were my friend?  I might worry.  Philosophy, what are you doing with your life?  You’re in the news, and not in a good way.  Thinking about philosophy as my friend led me to wonder what would happen if I took my own approach to helping and applied it here.  And that led me to creating “The Value of Philosophy Survey”.  My hope in creating the survey was to find out what philosophers value about philosophy. I anticipated finding some conflicts among these values and my goal was to use this information to recommend a “healthy” and sustainable path that we can follow, given our values, given what philosophy is like (our “personality”) and given the academic, economic and political environment in which we have to work.  My presidential address is the results of these efforts.  It reports findings from the survey and recommends a path forward that I call the “broaden and balance” path.

The Well-Being of Philosophy

3 Responses to Valerie Tiberius’s Advice to her Friend, Philosophy. Plus Important Survey Data from over 2500 Philosophers.

  1. David Sobel says:

    First I want to say thank you for generating this amazing set of data. I am not aware of any previous efforts to gather such extensive information about what the discipline thinks on issues of diversity before. This data is now surely the starting point for anyone who wants to speak about what the profession values on these crucial issues. Because your text is long I hope it will be ok if I pull out and highlight some of your advice for your pal Philosophy:

    “At the highest level of abstraction, I’ve argued that we want to do a better job of valuing diversity, interdisciplinarity and relevance without losing the aspects of our tradition that we care about.”

    “We can look for opportunities for recognizing and appreciating philosophers whose work, teaching or service is helping to change philosophy for the better. Recognition can take the form of departmental awards and ceremonies, acknowledgement in department newsletters, and simple expressions of gratitude. We can give credit for philosophical research that aims to promote our values in searches, promotion and tenure cases, and even in the grading of student work. We can refrain from discouraging graduate students from working on certain topics and instead help them to work on those topics in rigorous ways. We can try to integrate non-traditional approaches into the curriculum by co-teaching with our colleagues who know something that we don’t. We can sponsor departmental or inter-departmental conversations about why diversity matters to philosophy (to start: conversations about why some think diversity is irrelevant while others think it is essential to philosophy), about why the environment isn’t welcoming, about how to give credit for non-traditional work and publications, and about how non-traditional work strengthens philosophy. We can organize seminars, colloquia or brownbag lunches focused on how to broaden a syllabus, how to teach a diverse group of students, or how to write an Op-Ed piece or get it published.”

    This strikes me as very valuable advice and I hope your chum, Philosophy is up for the effort it will take to live up to his/her values.

    Finally, let me say this subjectivism about well-being you talk about sounds so darn sensible!

  2. Thanks very much for this, Dave! Your comment about this being a starting point for future conversations about philosophy’s values and direction is very heartening to me. That’s just what I hoped for. I also hope you’re right! (About this, and about subjectivism)

    – Valerie

  3. […] of Professor Tiberius’s address at the Blog of the APA, and some initial discussion of it at PEA Soup. It’s a wonderful piece in which she addresses the discipline of philosophy as a friend in […]