Should philosophy departments and graduate programs be ranked, and if so, how?
This has been the topic of intense debate this week. I would like to contribute an XCP perspective to the line of argumentation begun by Ed Kazarian and John Drabinski. Because in fact, we here at XCP have been arguing for quite some time that the discipline’s “demographic problem” intersects with (in the feminist sense of “intersection”) the analytic/continental divide (and it’s supposed overcoming/pluralization). Or, to use Kristie Dotson’s terms, “diverse practices” and “diverse practitioners” are not independent variables.
No matter how you measure it, philosophical “respectability” will always further marginalize the most marginal members of the discipline and profession. Different methods of measurement might slightly alter the composition of the groups thrown under the bus (valuing ethics and continental more centrally will, I bet, be better for white women), but somebody’s still gonna take the fall, and that somebody will be found at a node of intersecting oppressions.
The academic merit system is a means of reproducing the racist, classist, cis/heteropatriarchial, ableist distribution of resources, wealth, opportunities, and privilege. Assessments of philosophical merit are deeply tied to assessments of academic merit in general: citations, grant money, placement at elite institutions, etc.
What if, instead of revising our assement of merit, we reoriented our aims and centered justice, not merit? Sure, that’s not going to be helpful when we’ve gotta make a case to deans about why we still need philosophy programs…Justice is not something most academic institutions really care about, and caring about justice is not the route to producing high-merit outcomes. However, what if instead of trying to “save” philosophy as part of an incredibly oppressive institution, what if we practiced philosophy in a way that was intentionally transformative? (For what it’s worth, I know on the ground you’ve gotta speak out of both sides of your mouth at once, playing respectable enough to keep getting the resources to do your transformative work…)