Read Some Philosophy; Make Society Better

Interesting story here by the folks at The Week on the benefits of philosophy. Most of these articles cite the (true) rise in demand for philosophy majors owing to their critical thinking, problem solving, and communications skills. The angle here’s a bit different:

And at the level of our society, there is a dramatic pragmatic stake in philosophy. We live in enormously complex, technologically advanced societies where we have the power to do a great deal of harm and a great deal of good. Our societies are built on complex institutions (such as “democracy,” “the free market,” and “science”), which are in turn premised on ways of looking at the world and on ideas about the world and humanity — in other words, on philosophy.

I’d add–as do many–that philosophy is invaluable for problem solving in personal life, from sorting through different, complicated options to dealing with deep existential crises. However one cuts the cake, it’s obvious that philosophy is deeply, deeply undervalued at the present moment in American culture. Not only can it really (yes, really) get you into a good job, it is uniquely suited to aid those who stick with with it in the pursuit of a well-lived life.

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Updates, Winter 2014

Tons of stuff happening that I haven’t written about here, mostly owing to the fact that since August I’ve been Chair of the Division of Letters. The Division of Letters is made up of programs and departments in Philosophy, Religious Studies, Humanities/Cultural Anthropology, English, Modern Languages, and Social Justice. As Chair my main job has been to rout information to the folks that lead these departments and programs, to be their chief advocate for their needs and plans, and to do all the other usual stuff that comes with being named a chair (e.g. budgets, signing things, re-gruntling the disgruntled, etc.).  It has been an unearthly amount of work.

Making the transition to demi-administrator hasn’t stopped other things from happening. I still teach two courses per term, and I’m developing a class entitled “Philosophy and the City” (same title as Meagher’s book, which I’ll use for some of the course) for Marygrove’s Urban Leadership initiative. I am also still trying to finish the open access critical thinking textbook I’ve been working on for the last year and a half. I made good headway with the sabbatical last Winter, but there are still a few chapters to finish and some other nuts-and-bolts-type tasks to be done. I’ve had good reason to put that project on pause though, as it will be helped by some in-service work I’m doing for the college. At the request of one of our Deans I gave a workshop on critical thinking pedagogy last November. It was so well-received that I’m now engaged in doing a series of hands-on mini-workshops for faculty who want to build critical thinking components into their assignments, classwork and learning objectives. I’ve been keeping track of the resources I’ve been collecting and developing along the way here. It’s been gratifying to see how many of my colleagues really care about critical thinking and want to see us do better at teaching it. In addition to helping me think my way around some of the issues in the book the experience should make for some good conversations the next time I run into my friends in CRRAR and AILACT.

I expect I’ll run into them sooner rather than later too, as I’ll be giving a paper to CRRAR in a few weeks on February 26. There’s ISSA to look forward to this summer as well, and  I’ve just agreed to read papers for the upcoming ArgDiaP conference in Warsaw in May too. I wish I could go to that one–love Warsaw–but with the support I’ll be requesting to get to Amsterdam for ISSA this summer it’s probably something of a long shot. Together with the continuing work I’ve been doing with colleagues in trying to get book reviews for Cogency and in participating in article reviews for Studies in Logic, Rhetoric, and Grammar and Informal Logic, I’ve become pretty busy on the research front too.

Busy, yep. But this is how it is done, I think.

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More Coffee

Yeah, that coffee I mentioned in that last one? Gonna need some more.

It’s for a good reason though. I’ve just agreed to be on the review board for the journal Studies in Logic, Grammar and Rhetoric, based at the University of Bialystok in Poland. I’m very happy about this as I think it’s an excellent journal that puts out consistently rigorous, high-quality papers on argumentation and related topics.. Check out some of the back issues at their website and see. It’s also open access, which is something important to me.

Together with book review editing duties that will be picking up soon for the journal Cogency, I’ll have my hands pretty full. I expect to learn a lot though, and that–together with helping out folks doing the hard work necessary to move this field forward, of course–is what it’s all about.

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Summer Work

Aaaand summer’s here. Go Tigers.

Taking the summer off so I can carry the momentum from the sabbatical forward to completion for a few projects.  There are final edits for the proceedings of the OSSA Conference this past May, R&R for the deep disagreement paper, getting the paper I presented to CRRAR back in April ready for prime time, and research for the paper I’m writing on multi-modal arguments for the upcoming ISSA conference.

That last one seems to be spawning other papers that need to be written, as I put it elsewhere, “faster than a wet gremlin”. At least I’ll not want for a research agenda in 2014.

Apart from these there’s the critical thinking textbook project that’s chugging along and even some new paintings happening.

It’s amazing what one can do with a little silence and a lot of coffee.

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RIP: J.P. Song

With great sadness I note the passing of my colleague JP Song. One of the disadvantages of sabbatical is being out of the informational loop, so much to my regret, I wasn’t able to attend his memorial service. JP worked in the English department and taught post-colonial literature. He was an excellent translator of Korean poetry, a great teacher who held to the highest standards, a person of integrity, and generally just a good person to be around. He will be missed. Ours is a small college with a very small faculty, so things like this produce very large ripples in our little pond. Though we all feel JP’s loss, my thoughts primarily are with his family and his colleagues in the English department.

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  • So, we’re two months into the sabbatical or thereabouts. Progress so far, pretty good. The first draft of my paper for OSSA 2013 is all but complete. Critical research for a presentation to CRRAR and the initial argument planning for that paper are done too. By mid-March both should be in the bag, at which point it will be time to turn back to a too-long-neglected effort on disagreement.  Not bad for being sidelined by a vicious URI for most of January. With any luck, the disagreement piece will be finished in time to submit to what looks like a wonderful event in Lake Geneva. Fingers crossed.
  • To help myself get all this done, I’ve put together a nice little grouping of iPhone apps that have made it a decent little platform for research on the fly. Look for a post about that to come soon.
  • One benefit of being on sabbatical is the time to sit back and think about things not directly related to research projects. I’ve had valuable conversations about teaching and about the research projects of colleagues in the past few weeks that have spurred a lot of reflection on how to improve my teaching, academic freedom and shared governance, and on the relationship between formal and informal methods of studying human reasoning. Lots to ruminate on while the snow melts.

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Sabbatical On

The end of the Fall term always brings relief, but this year it brings the start of a long-awaited one-term research sabbatical as well.  (I am contemplating extending it by not teaching this summer, but we’ll see how that goes.)  Here are some of the projects I’ll be working on while the snow flies this winter:

  • Final revisions for the paper I’ll be presenting at OSSA 2013, “Are Arguments Abstract Objects?”, in which I argue that they might be, but probably not in a way that anyone will find particularly helpful.
  • A substantive revision of an existing paper on deep disagreement that will recast the problem in the terms of the literature on peer disagreement.
  • A new paper on the role of intentions (personal and collective) in argumentative dialogues that extends the functionalist story about argumentation I put forward in last year’s “Functionalism, Normativity, and Argumentation” (which you can find under the “Writing” tab in the page header)
  • A new chapter or two of the open access critical thinking workbook I’ve been developing and using in my classes for the last year or so.

I’ll also be working to get back to a normal rhythm of postings on RAIL.

Gonna be a lot of work, but hopefully it will be work like this:

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Filed under Argumentation, Critical Thinking, Informal Logic, Research, Stuff I'm Doing