Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Leiter reports: political philosophy rankings

The 2008-09 round of the Leiter Report on philosophy departments is being released on Leiter's blog piecemeal, and today there's a list of interest to many readers of this blog: political philosophy.

Top 9 Faculties in "Political Philosophy" in the English-Speaking World

In the specialty rankings, faculties are grouped according to their mean score, rounded to the nearest .5. In parentheses after the school's name, the median and mode scores are listed. Within the grouping, faculties are listed alphabetically.

Group 1 (1-3) (rounded mean of 4.5) (median, mode)

Harvard University (5, 5)
New York University (5, 5)
University of Arizona (4.5, 4.5)

Group 2 (4-9) (rounded mean of 4.0) (median, mode)

Brown University (4, 4)
Oxford University (4.25, 4.5)
Princeton University (4, 5)
Stanford University (4.5, 4.5)
University College London (3.75, 3.75)
Yale University (4, 4.25)

This is a very good list, and shows the value of the Leiter Reports. Even though Arizona has been an excellent program in legal and/or political philosophy more often than not in my lifetime, I think it still gets undervalued in some circles just because the university as a whole isn't a traditional name-brand research powerhouse. Brown and Stanford have made important new commitments to political philosophy over the past several years, and I think either would now be a terrific place to study the field, but that's relatively new, and the kind of thing that could take a long time to become conventional wisdom.

Compared with the 2006 list (I assume that at some point that link will start pointing to the new list, but it hasn't yet):

Oxford has dropped to group 2 (G.A. Cohen has retired and not yet been replaced)
NYU has risen to group 1 (Samuel Scheffler has been hired)
Michigan has dropped out of group 2 (lost Darwall, but I'm still surprised at the drop)
Berkeley has dropped out of group 2 (lost Scheffler)
Toronto has dropped out of group 2 (lost Sreenivasan and Hawkins, but I'm still surprised at the drop)
Rutgers has dropped out of group 2 (probably some obvious reason for this but I don't recall)
Yale has risen into group 2

For what it's worth, I would still think that Michigan ought to be somewhere near the top.


Todd Seavey said...

And (mixing departments for a moment) I'm told NYU will shortly have Richard Epstein, which is great news for those of us who aren't in academia but need an amazing lecture once in a while. (Leaving Chicago is all the rage.)

Anonymous said...

Harvard? Really? How much of this is nostalgia for the days of Rawls and Nozick? Is this really the single best faculty for political?

Jacob T. Levy said...

Well, Harvard is the only department with a Nobel prize-winning political philosopher!

I'm sure that the evaluators vary on how much they rank "political" as a freestanding field and how much they take into account strength in ethics or moral philosophy-- based in part on their own sensibilities about the relationships among those fields.

Matt said...

I would have ranked some of the programs a bit differently but it's mostly at least defensible. As for Harvard, this year they included in their faculty list a number of "affiliated" faculty, as all schools were allowed to do. I'm never sure how much weight they should be given because it's hard to know how useful they are to the actual philosophy students. But, the Harvard group included Michael Rosen, Richard Tuck, and Matias Risse, at least, in addition to Thomas Scanlon, Tommy Shelby, and Frances Kamm. Now, since some of those work more on ethics than political philosophy proper and many are not primarily in philosophy I wouldn't have ranked them '5', but it's not crazy. Michigan also lost Scott Shapiro, (who went to Yale), and though he doesn't work directly in political for the most part he was surely a contributor. There are several other faculties that seem to me to be at least as strong in political as some of these (Duke, Virginia, and Penn, if I may say so w/o seeming too self-interested, all seem to me as good as Yale or University College London, for example) but over-all it's not a bad ranking.

Anonymous said...

Isn't Sreenivasan still with Toronto? There hasn't been any news about his move from Toronto.

Jacob T. Levy said...

Sreenivasan to Duke.

Which reminds me that I agree with Matt about Duke. Allen Buchanan, Martin Golding, Wayne Norman, Gopal Sreenivasan, with Michael Gillespie and Ruth Grant affiliated and Geoff Brennan elsewhere on campus, has to add up to a major program.

Anonymous said...

Columbia also dropped out of the 2nd group, which I suspect is attributable to Pogge leaving for Yale (which in turn explains why Yale is now in group 2)

Matt said...

As for Columbia, they also lost Waldron to NYU. (In truth Pogge had not really taught at Columbia for more than 6 years, according to students there- he was always on some visiting position or other, but the still benefited from him in the rankings.) Yale gained Pogge and also Darwall (mostly ethics but lots of political stuff, too) and Shapiro, whose work is relevant to political even when not directly on it. If Pogge will actually be at Yale they probably deserve the spot though it's not clear to me that they are _lots_ better than some others.

Jacob T. Levy said...

Ah--right all around. Thanks for filling in my absent-minded gaps.

Brian Leiter said...

Waldron left Columbia for NYU prior to the 2006 surveys, so that was not a factor; Pogge's move surely was.

I would be surprised if Shapiro's move had any effect on the political phil ranking for Yale or Michigan.

Epstein isn't leaving Chicago, he is teaching part-time in the Law School at NYU and part-time in the Law School at Chicago, as he has been doing for a number of years. NYU, alas, has been misrepresenting this rather badly.

Harvard's rating in political philosophy can't be nostalgia, since evaluators receive a list of faculty names, not a school name. That list has on it T.M. Scanlon and Amartya Sen (as others have noted), among others, and several cognate faculty working in and around political philosophy.

Jacob T. Levy said...

Thanks, Brian. Certainly, your method of distributing faculty rosters rather than university names is as much as can be done to mitigate the effects of nostalgia and name-brand valuation-- and it does a very good job at it. As I noted, the Brown, Stanford, and Arizona rankings all show that; and the very fact that we are discussing what one or two faculty arrivals or departures per school make sense of the rankings shows that they're sensitive to real changes.

But, while you're here, I might as well ask: do you think that means that nostalgia or name-brand effects play absolutely *no* part? It's not as though your evaluators see the faculty roster that includes Scanlon, Sen, Kamm, Shelby etc., and don't *know* that it's Harvard-- or don't know that Harvard has occupies a unique place in North American political philosophy over the past couple of generations.

I guess I was just surprised by your "can't" in "Harvard's rating in political philosophy can't be nostalgia." It's certainly less about nostalgia than any other useful method I can think of would be (though there are less-useful methods like citation counts that would strip the effect away completely)-- but surely sometimes the thought process could go, "ah, the Harvard list; what do I think of Harvard as a place to study political philosophy?", couldn't it?

Brian Leiter said...

If I had been writing for publication, and not on a blog, then I would not have said "can't"-but you know how it goes on blogs. So, yes, it "could". But the usual way that works is someone sees the name, "Harvard," and thinks Rawls/Nozick, great place for political philosophy: they're responding just to the name of the school, nothing else. Most evaluators surely figure out after reading through some fo the faculty list what department it is, that's true, and so I suppose it's possible they then suffer from nostalgia and overrate Harvard in political philosophy. But notice that we don't see a similar effect in other areas where Hravard was once dominant, like philosophy of language and mind--apparently folks don't say, ah "Harvard," home of Quine/Putnam, great place for philosophy of language and mind. No, they look through the list and see that Hravard is no longe rdominant in these areas, even though they have some good younger people.

So bottom line is I'd be more likely to credit the worry if it appeared to be more widespread: e.g., if Princeton were tops in metaphysics, even though Kripke and Lewis are gone (it's not); if Chicago were still way up there in philosophy of physics even though Malament and Stein are gone (it's not); and so on. If Scanlon and Sen retire--both might before too long--and Harvard *still* comes out on top in political philosophy, then I concede the point. I'd bet money that won't happen.

By the way, I've had so many ancedotal reports from evaluators about the powerful effect of not using university names (e.g., evaluators report doing a double-take when they realize, "Jeeez, I'm looking at Harvard, wow has that placed changed") that I suspect it does the work it is supposed to: it forces evlauators to look at the faculty, and think about who is really there and what work they are doing. Of course, that also implies something unhappy about the other kinds of evaluations of schools and faculties (US News most notoriously in the US) that do nothing to try to counteract the 'halo' effect.

Anonymous said...

If G.A. Cohen has retired from Oxford, what's he going to be doing now?

Jacob T. Levy said...

Brian, that's persuasive evidence from the other fields; thanks.

Matt said...

Cohen was visiting at the law school and philosophy department at Columbia last fall. He's visited at CUNY in the recent past, too. This sort of part-time gig for mandatorily retired top philosophers from the UK (and other countries) is fairly popular, pretty low-stress as far as work-loads, and pretty well-paying, too, it seems. (See, Joseph Raz, Rolf-Peter Horstmann, etc.) I expect he'll do that sort of thing with some regularity but have no idea if it will become a regular on-going thing like it is for Raz at Columbia and Horstmann at Penn.