Epistemology Wins the Importance Poll

In case you missed it, Leiter ran another survey, this one assessing which subfields are most important for strong PhD programs in philosophy. Epistemology came in first; details here.

I’m not surprised that epistemology is one of the top five, but a bit surprised it came in first. I see the discipline as focused in Language/Mind and M&E, together with Ethics (broadly construed). And I would have thought that L/M would win out over M&E by a small margin (and I wouldn’t have made any predictions about where Ethics would have been ranked)–that fits the story of 20th-century anglo-american philosophy at least through the 70’s, but maybe the revival of work in metaphysics, tracing to Kripke but having Lewis as more of a triggering cause, together with the explosion of interesting work in epistemology that is both post-Gettier and that has gone beyond the stale metatheory involved in the foundationalism/coherentism and internalism/externalism controversies, has changed the landscape. Perhaps. Though JFP ads don’t seem to suggest such, at least not in terms of raw numbers for each specialization. Perhaps, though, a more fine-grained analysis of what, say, the top 50 PhD programs have been hiring in would show M&E in ascendancy over L/M.



Epistemology Wins the Importance Poll — 7 Comments

  1. Pingback: Epistemology Wins! « Florida Student Philosophy Blog

  2. Too little is known about the sample to be surprised by the outcome. However, enough is presumably known about the sample to be surprised if the list, say, came out in reverse order.

  3. I wouldn’t put it down to pessimism, for that would grant what I wish to deny: that we have grounds for thinking the poll is a sound method for getting a representative measurement of the field. It is no such thing. It does tell something about the readers of Leiter’s blog who are motivated enough to click through and sort a list of subjects, however. While that might be a representative sample, I doubt it.

    But, it isn’t entirely rubbish. There is some information.

    • I like your skeptical take on the poll, but the difference is that I still see reason for surprise. I wouldn’t have expected Epistemology at #1 even if the sample were only representative of Leiter’s more active readers. Now, maybe there is reason for guarded optimism about greater relevance in the fact that Leiter’s own field, Philosophy of Law, didn’t do well (or as well as one might have expected, given the suspicion about representativeness). (And I’m certainly not suggesting that it’s a good thing that Phil of Law didn’t do well!)

  4. I’m not sure which is the subset, Epistemology or explaining Causality through inductive reasoning and causal inference. I think since ancient times (innate) humanity has pondered our cosmological origins, who are we, how did we come to be and how do we come to know that. I think every philosopher who plans to make a career of philosophy has a sense of this wonder. So I looked at a few highly regarded universities and their philosophical faculty. Many mention Epistemology in their major interests blurb, but also there is usually an attendant side field of specialization.

    Also there is a closely guarded secret. When having coffee with say a Biology graduate student, the Philosophy graduate student will often be asked, ‘what do you do’? The reply, “I’m in the field of Epistemology” often leads to the next question, ‘what is your interest in Epistemology’. This reply to that question is a proven magnetic pickup line which can’t be pre-researched on Facebook:
    “My purpose is to provide an architectonic scheme to classify different types of knowledge and explain the relationships that exist between these classifications.”
    Anyone who can use “architectonic” in a sentence is a known alpha academic worthy of extended consideration.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *