One of my concerns about the Academy is the state of its administration. I’ve got no hard data on this score, but there don’t seem to be that many Foleys around (some though: Holly Smith, Myles Brand, and Marshall Swain come to mind, but that seems like a quite small number of elite philosophers in such positions). One explanation would be that there aren’t that many good philosophers interested in such positions, but I think that’s not quite right. I’ve been talking with friends at some recent conferences about this issue, and have learned of superbly qualified and very impressive individuals who, at least in principle, are open to considering such positions.
There is no Platonic vision of the philosopher-king behind these remarks, but there are two points worth mentioning. First, if we control for other factors, smarter is better when it comes to administrators. Anyway, I’ll leave as suppressed premises the rest of this argument! Second, and this is most relevant here, the future of philosophy in the Academy is not enough of a given that we don’t need people in such positions. We need people who understand the importance of philosophy to the Academy, and there is no better way to achieve that than to find ways to get the Foleys of our discipline in such positions.
These points, I expect, are commonly appreciated among philosophers, but if they are, I wonder about the lack of representation here. Maybe it’s that we are a small discipline and lose out to more powerful departments. Maybe it’s that there aren’t that many philosophers willing to take on such positions (though the discussions referred to above make me suspicious of this explanation). Maybe it’s that philosophers as a group are not gifted at the kind of political calculations necessary to make such appointments happen. Any other explanations? In any case, it’s worth seeing what we can do about this, and I’d be happy to recommend some of the people I’ve heard about if your university will be doing a search next year. It is probably best done by email, and I would need to get permission before passing any names along, but this is certainly worth looking into.