Below is a message from James Ladyman that just went out on Philos-L about a forthcoming volume of The Monist which looks pretty interesting, on the topic of ‘evaluating philosophy’:
In the UK since 1986 funding for research as opposed to teaching has been allocated to philosophy departments on the basis of an evaluation of the quality of the philosophical research submitted by them in the so-called ‘Research Assessment Exercise’ (RAE). There have been six RAEs but they are to be replaced by the so-called ‘Research Excellence Framework’ that will incorporate a measure of the ‘impact’ of the research carried out on non-academic ‘users’ and the wider economy and society. The latter has been the subject of intense debate amid concern that evaluating philosophy in this way will discriminate against profound, esoteric and technical philosophical work that may be of the greatest intellectual value, in favour of accessible and directly applicable work, even though the medium and long term practical effects of the former may be greater although completely unpredictable. This special issue is not concerned with ‘evaluating philosophy’ in the sense of peer review for journals or presses or the routine criticism and appraisal that we engage in when we write about each other’s work, but rather with the overall assessment of the performance of philosophy individuals/departments for the purposes of allocating funding by civil servants. In other words, ‘evaluating philosophy’ for the purposes of public policy decision making, rather than value judgments about philosophy per se. The former has of course relied on the latter as in the past UK RAEs which were based ultimately on peer review although modulated by evaluations based on numbers of postgraduates and activity levels which are not judgments of philosophical quality directly.) The UK is important because it is perceived to be a pioneer in research excellence measurement and its systems have been emulated in the past. The aim of this issue is to consider the theoretical and practical merits and demerits of different approaches to the evaluation of philosophy.
The deadline for contributions, according to Prof. Ladyman, is the end of April.
Here is an important text by Bill Cooke (I believe it’s the person linked – if anyone knows otherwise, please let me know) on the 2014 Research Excellence Framework – its unethical abuse of individuals’ rights to privacy, its inappropriately individualised model of assessment, its dubious attempt to construct what Cooke terms a ‘tariff of suffering’, in which journal articles become a unit of currency by which to measure against one another academics’ personal ordeals, struggles and tragedies – and, consequently, why it cannot be allowed to take place.
Just a little plug for the latest volume (170, Nov/Dec 2011) of Radical Philosophy, which has some really interesting pieces on the philosophy and politics of education. (I’m a bit busy for any extended commentary on any of these texts right at the moment, but I might post up some thoughts over the weekend if I get a chance.)
Most interesting from the perspective of my interests is Matthew Charles‘s article on the philosophy for children ‘movement’ (although this phrase might be a bit of an overstatement at this point) and the political consequences and limitations of the form it has taken thus far. Charles examines the organisations involved in teaching philosophy to children in the UK – The Philosophy Shop and SAPERE – considering the differences in their approaches and the shared limitations of their more or less implicit political framework. These are important issues, as teaching philosophy in schools is potentially very valuable, but only if it can be extricated from the limitations of an exclusively liberal conception of education and what it would be for education to be ‘critical’.
Also in RP 170 is a collection of articles prompted by the publication by Continuum of Emiliano Battista’s English translation of Jacques Rancière’s first book, Althusser’s Lesson. In this work, Rancière distances himself from his former teacher, Louis Althusser, the father of so-called ‘structuralist Marxism’, through a cutting critique of the latter, both his theoretical work and his pedagogical practice itself.
The collection includes a reprint of the English translation of a 1964 essay by Althusser entitled ‘Student Problems’ – introduced by Warren Montag – in which he criticises the contemporary student movement for attacking the traditional, liberal, unidirectional form of university pedagogy, grounded in an essential epistemic inequality between the teacher and the student, instead of ‘the true fortress of class interest in the university‘ (p. 13, original emphasis), i.e., the ‘ideological’ content of that pedagogy. For the Rancière of Althusser’s Lesson, this insistence on pedagogical inequality and refusal of any transformation of the very form of the university is definitive of Althusserianism, its deep opportunism and servitude to the cause of order and the authority of the Communist Party leadership.
The essay is followed by three very interesting engagements with Rancière’s critique of Althusser, by Nathan Brown, Bruno Bosteels and Stéphane Douailler.
A final note: somewhere in one of these papers – I can’t now remember which one – reference is made to Radical Philosophy‘s founding statement, a document which bears re-reading at this juncture of crisis for philosophy in the university. While I don’t straightforwardly agree with this document’s partisan stance against analytic philosophy, its concern regarding academic philosophy’s isolation from other disciplines and from ideas and activities critical of the wider political, social and cultural setting – a concern which continues in the CRMEP’s ongoing project on transdisciplinarity in the humanities – is still a crucial one for the future of philosophy today.
Posted in Academia, Academic philosophy, Althusser, Book release, Communism, Concepts, Current affairs, Democracy, Education, Egalitarianism, Ideology, Journals, Marxism, Modern European philosophy, Neoliberalism, Philosophy in France, Philosophy in schools, Politics, Privatisation, Rancière, Science, Structuralism, The humanities, The university, Transdiciplinarity, UK politics, University politics
Here’s a link for a new blog by Andrew McGettigan, an independent researcher with a PhD from the CRMEP and frequent writer for Radical Philosophy. The blog, entitled Critical Education, discusses issues surrounding ‘the arts, humanities and higher education today’. Take a look.