Sunday, September 27, 2020

Call for Applications - Hamburg

There’s a Call for Applications for 2 Doctoral Fellowships, 2 Postdoctoral Fellowships, and 7–9 Senior Fellowships, for the academic year 1 October 2021–30 September 2022, at the The Maimonides Centre for Advanced Studies (MCAS) at Universität Hamburg. The deadline is 10 December 2020. In the academic year 2021–22, research at MCAS will focus on the relationship between language and skepticism. The investigation of skepticism in the context of language will be conducted from three angles: (1) the status of sacred texts; (2) language and meaning; and (3) the place of translation in the transmission of knowledge. The successful candidate’s project should resonate productively with the annual topic as described, and priority will be given to projects dealing with the (early) modern period. For details about applying, go here. For further information and questions, contact MCAS’s academic coordinator Dr. Lilian Türk at lilian.tuerk@uni-hamburg.de.

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Sextus on Ataraxia

My paper “Sextus on Ataraxia Revisited” was published a few days ago in the latest issue of Ancient Philosophy. In this paper, I offer further evidence and arguments in support of the view that the pursuit and the attainment of ataraxia are not defining features of Sextan Pyrrhonism, a view I originally defended in “The Pyrrhonist's ἀταραξία and φιλανθρωπία,” published in the same journal fourteen years ago.

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Skepticism and Its Epistemic and Practical Value

Over the past couple of weeks, two intriguing companion pieces dealing with skepticism and today's socio-political climate have been published on the blog of the American Philosophical Association: Rachel Aumiller's “Haptic Skepticism: The Crisis of (not) Touching,” and Bara Kolenc's “Skepticism’s Cure for the Plague of Mind.” The pieces can be found here and here. Both authors make a number of controversial claims regarding Pyrrhonian skepticism and its alleged epistemic and practical value that are worth pondering and discussing. It appears to me that their positive assessment of Pyrrhonism is worth emphasizing inasmuch as this brand of skepticism is usually attacked on the grounds both that it is patently absurd or untenable and that it has appalling practical consequences.

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Inquiry and Tranquility in Sextus

Máté Veres's paper “Keep Calm and Carry On: Sextus Empiricus on the Origins of Pyrrhonism” is forthcoming in volume 23, issue 1 of History of Philosophy & Logical Analysis. It seems that the issue will be published within the next few days and that it will contain other papers dealing with Sextus's Pyrrhonism.

Update September 15th: Veres's paper is part of a special issue on “Ancient Modes of Philosophical Inquiry,” which contains three other papers on Pyrrhonian skepticism. The issue can be found here.

Friday, September 4, 2020

Book Review and Something Else

Yesterday, my review of the volume Epistemology after Sextus Empiricus (OUP, 2020), edited by K. Vogt and J. Vlasitswas published in Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews. The review can be found here. As you may know, reviews in that journal are by invitation only. I assume the previous editor (who resigned at the very beginning of July) invited me because I'm somewhat familiar with Sextus's Pyrrhonism and his legacy. So far, so good. But just a couple of hours ago, a note by the current editor was added above the second paragraph of the review. Below, I paste the note and the paragraph in italics:

Editor’s note: NDPR has reason to doubt the accuracy of some of the empirical claims in the following paragraph. We are not in position to verify the empirical claims, but we flag the issue for readers. 

Of the sixteen contributors, six are women, which is most welcome inasmuch as it ensures some degree of diversity. However, it is regrettable that there is in this volume a complete absence of contributors from, e.g., Latin American countries or such European countries as France and Italy, despite the fact that a considerable number of scholars from these countries, capable of writing in idiomatic English, have a long record of publications in the areas covered in the volume, namely, the history of skepticism and contemporary epistemology. Moreover, ten contributors hold positions or live in the United States, two in both the United States and the United Kingdom, one in Canada, one in Germany, and two in Sweden. The same lack of diversity is observed in the seventeen-page bibliography at the end of the volume, which contains only fifteen publications in a modern language other than English: one in French (from 1887) and the rest in German. Of the publications listed in German, three are actually used in English translation and two thirds of the rest were published more than a century ago -- the most recent publication being a monograph by Katja Maria Vogt published in 1998. To really ensure diversity in academia, one should pay attention not only to gender, but also to race, nationality, and language.

No, I was not contacted by the NDPR editor before the note was added, but only afterwards, letting me know about the addition. So I was not asked to provide evidence for my claims. I confess that I find the note utterly odd and a little bit offensive; and this is the first time I see such note in a book review published in NDPR, Philosophy in Review, or Bryn Mawr Classical Review -- two name the three most important electronic journals entirely devoted to book reviews. It does not seem unreasonable to expect that, if an editor thinks that a factual mistake might have been made, he will do his best first to find out what the alleged mistake is, and then to correct it, instead of inserting a note calling into question a reviewer's credibility in an extremely vague way. I assume that his not being in a position to verify the empirical claims in question does not have to do with, e.g., his not having a copy of the book or his not being able to count, but rather with the philosophical problem of verification discussed by, e.g., the logical positivists. By my lights, one of the editors of the volume sent an angry email to the NDPR editor complaining about my sacrilegious remarks and my negative assessment of the volume as a whole. And by my lights, the note in question would not have been added if the reviewer were an European working at a top American university. I reckon that, next time, I should be a good boy and write a highly positive review of a volume despite its many shortcomings, if its editor happens to be part of the so-called academic elite. Last but not least, as an journal editor myself, it never ceases to amaze me how certain journal editors proceed. Academic bullying at its best.

Update: the NDPR editor refuses to tell me which statements are possibly inaccurate and what reasons he has for calling their accuracy into question. He says it's confidential. I didn't know that academic philosophy was a matter of national security. My complaint concerns the unprofessional way the NDPR editor proceeded and the fact that, if I happened to make an inadvertent factual mistake, I'm happy to recognize and correct it. That said, I prefer the note to be left unchanged because I think it's silly, and also reveals the childish reactions of the editor(s) of the volume, who made a fuss about my remarks. In any case, the book review is open access and anyone can assess the strength and accuracy of my remarks and objections and the pertinence of the editor's note.

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Research Position in Tübingen

The Department of Philosophy at the University of Tübingen invites applications for a research position (TV-L 13, 65%, 3 years) for a doctoral student or a postdoc as part of the DFG-research project “Dimensions of Doubt. On the Nature, Logic, and History of Doxastic Suspension,” directed by Jun.-Prof. Dr. Alexandra Zinke, starting 01 April 2021 or earlier. The successful applicant will conduct research on the notion of suspension of judgment in the history of philosophy, e.g., in Pyrrhonian or Cartesian skepticism, in Hume’s or in Kant’s philosophy.

Requirements
- For doctoral students: Outstanding MA degree (or equivalent) in philosophy/ For postdocs: Outstanding PhD thesis in philosophy;
- Willingness to work in a collaborative research environment and to take an active part in the activities of the project group and the department (colloquia, workshops, etc.);
- Excellent oral and written communication skills in English. 

Candidates are requested to submit the following application material:
- a CV;
- certificates (transcript of records and/or doctoral certificate);
- a sample of written work (about 10 pages);
- a short research proposal (about 2 pages);
 - and two references.

Please submit your application as one single PDF file to alexandra.zinke@uni-tuebingen.de by 13 Sep 2020. For more information on the research project or the position, please send an email to that address.

Monday, August 3, 2020

Position in Hamburg

There's a Call for Applications for a PhD or Post-doc position at the Institute for Jewish Philosophy, Hamburg University. For complete information, click here. I think this position would be ideal for someone interested in working on Jewish skepticism, given that at Hamburg University there's also the Maimonides Centre for Advanced Studies-Jewish Scepticism, and both research centers are intimately connected.

Saturday, August 1, 2020

Shakespeare on Uncertainty and Doubt

Yuval Avnur (Scripps College) has called my attention to a short piece, by Lorenzo Zucca, on Shakespeare's view on uncertainty and doubt published in the digital magazine Psyche. It can be found here.

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Judah Halevi’s Skepticism

A new book in the series Studies and Texts in Scepticism has been published:

Ehud Krinis, Judah Halevi’s Fideistic Scepticism in the Kuzari. Berlin & Boston: De Gruyter, 2020.

The whole book is open access and can be found here.

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Discrimination and Hypocrisy in Academia

I've been reluctant to write about the topic of this post, but political correctness is not my forte. A couple of months ago, I submitted a paper to an ancient philosophy journal founded in Canada several decades ago. Yesterday, I received a report by a female European scholar who has done some work on ancient skepticism and teaches at a top university in the US. Her strongest criticism was that I discriminate against women inasmuch as I do not cite them or do not cite them enough or do not cite them the way I should. Why? Well, because I cite her as well as three other female authors in several footnotes and not in the body of the text, because I do not cite a female scholar who only published one paper on ancient skepticism five years ago in a volume the referee edited, and because I do not cite one of the referee's monographs (she lists the chapters I was supposed to cite and discuss). I should first note that in the article I cite sixteen papers by ten different female authors, but I suppose that is not enough. Secondly, assuming that the referee didn't figure out who I was (otherwise, she should have said so to the editor), it is surprising that she doesn't say that I don't cite myself, given that I've published five papers in English dealing with different issues concerning the same topic from 2011 to 2019 in such journals as Apeiron, Archiv für Geschichte der Philosophie, and Elenchos. Thirdly, I know that this is a common practice, but not once have I asked the author of a piece I reviewed to cite or discuss any of my papers or edited books (I've reviewed 45 articles as well as several book manuscripts and book proposals). Twice over the past few years I've been implicitly accused of discrimination for not including in the books I've edited enough female authors. I remember someone who reviewed for a top journal a volume I edited a few years ago. They wrote me asking why I did not include any chapter by a woman. I explained to them that I invited four women whose work I liked but that they all declined my invitation. I still had their emails! (I felt like a child being scolded who needed to justify himself.) I have read quite a bit about discrimination and implicit bias, particularly in academia, and I won't deny that it's a real thing -- actually, it's part of the empirical research I mention in a monograph on ancient and contemporary Pyrrhonism I've just finished writing. But what bothers me about the referee report I received yesterday is that the woman in question has never cited me in any of her articles or books on skepticism (I just checked) or invited me to write a paper for one of the volumes on that topic that she's edited or to present a paper at the conferences she's organized. You must be thinking: "Why on earth was she supposed to do that?" By my lights, there is no reason at all. But if I applied her own approach, I could think that she's discriminated against me inasmuch as I've edited or co-edited 6 books on skepticism and published over 30 journal articles and chapters on that topic in English or French (i.e., two languages that civilized North American and European academics can read), and inasmuch as I'm a Latin American working and living in Argentina. Should I play the discrimination card and start complaining every time a volume or a special issue of a journal devoted to skepticism -- particularly on ancient skepticism -- is published but I was not invited to contribute a paper? Just take a look at the volumes and special issues on that topic published in the past 10 or 15 years and count the number of Latin Americans who have contributed a paper. Take your time. Should I start complaining whenever a paper or a book on Sextus Empiricus's Pyrrhonism is published that does not cite any of my papers on that topic published in English in specialist journals in the past 15 years? Should I start complaining when a conference on ancient or contemporary skepticism is organized and no Latin American scholar is invited to participate? Should I start saying that I'm being discriminated when I invite North American or European scholars (both men and women) to contribute a paper to a volume, or to write a book review for the journal I co-edit, and they decline my invitation or don't even have the courtesy to reply? My work would be much easier if I could say: "Because I'm Latin American, I have the right to be cited in your paper/book or to be invited to participate in your book project or your conference. If you don't cite or invite me, I'll accuse you of discrimination." As I told a friend of mine a few years ago when talking about someone who complained about not being cited: "People are not obliged to read or cite you and they're free to think that what you write is garbage." I don't know, perhaps I should stop citing scholars who do not cite me, which would mean that I should not cite the referee in two footnotes in my paper until she starts citing me at least in one footnote in one of her own papers or books. The high level of stupidity, bad faith, and hypocrisy among academics never ceases to amaze me.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Yearbook of the MCAS

The 2019 edition of the Yearbook of the Maimonides Centre for Advanced Studies was published a couple of weeks ago. All of its contents, which deal with Judaism and skepticism and can be found here, are open access.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Issue 10.2 of IJSS

Issue 10.2 of the International Journal for the Study of Skepticism has just been published. You can find it here. Some of the content is open access.

Monday, May 25, 2020

New Facebook Group

Mark Walker (New Mexico State University) has created the Facebook discussion group “Ancient and Modern Skepticism.” It can be found here.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Polish Translation of Sextus

There is a new Polish translation of Sextus Empiricus's Pyrrhonian Outlines by Zbigniew Nerczuk (Nicolaus Copernicus University):

Sekstus Empiryk, Zarysy Pyrrońskie. Wydawnictwo Naukowe UMK 2019.

You can find a note on the translation in English here.