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Tuesday, November 14, 2006

On the Recent Criticism of the PGR

Keith DeRose defends the Philosophical Gourmet Report from recent criticism over at Certain Doubts. The criticism came from Prof. Michael Pakaluk of Clark University and can be found here. Professor Pakaluk thinks the Philosophical Gourmet Report is a "pointless waiste of time". He thinks that if students are qualified to go to graduate school, they ought to know where the professors they want to work with are located. But then they don't need to solicit advice from the PGR. I think this argument misconstrues the purpose of the PGR. In my opinion, the primary purpose of the PGR is to help students increase their chances of getting accepted by a program which most other scholars in the profession consider a top program in philosophy. After all, it is the very same scholars who will be making most of the hiring decisions a few years laters when these students go on the job market. And it is hardly a secret that pedigree matters when departments decide who to hire.

Professor Pakaluk does briefly address this issue. He writes:

It's a bit misleading to say, as the Report does, that "The rankings are primarily measures of faculty quality and reputation. Faculty quality and reputation correlates quite well with job placement, but students are well-advised to make inquiries with individual departments for complete information on this score." The placement rankings can and should stand on their own. But do you know anyone who has consulted the Leiter rankings in hiring a candidate? If we wouldn't be so foolish, why would we recommend that students heed these rankings in choosing a program as regards something much more important than a job, viz. their education?

I do not think anyone needs to consult the PGR in order to decide whether or not to hire a candidate. Everyone is already fully aware of how the individual departments are ranked, and as everyone knows, it matters a great deal where a job candidate got his or her Ph.D., at least at the junior level. A Ph.D. from a top program in philosophy is not exactly an entrance ticket but it will increase the candidate's chances of landing a tenure-track job, perhaps even one with a decent course load.

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