Professor Leiter has yet to tell us how many people served as evaluators or the size of the pool from which they were drawn for the 2014 Philosophical Gourmet Report. This information requires only counting and reporting. Nevertheless, without giving us this pertinent information, and within hours of the survey deadline, Leiter managed to produce some preliminary overall rankings on his blog, and the next day he gave us a list of the “overall” top departments in the US and the UK. Since then we have been offered information on several specializations, but still no data on how many people participated.  We also don’t know why Leiter put out these specializations first.  There doesn’t appear to be any methodological reason for doing so.  (One can speculate–what are the odds that Leiter would put his worst feet forward first?)  In any event, the information that we have been offered is telling in terms of rates of participation.

In analyzing the rate of participation for this year’s PGR it’s important to bear in mind that Leiter invites past evaluators to participate. He recently reaffirmed this policy in a blog post defending Peter Ludlow’s participation in the 2014 PGR.

Ludlow has been a regular respondent to the surveys for many years; we have always invited past participants (except when they ask to be removed), and we did so this year as well (including, for example, those who signed the boycott statement–many of them did, in the end, participate happily).

Given this policy I thought it would be interesting to do a preliminary analysis of participation rates based on the areas of specialization posted to date on Leiter’s blog.  (I am not sure why he is posting the results on his blog this time around.  I was under the impression that the close connection between the PGR and Leiter’s blog was one of the things that was supposed to be different going forward, but perhaps I misunderstood.)

In addition to the information that I present here, I plan to report in future posts about some unsettling findings.  By way of preview, and for example:

  • 19th Century Continental Philosophy lost eleven of its twenty-eight evaluators this year. Examination of the CV’s, websites, and personal statements of the evaluators for 2014 shows that five aren’t specialists in 19th Century Continental Philosophy.  In addition, out of the twenty-two evaluators who did participate in 2014, eight are Nietzsche specialists. (Well, that’s really eight out of seventeen, since five aren’t 19th Century Continental experts.) In contrast, there was one Kierkegaard expert.
  • Nine out the sixteen evaluators for Metaethics in 2014 received their degrees from two schools, Princeton and Michigan. Leiter argues that the Report looks for balance in educational background.
  •  A significant number of women serving as evaluators from 2011 chose not to participate this year. For example, Philosophy of Mind lost seven out of eight of the women who participated in 2011 PGR.

In this post, I rank specializations–hey, turnabout is fair play–based on how many evaluators for a given specialization chose not to participate in this year’s PGR for that specialization, after having participated in 2011.  Reading the columns from left to right you will find: the total number of participants for a given specialization in 2011, how many did not participate in the 2014 PGR, what percentage did not participate, the total number of evaluators for 2014, and, lastly, the percent net loss of evaluators in each specialization from 2011 to 2014.  (Leiter has added some new evaluators–there also perhaps hangs a tale.)  The information was gathered from the Philosophical Gourmet Report 2011 and posts on Leiter’s blog, starting with his first report on specializations, the Philosophy of Physics, November 20, 2014.   (If you find any errors in the numbers, please let me know.   This is preliminary but to the best of my knowledge accurate.)

Rankings of Specializations according to what percentage of evaluators in 2011 did not participate in 2014 (all percentages rounded;  *=tie;  updates in brackets)

2011 evaluators     Loss in 2014     Percent Drop     Total 2014      Net drop

Group One (>50% loss)

1)  Philosophy of Language  [added 12/5/2014]

52                              31                     60%                  27                 48%

2) Philosophy of Action

17                               10                    59%                    8                 53%

3) *Ethics

58                              30                     52%                  39                 33%

3) *Metaethics

25                              13                     52%                   16                36%


Group Two (30%-50% loss)

1)  Philosophy of Mind [added 12/5/2014]

52                               22                     42%                  42                19%

2)  *Political Philosophy [added 11/30/2014]

47                               19                     40%                  34                28%

2)  *Early Modern Philosophy, 17th Century  [added 12/1/2014]

20                                8                     40%                  18                 10%

4) *Kant

18                                 7                     39%                  14                22%

4) *19th Century Continental

28                                11                    39%                  22                21%

6) Philosophy of Physics

11                                 4                     36%                   10                  9%

 7)  Philosophy of Law [added 12/5/2014.]

20                                7                      35%                  16                 20%**


Group Three   (15%-30% loss)

1) Ancient Philosophy

20                               3                        15%                  18                  10%


Group Four (15% or less)

No Specializations thus far.  (Note: there have been no gains in the total number of evaluators for any specialization posted to date.)


UPDATE   11/30/2014   Political Philosophy added.  For the 2014 PGR there are four women philosophers in Political Philosophy, 12% of the total.

UPDATE  12/1/2014   Early Modern Philosophy, 17th Century, added.   For the 2014 PGR there are two women philosophers in 17th Century, 11% of the total.   Half of all of the 17th Century evaluators in 2014, nine, went to four Ph.D. programs.

UPDATE  12/2/2014   For the ten specializations ranked thus far, 43% of evaluators who participated in these specializations in 2011 did not participate in them in 2014.  The total net loss for all ten specializations is 25%.

UPDATE  12/5/2014   The Philosophy of Language has three women evaluators, or 11%.  In 2011, it had seven women evaluators, or 14%.

UPDATE  12/5/2014   For Philosophy of Law there were three women evaluators in 2014, 19%.  In 2011, there were four, 20%.    Brian Leiter did not evaluate in this category in 2011.  He did this year.  Without him the net loss would have been 25%. **    Also of note, for 2014, nine out of sixteen evaluators are not at U.S. institutions; five evaluators from U.S. institutions who participated in 2011 did not do so this time around.

UPDATE  12/6/2104   For the twelve specializations ranked thus far, 45% of evaluators who participated in these specializations in 2011 did not participate in them in 2014.   The total net loss for all twelve specializations is 28%.

5 thoughts

  1. But just because past reviewers are invited back doesn’t necessarily mean past *specialty* reviewers are invited back, right? Maybe all the specialty reviewers were invited back as general reviewers, but not specialty reviewers. Why that’d be the case, I don’t know, but seems like a live option. So I think “decline to participate” outstrips the evidence that we have.

    1. This is a hypotheitcal possibility, but I do not believe it matches what we know. People are invited to do both. (It would be insulting to ask someone not to rank in his or her specialty, after he or she has done so, and then ask them to do the overall.) But the fact is, Leiter hasn’t given us figures for the overall. If the numbers were good, don’t you think he would have done so?

      1. Ah, easier said than done, I am afraid. I am fairly certain from the way that the evaluators have spoken about the process that my take here is correct. Also, from the way in which Leiter talks about the process on the PGR’s web site under methodology. (Look at how he discusses the relationship between the overall evaluators and the specialty ones.) In any case, the specialty numbers are clearly down thus far.

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