Monday, March 31, 2008

What's Your Answer?

Okay kids, it's time for multiple choice fun! Here's the question.

Suppose you read a comment in a blog comment thread, and you think the comment's wrong. Maybe worse, you think it gives some really crappy advice. What do you do?
(a) In the same comment thread or even in a comment thread on a much-more widely-read blog, you respond to the problematic comment by explaining why you think it's wrong, offering better advice, and suggesting readers look down-thread for further useful reponses to the first comment;

(b) Do some or all of (a), but then also leap at the chance to tut-tut the "costs" of anonymous blog comments, call for the offending blog comment to be deleted, rather than simply answered, and otherwise make sure all the other hens know you're clucking right along with them.
What's your answer?



jp said...

It's (b), assuming that the thread in question is a moderated one. Dramatic misleading information is dangerous, and insofar as there are easy ways to protect it from spreading -- such as removing them, or reminding people not to take anonymous comments at face value.

It's not like I think (a)'s a bad idea. But I think the stronger response may well be justified. Not everyone will read all the way through a long thread.

Inside the Philosophy Factory said...

In the same comment thread, I'd explain why the advise is wrong. That puts the whole conversation in one place.

Anonymous said...

Gee, I would have said (a). (b) smacks of self-importance, and it's not like there isn't enough of that on the web anyway. There's so much out there in the blogosphere, I'd rather see people's opinions rather than metadiscourse on the practice of blogging -- at least most of the time. When metadiscourse is, or becomes, the explicit topic of a blog discussion, then I'd only be wary of meta-metadiscourse about blogging.

I'm also inclined to leave the more extreme moralizing to the moderators, rather than pretending I can take that task on my shoulders, esp. if I'm remaining an anonymous commenter.

Anonymous said...

"...reminding people not to take anonymous comments at face value."

Um, isn't this entire _blog_ anonymous? Um, "JP"?


I'm gonna' call your bluff, PGS, and (at least pretend to) assume you're being facetious. I'll go with (a), hands-down.

TheRealTroll said...

Boohoo first they won't give you a job and now they make fun of your little website!

Anonymous said...

The answer must be (a), unless you're absolutely sure that the information is deliberately misleading. I know what you're specifically referring to here, PGS, and that is not a misleading post. The people over at Leiter's blog (and especially Leiter himself) get huffy every time someone's reasoned opinion differs, especially when it comes from this blog.

Anonymous said...

I am going with c) whine like a lil' shit, stamp your feet and hold your breath until the bad people go away.

Get a fucking grip, PGS. While PJMB is a hotbed for sometimes funny bitching and moaning, I hope that the folks here aren't seeking this blog out for advice purposes. Throw in some dipshits hiding behind anonymity, and Leiter's point should be obvious.

Now, let's all get back to the sometimes funny bitching and moaning and leave the self-righteous whining to PGS and his tear-stained pillow. Cluck, Cluck!

Anonymous said...

It's unclear what exactly you're irritated about. The cost of anonymous comments will indeed be that there's much misinformation because people aren't responsible for what they say and we aren't able to judge the credentials of the people who are posting.

This was not an attack on the blog or things that you've said. The nature of the blog requires anonymity. Everyone's aware of that. It seems to me that all that was pointed out is that some comments will be bad due to the anonymous nature of the blog. What's there to take offense to here?

Besides, what are people supposed to do? Correct every silly claim in the PJMB comments section?

Anonymous said...

2:00: can you link to the presumed to be offending comment?

Anonymous said...

Um, has anyone heard anything about the philosophy job market lately? Like when all those SCs are going to get around hiring someone? There's actually more VAP action on the wiki now than TT.

6:33 -- it's easy enough to find. Just look at Leiter's blog under the latest thread of advice about UK programs.

Anonymous said...

The offending comment under discussion, originally posted at, and then on Leiter at, concerns the pros and cons of pursuing a PhD in the UK.

Asstro said...

Huh? Whoever's kvetching about the kvetching is full of shit. (Imatawkintayou, 5:37.)

Okay, right. Anonymous posts have the problem that you can't judge the authority of the speaker. That's a problem...if you need a fucking diagnosis for the large growth under your skin. Don't go to Jackripshitnonamecrackpot for a medical opinion.

But anonymous posts also offer the opportunity for arguments to actually shine through. (Remember arguments?) Anonymous comments allow grad students and junior faculty to tear brand new assholes into the fucktards that make up the senior academic establishment. And they can do that without fear of reprisal from the guardians of gossip.

Now, I'll have you know that some of my closest friends are senior academic fucktards. I love them like brothers. But it's just dirty hogwash to suggest that advice is best gotten from someone who offers up his name to underwrite his expertise. Leading lights of any field can be just as dim as any of the other bulbs; and certainly sometimes they're downright daft about the needs, demands, issues, and concerns of graduate students who may have career aspirations that don't include a raft of publications.

(Since my career aspirations _do_ include that sort of thing, I'm perfectly happy to air my shit on this blog, anonymously, and not on some other blog where I'd have to account for my bad manners.)

So right. Fuck you. I love the whining. Bring it on, grad students. It helps me remember that philosophers are human.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I think you're overreacting, PGS. Leiter's been pissy about anonymous comments on his own blog for as long as it's been around. He links here often. I don't think it was meant as bashing this blog.

On the other hand, maybe we're missing your point. I don't see anyone on Leiter's thread calling for deletion of comments here. And Leiter didn't delete the comment on his thread quoting the PJMB comment. The thread I think you're upset with is this one: Tell us if we've got it wrong?

Anonymous said...

And hey, read a thread all the way to the end before coming to conclusions. I somehow missed the pompous guy commenting right after Leiter. I take it all back: you're right, that guy's a dick. And hey, we know who he is! Fucker should have commented anonymously.

philosopher for hire said...

Passive-aggressive Leiter-bashing? You'll never get a job now!

Anonymous said...

Several months back, Leiter and some of his non-anonymous commenters cried foul over supposedly misleading comments about the inbred snootiness of hiring at top 10ish departments. Things just aren't that way, they all said, on the record, names broadcast for all to see. Those anonymous commenters are lying, they all said. Well, hell, I wouldn't EXPECT anyone to own up to such a practice. THAT'S the price of NON-anonymous postings. No one would officially declare that their department does in fact engage in said practice. And I would expect everyone to declare officially that they don't engage in it even if they were. Lesson: each issue has to be taken on a case-by-case basis. I can't speak to the one at issue currently.

Anonymous said...

Suppose you read a comment in a blog comment thread, and you think it's clucking about your own blog too much or at least not in a way that makes your own blog look too good. What do you do?
(a) In that same comment thread, you counter-cluck.
(b) You hyper-counter-cluck in a fresh post on your own blog.
(c) (a) plus (b).
(d) Ignore the original clucking and hope your avid readers have enough sense to draw their own conclusions one way or another.

By the way, for those hens not in the know, the original, offending clucking is at
beginning with Anders' comment. Evidently, PGS is particularly in a flutter about Leiter's "concurring" cluck and the others that similarly toe the line.

ttassprof said...

It's hard for me to take seriously Leiter's grouse against the anonymity of posts/comments on this blog when his Gourmet Report has made an institution of faculty anonymously passing judgment on their peers. Sure, there's a token "advisory board" that cherry-picks those deemed responsible evaluators, but I'd like to see how different his rankings would look if there was more transparency in the PGR's ratings. At least this blog affords readers the chance to respond to, augment and correct the information espoused by others.

Anonymous said...

Eh, Leiter is always pissy and territorial. Don't let him get you down.

will philosophize for food said...

Don't sweat it PGS--in fact, I would take it as a compliment. I think the negative comments can be viewed as nothing more than the senior guard expressing their jealousy of this blog, either for its influence or for what it represents--the new generation of philosophers who are about to take over (if and when the fucktards ever see fit to include me in their elitist club!)

A friend of mine once told me a joke about Wisdom and Strawson standing in front of a urinal at Oxford, and one says to the other: "So, do you think we really need to read this Davidson guy?" I imagine that's no less true for the present generation.

No matter what anyone says, this blog has become a genuine movement. Let the senior folks drink their haterade! Graduate students in philosophy unite! You have nothing to lose but your chains!

prof. j. said...


It's hard for me to take seriously Leiter's grouse against the anonymity of posts/comments on this blog when his Gourmet Report has made an institution of faculty anonymously passing judgment on their peers.

No, you're mistaken. It's not anonymous.

Anonymous said...

Maybe I'm supposed to know, but who the fuck is "Anders"? Isn't that an anonymous post?! And it's an advice-giving post to boot!

Bobcat said...

How have faculty anonymously passed judgment on other departments? From what I know, the list of faculty evaluators is public. Is it that their reasoning isn't offered to the public? (I.e., is the problem that there's no place on the philosophical gourmet where so-and-so says, "Bob's a better philosopher than Cheryl, who's a better philosopher than Frank, who's better than..."? Because (a) that would be a really long list and (b) I doubt faculty evaluators write out their reasons like that; it would make an already arduous job even arduouser.)

mr. zero said...

Although the list of PGR raters is public, the actual ratings are not. I can't imagine that ttassprof meant anything else.

The fact that the list would be long is no argument against printing it. The fact that it would be hard to justify your ratings is not an argument that you shouldn't try. In fact, the ratings might significantly improve in accuracy if that kind of justification were required--having to explain your decisions might go a long way toward preventing arbitrary or under-informed ratings.

Of course, this level of transparency would probably cut down drastically on the level of honesty involved in the ratings. Such is the cost of non-anonymous commentary.

tenured philosophy girl said...

Will philosophize for food ...

A movement? Seriously? Let's not get delusions of grandeur, fun as all this is.

Just curious - how 'senior' do folks have to be before we count as condemned to our 'haterade' and shut out from the cool kids' clique?

Not all senior people are Leiter-lap-dogs. Not all people reading and participating in PJMB are un-senior.

That being said, Anders (whoever he is) is indeed clearly a fucktard.

Anonymous said...

If it's not anonymous, awesome! Can you post link to Peter van Inwagen's rankings, please? Thanks!

Anonymous said...

A lovely new instructor job at Southeast Missouri State just posted to the web only ads: only a 5-5 teaching load, and I doubt the background check you have to undergo before interviewing is too onerous! But you'd better be sensitive to the needs of women and minorities (though the writer of the ad is apparently not sensitive to the needs of human beings).

Seriously, please, nobody apply to this piece of shit job. This is the kind of thing that just has to stop.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I can't wait for the PJMB revolution. I suppose Mr. Zero will have a pivotal role to play (assuming that the massive chip on his shoulder and penchant for conspiracy theories doesn't get in the way). Perhaps he can be seconded by Tenured Phil Girl. With her rapier wit and liberal use of "fucktard" nothing can stop us. Combine this with the sharp and deadly anonymous barbs so skillfully flung from the safety of a windowless grad student office, the PJMB army shall reign supreme!

But I wonder, if everyone is busy fighting the fat cat old guard and breaking open vast Leiter run conspiracies, when will we have time to publish and get decent jobs? Oh that's right, publishing and having a decent job apparently exhausts what it is to be a member of the fat cat old guard. Sorry. I guess I am first on the wall.

No worries in the end, I suppose. The more sane and non-whinge loving souls that get tired of this shit and start giving PJMB a pass, the more everyone left sounds the same. Viva la revolucion! Viva mierdas del dip! You bunch of sad wankers.

prof. j. said...

Mr. Zero,

Although the list of PGR raters is public, the actual ratings are not. I can't imagine that ttassprof meant anything else.

You can't imagine that by 'anonymously' ttassprof meant that their names aren't given? I think that speaks badly for your imagination.

I assure you that's what I thought he meant. If someone suggested that every commenter here at PJMB should have his or her name listed in the sidebar and that this was quite consistent with anonymity, I would presume it was a bad joke.

gatecrasher said...

Heeeeeere's Anders:

Anonymous said...

The least the commenters on Leiter's blog could have done is linked to this diagram of the Greater Internet Fuckwad theory, so that we could all get a good chuckle out of the whole thing.

ttassprof said...

Prof. J and Bobcat...

Mr. Zero's right on what I meant. Although the PGR's list of evaluators is publicly available, there are grades of anonymity, and what you won't find anywhere in that report is the ratings that specific faculty members give for specific programs. Why the veil of secrecy at that level? I can think of a number of reasons. Without the veil, the PGR's list of evaluators would shrink to those who have the cojones to air their views publicly - I suspect that would include no more than a dozen currently on the list. That's a pragmatic argument for anonymity.

Presumably, Leiter's rationale for allowing evaluators to rank programs anonymously is that it permits faculty to be more honest in their evaluations. I myself find this reasoning a little specious. The sort of anonymous numerical ratings that the PGR solicits seems to me to encourage laziness and an overreliance on snap-judgments and word of mouth that's detrimental to the function it's meant to serve. But leave all that aside. The point is that Leiter must clearly believe that the anonymous airing of views can have a purpose, and the airing of views in words and arguments on this blog is far more open to appraisal than the dry numerical ratings that the PGR provides.

Finally, I didn't want to dredge this up earlier, but a number of readers of this blog will recall the nastiness between Leiter and Keith Burgess-Jackson a couple of years ago. Burgess-Jackson's obviously one pepperoni short of a pizza, and some of you will also recall the (very funny) parody blog that drew attention to his mad ravings. That blog, like this one, was run anonymously and solicited anonymous comments from others. Leiter recommended it on several occasions (see, e.g., here and here), and although the site's now dead, while it was running he posted comments under his own name a number of times, some of which encouraged the blog's persistence. I mention this only to point out that Leiter's record of tut-tutting anonymity hasn't always been consistent. Compared to that blog, PJMB is a paragon of civility and reason.

ttassprof said...

...and to make full use of my anonymity, let me just add that that Anders dude is hot.

mr. zero said...

You can't imagine that by 'anonymously' ttassprof meant that their names aren't given?

I guess I just kind of thought that everyone knew that their names are there, but their ratings are secret. I didn't mean, literally, that I couldn't conceive of a situation... blah. I'm worried about your imagination.

The ratings are secret, even if the raters aren't. That means that the raters can be honest, without fear that their ratings will be made public and people will get pissed off at them. Whatever its drawbacks, that's one nice thing about anonymity, "prof. J."

Asstro said...

Prof. J:

That's insane. If Congress voted on legislation and refused to release the votes of individual legislators, I assure you that people would say that they were voting anonymously.

C'mon. Principle of charity and all that.

Prof. J. said...

Mr. Z.,

I didn't mean, literally, that I couldn't conceive of a situation... blah. I'm worried about your imagination.


Thanks for the clarification.

Without the veil, the PGR's list of evaluators would shrink to those who have the cojones to air their views publicly.

I think that's an unfair way to put it. Individual scores are not revealed for the same reason that referees' letters aren't shown to candidates. We write referee letters, often, for people we know, and it's very uncomfortable to give a public rating of your friends (or even friendly acquaintances). Since we all know this, when we want to get someone's honest appraisal we quite reasonably offer them confidentiality. Don't you think that makes good sense?

I agree, of course, about the costs of confidentiality. I've written maybe a dozen tenure review letters. All things considered, I would be happier if the general practice were to show the letters to the candidate. On the other hand, on balance I think it's best for Leiter to keep his individual input scores confidential. There's a balancing of reasons in each case, and I think it comes out differently in the two cases.

Prof. J. said...


That's insane. If Congress voted on legislation and refused to release the votes of individual legislators, I assure you that people would say that they were voting anonymously.

And I assure you that if PJMB told you, Mr. Zero, Bobcat and ttassprof that they knew who you were and were going to put your names and institutional affiliations in a sidebar, you would object that your anonymity would be compromised.

(In case it's not clear, I agree that 'anonymously' can be used both ways. I'm only responding to the insistence that it can only be used one way, that my interpretation is 'insane' or unimaginable.)

ttassprof said...

Prof. J...

I appreciate the cordiality. I think this is evidence that discussions between reasonable adults can be productive even when parties remain anonymous.

I took the original debate (and PGS's question) to concern the appropriateness of anonymous comments on this blog. My appeal to Leiter's condonance of anonymity on the PGR and elsewhere was meant to point out that he can't believe anonymity per se is a bad thing.

At any rate, I don't think the analogy between referee letters and PGR evaluations is correct. Evaluations of others' work are only as good as the evidence on which they're based. One virtue of soliciting letters from referees (as oppposed, say, to the snap-judgments found in numerical ratings), is that the evaluator is obligated to provide reasons for his/her views by referring to significant evidence, such as a candidate's published work, examples of collegiality, etc. These reasons can then themselves be evaluated by those soliciting the letters.

What evidence do PGR evaluators rely on in making their judgments? They're given lists of faculty in each department, but as for how they make individual assessments, we just don't know what evidence they base their views on. Nor can we appraise that evidence for ourselves. It would be nice if, to follow up on Bobcat's query, PGR evaluators were (like letter writers) obligated to provide reasons for their views by explaining the significance of a certain faculty member's recent work, referring to a school's placement data, etc. This may prove arduous, but given the function the PGR's meant to serve, and as Mr. Zero pointed out, that's not an argument against trying. Those evaluators who find the task difficult or feel unprepared/unable to provide such reasons should ask themselves whether they're responsible enough to pass such judgments.

(Note also that the sort of reason-giving I'm suggesting here need not require that PGR evaluators publicly reveal their identities.)

Asstro said...

Prof. J:

Are you serious?

Sure. If there were only three of us. But if there were 100 of us, or 271 of us (as in Leiter's case), or 435 of us, I assure you that I wouldn't be as concerned. Matter of fact, I've already self identified as a tt asst prof at one of Leiter's top fifty. (I think I even narrowed it more than that.) That puts me in a pretty small category indeed. A little work and a little speculation might unearth my identity.

Do I feel anonymous? Pretty much. Is my identity discoverable? No doubt.

The point remains: you're kidding yourself if you think that Leiter's peeps are public about their rankings.

Bobcat said...

Does anyone know how the Leiter rankings system works? I mean do people ever provide reasons for their judgments (to the central committee of judgment compilation, assuming there is something like that)? Usually? Not usually?

In any event, I imagine that assessment of whole faculties will often have to be based on claims like, "well, David Lewis said she's a good metaphysician, so I'll say she's good", simply because very few of us are quite familiar with all the work of each figure in each subfield of philosophy.

will philosophize for food said...


The overall rankings are done differently than the specialty rankings. Faculties in the overall rankings are ranked as a group, not for each individual faculty member. So Pitt, for instance, gets good rankings from having a few rockstars on faculty, whether the rest of the faculty are very good or not.

Leiter actually solicits those in that subfield to rank the departments for the specialty rankings. That is, someone who works in Leibniz might rank for HPS and Modern. So rarely does it come down to someone guessing whether someone is a good metaphysician or not, because people in M&E rank other programs on their quality in M&E.

Prof. J. said...


The question is whether posting your name along with the names of a few others would mean you were no longer anonymous, not how you would feel. I don't have an opinion about how you would feel, and I'll certainly take your word for it.

The point remains: you're kidding yourself if you think that Leiter's peeps are public about their rankings.

I don't think that. What led you to believe I do???

You said my reading of 'anonymous' was 'insane'. I'm defending myself against the charge, that's all. I'm perfectly willing to accept ttassprof's clarification about what he meant.


Asstro said...

Apologies if I'm coming off as a bit lippy. That's not my aim. But I do find, sometimes, that the principle of charity isn't employed nearly often enough, even by philosophers. FWIW, apart from your responses on supply and demand (which I disagree with), I've found your comments generally spirited, fun, and intelligent. So again, my charge of insanity, while aimed at you (sort of), was really only aimed at your comment.

I got the idea that you somehow thought the Leiter rankings were not done anonymously from your earliest post, which was a pretty strongly worded "No, you're mistaken."

Now, granted, the charge of insanity was a bit unfair. Insane people make _absolutely_ no sense. But you made some sense, and it was a creative bit of sense too, I'll grant you that. But it wasn't a charitable bit of sense. You couldn't possibly think, for instance, that because a journal posts a list of its blind reviewers that its reviews are then not actually blind. That's either insane or disingenuous. I was giving you the benefit of the doubt in assuming that you weren't being disingenuous.

Apologies for any confusions. ;)

jp said...

Anders is a very nice person. Don't vilify him. His comment was not one that anyone should feel offended by. (It's open to debate whether other comments further down in the thread are worthy of offense.)

Here, verbatim, is what Anders wrote:

The comment taken from the Philosophy Job Market blog seems highly tendentious (if not just spurious) in its description of the differences between the UK and the US programs.

I strongly suggest that the original poster reads the subsequent posts in that particular thread, i.e. the response by 'UK Prof' for a less biased perspective.

Anders chose the option (a) listed in the main post. Although I agree with Leiter and others that the further (b) could well have been justified, don't lump Anders in with us. He played by the very rules you suggest.

Prof. J. said...



Will Phil. for Food:
But, as Bobcat said, sometimes someone submitting a score for the overall rankings will have to make a judgment about a (e.g.) metaphysician even though the ranker doesn't know metaphysics. Yes, the rankings are supposed to be based on the whole group, but presumably you're supposed to score the group on the basis of your opinion of its members!

Anonymous said...

Anders is a cylon.

Anonymous said...

your mom's a cylon.

Anonymous said...

Your mom is Anders.