Philosophizing about Philosophy

April 6, 2008

The Rutgers Philosophy Dept. — the university’s best department by a wide margin — scored big in this New York Times write-up about how it is rapidly growing in popularity with students. The number of majors has doubled in the past six years and the article explores the “why” of this thirst for knowledge.

To the reasons cited by the Times reporter we suggest adding a few. Such as:

o An escape from bozo. Classes in many departments are littered with disruptive, loud bozos (the “students” attracted by football that AD Mulcahy and McCormick like to brag about?). More professors in other departments are complaining about how too many of their students are just taking up space — devoid of curiosity and intellect alike. Philosophy classes remain an intellectual sanctuary even on a campus increasingly overrun by obstreperous Philistines. Good students at Rutgers have fewer places to escape to, and Philosophy just may be the brainiest place on campus.

o Quality attracts quality. Rutgers may have acted on the cheap with most departments but it has not scrimped with Philosophy, which has a faculty composed of world-class scholars such as Tim Maudlin, recently announced winner of a 2008 Guggenheim. It is a pity that so many other departments have to pass the beggar’s cup. Imagine if the many millions that had been poured into a football program that is charitably called mediocre had been spent on scholarship. Just imagine.

The pity is that of course Rutgers could — should — have many more top-tier departments but under Dick McCormick really only four (Philosophy, English, History, and Criminology in Newark) rank among the nation’s best. And all had that prestige long before McCormick arrived on the Banks as president.

Exactly what has Dick McCormick done during his six years? Ah…perhaps Rutgers’ philosophers ought to debate that. Does doing nothing count as doing? Can McCormick be busy doing nothing?