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Good-bye Walter. You Will Be Missed.

Sinnott-Armstrong.jpg Philosophy superstar Walter Sinnott-Armstrong will be leaving the College for Duke University in the spring of 2010. Curiously enough—well, maybe not that curiously—the College has not seen fit to announce Walter’s departure, even though the news has been on philosophy blogs since June at least.

But then embarrassing departures like this are always soft-pedaled by the folks at Public Affairs - as occurred last year when star African-American history prof Craig Wilder was lured away to MIT, with nary an acknowledgment from the College. Hey, no need to let people know of the brain drain from the faculty, largely the result of an unappreciative administration that too often in the past has appeared threatened by the professional achievements of professors who don’t have the word Dean on their letterhead.

Sinnott-Armstrong is a prodigious author of books and articles, several of which have been cited over 100 times in the research of other scholars - the gold standard for scholarship in the academy (how well have your profs done?).

He is also the Co-Director of the MacArthur Foundation’s interdisciplinary Law and Neuroscience Project, which is directed by another departed and much regretted Dartmouth prof: Mike Gazzaniga. At Dartmouth, Sinnott-Armstrong was a signatory of the pro-Gazzaniga petition from a few years back, and most sad to say, he really cares about Dartmouth.

Walter’s departure completes the gutting of the College’s once strong Philosophy Department at the hands of Dean of the Faculty Carol Folt. In the last eight years, as the previously cited Leiter Reports noted, the department has lost Robert Fogelin to retirement, Sally Sedgwick to the University of Illinois at Chicago, and Julia Driver and Roy Sorensen to Washington University in St. Louis.

Folt’s most egregious error: granting tenure to two Phil. Dept. faculty members whose tenure had been denied by the department itself on the grounds of weak scholarship. The basis for her decision? Undoubtedly, social and political grounds won out over shallow considerations like research publications, intellectual horsepower, and teaching. Nobody can say that Carol doesn’t have standards. They just aren’t the ones traditionally observed in the academy.


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