Chinese Philosophy Rankings of the Philosophical Gourmet Report

Because I am on the Advisory Board for the Philosophical Gourmet Report (PRG), I received an inquiry about the potential impact of its Chinese philosophy rankings on the field of Chinese philosophy.  I thought I would share my reply in case it is in of interest to anyone else.

I view the Chinese philosophy rankings of the PRG as one factor, among many others, that prospective graduate students should take into account.  (This is the manner in which Brian Leiter, the Editor of the PRG, presents all of the rankings.)  It would be a mistake, in my view, to attribute any grand, field-altering importance to them.

Here are further reasons why the effect of the rankings on the field overall is minimal.  There are comparatively few philosophy departments where one can study Chinese philosophy at the doctoral level in the English-speaking world  (This is not to deny the value of studying Chinese philosophy outside the English speaking world, or in other kinds departments, but that is not what the PRG is about.)  Now, there are only nine schools on the PRG list for Chinese philosophy, and they include ones with radically different approaches to the field, such as the University of Hawaii, the University of Hong Kong, and Duke.  I don’t know of any departments of philosophy in the English-speaking world that offer doctorates in Chinese philosophy that could plausibly be added to the list of nine, although I would be open to hearing what they might be.

Within the nine schools listed, there is no rank ordering.  Two schools are singled out as being in “Group 1,” while the other seven are classed as “Group 2.”  My understanding is that this is because the overall perceived reputations of the philosophy departments in Group 1 (Duke and Utah) is significantly higher than any of those in Group 2.  “Overall perceived reputation” is not an objective concept.  However, having been on both sides of the interview process on many occasions, I can guarantee that the perceived overall qualify of the institution (which I think the PRG does a reasonable job of reporting) is very important in getting a job.  There is no question that the perceived quality of the Duke philosophy department is higher than any of those departments in Group 2.  (Duke came out firmly in the top 50, and even if we say that the margin of error on the list is plus or minus 10 rank levels, it sill is perceived to be a stronger philosophy department overall than any of those in Group 2.)  I think Utah also has a significantly higher overall perceived quality than any of the departments in Group 2.  But if one disagrees about Utah, then we are quibbling about whether one school should or should not be in Group 1, and it seems very hard to believe that this has any significant impact on the field of Chinese philosophy as a whole.

Finally, there are very few graduate students obtaining doctorates from philosophy departments in Chinese philosophy, and almost no jobs for the ones who do.  Consequently, any marginal effect the Chinese philosophy rankings of the PRG have on the “pipeline” of talented students going into Chinese philosophy will be swamped by other institutional and field-wide issues.

About The Doc

"The Doc" is a professor at Vassar College (USA). However, the views expressed in his blog and comments are not necessarily those of Vassar, its administration, or other employees, none of whom bears any responsibility for his opinions.
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