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November 22, 2006

Philosophical Gourmet Report puts Pitt at No. 5

The top five philosophy departments in the nation haven’t changed in recent Philosophical Gourmet Report rankings, and Pitt remains among them, holding the No. 5 slot in the most recent report, released this month.

According to the report, which is based on a survey of philosophers in the English-speaking world, New York University maintains its hold on the top slot in the 2006-08 report, followed by Rutgers, Princeton and the University of Michigan (tie), and Pitt rounding out the top five.

Pitt held the No. 5 spot in the 2002-04 report but had been tied for No. 4 with the University of Michigan in the 2004-06 report.

Faculty from both Pitt’s Department of Philosophy and Department of History and Philosophy of Science (HPS) are combined in the list that is ranked for the Philosophical Gourmet report. “We’re pretty pleased with the rating,” said HPS chair Sandra Mitchell. Philosophy chair James Allen declined to comment on the report.

In a new ranking of faculty reputation worldwide, Pitt is No. 6, behind top-ranking New York University, Oxford University and Rutgers (tied for No. 2) and Princeton University and University of Michigan (tied for No. 4). Rounding out the top 10 in the international rankings are Stanford at No. 7, followed by Harvard, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of California at Los Angeles, tied for No. 8.

(Compilers of the survey note that because philosophy departments in the United States tend to be larger than in other nations, U.S. departments are at an advantage in the faculty evaluations.)

In addition to the overall rankings, the report groups schools into ranks in 30 specialty areas. Pitt appeared in 19 of them and held top slots in the areas of philosophy of physics and philosophy of science.

“These are two in which we were not just No. 1, but the only one in the top group,” said Mitchell. “That’s the impressive part.”

The full rankings can be viewed online at

The survey is compiled by Brian Leiter, who is the Hines H. Baker and Thelma Kelley Baker Chair in Law at the University of Texas at Austin, where he is also professor of philosophy and director of the law and philosophy program. He currently is a visiting professor of law at the University of Chicago.

The overall results are based on a survey of nearly 270 philosophers throughout the English-speaking world; more than 310 philosophers participated in either the overall or specialty rankings. Evaluators were sought from among research-active faculty by the survey’s advisory board. Many had filled out surveys in prior years; others were nominated by the advisory board.

In the overall rankings, evaluators were asked for their opinion of faculty lists based on the following criterion: “Please give your opinion of the attractiveness of the faculty for a prospective student, taking into account (and weighted as you deem appropriate) the quality of philosophical work and talent on the faculty, the range of areas the faculty cover, and the availability of the faculty over the next few years.” Rankings were based on a scale of: 5-Distinguished; 4-Strong; 3-Good; 2-Adequate; 1-Marginal; 0-Inadequate for a PhD program.

Philosophers were not permitted to rank their own departments or the department from which they received their highest degree. Among the evaluators in this year’s survey were Pitt faculty members Anil Gupta and Thomas Ricketts.

Pitt’s mean overall score was 4.3 on the 5-point scale in both the national and international rankings.

Mitchell said the ranking, based on faculty reputation, is one measure that graduate students might use as a source of information when considering a philosophy program.

“There are other very important indicators of the merit of a department not included here,” she said, noting that placement rates, funding opportunities and the number of PhD students in a particular area also are factors to consider.

HPS recently has done especially well in the graduate placement area. The department, whose newly minted PhDs typically number in the single digits in any given year, earlier this year placed a bumper crop of 10 students from its graduate program in 10 positions at universities across the United States and Canada.

—Kimberly K. Barlow

Filed under: Feature,Volume 39 Issue 7

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