My job leads me to think a lot about the contemporary conditions of academic institutions. Regular readers will have noticed that I have returned to these issues quite frequently in recent months. I want to make sure that I keep Love of All Wisdom focused on philosophy broadly defined, which is already a very big focus in itself, so I debate how much time I should spent on such a topic that is not itself philosophy. I think the topic of academia merits attention for two reasons: first, it provides opportunities for thinking philosophically in general about how human institutions should be run; second and probably more importantly, academic institutions remain the place where the vast majority of philosophy per se gets done today. I wouldn’t be surprised if that changes in my lifetime, but it is the case now. So we who care about philosophy have good reason to care about academia, even if our own livelihoods do not depend on it.
With that in mind: In both my academic administrative work and my computer-science classes, there’s a disturbing frequency with which I hear university students described as “customers”. Continue reading