The Eastern Division of the American Philosophical Association held its 2021 annual meeting last winter. It could not meet in person, of course. I forget where it was originally scheduled to meet, but that hardly matters now. Rather: since attending philosophy conferences is usually not related to my day job, I need to use my own money and precious vacation time to travel there, so under normal circumstances I wouldn’t have attended. This year, though, since it was virtual (and spread over two weekends), I had a chance to participate and see several of the sessions.
What immediately struck me on perusing the meeting program was how drastically different the meeting’s content was from previous years. It seemed barely recognizable as the same organization. On the kinds of abstract analytical topics that are the APA’s traditional bread and butter – epistemology, philosophy of language, meta-ethics – there were surprisingly slim pickings. The sessions I’d found most valuable in past years were on interpreting and applying philosophers of the Western canon – Aristotle, Hume, Hegel – and this year, those too were in short supply. Neither kind of session was gone, their numbers were just notably smaller, at least in proportion.