What follows is an assessment of the professional status of Aesthetics/Philosophy of Art in terms of the number of philosophy faculty at U.S. programs within the Leiter Top 50. At the end, I’ll make a few observations, but for the most part the numbers pretty much speak for themselves. My aim here is neither to offer some sort of de facto guide to graduate Aesthetics nor in any way to impugn the quality or availability of any program’s graduate instruction therein. Rather, my goal is simply to draw attention to the current state of Aesthetics with respect to faculty research at Leiter Top 50 U.S. Philosophy Programs.
Note that I use the term Aesthetics to include both Philosophical Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art (as well as any major sub-fields thereof). Also, I count only full-time (assistant, associate, or full) faculty and so exclude all visiting and emeritus faculty. Finally, faculty were counted according to two conditions which I’ve explained below (AOS, Primary)—in cases where I found myself less than confident, I just assumed the relevant condition to be in fact satisfied. The full program/faculty list for each condition can be found at the links provided. Anyone finding error with what I’ve reported, please contact me so that I may correct my mistake.
The AOS Condition:
- Faculty must have (at least as indicated on department website or CV) an AOS in Aesthetics.
The Primary Condition:
- Faculty must have an AOS in Aesthetics.
- Faculty must work primarily within Aesthetics (i.e., have a primary research program in/commitment to Aesthetics or to have one’s body of work reasonably suggest as much).
Aesthetics at Leiter Top 50 (U.S.) Programs
# of AOS Faculty: 45
# of Primary Faculty: 14
# of Programs with at least one AOS Faculty: 28
# of Programs with at least one Primary Faculty: 13
# of Programs with at least two AOS Faculty: 11
# of Programs with at least two Primary Faculty: 1
# of Programs with at least three AOS Faculty: 4
# of Programs with at least three Primary Faculty: 0
# of Programs with at least one Junior AOS Faculty: 2
# of Programs with at least one Junior Primary Faculty: 1
A Few Observations
The Professional Picture painted as the AOS level looks if not altogether rosy then at least perhaps suggestive that not all is the gloom ‘n’ doom many of us had thought.
- Faculty with Aesthetics as an AOS can be found in over half of the Leiter Top 50 U.S. Programs.
- More than a fifth of Leiter Top 50 programs have more than one faculty with an AOS in Aesthetics.
Of course, what truly matters for the health and future of the field is not that faculty have at some point in their careers developed an interest in Aesthetics but rather that their current research primarily engages that interest—i.e., the Primary Faculty. It is the Primary faculty that we expect to be leading Graduate Seminars in Aesthetics and advising dissertations in Aesthetics and thereby the Primary faculty we expect to be best able to cultivate graduate interest in Aesthetics and provide philosophical training and guidance to graduate students so interested.
Presumably then, the fewer Primary faculty there are currently in the Leiter Top 50, then (all else being equal) the fewer we can expect there to be in the future, a future that looks dimmer and dimmer when you consider that at least half of the Primary Aesthetics Faculty in the Leiter Top 50 can reasonably be expected to retire within the next 5-10 years along with the following:
• Less than one fourth of programs in The Leiter Top 50 have any Primary faculty in Aesthetics, and only one of those programs boasts more than one.
• There is currently exactly one program in the Leiter Top 50 that has a junior Primary faculty in Aesthetics.
What these numbers suggest is that the very best philosophy PhD programs in the United States currently have little to no research interest in Aesthetics and as such, also that quite likely neither shall their future graduates.
Of course, there have been recent signs of hope: NYU has an outstanding offer to Rob Hopkins and Rutgers has hired Elisabeth Camp, both of whom are unquestioably top notch philosophers with truly stellar bodies work in Aesthetics (primarily on depiction and metaphor respectively). Perhaps other U.S. programs will take notice of this commitment to Aesthetics and at least consider following suit.
My assessment of Aesthetics in Leiter Ranked UK Programs can be found here.