Group 1 (1-5) Previous Ranking
The Lyceum, Athens ca. 330 BC
1. The Sixth Circle, Hell 1
3. University of Texas, Austin  1,573
4. The University of Jena, ca.1800 5
4. University of Paris ca. 1245 AD 5
Group 2 (6-12)
6. The Apostles, Cambridge ca. 1920  7
The Apostles, Galilee ca. 30 AD
Elea, c. 450 BC 
University of Wittenburg, 1512 - 1521
Group 3 (13-20 )
La Fleche, 17th-18th c.
University of Konigsberg, ca. 1770
The Pythagoreans, ca. 529 BC
The University of London, since 1850
The University of Basel, ca. 1874
Group 4 (21 - 30)
The School of Zeno and Chrysippus, campuses in Athens and Rome
Mersenne's Correspondence School of Philosophy, France 17th c.
St. Paul's University, Bermuda ca.1731

After discussion with dozens of philosophers around the world, I decided to retain the ordinal rankings of departments from previous editions.  I had considered eliminating this feature in recognition of (a) the meaninglessness -- and mean-spiritedness -- of ranking groups of my fellow human beings and (b) the fact that it is more important for students to choose a program suited to their interests.  But then I figured -- "Nah!"  As some philosophers have assured me, a true ordering of departments is every bit as "real" as the Great Chain of Being.  Another advantage of ordinal rankings was noted by an eminent philosopher (and I mean eminent):
I realize that the gradations are fine. But if you don't make them, we won't have the satisfaction of seeing our rivals put in their place.  What fun would that be?  I just can't wait for you to start ranking individual philosophers. 
I did decide this year to eliminate rankings beyond "the top 210."  Students who can't get into the 1024th-ranked department (The Krakatoan Institute of Technology, ca. 1884) should probably consider another line of work. 

Here is how I recommend students use the rankings:

(1) Within a peer group, choose a program exclusively on the basis of how well it meets your needs -- and whether it's in your century. 

(2) It can make good sense to choose a program in a lower peer group over a higher one if that program meets your special interests. If, for example, youíre mainly interested in the history of modern philosophy through Kant, then the Lyceum would be a bad bet -- though the Vienna Circle might not be so hot, either. If you have a substantial interest in ancient philosophy, of course, then the University of Paris ca. 1260 would be ideal.

I can not overemphasize how very different the philosophical climate is at equally distinguished schools, say, the Academy and the University of Texas at Austin. While one might study the philosophy of love at either place, the difference in training is likely to be quite dramatic. That Plato and Bob Solomon are both among the most prominent thinkers on the subject sheds no light on the fact that their conceptions of philosophy and philosophical problems are completely different.

Before choosing any program, make sure that the faculty there are not all dead.  Anecdotally, at least, it appears that some schools with excellent faculties do not have any non-dead faculty members.  And some programs with exceptional faculties -- like the Apostles of Galilee -- simply have no track record, as of yet, for immortality.  See the listing of Prominent Faculty Who Are Dead in Part II of the Report. (Of course, this advice does not apply to students seeking admission to the Sixth Circle -- see below.)  (TH)

Students should also beware of "masthead" appointments -- big names that show up on paper but rarely in person.  Soon after Oxford advertised the appointment of John Locke, for example, he skipped town for a series of leaves (1665-6 in Brandenburg; 1667-1675 in London; 1675-1679 in France; 1683-1689 in Holland).  Some of his orphaned advisees are still trying to schedule their dissertation defenses.  (DH)

The Lyceum has world-class faculty in Metaphysics, Ethics, Aesthetics, Mind, Politics, Logic, and the Motion of Animals.  The fact that all of these faculty are Aristotle makes it hard to fill a dissertation committee.  Nevertheless, former students include the young "star" who produced the paradigm of all solutions to philosophical problems, the Cutting of the Gordian Knot.  Students who don't relish the prospect of wandering around after their advisor might consider applying to the University Paris, were he is virtually unavoidable (see below). 

Reserved for heretics and atheists (acording to my informant, who held a rare visiting fellowship), The Sixth Circle of Hell boasts the largest faculty of philosophers in the universe.  Given its permanent endowment and aggressive recruiting methods, I expect the Sixth Circle to be the top-ranked philosophy department for quite some time, perhaps eternity.  (But keep checking this space until then.)  This school's secret?  It's their retention program: faculty members are not permitted to leave, no matter how big the outside offer.  The downside, of course, is that the worst damned philosophers gain effective tenure upon arrival.  However, the distinguished senior faculty includes Socrates, Spinoza, Hobbes, Nietzsche, J.S. Mill, and Bertrand Russell, among many others.  Rumor has it that John Mackie will be joining, too.  Located beyond the river Styx, the campus is somewhat remote, and the climate is a little hotter than at the University of Texas, Austin.  (Prospective graduate students are advised that the entrance requirements of this program are unusually stiff.)  (EA)

The University of Jena: Very strong in German idealism: Hegel, Fichte, and Schelling are all leading figures.  Also strong in Logik and Aesthetik, though not in logic and aesthetics. There is some evidence from recent issues of Jobs for Philosophers that Naturphilosophie is poised for a comeback, and rumours abound that a senior offer to Abolute Spirit itself is in the works, provided that a position can be found for his 'partner'.  If so, look for Jena to move up one peer group. (GR)

The core faculty at The University of Paris include a remarkable three canonized members of the Holy Saints (only Rome has more) -- Albertus Magnus (Aristotle, theology),Thomas Aquinas (Aristotle, theology), and Bonaventure (theology, Aristotle).  These superstars are continually being lured away by offers from such places as Cologne and Naples, threatening the program with a drop of one peer group or more.  So long as these Doctors are in, however, the position of Paris appears secure. 

The department at Elea features a core faculty enviable for its unity: Parmenides (turning 70 next year, but fine looking), younger "star" Zeno (of goodly height and handsome), and the diligent Melissus (as yet untenured).  The department boasts first-rate coverage in metaphysics, though those pursuing other interests (e.g. Not-Being) are advised to take another path.  Graduate students do find it quite difficult to make progress, and those hoping to work with Parmenides should be advised that, because of his commitments with "the Goddess," he is only in residence six weeks of the year.  However, there is little pressure to finish quickly, since faculty are said to be uncreated and imperishable.  An air of optimism reigns in the department on account of a recent proof that it will never be demoted from its current slot: the plurality of rankings is, after all, logically incoherent. (UC & ZH)

University of Wittenberg, 1512 - 1521:  Though the department has several "names," including Phillip Melanchthon and Lucas Cranach, recent attention has focussed on Martin Luther, who retains the reputation of a major thinker despite the  lukewarm reception afforded his recent treatise on The Freedom of a Christian Man. (For a useful and fair-minded critique of this ambitious book, see the 1520 Papal Bull threatening excommunication.)  Wittenberg narrowly avoided losing this "star" when he declined an offered move to Rome.  But since the expiration of his guarantee of safe passage from the Diet of Worms, he has been in hiding, and most of my sources agree that his capture and summary execution would lower Wittenburg's ranking by at least one peer group.  The Wittenberg department boasts considerable success in placement, though the highest profile graduate to date -- the Prince of Denmark -- was a serious embarrassment.  He is said to have complained that "there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy," and his tenure at Elsinore ended in a massacre, leaving that department in receivership.  (It remains to be seen how this debacle will affect the clout of Wittenberg's recommendations.)  Wittenberg faculty are notoriously overburdened and not at all indulgent.  Seasoned graduate students advise newcomers against leaving written work in an advisor's mailbox: "Make sure you nail it to his door."  This has prompted the expected exasperation among faculty.  "Can you believe what I found when I got to my office yesterday?" writes one correspondent: "95 theses!" (JT)

Despite its "no-name" faculty, La Fleche continues to turn out some remarkable students, including Mersenne, Descartes, and Hume.  Unfortunately, the quality of its students is not reflected in its placement record.  The school might yet score a coup on this front, however, now that Hume is widely touted for an appointment at Edinburgh.  (See "Major Faculty Moves to Watch For" in Part II of this Report.)  (SD) 

University of Konigsberg, ca. 1770:  Availability of advisors is limited by their unusually heavy classroom teaching loads, a factor mitigated somewhat by the opportunity to waylay them on their regularly scheduled walks and by their heartfelt opposition (on digestive grounds) to solitary gourmandizing.  The curriculum actively encourages students to develop a broad competence in all the other main branches of the humanities: planetary cosmology, phlogiston chemistry, historical geology, Euclidean chronometry, Pietist piety, and home economics (see solitary gourmandizing, above).  A tendency for students and faculty alike to take their time in getting down to their own work has prompted far-reaching reforms in the graduate curriculum intended to speed things up, notably the brand new "bridge system" for advancing to candidacy, devised in consultation with Leonhard Euler and the Konigsberg town fathers. Its bywords: begin where you are, choose a congenial path, don't count your chickens before they're hatched, and don't cross your bridges until you come to them.  The jury's still out on this. (DH)

The Pythagoreans have remarkable strength in the philosophy of mathematics but also a regrettable weakness for fashionable New Age mysticism.   The staffing level remains high because lesser Emeriti are required to keep returning,  though sometimes at a lower rank -- say, that of a flea.  (As in most departments, it is the more accomplished members of the faculty who earn release.)  Prospective students are warned that the campus is governed by a strict Code of Behavior: bean-eaters, in particular, are discouraged from applying. (JW)

To this day, the mainstay of the graduate program at The University of London remains Jeremy Bentham.  Though said to be less than energetic as a supervisor, he is always available for student consultation.  (And at 250, he's better preserved than many of the 70-year-olds taking up space in other departments.) (JT)

The University of Basel: The Philosophy Department ain't much, but check out the rising "star" in the Classical Philology Department, Fred Nietzsche.  Wildly eccentric views about the Greeks and morality -- but in about 20 years a letter of reference from him will really be worth something.  Hurry, though:  although only 30, he'll be retiring soon, crazy ten years thereafter, and dead before he even makes it to the "soon-to-be-dead-and-disabled" category in this Report.  Of course, if you can't make it to Basel, you can always go to the University of Texas at Austin to learn about him. (BL)

The School of Zeno and Chrysippus: The most notable features of this school are its exceptional affirmative action policy (what other institution has slaves on its faculty?) and its ability to provide connections for civil service jobs in the 2nd century CE Roman Imperial Court.  The institutional culture is somewhat unusual.  Graduate students in other programs complain of faculty indifference, but here it is deemed a virtue.  Indeed, the school has faced the gradual demise of its faculty with great equanimity.  Nevertheless, this development has led outsiders to wonder who's minding the Stoa.  (SH)

A non-traditional and non-accredited program, Mersenne's Correspondence School is notable for its avid professional networking, which brings together work-in-progress by the best minds of its day.  Unfortunately, "its day" is now quite some days ago, and the philosophers on its lists have not produced any cutting-edge work for over 300 years.  There was speculation that Mersenne's homegrown operation would enter the 21st century by migrating onto the Internet, but many of the Emeriti have retired to warmer climes served only by 666 baud modems and old DOS machines. (SH)

St. Paul's University did not get past the planning stage, but it was never intended to exist outside the mind in any case.  As it turns out, the best philosophical work on non-existence is done by actual philosophers; but among non-existent departments, this one is considered to be the best.1  (Note to tourists: the tree in the quad is a must-see.)   (MJ)

1The Executive Committee of the Society for Non-existent Philosophers (SNEP) issued a "Reply to the 'Lighter Report'" in which they called it "sheer prejudice to claim that the best work is generally done at actual departments."  A qualitative judgment is, to be sure, involved, but prejudice is not.  The work by scholars at the leading non-existent programs ranges largely from the impossible to the merely absurd. Back

Back to Contents
Part II: Methods and Criteria
Part III: Graduate Study
Part IV: People
Part V: Feedback