I think Philosophy Departments should learn from sport teams. They both share a common essential property: they can’t be good if they can’t be a group. Universities in the US seem to have finally accepted their role as a profitable enterprise, rather than a civil association. After all, who believes in non-profit civil associations anyway? Philosophy Departments nowadays are getting unseen (which sounds close to obscene) amounts of money. Thus, Universities are fighting to get the best list of names to constitute their departments. This is, clearly, the same attitude as that of certain sport teams, Real Madrid and NY Yankees are the best examples.
Both the owners of the Yankees and the owners of Real, have just decided that the best strategy to get the best team is monetary. So they go on throwing insane amounts of money to everyone that is good enough to make it to the news. Both teams have that in common and, not surprisingly, more: they are both really bad teams. Both owner groups do not seem to realize that a bunch of people just does not amount to a team. Further, they do not seem to realize that if the reason why different individuals get together under a certain name is monetary, there is a big chance that they will not get together for the sake of being a group. The result: it has been a couple of years since both, the Yankees and the Real, have not done anything relevant as a team. Of course, that does not mean the owners are unhappy: they keep on with the profit since everyone wants to follow the set of individual star players.
Philosophy Departments should learn from this lesson. The NYU Philosophy Department in particular, should do so. Our contemporary NY Yankees of Philosophy should realize that a list of great individual philosophers simply does not amount to a great Philosophy Department. Furthermore, other philosophers at other departments should realize that too, and stop thinking of the Phil Yankees as the only Major League Departments, the Philosophers’ Paradise. Even more importantly, prospective graduate students should keep that in mind: getting into NYU might not necessarily mean being properly educated by a great department. There’s a chance that all you can do is walk through a hallway full of fancy names and learn philosophy by osmosis.
While NYU keeps on consistently trying to buy their Beckham’s and Ronaldinho’s I keep looking for a group of Philosophers that decided to become a Department, as opposed to sets of individuals that just happen to work for the same boss.