More on the Italian Miracle

In a recent post, I commented on the recent hire of a foreign candidate for a philosophy job at the University of Parma, Italy. The hire of a foreigner, without “connections,” in Italian academia is almost unheard of.

I just discovered that the search committee was chaired by Tito Magri, of the University of Roma – La Sapienza. He wrote me the following:

“I am not aware that many of my colleagues in Italy were so appreciative – although I was told that people in Parma were happy at our choice. Of course, I have no inclination to think that we set anything like a precedent.”

A few comments:

1. Magri’s words are probably a nice way of saying that by hiring a foreigner without yielding to political pressures, the search committee upset many other academics, who prefer the traditional Italian way of hiring. Well done!

2. Magri doubts that other Italian search committees will follow the lead of the Parma search committee. But wouldn’t it be great if Italian philosophers started hiring based on accomplishments rather than connections?

3. Compare the influence of Australian philosophers vs. Italian philosophers. Australia has a much smaller population, and none of the academic tradition, of Italy. Yet Australian philosophers are orders of magnitude more influential than Italian ones. And consider how many brilliant minds around the world would love to live in a place as beautiful and pleasant as Italy. If Italians started hiring people from around the world based on their accomplishments, they might be able to quickly improve the quality and influence of their academic community.

4. I don’t mean to say that currently, there are no good philosophers working in Italy. Of course there are. But there is also plenty of dead weight.

5. Of course, knowing how conservative Italians are, I don’t expect much change. At any rate, don’t count on me moving there.

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