The answer is, apparently, $4.4 million. I received an email from FSU.com this morning with the news that Professor Al Mele of Florida State University (my alma mater) received this substantial Templeton Foundation grant to fund research on the problem of free will.
Awards of this sum in philosophy are few and far between. Professor Mele’s receipt of this award is surely laudable. And I think it raises some interesting issues about academia generally.
In science, reliance on this kind of funding from outside of institution has been commonplace for sometime, due mainly to the intensely high costs of scientific equipment, specialized labor, etc. Most scientific enterprises within academia rely almost entirely on funding from outside sources. And although philosophy departments and individual philosophers are frequently awarded grants or receive donations and endowments, it is not (as far as I can see) the central source of funding for most philosophical work.
I’m curious to hear the thoughts of others on this topic. Is Professor Mele’s award indicative of a coming change in the way academic philosophy, specifically, and possibly the humanities generally are funded? Or is this an unusual occurrence, a once-in-a-lifetime achievement by a prominent and well-respected thinker?
My thinking, based on my limited experience, is that as the business model of academia becomes the only model for colleges and universities, philosophy departments, and humanities departments generally, will be forced more frequently to seek this kind of funding. Putting aside the question about how much outside funding of this type is likely to be available to departments, philosophers may soon be facing the same sorts of ethical challenges to academic integrity that many scientists face. Reliance on outside funds in the sciences has compromised, in many instances, the integrity of scientific research, the open sharing of new information, and, often, represents the kind of intellectual censorship the tenure system is meant to prevent. Academic freedom becomes compromised.
Although I do not think that is going on in this particular case, I suspect this adds to a constellation of worries philosophers face concerning the future of our discipline.
I’d love to hear thoughts and opinions on this, particularly as my experience is limited, and many of our readers are likely to bring a fresh perspective and different information to this discussion, based on their experiences. I do think this concern merits an open discussion, however speculative, about the future of funding in our discipline.