Minds, Bodies, Afterthoughts, and Future Plans
The philosophy of mind conference Minds, Bodies, and Problems, held at Bilkent University on 7 and 8 June this year, is now over, and based on the feedback from speakers, local faculty, and students, we can indubitably call it a big success. The interest was great, we got a large number of excellent submissions that would have been enough for at least two such conferences. And the post-conference trip to Cappadocia, central Turkey, was simply amazing. Here is a group photo taken there, followed by some afterthoughts and future plans connected to this conference, which we plan to organize every year at Bilkent University.
When I came up with the idea of organizing such a conference and was about to start, I had the feeling that there was some scepticism as about whether it would work the way I wanted it. The way I wanted it was: transparent, professional, based on blind refereeing, funded mostly by conference fees, etc. I used to receive advice to the effect that I should violate one or more of these principles, e.g.: send private emails to potential speakers to “invite them to submit, with the idea that their papers would be accepted”, accept papers by people who have already published in top journals, etc. Needless to say, having grown up in a country where this type of behaviour is standard and where people find it extremely hard to do things the right way, I was determined not to listen to this type of advice.
A second source of why this conference was organized the way I planned was several negative experiences I had at various conferences in the past. Speakers at Minds, Bodies, and Problems invariably told me that this was by far one of the most professionally organized conferences they have ever attended. Indeed, here are some features of many philosophy conferences nowadays that I find unprofessional and sometimes ridiculous, and which served as my not-to-do list:
- bogus refereeing (inviting friends through the back-door)
- the organizer putting him/herself on the list of “confirmed speakers” or commentators
- huge participation fees with no value for the money (I have actually decided not to submit to the ECAP conference last year, as a matter of principle, because what they offered for 180 Euros was “registration to the conference, conference materials including the book of abstracts, web-access during the conference, and coffee breaks”, which I found not enough. The point is that organizing institutions should make sure they have sponsors, subsidies, etc. to actually offer something for the registration fee, e.g. conference dinner, or hotel discount, or something like that)
- making a big fuss about availability of standard, normal (in any urban area and even in deserts nowadays) and virtually free services within a university, like wi-fi (I spoke at a conference couple of years ago, where although the university’s official policy was that all wi-fi during conferences is free, and all that’s needed is the names of the participants, so that a list of temporary passwords can be generated, the organizers “forgot about this”, and “we were busy organizing other aspects …”. Let me mention that at the same conference the organizers separated the keynote speakers from the rest when it came to dinner, and the location of the keynotes’ dinner was officially declared classified information until the dinner was over).
- bogus publication claims and subsequent efforts (the same conference as the one above, advertised publication of a volume of papers, then when I asked the organizer about this later, he said to me: “good question!” :)
- finally, a general lack of precise planning and style
As about future plans:
- I have been working on trying to publish papers from the conference, and I am happy to say that it is almost sure that a very well-known journal is willing to print a selection. I haven’t yet said “yes”, as I have a few other venues that might work out, but it is likely that this will be the final option. I will keep people updated on this via email and this blog.
- next year the conference is going to be three- rather than two-day long, and we keep the two-day Cappadocia trip on the agenda. The dates are 5-7 June, so prepare your long abstracts soon.
- the list of keynote speakers is working out these days. I can confirm Margaret Boden and David Papineau as of now.
- it will be organized by 2 or 3 people (I realized this year that doing it all by myself was a bit tiring), and I will probably have a less prominent role.
Check this blog regularly for updates!