January 6, 2020

Philosophy Professor Raoul Moati’s Tenure Decision Must Be Reconsidered

The philosophy department and administration must reconsider its decision to deny assistant professor Moati tenure, as his departure will be a significant loss for the humanities division.

In light of the shocking and devastating decision to deny assistant professor Raoul Moati tenure in the philosophy department, the following petition has been created in order to urge the dean of the Division of the Humanities and the provost of the University to reconsider the decision. The petition is still collecting signatures and will be formally submitted to the dean and the provost at a later date. We strongly encourage faculty, students, and alumni of the University of Chicago to show their support for both Professor Moati and intellectual diversity at the University of Chicago by signing this petition.

Petition in Support of Tenure for Professor Raoul Moati and in Support of Continental Philosophy at the University of Chicago

Dear Dean Anne Walters Robertson and Provost Daniel Diermeier,

We, the undersigned members of the University of Chicago academic community, petition in order to request that assistant professor Raoul Moati be granted tenure.

We were devastated by the news that Professor Moati was denied tenure in the philosophy department. He has made exceptional contributions to research, teaching, to our intellectual community, and in service to the University community in his capacity as assistant professor of philosophy since 2013. He currently serves as a member of the Chicago Center for Jewish Studies at the University of Chicago and as a member of the Centre Emmanuel Levinas of Paris at Université Paris-Sorbonne. He also served on the editorial board of the Complete Works (Les Oeuvres complètes) of Emmanuel Levinas.

Professor Moati has authored five books in French, two of which have been translated into English, and one more of which is currently in the process of being translated. He is also editor of one volume. He has published 27 articles in both journals and books, with an additional six forthcoming. He has given over 45 talks and lectures. It is an understatement to say that Professor Moati is an enormously prolific scholar of high repute. While there are currently no systematic studies evaluating the average number of publications philosophers have produced before achieving tenure, according to crowdsourced data, it is clear that Professor Moati’s work far exceeds the standards found therein (crowdsourced data may be found here from Leiter Reports and here from Daily Nous). His rigorous and important scholarship has spanned the divide between continental and analytical philosophy, and he is highly regarded in the field for his anti-idealist position in phenomenology. His scholarship is internationally recognized, and he has been invited to give lectures at prestigious institutions, such as Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne. Moreover, in 2017, a conference on Professor Moati’s work was organized in Belgium—an achievement almost unheard of for young philosophers prior to tenure.

If Professor Moati leaves the University of Chicago, the University will lose not only a highly innovative and dignified scholar, but also a remarkably talented and exceptionally dedicated instructor. Professor Moati has demonstrated outstanding commitment to the scholarly development of his students, reaching far beyond standard expectations. His generous commitment to his students is made evident through the intensely detailed materials he designs for his courses, as well as the countless hours he has dedicated to addressing student questions both individually and in leading routine after-class tutorial sessions that often last longer than the class itself. This degree of access to not only a wonderful instructor, but a consummate and accomplished scholar, is truly exceptional. Professor Moati has made it clear that his students’ development as young scholars is close to his heart, and he has proven it by dedicating himself fully to his students and to their growth as philosophers.

As we have emphasized, Professor Moati is not only a dedicated instructor, but a talented and uniquely qualified one. He is able to situate texts historically while maintaining a magnetic proximity to the text: Each of his courses critically examines the argumentative structure of philosophical works without losing sight of their situatedness in the context of the history of philosophy. Professor Moati’s courses encourage students to question their presuppositions and clarify their thinking, and they inspire new philosophical interests that students pursue both in the classroom and independently. Indeed, Professor Moati’s passion for philosophy is truly infectious: It is difficult to leave one of his classes without genuine excitement for the matters at hand. For all of these reasons, many of the undersigned students consider him to be one of the greatest instructors they have had at the University of Chicago. He lives with the texts he teaches and encourages his students to live with them, too.

If Professor Moati leaves the department, philosophy at the University of Chicago will suffer a profound loss. Students will lose an instructor they cherish and greatly admire, and our scholarly community will lose the crucial diversity of perspectives that Professor Moati offers as a scholar of continental philosophy who engages with the analytical tradition. We believe that exposure to and interaction with the continental texts that Professor Moati teaches is of critical importance to the scholarly development of philosophy students at the University of Chicago. Working with these texts allows students to think more critically and to draw on a more diverse set of philosophical tools to improve their argumentation. Professor Moati draws these texts into discussion with the analytical tradition in philosophy, allowing students to bridge a historical divide in philosophy, broaden the horizons of their thinking, and gain a new, critical perspective with which to evaluate contemporary scholarship. The materials and perspectives that Professor Moati engages with and inspires students to engage with are not optional reading. Regardless of philosophical orientation, students must have access to these texts and perspectives, and the University of Chicago must be able to instruct them in these texts at the same exceptional level it is able to teach the classics of the analytical tradition and of modern philosophy more broadly. It is unacceptable for an institution dedicated to rigor and diversity of views to deny students the foundational instruction that Professor Moati provides in the continental tradition, instruction that will be lost if he were to leave the department.

The Department of Philosophy currently describes itself as “a full-service department in the Western philosophical tradition, committed to teaching a wide range of courses on the major topics of analytic philosophy, history of philosophy, and continental philosophy.” If Professor Moati leaves, the department will no longer be able to substantiate such a claim. With his courses in phenomenology, existentialism, Heidegger, Sartre, Levinas, and Derrida, Professor Moati grounds much of the philosophy department’s claim to be a full-service department in the Western philosophical tradition, insofar as it concerns continental philosophy. One need simply browse the department’s course catalog archives to observe how substantial a blow Professor Moati’s absence would be for the continental philosophy curriculum.

Indeed, what is particularly alarming about the decision to deny Professor Moati tenure is that it constitutes a refusal to fully represent continental philosophy, and more specifically French continental philosophy, in the UChicago philosophy curriculum. Such a departure and severe restriction of the intellectual diversity of the department constitutes a great disservice to the department’s students, as well as to the University of Chicago more broadly.

For these reasons, we strongly urge you to reconsider the decision to deny Professor Moati tenure.

More than 100 students have signed the petition that may be found here.