philosophy meta-forum

On the disintegration of the core

Yehuda

21 day(s) ago

I'm sure you've all seen this by now: http://leiterreports.typepad.com/blog/2017/09/the-growing-mismatch-between-jobs-for-philosophers-and-what-the-leading-phd-programs-emphasize.html#comments This is an open thread for discussion of this very important topic. And I'll start. I'm not sure what will do more reputational damage to MIT Ph.D. students. (I) Leiter's dubbing of the "MIT model" for departments producing PhDs specializing in hyper-narrowly focused areas of core analytic philosophy that hardly anyone wants to hire any more. Or (II) the laughably bad defense of MIT by one of their graduate students on the linked thread. At the moment, I'm leaning towards the latter.

Justus

21 day(s) ago

Wow. McGinn made an appearance.

Albertus

21 day(s) ago

Speaking of MIT's graduate program, I think this never got enough love at the time: http://againstprofphil.org/advice-from-mit-on-preparing-a-philosophy-writing-sample/

Godfrey

21 day(s) ago

Haters gonna hate.

Mircea

21 day(s) ago

New AOS: Philosophical Necrophilia ("Necro-phi" to the Kool Kidz).

Rudolf

21 day(s) ago

It is pretty depressing. I just finished a PhD on a "core" area and all of my research is pretty "core". Don't know what to do.

I think the "core" stuff includes a lot of durable and interesting problems and ideas, and there are probably more people thinking about them now than ever before, so I'm not worried about the continued existence (whether inside or outside academia) of such stuff. (Also I think the Leiter thread, as it was when I last read the comments, fails to emphasize how big and sprawling and subdivided the core is. It would be a mistake to think it's a bunch of people all talking to each other about a few narrow issues, since *within* the core a lot of people's work is pretty walled off from that of others.)

But I don't know what to do re. my career, and am trying to prepare myself for many more years of casual teaching and menial work. Or to maybe become a school teacher. As I am now, although I'm only 29 so this may change, I don't think my personality is very suited to most white collar work (which isn't to knock it, and I know there may be exceptions I should try to learn about).

Justus

21 day(s) ago

But I don't know what to do re. my career, and am trying to prepare myself for many more years of casual teaching and menial work. Or to maybe become a school teacher. As I am now, although I'm only 29 so this may change, I don't think my personality is very suited to most white collar work (which isn't to knock it, and I know there may be exceptions I should try to learn about).

Rudolf

How easily can you apply your core expertise to cognate topics in other areas? Selling yourself that way might help a bit.

Lon

21 day(s) ago

You mean on 9/11? I thought NIST already explained that...Oh wait, no, they never did.

Hans

21 day(s) ago

It is pretty depressing. I just finished a PhD on a "core" area and all of my research is pretty "core". Don't know what to do.

I think the "core" stuff includes a lot of durable and interesting problems and ideas, and there are probably more people thinking about them now than ever before, so I'm not worried about the continued existence (whether inside or outside academia) of such stuff. (Also I think the Leiter thread, as it was when I last read the comments, fails to emphasize how big and sprawling and subdivided the core is. It would be a mistake to think it's a bunch of people all talking to each other about a few narrow issues, since *within* the core a lot of people's work is pretty walled off from that of others.)

But I don't know what to do re. my career, and am trying to prepare myself for many more years of casual teaching and menial work. Or to maybe become a school teacher. As I am now, although I'm only 29 so this may change, I don't think my personality is very suited to most white collar work (which isn't to knock it, and I know there may be exceptions I should try to learn about).

Rudolf

I have no specific advice for you, Rudolf, but as a junior faculty member with a core AOS...I sympathize. If I could do my dissertation over again, I would've found a way to shoehorn the core issues I'm interested in into an ethics or history project. I recommend current grad students seriously consider such a strategy. Also, teach outside the core as much as you possibly can.

Empedocles

21 day(s) ago

Also, teach outside the core as much as you possibly can.

This is, especially, good advice. My research is within M&E. My (fairly extensive) teaching experience is almost exclusively in value theory. It is the latter that got me a TT job. My current department doesn't really care about my research, but I'm thought to be valuable because I can teach a bunch of different ethics-y classes (well).

Rudolf

20 day(s) ago

Thanks everyone who responded! I was just venting really, but this is nice. And it shows that this place isn't all bad. I sometimes feel dodgy for frequenting it.

I get offered to tutor logic at the place I did my PhD, perhaps because there aren't loads of junior people around who have focused on logic (and I have a bit), and that's valuable experience of course, but perhaps I should try to line up something completely different for next semester, esp. in ethics related stuff. I have always had a bit of an antipathy to talking in an abstract playing-with-ideas way about ethics, though, so this is a bit of a moral quandary. However, thankfully, my university is very hands off when it comes to how you tutor and teach, so I think I could do this in a way that doesn't feel off to me.

Mircea

20 day(s) ago

bump

Hermann

20 day(s) ago

Some thoughts on the disintegration of the core:

1. McGinn is a madman and the comments replying to him are hilarious.

2. Daniel Kaufman continues to comment on philosophy blogs in lieu of obtaining much needed anger management therapy.

3. I sympathize with those who can't find jobs, since I may be in that position at some point, and I do not mean to rub salt in those wounds. But I find work coming out of MIT model programs absurdly technical and utterly irrelevant. Additionally, when these folks turn their attention to ethics and political philosophy at best we get a bunch of irrelevant bullshit, like all those papers on slurs.

Anaximenes

20 day(s) ago

It's not nice to say what follows, but I'm not saying it to be a dick. I think most of what happens in ethics and political philosophy is irrelevant, no matter who does it. The exceptions are rare. Most philosophers don't understand society, because they're dorks, and the ones who understand it keep their insights to themselves.

It gets even worse when almost everything is done from the same political and moral angle, when all that the publications do is to argue about the correct reason why the party line is correct.

Yehuda

20 day(s) ago

2. Daniel Kaufman continues to comment on philosophy blogs in lieu of obtaining much needed anger management therapy.

Hermann

And in lieu of publishing nothing of philosophical substance in about ten years. New rule (cc: Derek Bowman, Kathryn Pogin, Shelley Tremain, and so on): If you do contribute nothing at all to increasing our philosophical knowledge, you don't get to pontificate ad nauseum about how the profession of philosophy should be run.

Menasseh

20 day(s) ago

ad nauseam, my friend, ad nauseam.

Martha

20 day(s) ago

If you do contribute nothing at all to increasing our philosophical knowledge, you don't get to pontificate ad nauseum about how the profession of philosophy should be run.

Counterexample: me.

Gerolamo

20 day(s) ago

"I have no specific advice for you, Rudolf, but as a junior faculty member with a core AOS...I sympathize. If I could do my dissertation over again, I would've found a way to shoehorn the core issues I'm interested in into an ethics or history project. I recommend current grad students seriously consider such a strategy. Also, teach outside the core as much as you possibly can."

Could you elaborate a bit more, particularly on the "shoehorning into ethics or history project" bit?

Virginia

20 day(s) ago

"I have no specific advice for you, Rudolf, but as a junior faculty member with a core AOS...I sympathize. If I could do my dissertation over again, I would've found a way to shoehorn the core issues I'm interested in into an ethics or history project. I recommend current grad students seriously consider such a strategy. Also, teach outside the core as much as you possibly can."

Could you elaborate a bit more, particularly on the "shoehorning into ethics or history project" bit?

Gerolamo

I'm the OP. My own project was on the a priori; it was pretty technical and maths heavy (given that I wasn't explicitly doing a formal epistemology project). Lots of historical figures have been interested in my topic; it's also one that is obviously relevant to meta ethics. In retrospect i could've done much of what I wanted to do by losing technical apparatus and framing my project in a historical or ethically relevant way. This kind of approach probably won't work if you're interested in cutting edge Phil physics but lots of core topics can be investigated through a historical or ethical lens.

Justus

20 day(s) ago

"I have no specific advice for you, Rudolf, but as a junior faculty member with a core AOS...I sympathize. If I could do my dissertation over again, I would've found a way to shoehorn the core issues I'm interested in into an ethics or history project. I recommend current grad students seriously consider such a strategy. Also, teach outside the core as much as you possibly can."

Could you elaborate a bit more, particularly on the "shoehorning into ethics or history project" bit?

Gerolamo

I'm the OP. My own project was on the a priori; it was pretty technical and maths heavy (given that I wasn't explicitly doing a formal epistemology project). Lots of historical figures have been interested in my topic; it's also one that is obviously relevant to meta ethics. In retrospect i could've done much of what I wanted to do by losing technical apparatus and framing my project in a historical or ethically relevant way. This kind of approach probably won't work if you're interested in cutting edge Phil physics but lots of core topics can be investigated through a historical or ethical lens.

Virginia

It's worth adding that it's not too late to pivot a bit if your. (A general you) dissertation is done or too far along. You can spin your research statement such that what you're interested in is, e.g., the notion of the a priori as it's manifested across philosophy, or the connection between its use in formal vs normative contexts, or whatever. Just start thinking up papers and projects that connect up to the a priori (or whatever other topic) elsewhere in philosophy. Take what you already have and apply it to your new target area, and the papers pretty much write themselves. It's pretty easy to pitch a book project that bridges different literatures, too.

Jonathan

20 day(s) ago

Also, teach outside the core as much as you possibly can.

This is, especially, good advice. My research is within M&E. My (fairly extensive) teaching experience is almost exclusively in value theory. It is the latter that got me a TT job. My current department doesn't really care about my research, but I'm thought to be valuable because I can teach a bunch of different ethics-y classes (well).

Empedocles

At my state school that offers just a BA we need people who can teach lots of lower level philosophy as gen ed classes: free will, bioethics, phil religion, etc. We also want people with research specialties for the upper level courses that we divide up between us. . . . If we get another line approved, we will hire someone with a dissertation in M&E. But they must have teaching experience outside of these areas. Must! . . . I will not hire someone with a trendy SJW research focus, fwiw. . . .


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