Monday, March 5, 2007

Why a philosophy job market blog?

It's March, which for philosophers means the job market is winding down for the year. See, every fall, on a set schedule, every philosophy department in North America that's hiring advertises for applications. And every fall, on a set schedule, every grad student or recent PhD looking for a job as a professor applies for some of those jobs. And then, for months after this, hijinks ensue. For job seekers, other things also ensue--such as the soul-grinding humiliation of being rejected by absolutely everybody, drinking to cope, and buying new ties.

I'm a grad student in philosophy, and I went on the job market this year. I struck out big time. But I did learn a few things. One is that the process is so foreign to people outside of academia that it's actually very hard to explain to them. Another is that the philosophy job market is absurd. It'd be funny if it were happening to someone else. So in the coming year, as I do it all over again, I want to help non-academics understand what the hell this is about, and to document some of the more tragicomic aspects of it.

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

Excellent. Many ABD, recent PhDs, and graduate students more generally will certainly appreciate it. I know i will.

Anonymous said...

Oh God! The pain! The anxiety! Egh!!!! At least it's not mine yet..... Thanks for sharing - it's the kind of blog that makes you want to send a link to your friends and say, "See! This is why I'm so depressed all the time!" I mean that in a good way.

Anonymous said...

I am the only one in my cohort on the market this year, which means I have no one to kvetch with when I can't take it anymore. So great to know that other smart, talented people are struggling with the same crappola. Thank you!

Doctor said...

The discipline of philosophy is part of corporate America and capitalism; and academic philosophy, accept it or not, is very much a caste system. You have to be on the "in" starting very early in school or else you will remain a bottom feeder, despite your best efforts. And if you are not on the inside track by your undergraduate career, there is nothing at all to ensure your success in philosophy, and there are very many forces that will work against you (including, alas, capitalist principles themselves). This is true even if you are a fabulous philosophical mind and become an amazing writer. This is true even if you have inordinate amounts of positive energy--believe me--my fellow graduate students would never believe I of all people became this realist about the discipline of philosophy. Read More from this recent PhD in Philosophy

Beth said...

As funny as it is for other people, you have to laugh about it yourself, don't you? I mean, we spent all this time and energy learning to think things through all the way, turning them into formulas and breaking them down, or taking 12 pages to explain one sentence...and yet, how did we not think it through that we would be so hopeless in the job market? What were we tied up in? My thesis was on postmodern feminist theory as it applies to sexual harassment law. Now I am an office manager...and doubled over in pain from the hilarity of it all.

Tea N. Crumpet said...

I live in fear of not being able to get a degree with my BA in English. I'm going for a master's degree but I have a family and severe debt. . . I'm training to become a massage therapist.

Anonymous said...

I have to respectfully disagree with doctor. There are a LOT of people who have come from meagre starting points who have made it in philosophy as a result of their ideas. The fact that Doctor published in good journals is not, in itself, reason for any department to want to hire him. Many good journals publish bad stuff, and perhaps Doctor did this a few times, garnering him a reputation as a mediocre thinker. also, perhaps Doctor has/had a bad personal reputation.

All I know is: there are MANY cases of people who got far in philosophy on the basis of their ideas...here's one case. John Hawthorne. Got into Syracuse grad program when the program was not highly ranked...in fact he didn't even have funding his first year (i'm a transferred-out alum)...and yet he graduated from there, and most of you know the rest....i believe (if memory serves me right) that william alston was a similar example....i don't buy Doctor's stuff about philosophy being a corporate discipline...he just sounds disgruntled...good work and good personal relationships DO get rewarded here...just look at the broader history of our discipline.

metaphysician: will work for food said...

I have to respectfully disagree with anonymous' (March 13) respectful disagreement with Doctor's assessment of the current scene. Two examples doth not an inductive counter-argument make. As counter-examples to Doctor's admittedly somewhat exaggerated generalization they're solid enough; but these examples do not, I fear, undermine Doctor's otherwise accurate observations. If anything, these examples would appear to be the exceptions that prove the rule — particularly when the examples must be prefaced with the stubbornly optimistic but logically hesitant quantifier "many." How many success stories are we talking about here? After all, Doctor doesn't anywhere say that it's impossible to go far in philosophy on the strength of one's ideas, he says that there's nothing that will ensure that you'll go far if you're not well placed, and on this point I'd say he's pretty obviously right. There may be some sour grapes in Doctor's remarks, but when there are enough sour grapes nationwide to flood the market with vinegar, you have to wonder what the vintners are doing wrong.

Anonymous said...

The profession of philosophy is a profession. Like many professions, it has a tight job market, and there is a great deal that's unfair about who gets good jobs and who doesn't. None of this should be surprising. None of it applies exclusively to philosophy.

It's obviously a mistake to think one can find refuge from the ways of the world in the *profession* of philosophy. What I don't understand is why this mistake is being trumpeted as a stunning revelation, betrayal, and injustice. It's only obvious.

Anonymous said...

For all the autobiograhical refutation I had in mind as someone who elbowed a way into a TT position in 1981 against a Spring APA JFP posted on one double-sided sheet (otherwise 70 previously unanswered apps nationwide--but there was this one interview from that Spring APA pub--which I took away from an internal candidate by luck and charm)--I only have a metacomment--

The previous Anonymous of 7/25/08 has it exactly right--and the underlying message is: stop wasting your time on masturbation and get down to the real thing--put yourself on the line, put your best forward, expect rejection, and yet hope to prevail. Given your obvious gifts of expression and wit, if you put aside these self-gratifying distractions, you just might.

Anonymous said...

It's interesting that you see philosphy as a vocation leading to employment. I studied philosophy for many years and it never even occurred to me that I might make a living from it. Philosophy for me was the search for truth with misguided tools, which nonetheless make you a great thinker, researcher, debater and analyist. Those skills are needed in so very many fields. So look for something else where those skills can be applied. I've been working for an international organization now for 11 years. I still get to be philosophical and often get called on to look at old problems in new ways. That's better than being in a philosophy department where people sit looking at old problems in rather old ways....