Thinking again about my conversation with S this weekend, I was reminded of something I talked about with an acquaintance at last year's APA. We were talking about the advantages of getting a job at a good undergraduate college or a department with a terminal MA program, as opposed to a department with a full-on PhD program.
For a lot people, getting a job in a smaller deparment seems less impressive than getting a job in a department that produces its own PhDs. But the advantage would be the feeling that your teaching really contributed to the profession. You'd have smart students, and every once in a while, you'd get to send one of those smart students off to a really good PhD program, where if they made it through, they'd have a chance of staying in philosophy. And what you wouldn't have is just as important. You wouldn't have to deal with watching class after class of PhD students all come to realize they'll never be able to do what they thought they were training to do. You wouldn't have to deal with your own complicity in that.
This a serious issue for me, because I'll never work in a top-20 department, and I'll probably never work in a top-50 department.