Thursday, July 5, 2007

What Makes You Think You're So Great, When it Comes to Deciding Peoples Fate?

Last week, I talked a bit about the reasons some profs have for advising us grad students not to bother trying to publish anything before we go on the market. For now, grant me that this is catastrophically bad advice for anyone not coming from one of the top-three departments James Pryor's taught in. What I want to know is, why did my profs give me this advice for years? We're way down in the middle of the rankings, so what gives?

By way of a partial answer, let me tell you a little more about Evil Columbo, who, you'll remember, is one of the senior-senior profs in my department. When our department's been looking to make a junior hire, Evil Columbo insists on not paying attention to which candidates have published anything. He's proud of not paying attention to people's publications. Why the pride? Well, he has a lot of smug pride about everything he does, including covering the floor around him with food whenever he eats. But in this case, he's proud of the fact he's not substituting the philosophical judgment of some journal referee for his own. He has this idiotic idea that he can just see philosophical talent glinting from underneath the surface of an unpolished paper. So he's not going to take advice from some referee. What the fuck do they know anyway? All they have is "expertise" in a "sub-discipline." They've got nothing on him, because he can magically see talent.

Now, look. Obviously, a publication is just one line on a CV, and so it's just one data point for a search committee to take into account. They're going to have their own ideas too, and that's fine.

But Evil Columbo tells grad students that only the worst, most podunk departments are going to care about publications at all. Because, he says with sickening glee, if they were real philosophers, philosophers who understood what talent is, they wouldn't give a fuck about a referee's opinion any more than he does. If a department's going to pay attention to a candidate's publications, they might as well admit they can't do philosophy without someone to hold their hand.

What Evil Columbo means by all this is, the overwhelming majority of philosophers in America are shit compared to his historic-scale genius. In other words, this bullshit is just more of his stomach-churning arroagance. But what a lot of otherwise smart grad students hear is, the majority of philosophers in America don't care about candidates' publications. And that's just false.

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