Friday, January 25, 2008

Frank, He Showed Me the Ropes, Sir, Just 'Till I Could Get Back On My Feet

I keep trying to write this post, and I keep quitting because it just seems too obvious to bother saying. But what the hell, here it is, obvious or not.

Doing the job market this year was a lot easier for me than doing it last year. Partly, it was just because I'd been through it before, and kind of sometimes sort of knew what to expect. But the biggest thing by far was having a different placement committee.

Longtime readers have heard my stories about the Old World Septuagenarian and Evil Columbo: how they didn't know what our application pckages would actually have to contain beyond a CV, letters and a writing sample; how the Old World Septuagenarian just stared at me in puzzled silence when I asked questions using words he clearly thought were made-up gibberish--words like "student evaluations" and "teaching philosophy"; how Evil Columbo never seemd to get tired of telling us happily over and over and over again just how easy it'd been for him to get a job; how they both disappeared at the end of the semester, leaving it to other faculty to tell us what was actually going to go on at the APA. Every meeting with them left me and my office mates feeling helpess, completely adrift, and screaming mad from frustration.

This year couldn't have been more different. The official committee, Placement Committee Senior and Placement Committee Junior, as well as some other junior faculty, walked us through every step. Both PC Sr. and PC Jr. have an actual sense of how the job market's worked since the fall of Saigon. Fuck, PC Jr.'s even done it in the last few years. But also, when PC Jr. didn't know something about, say, what exactly the department sends out with our letters, he found out and explained it to us in a timely manner. He even met with me when I was working on my spiel, to give me the chance to bounce some ideas off someone who doesn't really know my work. That was a really menschy thing to do.

And PC Sr.? I can't know for sure what goes on behind the Senior Faculty Curtain of Tenured Mystery, but what I do know is this. Last year, it was my job to hound the senior profs on my committee for my letters, many, many weeks after I'd first asked for them. And you know what? Senior profs in my department aren't super-happy about having grad students trying to impose deadlines on them. In fact, they recoil in horror at such a profound upset of Nature's just and true order. But this year, it just never came up. Maybe that's because this year, my committee members were all just ahead of the game with their updated letters. But maybe it's because they had one of their colleagues--insead of some dipshit grad student--reminding them what's what.

But more important than all the bullshit logistics was their kindness. From our first placement meeting, PC Sr. was preparing us for the coming circus of cruelty and failure. And at placement meetings--or around the lunch table or in the hall or wherever--PC Jr. has been unfailing in his encouragement, understanding and sympathy.

I'm immensely grateful to both of them.


Eduardo said...

Yeah! Big shout out to all the helpful placement committees out there. I was *super* lucky to have great help, too--I know friends in other departments weren't so lucky.

Too bad these shout outs are all anonymous ...

Anonymous said...

Hopefully the department can learn from this about what works and what doesn't! Unfortunately, desire not to be on the committee may win out, but hopefully there can be some consideration of these aspects in picking people for this job in future.

Anonymous said...

I've been reading the blog for a while, and I've also just finished applying to several PhD programs.

You know what I think (in my semi-drunken state, brought on by application season) would be great? Some advice to those currently applying to PhD programs. Aside from the warnings; you've given those, and yet some of us trek on.

What can we do, in our first couple years in a PhD program, to prepare for the job market? I (and probably many, many others) am all ears.

Anonymous said...

To philosophy grad school wanna be:

Write each term paper with the intent on submitting it to conferences (I wish someone said this to me my first year instead of figuring it out on my own 4 years down the line). You want to present at a few conferences before you hit the market. Start with grad conferences first, then move up to national and society conferences.

At some point, try converting your best papers into journal submissions. Get ready for lots of rejection and condescending criticism, but perservere and keep improving the paper till it gets in somewhere. Where to submit is a whole other discussion in itself.

Since no one should have the delusion that one is only going to teach at research schools, start building up your teaching portfolio to attract SLACs. Even if you TA for a course (and are not yet teaching your own course), you can write your own syllabus for your sections. Obviously, when you start teaching your own courses, you can generate a lot of materials and experience. Save all of your student evals, and READ them to improve your teaching. SLACs really do read those evals, so you want your last couple of courses before you apply to be full of glowing evals.

Those are just a few things to start working on. That hits both the research and teaching ends of things, and you will get lots of advice about dissertation stuff as you progress through your program. In the end, a finished dissertation and a Ph.D. in hand will be your best selling points.

Try your hand at pedagogical pubs.

Anonymous said...

Anon 2:39--

Go to law school.

Mr. Zero said...

Regarding the request for newbie grad student advice:

Thom Brooks has a blog post and a PDF file with advice about how to get published, which seems to me to be the most important thing you can do, other than simply finishing your dissertation.

He says, among other things, to start out on book reviews. There has been considerable controversy as to whether this is really wise, since a) book reviews take a lot of time and effort to write, and b) nobody gives a shit about book reviews. So it might be prudent to skip straight to writing conference papers.

Anonymous said...

Anon. 2:39:

My advice: make a serious effort in your off hours (e.g., during the summer) to work up your best seminar paper(s) into publishable shape and send them out, ESPECIALLY if they're close to the area in which you plan to work. Start doing this early and be sure to use the faculty around you as resources in the revision process. You will probably end up with a couple of decent pubs by the time you finish, which is immensely valuable, and you'll be familiar with the submission, rejection, etc. process.

That said, the most important things are your dissertation and your letters, which will be based primarily on your dissertation work. Pubs will do nothing for you if THIS stuff is not very well in place.

Anonymous said...

More, and different advice: Network!

Get to know people in your field. Get them to know you. Talk to them at conferences, have them read your work, open dialogs about their work, do whatever you can to get your name out there.

It's a lot of work, but it should pay off. The two best students from my department got job offers given to them because of who they knew. They did fantastic work in addition to their networking too: writing lots, submitting lots of publications and presenting at lots of conferences. But it was the networking that gave them that extra edge, as both of their current universities came to them with their offers.

As someone who didn't network, and who isn't employed, I can't stress this enough. Again, this is all in addition to the fantastic advice given above - your publications drive your chances of success, but this is just another step to take.

Mr. Zero said...

I'd like to second the advice offered by anons 7:22 and 7:45. Having evidence that you're a good teacher is important; wise use of summertime is vital.

I also think that you need to consider very carefully where you go to grad school. I didn't check this or anything, but my impression is that graduates of top-10 departments pretty much have it made--with a few exceptions--and graduates of departments ranked 40 or below, and especially unranked departments, have a very hard time.

So you will want to think long and hard before enrolling in a low-ranking department. It might be worth it to wait a year and reapply rather than enroll in a 30s or 40s place; or enroll but apply out after a couple of years. I know a guy who did this last trick with a huge amount of success.

One final caveat: I don't mean any disrespect to the 30s or 40s places I just advised against. I put almost no stock in the PGR rankings--I don't think they measure anything particularly well; I don't think what they do measure has anything but the most tenuous connection with whether some school is a good graduate program; and I think that the apparent differences in quality between school 5, say, and school 25, are exaggerated by the differences in the numbers. That is, it's an ordinal ranking, not an interval ranking, and there is no reason to think that the "units" are meaningful in themselves. A "big" drop in the rankings does not necessarily equal a correspondingly big drop in quality.

That said, however, the PGR rankings are in fact extremely important and will have a tremendous impact on you when you try to find a job. You can love 'em, you can hate 'em, but you can't ignore 'em.

Senior female philosopher said...

As we evaluate candidates, school ranking seems less important than fit, understood pretty widely. We tend, however, to treat applicants from the very top schools more carefully.

Once we have a short list of about 50, publications become very important. We'd like our P&T candidates to have 6 papers published while they are here & someone who already has got how to do it is much less of a worry.

monkey said...

Again, rankings should not be taken to track placement in any straightforward fashion. Look at the *placement records* of departments and talk to people about specific profs when you visit.

If you want more advice about publishing see the links on this website

I esp recommend reading the old Leiter thread which has some solid warnings about publishing too soon (e.g. pre-hire pubs often do not count towards tenure).

Some advice:

(1) Try to work with a well-known and respected philosopher in a field you care about. *Many* such people are at lower ranked departments. Pick an advisor and dissertation topic that will allow you maximize your odds of getting a job. To that end, look into how others in the dept have fared with that advisor. Collect older graduate student info about this. You should also be aware that some areas/topics are better on the market than others. Working on freewill/responsibility can be rough, for example, because you do not fit into one of the JFP AOC boxes when it comes time to job hunt. You can worry about that when you get to picking a dissertation. Which brings me to...

(2) Before you get to the dissertation stage, read widely and do NOT rush to find a niche just because there is so much pressure to professionalize. If you have an autonomous want to nerd out in one area, go for it (of course).

My point: if you entered philosophy because you love something about it, be careful to not kill that by being uber-instrumental about your grad student decisions. This is very important if you are to avoid dropping out and to maintain long-term job satisfaction. It is also important for many people if they want to produce their best work.

You should take advantage of the time you have to explore many areas (systematic and historical). Once you are teaching (hopefully) you will be more busy; you will be able to pursue side interests but it will be hard to discover and cultivate new ones.

monkey said...

Two more things:

(3) Develop good writing habits! This is probably one of the more important things to work on and it is likely that no prof will tell you that. There are lots of books on this. A good, but somewhat corny one, is "Advice for New Faculty Members," by Robert Boice. It has some advice about teaching too.

(4) TA classes that will help you on the market - esp if you end up needing to do a term position. I have found that Logic, Phil Law, and History courses are good in this regard.

m.a. program faculty member said...

What Mr. Zero said above is worth taking seriously, but a few caveats:

--Check out the individual placement records of PhD programs. Leiter rankings only imperfectly correlate with placement. Many departments post this info; just make sure it's accurate and complete. Some places that aren't Leiter-ranked do well in placing for particular types of jobs, like at small Catholic schools with big philosophy departments.

--Pay attention to the placement record of departments in the area you're thinking of working in (it helps if departments give dissertation titles).

--If you don't get into a good PhD program, one option is to enroll in a good terminal M.A. program and try to get a better writing sample, letters of reference, and track record, then reapply to PhD programs 2 years later.

Anonymous said...

Another PhD wannabe here: I've tried to analyze the placement records of several schools, and I've noticed some odd anomalies.

Michigan seems to have a relatively poor record for a top 5 school. Since 2000, out of 25 grads, only 15 (60%) have secured tenure-track jobs.

Ohio State, on the other hand, seems to have placed 20 of 22 (91%) grads in TT jobs. Are they only listing the people who got jobs (their website isn't clear on this point), or are they really that good?

Brown's placement info is unclear and difficult to interpret. How well do their grads do?

In general, if those who have been on either side of the market in recent years could post their thoughts as to which schools are hot or not, it would be much appreciated.

Mr. Zero said...

I'd like to endorse what MA Program Faculty Member said. The actual placement record is the best guide to how you'll do on the job market. But keep in mind that the information you're looking at now will be at least 6 years out of date by the time you're on the market, assuming a (lightning-quick) 5-years to complete the Ph.D.

But I'd also like to express a word of caution about MA programs. I did an MA, and I found it pretty tough to get into a decent Ph.D. school without the MA in hand. I have no idea if that's typical, but if so, that suggests a three-year delay, not two. Since you'll only be just starting your thesis in the fall of your second year, you won't be finished with it when it's time to apply. This happened to a lot of people in my MA program.

However, MA programs are generally a very good way to get your feet wet, and can be vital for certain types of student. If you came from a smaller school, or you didn't major in philosophy, an MA program might be the right answer. Students from MA programs always hit the ground running in my department.

Anonymous said...

I had an email requesting more information from an SG (don't worry, I updated the wiki). They asked me the following question:

"can you provide us with a candid assessment
of your other prospects for a similar position, where possible?"

What should I make of this and how should I answer it?

Anonymous said...

The placement records are important. Unfortunately, there's no way of knowing how accurate they are. For example, I just looked back at my old PhD program and noticed that they've only listed those graduates who got jobs. It looks like a 100% success rate! (But of course I know of all the people who graduated in any given year who are still jobless.) From the outside there's no way of knowing who actually graduated in any given year if the PhD department isn't honest enough to offer that information (and my alma mater apparently isn't).

But even this incomplete information is useful if you look at their placement over a number of years (keeping in mind faculty changes, etc.) so that you can form an idea like, "This department regularly places its graduates at jobs I wouldn't mind having." If "regularly" means something like 1-3 per year, then go for it! Those odds aren't bad if you work your ass off in grad school.

CuriousPhilo said...


If book reviews are irrelevant why do so many established philosophers have so many of the damn things? Also, i notice that most start publishing such reviews very early. Out of respect, I won't list these philosophers, but most do them.

Anonymous said...

"Ohio State, on the other hand, seems to have placed 20 of 22 (91%) grads in TT jobs. Are they only listing the people who got jobs (their website isn't clear on this point), or are they really that good?"

I am the Placement Advisor at Ohio State. Our placement page includes information on every student who has used our department's placement services to seek an academic job in the past ten+ years. Yes, we have placed 20 of the past 22 grads in TT jobs.

The only students who are not listed are graduates who did not seek academic employment while at Ohio State (approximately six students in the past ten+ years.)

--Lisa Shabel

CuriousProf. said...

Moreover, I really would like to get some serious comments about the book review thing, since Brooks suggests doing them. What do others think?

Anonymous said...

One thing that most dept. websites do not show is the number of grad. students who actually complete the Ph.D.

This is a question you also want to ask the Dept. when you visit.

In my Dept. (somewhere in the 30s) we have a very high TT success rate when you restrict the numbers to those who completed.


For Anon 2:39 - the new philosopher

My personal opinion is that you should work like mad wherever you go. In other words, have the strictest self-discipline imaginable. Others will disagree, and are entitled to their view. But i say work 10 hr. days on philosophy if you want to make something of yourself. But, of course, it's your life. There's not guarantee that you will achieve anything by being disciplined, but it is guaranteed that if you don't plant your ass in that chair you will, most likely, achieve little recognition.

Anonymous said...

Lisa, thanks very much for confirming that OSU really does have the amazing placement record it seems to have -- sorry for doubting.

Thrasymachus'smile said...

I think "I'll sleep when i'm dead"'s advice is apt, if you truly want to achieve something (perhaps fame??) in the discipline. However, most of us simply want to teach philosophy. If you want to teach philosophy and have no serious ambitions on the publishing front it's not necessary to stay in the library day and night.

Anonymous said...

So let's pretend I'm holding offers from Michigan and Ohio State, and I'm very concerned about getting a job after I complete my PhD, monstrously pragmatic creature that I am. Should I go to Ohio State (Leiter #26) instead of Michigan (Leiter #3)?

the prof said...

Anon 4:57

What is your area of interest? Is this irrelevant? Does your desire to get a job outweigh which scholars are at those respective schools? If you have particular interests, you should go where your interests will receive the fullest interest. If you have no particular interests (which i doubt) or the schools are relatively similar on said interests, then you should go to the higher ranked school.

Anonymous said...

If you are interested in metaethics or moral psychology go to Michigan. If you're interested in Philosophy of Language and Mind go to Ohio.

Ohio's best (should I say outstanding) placements are Philosophy of Language and Mind not many in Ethics.

Anonymous said...

re: Michigan vs. OSU - I would think that a whole heap-load of other factors would come into play here before that would be the determining factor. I mean, if you're looking to work in metaethics or phil sci, then Michigan is a no-brainer. But if you're working in, um... ok, actually I'm having trouble thinking of an area in which OSU would make more sense to pick over Michigan; logic, maybe?

Anonymous said...

'"can you provide us with a candid assessment
of your other prospects for a similar position, where possible?"

What should I make of this and how should I answer it?'

Well, the first thing is that they really want to see what's going on with you to see if it is worth their while. I'm not sure what to say about how you should answer though.

Anonymous said...

"I had an email requesting more information from an SG (don't worry, I updated the wiki). They asked me the following question:

"can you provide us with a candid assessment
of your other prospects for a similar position, where possible?"

What should I make of this and how should I answer it?"

I would answer this directly only if you have an offer in hand from another school. (It's a leverage thing, ultimately.) If you have no other offers, but do have some prospects, I would say something like, "I am looking at some other options, but I've been advised to keep things confidential at this stage. I hope you understand. Please know that I am very interested in your position." Etc. If you have no other prospects, you might just say so, as a way of signaling that you'll jump at their job (although this also might make them perceive you as a 'sure thing' and therefore keep you as a 'backup' while they make an offer to another candidate). Or, here too, you might say that you've been advised to keep these matters confidential, but that you really, really, really want their job. And, in case this is the first time, you now have been so advised.

jadded said...

4:50 writes:

"However, most of us simply want to teach philosophy. If you want to teach philosophy and have no serious ambitions on the publishing front it's not necessary to stay in the library day and night."

I'm 2nd year Ph.D. student in philosophy, and I'm also someone who has always wanted to be a philosophy teacher more than the next great philosopher. But I still doubt that 4:50's claims are true, 1) that most people just want to teach philosophy, and 2) that having that as your goal means you don't have to do as much work (worry about publishing, conferences, etc.) Thoughts on this?

Why are we on this blog anyway? Shouldn't we all be working more?

Anonymous said...

Michigan seems to have a relatively poor record for a top 5 school. Since 2000, out of 25 grads, only 15 (60%) have secured tenure-track jobs.

Ohio State, on the other hand, seems to have placed 20 of 22 (91%) grads in TT jobs. Are they only listing the people who got jobs (their website isn't clear on this point), or are they really that good?

Another explanation is that there may be many grad students at Michigan who don't get the job they wanted and so are taking visiting jobs or post docs, rather than accept a TT job from some place they feel that are beneath them (being hot shit).

And/or Ohio State grads could be more willing to take less than their dream job(s). They're less choosy, given that they aren't at a top 10-20 school.

As for choosing Ohio State v. Michigan, if all you care about is getting the job you want...duh, go to Mich. But if you're also concerned about your "fit" with the university, town, department, geography, etc., then those considerations need to be factored into your deliberation. Believe me, spending 7 years in a town you hate affects you and your work more than you might think. (So hating Ann Arbor or the Mich. faculty might cause you to do work so inferior that the average OSU grad student would get hired before you.)

deezcashews said...

"If book reviews are irrelevant why do so many established philosophers have so many of the damn things? Also, i notice that most start publishing such reviews very early. Out of respect, I won't list these philosophers, but most do them."

I think they do book reviews because they are invited to do them. Am i wrong?

Anonymous said...

Thanks very much for all your comments re Michigan and OSU placement.

I'm not trying to pick on Michigan, and if I do, against all odds, get accepted there, I will almost certainly go. However, their placement record still seems a bit mysterious to me. If you compare their record to their top-5 peers', it looks particularly unimpressive. Might Michigan be doing less to prepare their grads than the other schools?

In any case, I assume that search committees do find applications from Michigan more impressive, on the whole, than those from OSU or any other non-top-10 school. Wherever I'm accepted, the comments in this thread will be helpful when I'm looking at placement records.

James said...

For the person who was asked to give a candid assessment, what position in the process were you in? Have they invited you yet for a fly-out? Have you gone on a fly-out? It does seem, to me (someone without experience) that you want to keep your cards somewhat hidden while also hinting that you might be holding one Ace and/or one 7.

It really depends on the quality of the school too. If this is a great school asking you this, you want them to think that you are a good catch and others want you. If it is a less known school, you want them to think that you are available, but not easy. Perhaps say something to the effect, "While your school is one of my top choices, I am also still in the process of learning about, and visiting, other campuses. I have been advised (by some anonymous dude or dudette on a blog) to keep those schools names confidential (both for the sake of their privacy and my own)." I'm not sure myself whether you should add the parts in parentheses.

I am surprised there haven't been more comments on your question. It seems like a very important question. Does this happen much? I hope more people can weigh in on it just in case it happens to others of us out here. And maybe you can let us know what you decide and whether it works out well. Thanks in advance!

Continental prof said...

I think the rules are slightly different if you work in Continental philosophy. In any given year, the number of TT positions specifically advertising for Continental philosophy tends to be somewhat smaller than the number of positions that are implicitly or explicitly analytic in orientation. I would wager that who directed your dissertation, served on your committee, and wrote your recommendation letters counts for a bit more than the "ranking" of your graduate program. Many of the "big names" in Continental philosophy do not belong to "Leiterrific" (I hate using that word) programs, and those that do do not necessarily "hit heavily" enough, so to speak. In my experience, SCs for Continental jobs are generally aware of these sorts of differences and take them seriously.

Programs that lean heavily toward Continental philosophy do not, as a general rule, place much stock in the Leiter report or other mile-markers that apply in mainstream analytic philosophy. Another example is journals. A publication in a journal like CPR, or even in non-philosophy journals like SubStance, Diacritics, etc., probably counts more for a candidate in 20th century French philosophy then, say, a one-off seminar paper that he or she has managed to get published in Synthese or Nous or J. Phil or what have you. Research in Continental philosophy tends to be a bit more interdisciplinary, so philosophical publications in top comp lit/FLL/art history/poli-sci/etc. journals are occasionally impressive, often welcome, and always tolerated.

I belong to a program that ranks very highly in the Continental world but barely registers on Leiter's radar. I can tell you that, for us at least, a degree from the New School, Depaul, Purdue's Phil/Lit program, Stonybrook, etc. often counts more than a degree from the Leiterelite programs (again, unless one's advisor[s] or mentor[s] are independently prestigious in Continental philosophy circles).

That said, much of the advice being offered here applies to Continental folks. If your goal is to obtain an excellent TT job in CP right out of graduate school, your best bet is to choose a program that has at least a few big names in CP. If that program happens to be "Leiterrific," so much the better, I suppose, but it need not be.

So, in addition to a well-regarded program, a well-regarded advisor and/or committee members, and EXCELLENT letters of recommendation (this is key), what else counts in your favor? Publications are good, clearly (see above). In my department, and probably in similar departments as well, we also esteem foreign language proficiency. If you're working in 19th and 20th century Continental philosophy, you really should have advanced or fluent reading/writing ability in German or French (or both!). Translation work is highly regarded (perhaps more so than in analytic circles but I am not in a position to say). Excellent teaching is always a plus, though not necessarily a HUGE plus if a department is more research-oriented. Bad teaching or NO teaching will almost invariably count against you to some degree. Active conference participation is also a plus, I think. (Go to SPEP every year if you can, preferably as a presenter, commenter, moderator, etc! We like this.)

Another general word of advice: Continental philosophy is very niche-driven. The same is true, perhaps to a lesser extent, of analytic philosophy (I'm thinking here specifically of folks who work on reformed epistemology - they seem to form a kind of "niche" within the philosophical world at large.) In any case, a lot of us in CP end up working within an interdiscplinary "niche" that includes a lot of non-philosophers. (For example, folks who work on anarchism, say, would do well to familiarize themselves with, and eventually elbow their way into, the small but highly productive collective of scholars centered around the journal "Anarchist Studies." There's a lot of people in a lot of disciplines in a lot of countries working on that topic right now, but much of that work is off the mainstream American philosophical radar. It is probably better (and easier and more realistic) to aspire to be well-regarded within a niche or field of specialization than to be well-regarded in the profession at large (though if you have talent enough to be the next Len Lawlor or Alexander Nehamas or whatever, go for it!). Prestige aside, networking with kindred spirits, even in an obscure niche, can be a huge boost to your work and also promotes a sense of community that is difficult to find in mainstream philosophical channels.

Lastly, don't listen to people who rag on CP, especially when it comes to job prospects. There are excellent programs in this country that are looking for excellent CP candidates. At the end of the day, the most important thing is doing what you love, not doing what is popular or lucrative or whatever.

Anonymous said...

10 hour work days? It must have taken you about 4 months to finish your dissertation. What do you do with the rest of the time in grad school?

I can do serious philosophy work about 3-4 hours a day, max. Most days not even that. (To be fair, I'm not teaching)

i'll sleep when i'm dead said...

Anon 740am

Good question. My dad's a corporate lawyer/partner at Kirkland & Ellis in Chicago(i doubt that give me away, since so many lawyers work there). He thinks i'm lazy for doing only 10 hrs. I think he believes that i should not have went into philosophy. That's another story for another day, and we would need a chaise. Anyway, I'm in a Leiterrific program (his alma mater), and i do have a lot of time. I suppose I could spend a lot of time at the favorite grad. student bar, stay on blogs all day (which i would enjoy doing), or seduce my colleagues. I suppose I have something to prove to my father. Be that as it may, I think an extraordinary amount of self-discipline is necessary. I defended my diss. after one year of being in the program, and i'll be done in two more years. I'm not certain i have natural talent, but i know i'm a quick learner and efficient with my time. I think scholars like Jesse Prinz and Richard Posner don't waste time, and I would also like to have at least five books, if not more, published before i'm 40 as well.

tenured philosophy girl said...

I'll sleep when I'm dead...

Are you for real? Go see a shrink!

I can't resist asking ... what do you mean you defended in one year and you'll be done in two?? Did you rush so much through your dissertation that it was so crappy that you had a whole year of post-defense revisions to do?

And for some reason I also can't resist asking ... do you have an articulable reason why you want to have "at least five books, maybe more, published by the time [you] are 40"? Seriously, why? Because what good thing will happen if you do this? I can't even tell if you're joking. If you are not, you are seriously confused about the point of this whole enterprise, which is not a race.

i'll sleep when i'm dead said...

Tenured Philosophy Girl,

I'm a real person. I may be confused. I may be deluded. But i defended my diss. proposal in record time and will be defending my diss. approx. two years after that date. I just keep my nose in the books. I hope i haven't offended anyone by suggesting newbies do the same.

Anonymous said...

Sleep when dead said:
"I defended my diss. after one year of being in the program, and i'll be done in two more years."

and then said this:

"But i defended my diss. proposal in record time and will be defending my diss. approx. two years after that date."

I think your overall message of *work your ass off* is appropriate. But under any reasonable description, from what you've said, you didn't defend your diss in a year dude(ette). You defended your *prospectus*. That is MUCH different and MUCH more reasonable event, given what you have said!

And I hope the actual diss defense goes well, but it may be a bit tougher than you think, despite the hours you put in...unlike many careers, mere hours may not get you much.

Thrasymachus'smile said:

'I think "I'll sleep when i'm dead"'s advice is apt, if you truly want to achieve something (perhaps fame??) in the discipline. However, most of us simply want to teach philosophy. If you want to teach philosophy and have no serious ambitions on the publishing front it's not necessary to stay in the library day and night.'

I agree that s/he overstated the hours involved in being a successful grad student, but I think you (Thrasy) may be misleading students about what to expect on the job front. Have you applied for jobs before? I have, and my colleagues have, and if you expect to go through grad school with the attitude that you just want a teaching job at some decent liberal arts school, and not some research place, so you don't need to work to publish before/during your time on the market, this is JUST HORRIBLE advice. Trust me, the teaching schools want good teachers, BUT they now have a full crop of great teachers who now have several important peer-reviewed pubs to their names who also "just want to teach".

So don't spend every night in the library, but you had better spend many nights somewhere getting stuff done. The market is inundated with great researchers who are also great teachers who are after those teaching jobs too!

tt asst prof said...

I'd just like to offer props to the Continental Prof who writes above. I was trained at one of the Leiter-unranked CP schools he mentions and I've done very well for myself, as have many of my fellow grad students. Much much much better, I might add, than many students who come out of Leiterrespectable schools with a strong analytic orientation.

Why this shit needs to be said over and over again, I can't say. Leiter has the entire encampment of analytic philosophers kvelling over their place in the ranking, and yet, if you look at the placements of people even at some of the top schools (like Michigan), you'll notice that these placements are not as hot as the rankings might lead one to believe they should be.

Fact is, there are a lot of talented people in philosophy (conceived broadly) up and down the Leiter ranking. (Yes, I'm talking about you, ASU and UVA: you're smart; don't worry about it.) If you impose narrow boundaries on what counts as philosophy (as Leiter does), you end up eclipsing out those talented folks who do philosophy differently. That may not be a problem from the standpoint of identifying "good philosophy" (narrowly conceived), but it sure _is_ a problem with regard to the predictive power of such rankings (as well as, to my mind, the degree to which a school is appropriate for you as a grad student). If you love Heidegger, go to a school replete with people who will not sniff their noses at Heidegger, who embrace Heidegger, and you'll probably find a good job doing what you love. If you love Hegel, do the same. Top Leiter ranked schools will only bring you tears.

tt asst prof said...

Oh, and to I'll Sleep When I'm Dead:

If you're a groggy dickhead, it won't matter how many books you have. Nobody will hire you.

Anonymous said...

diss != diss proposal

Mr. Zero said...

sleep when dead,

You are confused. In your first post, the one everyone reacted to, you said "I defended my diss. after one year of being in the program...". Now you're saying that you defended your dissertation proposal after just one year. These claims are not equivalent--'diss' is not an abbreviation for "dissertation proposal."

Also, congratulations on not teaching having any teaching duties, and you must have had a lot of transfer credits that get you out of all your coursework.

I think you should take heed of tenured philosophy girl's advice. Slow down, you move too fast.

continental prof said...

tt asst prof, thank you for your props. Not to reopen an already well-worn can of worms, but the problem with Professor Leiter is that he is essentially a philosophical ideologue. The result, as numerous people have pointed out, is that the Leiter Report is at best a "ranking" (of *what* who can say?) geared towards analytically-oriented programs and philosophers.

Leiter often argues that he himself is a scholar of Continental philosophy; I would argue, on the contrary, that he is one of many analytically-oriented philosophers of history who are more interested in "problems" than exegesis, philosophical historiography, or any other type of philosophicalresearch that requires understanding of and appreciation for historical and cultural context.

There are many medievalists, for example, whose stock in trade is the excising of "interesting" philosophical problems and arguments from the medieval corpus and the subsequent "recasting" of said problems and arguments in a contemporary analytic mode.

(I am not suggesting that all of even most analytically-oriented philosophers of history do this, nor am I necessarily arguing that this practice is misguided or without value. The point is that scholars of Continental philosophy who DO philosophy the way that, say, Hegel or Nietzsche or Heidegger or Derrida, inter alia, DO it are not substandard philosophers, as Leiter repeatedly suggests. Nor is SPEP a "fringe organization," but that's an entirely different post...)

There is legitimate room for debate about the "merits" of the methodologies, formal and substantive content, etc. of analytic vs. "Continental" philosopy. In fact, one of the more interesting debates right now is whether these terms are even meaningful. The point is that an ostensibly "objective" report which claims to represent the Anglo-American philosophy profession at large, and which, more importantly, has managed to garner considerable influence within said profession, should not be ideologically biased. The vast majority of CP scholars with whom I am acquainted are agreed that the Leiter report is implicitly and explicitly biased against non-analytic philosophers and programs and that this can be, and often is, damaging to us professionally.

That said, I would reiterate ttasstprof's point about selecting a program: if you are interested in studying 19th and 20th century Continental philosophy, you are probably better off in a department that has more than a few people who work in this area, even if the department is less than "Leiterrific." Enrolling in a Leiterrific program which is full of analytic philosophers but which has ONE well-known CP scholar is a bad choice, unless, perhaps, that person is ridiculously famous and esteemed. Even then I would advise against it, though, since that one professor will not be able to provide you with the historical and philosophical training you'll need to succeed in the field. Remember: superior training in one's field of expertise is more important than initial "marketability." Why? Because even if you manage to land a killer TT position right out of graduate school, you won't have the skills necessary to succeed in your area, and with that comes tenure denial and a whole host of other nasty things.

Another smart move is study analytic philosophy intensively in, and earn a master's degree from, a Leiterrific program then transfer to a Ph.D. program that is strong in CP. Having training in analytic philosophy is good in itself, but it's also instrumentally valuable when it comes to finding a job. People who are really good in their field of specialization but who also have broad, pluralistic training in analytic AND continental philosophy tend to be attractive to search committees, cet. par.

i'll sleep when i'm dead said...

Yes, it was a diss. proposal and not the diss. You are correct. I'm surprised people are attacking me because i'm trying to work as hard as i can. I've already admitted that i may be confused, i'm not perfect. Also, i'm not an arrogant person. Thanks for the criticisms (concern?).

Anonymous said...

I am also surprised that people are jumping on I'll Sleep when I'm Dead. It's not just in philosophy that hard work and long hours are the keys to success. If you want to play like Hendrix you're going to have to play guitar CONSTANTLY and if you want to be Michael Jordan you're going to have to live in the gym (obviously also you need natural skills first). Obviously not everybody is driven like that, and most would prefer to live a more balanced life, but I don't understand the anger. My only concern would be that I don't know how someone can propose a dissertation after just a year of grad work, because one would have had to begin specializing immediately and so have almost no exposure to things outside one's area. But I'll Sleep's advisors presumably know what they're doing, so I'll just say I'm impressed.

tenured philosophy girl said...

Sleep when Dead -

I find it interesting that you have not even tried to answer my question about why in the world you want to have published 'at least' 5 books by the age of 40. It was a serious question, and reiterating the importance of working hard doesn't answer it at all. (Actually, I think your estimate of 10 hours a day on philosophy is just about right - sorry folks!)

Do you think that publishing >= 5 books by age 40 will make you a better philosopher?

Do you think it will make people adore and admire you?

Do you think it will make you a lot of money?

Do you think it will make people of your preferred gender/genders want to sleep with you?

Do you think it will make you more similar to the most respected and influential philosophers?

I assure you that the answer to all these questions is 'no'. Did I miss your true motivation?

There are a tiny handful of philosophers who have published that much that early. I can't think of a single one who is a considered important and deep rather than an over-producing hack. I may have missed someone so nobody take that personally, please, but I am sure that I am right about the general trend.

PS Announcing on a blog that you are not an arrogant person doesn't make you not an arrogant person,

Anonymous said...

On Book Reviews:

A department head I know at an R1 had this to say:

Book reviews don't count for anything, as far as tenure goes. But he could imagine preferring a young/new job candidate who has written a good book review (i.e., the review does justice to the book's content and makes an interesting point or two) to an older candidate with a couple of refereed publications that are dull, minor, derivative, etc.

Good publications will always count for more than good book reviews, all other things being equal. But if you've got nothing else, a good book review is better than nothing. The Brooks paper has very helpful advice on book reviews.

i'll sleep when i'm dead said...

TT Phil Girl

You have posed some good questions, but i'll have to leave them unanswered because i'm spending too much time online. I have to get back to work. Anyway, this is a good blog, and i wish all of you good luck. Perhaps your criticisms and questions point to something that's true and good, but none of that will get my work done. Thanks a lot and good luck to everyone on the market.

truelife i'm a philosopher said...

Anon 1:45

I understand that. But why do philosophers do them anyway, if they are so miniscule and take up so much time. It's still not clear to me why so many people still do them.

Anonymous said...


For a variety of reasons. The most common reason I hear is "it's a service to the discipline." Occasionally I also hear "I get a free book" (especially one the reviewer wouldn't otherwise buy) and "it forces me to read this book carefully."

I knew a guy who'd read a new book and then give a departmental talk on it, as a way of getting his review started and getting his own thoughts together on some book he found interesting.

But I wonder: why do you think it takes a long time? It takes a lot of time for them to appear in *print*, but it shouldn't take that long to write up a few hundred words on a book. A good book review gives a clear account of the book's content, method, and contribution, and then ends by raising a few questions. That shouldn't take too long to do.

juniorperson said...

"I can't think of a single one who is a considered important and deep rather than an over-producing hack."

Walter Glannon.
Al Mele.
Nick Rescher.

(Tho' I admit I'm not clear on what age they were when they started to publish so much!)

juniorperson said...

Jesse Prinz, too!

tenured philosophy girl said...

As I count, Prinz has published three books so far and ought to be turning 40 right around now (don't know his exact age). As for the others mentioned, I am not going to sort them into 'influential, important and deep' vs 'overproducing hack', even anonymously.

Anyhow, please let's not play this game. I admitted there are surely exceptions. The point is that publishing 5 by 40 is nothing remotely like the normal path for even the very most influential and respected philosophers, and y'all know I am right. There isn't even a detectable positive correlation between that kind of hyper-production and influence/respect in the field.

Prof. J. said...

Tenured philosophy girl,

Jesse's still a few years from 40, and although he has three published books there are two more forthcoming.

I know what you mean about people who churn out books young, but Prinz is a bit different. These books are good, and they're interesting. (I can only attest to two of them first hand.)

Still, Rawls. Chisholm. Even the relatively prolific David Lewis had only two books when he was forty. I guess the moral is, publishing a fistful of books in your first decade is one way to have a big impact in philosophy, but it's clearly not the only way and likely not the best way for most.

tenured philosophy girl said...

OMG you people are, like, so obsessed with Jesse Prinz on this blog. What's the deal? Do you all have pictures of him with his blue hair on your vanities or something?

No slam intended on Prinz, by the way, who I agree is smart and writes good stuff.

still not sleeping til i'm dead said...


LOL! i'm sure he's not sleeping til he's dead.

Prof. J. said...

Tenured philosophy girl,

Well, I didn't know "you people" were obsessed by Jesse Prinz.

You wrote this:

"I can't think of a single one who is a considered important and deep rather than an over-producing hack."

So, juniorperson mentioned Prinz as a "single one". Then you said that he had published three books, so I pointed out that he'd written a couple more that are forthcoming. And now you think I'm obsessed??

juniorperson said...

"Anyhow, please let's not play this game."

Sounds good to me!

Can we go back to making fun of dumb job market crap now?

I'll Sleep When I Damned Well Please said...

Odd thoughts on hard work:

I wonder if I'll Sleep When I'm Dead meant 50 or 70 hours a week (how about you, TPG?)? If the former, that's not so unreasonable, I suppose: pretty typical for white-collar work, really. I probably work that much, when I work as hard as I think I should be working. If the latter, that strikes me as a little insane: no days off, at all?

I don't know about you all, but I get very rapidly diminishing marginal returns when I work much more than 40 hours a week, particularly if all of that time is spent doing serious philosophy, rather than mixed in with teaching-related duties. Past about 50 hours, I think these returns even go negative, for me: I get so burned out, and work becomes such a grind, that I don't take the joy in it I need to have interesting insights, ideas, etc. But I guess maybe, if one had a more methodical style...

P.S.- I concur that Jesse Prinz comes up a lot on this blog: must be the hair.

tenured philosophy girl said...

Prof. J -

You must have missed the Great Jesse's Hair debate circa New Year's Day, which was crucial context for my comment.

I'll sleep when I please -

All kidding aside - I am speaking as someone with tenure in a Ph.D.-granting philosophy department, who has a real life involving parenting and hobbies and the like, and who is considered quite productive by the standards of the field (but not like JESSE PRINZ productive ... swoon ... oh sorry I said I would be serious and I will). I assume that this puts me in a category that many aspiring philosophers would like to end up in. So put my workload comments in that context...

I would say that, roughly, I spend maybe 20 hours a week on teaching-related activities broadly construed, including meeting with students and reading graduate students' work. I spend about 5-10 hours a week on administrative stuff, though this is highly variable - for instance I'm doing much more right now because we are running a search. And I spend a bare minimum of 30 hours a week on my own research and writing, although this often goes much higher when I am near a deadline or am particularly inspired. I do indeed work pretty much 7 days a week, but not 10 hours a day every day... I typically cram in more like 14 hours on a few days and just get a few hours' worth done on weekend days. I get up by 6:30 every day so that I can squeeze in some philosophy before my kid gets up, I work a full 'normal workday' during the week, and I get back to work pretty much each night after he goes to bed.

Why would anyone care about the minute details of my work schedule? Perhaps no one does. However it might be useful for you to hear what a typical work-week looks like for someone like me. I don't think it's easy for those of you who are just finishing your PhDs to project what your load will be like once you have committee work, your own grad students, etc., not to mention a family and a life.

I don't think that I am an exceptionally fast or slow writer, and I suspect that if your goal is to be 'quite productive' and to have a job in a PhD-granting program, my experience probably projects pretty decently.


Imagine Tears Flowing:


To "i'll sleep when i damn well please"

Yes, about 50 hrs. On occasion, perhaps a wee bit more.

Anonymous said...

If you rearrange the letters around...




Coincidence??!! I think not.