Saturday, February 23, 2008

Another Day to Wake Up on the Feed Kill Chain

Okay, one more really basic piece of advice for prospective grad students. Maybe even more than with my first two pieces of advice, take this as one guy's opinion. Like I said in my last post, this is just something I wish someone had told me when I was thinking about grad school.

This one's a little more complicated than the first two.

3. If you do not get in to PhD programs in the top-35(ish), and if you want to teach less than a 4-4 or 5-5 load, do not go to grad school.* I've made this a little more nuanced than I used to put it, since people (rightly) criticized previous overly-blunt versions. But the basic idea is pretty simple. If you go to a program below (roughly) the top two-thirds of Leiter's list, you have no reasonable expectation of teaching at a school with a 3-3, 3-2, or 2-2 load.

(I know people are going jump on me for saying this. There's great stories floating around out there about people who went to programs in the 40s or lower and ended up working their way up into Leiterrific departments. And that's great. But it's also irrelevant, because no one's saying it's not possible to do that. I'm saying it's really, really unlikely. You've got no reasonable expectation of having that happen.)

Let me elaborate on this advice in way that might make it more meaningful for prospectives. If you're a prospective grad student, you're probably coming out of a university or a liberal arts college (either "small" or "selective"). That means your profs teach either 3-3, 3-2, or 2-2 loads--that is, six, five, or four courses a year. You see some of what they do the rest of the time. They're traveling for conferences, they're publishing stuff, etc. Here's the point: if you want to have a job anything like the one you see your profs have, you have to go to a top-35ish school.

If you go to a program ranked below (roughly) 35, you're much, much, much more likely to end up teaching eight, 10 or more courses a year at a (non-selective) small liberal arts college or community college. For most people, that ends up being a very different kind of job than the job your philosophy profs have. For most people in those jobs, their jobs tilt much, much more towards teaching and service to the school. They travel to conferences a lot less, and they write a lot less, if they write at all Their tenure requirements are much more about teaching, and much, much less about research.

Am I saying you shouldn't go to grad school if you don't get into a school in the top-35? Absolutely not. Teaching philosophy can be, and very often is, an unbelievably rewarding thing to do. Unlike when you're writing, the rewards are immediate and tangible. You see the light bulb go on on kids' faces, and it makes your morning. If that's what you want your job to be about, then you should absolutely go to grad school.

However. If that's what you want only half your job to be about, and if you want the other half to be publishing papers, then don't go to a program ranked much below 35 on Leiter's list. Coming out of a program below 35, you've got no reasonable expectation of getting the kind of job you want.

Why do I feel like I should duck and run for cover right about now?

*Two important caveats. First, I'm sort of pulling the number 35 out of my ass. I suspect some people are going to set that number higher, others are going to set it lower, and obviously it really is a gray area.

Second, this advice doesn't apply for continental programs or Catholic schools, neither of which I know anything about. Can anyone give decent advice about that stuff (besides "Go to SUNY Stony Brook")?

64 comments:

Anonymous said...

I'm an undergrad at a school way out in the sticks, philosophically speaking. A lot of what I wanted to learn I learned on my own. I was recently offered full funding to two schools in the 40-50 range and am waiting to hear back from a handful in the 13-39 range. I embody much of what you warn against, e.g. how I've been the exception thus far and so I feel I can do it again, and how I'm too impatient to wait through a strong MA program in order to get into a higher-ranked PhD program. So your advice, while discouraging, is probably the type of thing I need to hear. (By the way, I have no aspirations to work at a researched-oriented school, but would prefer something less than a 4-4.)

Anonymous said...

Can we just simplify this advice to, "Don't go to philosophy grad school unless you voluntarily want to have a really hard life, and yes, teaching philosophy is extremely rewarding. But not rewarding enough to justify voluntarily having a hard life."

Okay, I mean this somewhat tongue-in-cheek. But you get my drift.

Ass. Proff. said...

Here, here. And count me as one who would put the number even below 35.

Anonymous said...

As a faculty member at a below 35 school, I need to say that I think that this advice is *seriously* misguided. I suggest that you look at the actual placement records of schools before you make any kind of generalization like this. You're simply wrong.

Anonymous said...

One caveat: schools below the top 35ish that have special strengths can get you a job in a 2-3ish department IF the hiring school really wants someone in that specialty. Hawaii for Chinese philosophy, for example. There aren't a lot of top-tier departments hiring in those fields, perhaps, but when they do they're liable to go for graduates of the best specialist programs. Small caveat, admittedly.

Pseudonymous Grad Student said...

This is so true that I've been taking it as given, but let me whole-heartedly agree with Anon. 6:09 that placement records are what we want to look at.

Anon 6:09 -- Does your school offer all prospectives the following placement information: length of time every student takes to make it through the program, clearly indicating exactly how many fail to complete the program; for each student who finishes your program, whether or not they choose to go one the market; for each student who chooses to go on the market, how many years it takes them to land a TT job; what their jobs are during those years they're trying to land a TT job; finally, all of the TT jobs your program's grads evenutally get (including the jobs' teaching loads), and not just the really juicy ones?

I'll be the first to admit I don't have a *lot* of confidence in the 35 number. (In fact, I *was* the first to admit it.) Ass. Proff. thinks the number should be lower. You sound like you think it should be higher. Of course, we're all just guessing, because most programs don't make informative, detailed placement stats available.

Anonymous said...

you make a good point about the non-elite grads not being on track to reproduce the life their own undergrad profs have.

can i just point out a variation on this? unless you are one of the three hottest philosophers of your generation, or maybe your five-year tranche, you will not be able to afford the life your prof's had.

the academic profession as a whole is sliding down the socioeconomic scale. the academic salary that used to support a decent house and a family can now barely support a condo and a couple. probably not that, without the spouse working.

your favorite u.g. prof, the one who is in his 60s? no matter how well you do, you'll never be able to live in his house, or afford his life.

Anonymous said...

For prospective continental philosophers:

If you're heart is set on continental philosophy and getting a job in a very highly regarded institution (Ivy or aspiring Ivy), apply to a Theory heavy Comp Lit, French, German, Political Science, or Humanities program, at a highly regarded institution. Places that leap to mind are (in no particular order): Hopkins Humanities, Hopkins Poli Sci, Cornell Comp Lit, Princeton Comp Lit, Princeton Poli Sci, NYU Comp Lit, Berkeley Rhetoric... Readers of the blog should supplement my list. But really you should look at rankings in these disciplines.

Top programs hire from top programs. And no top program (according to general wisdom, which may be wrong) in Philosophy has a central focus on Continental.

Don't worry about people complaining that "real" philosophy is not done in these programs. That's bullshit. It is, and at a very high level.

There are problems with this: the MLA market is worse than Philosophy, so it's no guarantee you'll get the job you want (you have to be a star at these programs full of stars). Also, you have to like Literature or Politics, since you have to do a lot of it as a grad student and then teacher.

If (like me) you really love doing philosophy, and really want it to be your bread and butter courses (ie: I really enjoying teaching Intro to Philosophy, but would hate Intro to American Govt or Intro to Russian Literature), then I have 3 pieces of advice:

1) Try to get into a Continental Program at a school with a very good name (Chicago, Stonybrook, Northwestern, Emory, Rice... Again, readers can suggest more). The name of the University carries weight beyond the reputation of the Dept, for all sorts of reasons (some philosophers are impressed by it regardless, Deans usually don't know shit about Philosophy's internal squabbles and/or the Leiter Rankings).

2) Look at the other humanities depts in the University, and see if they have good people doing continental. You'll probably want to take classes with them, they'll probably end up on your committee. And if there are good people, there's a chance, especially at fancy institutions, that there are regular visits to these depts by fancy European philosophers - either giving talks, but more often by giving courses. The usual suspects (Ranciere, Badiou, Zizek, Kristeva, Cixous, Laclau, Balibar, Agamben when Bush leaves, Negri if they ever give him a visa...) hold regular visiting positions at a number of US institutions. I'm not saying that these people are great teachers, although some of them might be. But it helps to take classes with them, get letters from them, and more importantly it creates a good community of interested faculty/grad students at your university.

3) Check that there is a strong record of funding students to spend a year in France or Germany (or Italy if you're into that). Is there internal support for it? Do students regularly win DAADs or Chateaubriands? Again, it's not just so that you can sit at the feet of some master, but it really helps with your langauge skills, looks very good on the resume, and is fun to boot.

Of course, these are just some factors to consider, and aren't intended to override everything else. There are reasons to go to other Continental programs. And you should follow most of the advice being given here (except, I'd suggest, being so wedded to the Leiter report. As PGS implies, it's generally not a good guide for Continental Philosophy programs. But note some highly ranked depts (say Columbia, probably others) do have a couple of people working on continental and do get the Europeans visiting in other depts. You want to check they're happy with you consorting with the Literature people) - placement, support, funding, atmosphere, are the profs good supervisors, etc etc.

Or just go to Rutgers and read Deleuze on the sly...

Anonymous said...

Currently on the Leiter Report, UT-Austin's ranked #13, CUNY's ranked #23, OSU's ranked #26, Georgetown's ranked #39, BU's ranked #50, and Northwestern's ranked #53.

I find it hard to believe that any SLAC hiring committee would look on an application from these first three schools more highly than the others.

Anonymous said...

6:56, I think in some parts of the country, academics can have approximately as high standards of living as their counterparts 25 years ago had. Because of the housing market, in big cities it's a different story.

But that's not a particular feature of philosophy, or academia. If you're 28 years old and you grew up in LA, you aren't going to be able to afford the house you grew up in by having the kind of job your parents had.

Bobcat said...

I wonder if at some point you could give advice to people when they are in grad school. I'm no longer in grad school, but here's a shot:

1. Do not get an AOS in an area that your school is not known for.

2. Emphasize breadth over depth--this is especially pertinent to a school that has a program with the following structure: (a) you have to take x courses in your first two years, where x = 10, or 12, or whatever.
(b) you have to take 2 courses in value theory, 2 in M&E, mind, or language, and 2 in history; which (c) leaves with you with 6 required courses. If you can, take all 6 of your spare courses in only one or two fields. That way, you are quite believable in your AOS.

3. You don't need to do your dissertation only on what you are absolutely nuts about. When I started my dissertation, I liked my topic, but it wasn't my life's one purpose. However, the more I worked on it, the more I liked it. This makes the advice offered in 2 more tractable; you might worry that you don't know, in only your first and second years, what your AOS will be. Don't worry--as long as there's some field you like, just take courses in that area. The more courses you take in that area, the more likely you are to get excited about it, and the more ideas will come.

4. If you like more than 1 area, but you don't know which area you'd like to make as your AOS, do the area that's more likely to get you a job. This, of course, can be tricky to figure out. But there are some easy calls--for instance, it would probably be easier to get a job doing applied ethics or Descartes than it would be doing aesthetics (at least in the USA; not so true in the UK) or philosophy of math.

I'm guessing these remarks may be controversial. So, I should say that the spirit in which they're intended is: what do you all think of these ideas to which I'm not wedded?

Anonymous said...

i'm currently applying to programs, and i've gotten into a few so far, all below 30. luckily i love teaching, and i'm in this more for the teaching than the philosophy. i really want to prompt students to think, more than i want to pursue my own research. so i'll be fully content at a 4-4 SLAC.

Anonymous said...

*Sorry for the loads of spelling mistakes in the last post, here it is again, corrected...*

If I could push the momentum of this discussion a bit - what about European schools in general?
I wonder if anyone has any advice on choosing a European program and how some of the better European philosophy departments are viewed state-side.
There seems to be little to no statistics available (but loads of sketchy anecdotal evidence) and the departments themselves do not often supply the kind of information that American departments do for making these kinds of decisions.
Advice from SC members is definitely appreciated - especially anyone with a continental background (It's rare, I know, but one can hope.)

Thanks to PGS for bringing this up, for those of us who feel the pinch, but have to take it with a grain of salt...

Philosophy Prof said...

I don't think that SCs care much about a school's Leiter ranking. Certainly current graduate students, and also faculty in Leiterific programs, care a lot more about the Leiter ranking than an SC ever would, for obvious reasons. An SC cares about publications, the writing sample, the philosophical strength of the candidate, the reputation of the letter-writers, and the general reputation of the candidate's program, but as ANON 7:51 highlights, this often has very little to do with the Leiter ranking, in part because of a program might have a relatively small faculty, etc. All of this is evidenced in placement records, which is the single most important thing to take into account.

Anonymous said...

This advice seems WAY off the mark. Being from a "below-35" department, all of my experience and knowledge of our department's placement record in recent years contradicts this. I'm a working ABD in a selective 3-3 liberal arts school. My husband was just offered a 2-2 research position. All of our fellow grads are in comfortable 3-3 loads with lots of perks (including pre-tenure sabbaticals, course releases, unlimited research funds...). I'm not sure where the fetishization of rankings comes from. It's one thing to say that you should come from one of these schools (top 35) to teach at one of these schools (because you all fetishize your "status"). However, I think it's too far a leap to say you must come from these schools to teach a 3-3 at a good SLAC! I think the best advice for getting a "good" job is to do interesting and unique work, actively publish and present papers, and be a good teacher. Go to school wherever you friggin' like!

will philosophize for food said...

Can we get a discussion going for those who opted below 35? I'm right now sending out applications for selected Community Colleges. But I hear from those in the know that there is an external prejudice against CCs, such that if you start there, you'll never "get out." what I take this to mean is that there is a 'tracking effect,' that people who start at CC's hereby give up their claim to later getting hired in the lower tier SLACs. Is this the case? Or if I publish my ass off, can I still move up despite taking a job at a CC? Does anyone with experience with this confirm/deny?

Anonymous said...

I think there is one thing to consider which people are not really talking about here, and that's how bad is it, really, to get a PhD in philosophy, and then not get the kind of job that can make you happy. I submit that its not as bad as people are making it out to be. For the people who are going through it right now (or who are anxious about the possibility of going through it soon) its awful. But that's a poor vantage point from which to judge. I know lots of people who got PhDs in philosophy (and other similar sorts of fields) who did not get jobs, or decided that they they had to live in NYC, or had spousal issues, and who went to law school, or business school, or got jobs in management consulting, etc. and they are now perfectly happy. they all make way more money than I do, they live in NYC or chicago, or SF, and they have pretty good lives. These are all smart people and it does often work out for them in the end.

And the years in grad school are not "wasted". I have a grad school friend who works in a big law firm, and according to him, he is able to be much more happy than his colleagues who went straight from college to LS because while they fret alot about how boring or meaningless the brief they are working on is, he is secure in his knowledge that he got to spend 7 years of his youth working on stuff that really fascinated him--and now he feels like he's a grownup and its OK to be thinking about more mundane practical matters.

So, I dont think I agree with PGS' basic principle. taking a gamble on finding the kind of position you want to get is not necessarily a bad idea. yes, the odds may be bad, the consequences of failure are not AS bad--in teh long run-- as those who are currently experiencing the failure are going to make it out to be.

Anonymous said...

Your advice may be just a bit more pessimistic than is warranted. My grad program is ranked in the high 30s, and most everyone I went to grad school with has a 3-3 or better. Of course, some do have a 4-4, but some things to keep in mind when comparing teaching loads are the number of students in each class, and the number of preps required each semester. If you teach at a SLAC, you will probably have small classes; you may, however, have more preps. In a teaching oriented state college, you may have fewer preps (say 2 a semester) but a lot more students, and hence more grading. Of course the worst case scenario would be 4-4 or 5-5 with 3, 4, or 5 preps and large classes. This can and does happen to some people, but I think that it does not happen very often to those coming out of top 50 programs.

Not all 4-4 are created equal; my own preferences would be to have more preps with less grading. Hence, a 4-4 at a SLAC is not as onerous as a 4-4 at a mid-sized state school that has 40+ students in a class. 160+ papers to grade feels like a ton of weight bringing you down.

But, once again, my experience is that it is not likely that those coming out of programs ranked in 30-40s will have to teach 4-4 at a mid-sized state school. 3-3 seems to be the norm, and 3-2 is doing pretty darn good.

Anonymous said...

PGS, why the silly requirement that advice should reflect the rule and not the exception? If we truly wanted to hold to that, YOU should drop out of grad school now, because the odds are against you in finding your dream job or even a tolerable one.

If we didn't consider long(er) shots, then we'd never do things such as: vote, wear seat belts, play the lottery/gamble, and so on. The odds of life emerging from a primordial soup of proteins is virtually nil...yet it happened, didn't it?

Pseudonymous Grad Student said...

Anon. 8:27 --

I outlined my reasons for that general principle about advice a few post back.

As to why I haven't dropped out yet? Well, because I've already invested a lot into this process, so the costs of investing another couple of years seems (at this point) still worth it.

But I do wish that when I was a prospective, someone had given me advice that gave me a clearer sense of what I'd be facing on the jo market. And I wish that a part of that advice had been making sure I really understood that even though I'd always been one of the exceptions up to that point, getting into a middling PhD program meant that (in all likelihood) I was no longer an exception. Exceptional cases were no longer relevant to how I thought about my future. I was the norm, not the exception.

Would I still have gone to grad school? I don't know. Maybe. I don't that I could now get back inside the head of my former self, in order to answer that question. So I don't worry too much about. But I *do* wish someone had given me the advice I try to give undergrads considering grad school. I would have thought about my choices very differently than I did.

apriori said...

The real problem I see for people getting advice is that they think they are the exception.

But not everyone can be the exception. I was a VAP at a below Leiter 40 PhD. granting school with lots of VAPs. I told the grad students that if they weren't as good as the VAPs, then they should really think again about doing this. Now, this put pressure on some to work harder. But others just kept thinking things can work out.

I was the exception and have a 3/3 load, but as I pointed out yesterday, it isn't all its cracked up to be.

When someone asked if we would do it again, that is complex. I love the person I became thanks to philosophy and met my SO (non-philosopher) in graduate school. So, for those reason, hell no. But for others, like autonomy of where I want to live, and the like, I think there is really something to be said for not getting stuck somewhere.

My main point is that if every grad student thinks they can be the exception (and why shouldn't they?), then no matter how much advice you get, you won't take it if you want to go to graduate school and be a philosopher.

So, as I see it, the point of the advice on this blog is to make the future jobless philosopher say: well I knew what I was getting into, and it just didn't work out. On to something new. Instead of no one told me this would suck ass, I would be wearing the same clothes as ten years ago, and I still cannot find a job.

So, go on and keep thinking that you are the exception and rock it for a while, but not everyone can be the exception. And when you are, as I am, it might not be what you think it can be.

Anonymous said...

Re Anonymous at 8:01.

I'm one example. I completed my PhD last year and now work in finance. It's definitely a weird transition. I do things like read this blog all the time, and type my name into Dissertation Abstracts to prove to myself that I actually wrote my dissertation.

It's hard, because my job now is not very interesting. I have to start all over "proving myself" in a new career and no longer get really exercised about what I do (I truly love philosophy).

But, I think finance is actually pretty cool. I'm moving very quickly in my career now that things are started (after 6 years of getting out of bed and killing myself at the library with nobody telling me to do it...I just naturally have an advantage over others at the office). I get to live in NYC and I've already paid off a huge chunk of my student loans.

Suppose instead I had gone the philosophy job market. I might just now be finding out I didn't get one job offer. As opposed to my real life: I just got my first bonus and have updated my resume to upgrade to a better job.

Just one story, I guess.

tenured philosophy girl said...

It's too small of a sample to count as high-quality data, but a quick look at Leiter's listing of tenure-track jobs sealed up so far gives the lie to PGS's sense of things. There's a very healthy mix of upper-leiterish, lower-leiterish, and unleitered departments represented among the people who have gotten jobs. Northwestern, coming in near the very bottom of the list, seems to be doing best at placement so far, with unranked places like Fordham, Purdue, and Vanderbilt outpacing the top places, which are barely represented so far.

Actual data beats armchair job market analysis, I always say!

TTassprof said...

Anon. at 7:51 PM said . . .

"Currently on the Leiter Report, UT-Austin's ranked #13, CUNY's ranked #23, OSU's ranked #26, Georgetown's ranked #39, BU's ranked #50, and Northwestern's ranked #53.

I find it hard to believe that any SLAC hiring committee would look on an application from these first three schools more highly than the others."


I agree, and would go further with Anon. at 5:21 AM to say that the same holds for search committees at research universities. At SLACs where teaching's a priority, like it or not, committees want to know that the range of students at a job candidate's institution are of the same "fit" with their own undergrad demographic.

Choosing a grad school based on the PGR's (I would say flawed) survey of faculty quality would be highly ill-advised here, since places with prestigious names like Georgetown, Northwestern, and Emory (again, like it or not) have the upper-hand. When a PhD from such schools is accompanied by letters from well-regarded faculty, differences between PGR rankings are irrelevant even for hiring committees at research universities.

Prof. J. said...

I would have thought the lower Leiter-ranked graduates would have a really lousy time on the market, too -- but from the postings in this thread it sounds like they are actually doing much better than the top twenty programs I know about. (I mean, the median graduate, say. The top graduates from very highly ranked programs do extremely well, of course.)

That's very interesting. What an educational blog this is!

Anonymous said...

Regarding international schools. I am currently an american in a 1 year M.A. program in the U.K. in order to bolster my application for PhD programs state-side.

If you plan on retunring to the states to work I would suggest you not come to the U.K. for your PhD (I don't know anything about the more rigorous DPhil so I can't speak to that). Here's how the system works, at least at my school which I think is different than Oxford and Cambridge, but I assume similar to the other departments. The PhD is a 3 year program. PhD students must audit 1course per term (2 per year) but do not have to do any work for these classes. PhD students at my department have no formal teaching requirement, they are encouraged to, but no one cares if they don't. There's also nothing like the comprehensive exams which are commonplace in the states. No Language requirements, no logic requirement etc. Its all just the siddertation (which they call a thesis over here).

So basically what all this means is that the PhD over here makes you an expert in your Deissertation field, but unless you do tons of work on your own (which you don't have much time for becuase it's only three years) you really don't have any other expertise. Combine this with the lack of a requirement for teaching and it seems to me like U.K. students, unless they are super-studs (or get a DPhil instead of a PhD, something not offered at most of the schools) really have no chance of getting a job in the U.S. market.

Additionally, schools have 0 funding for their students. The top U.K. and EU students can obtain AHRC funding (government funding), but even that is quite limited and, as far as I know is not generally available to U.S. students. So on top of what seems to be a lack of preparation for actually being a professional philosopher, you just don't get the funding you do in the states.

I'm not at a lowly department either, I'm at a very well respected school, with a large program. Its just a different system, that is not all that compatible with the U.S. market demands. Unless I planned to live and work in the U.K. I would never in my wildest dreams even consider doing my PhD over here. There are a couple of Americans, and I really have no idea what they are thinking.

Not to say the schools over here are no good. I love my school, and I think for a terminal M.A. coming to the U.K. is a great idea. Its only 1 year and, if you do well, you can get some really impressive letters of recommendation. Every department over here (except maybe oxbridge) has a terminal M.A. program (M.A. is never part of the PhD as far as I know so you get access to some of the top philosophers in the country. Though it is pricey. I have a huge FAFSA loan for this year to cover tuition housing and living. But hopefully I'll get full funding back state side and so won't have to borrow too much more.

So overall if you plan on returning to America, M.A.= great idea, PhD horrible idea (in my opinion). Maybe there are some U.K. professors out there who know a little bit more about the system than I do. Maybe my inoformation speaks only to my department but its been my impression that this is a pretty standard way of doing it over here.

Anonymous said...

Oh and I totally agree about the lack of information about the international schools. It was such a hassle to get simple pieces of information when I was applying.

Tenured LAU Prof said...

I am a tenured professor at a public liberal arts university. I have been at said university for 27 years, and with only a few exceptions I have had a 4-4 course load the entire time. Nevertheless, I have never found it particularly difficult to conduct research. I have published three books and scores of articles and have had ample time to present at conferences.

That said, my wife and I do not have children, and I, for one, do not have much in the way of extracurricular responsibilities which would otherwise occupy my time. Consequently I have always managed to marshal my time outside the classroom and the committees in the service of productive scholarship (and with plenty of time left over for leisure activities).

It is not the case that a heavy teaching load is incompatible with a productive research agenda unless you have several non-academic responsibilities or time-consuming hobbies. I admit that things would probably be much different if we had kids, but we decided we didn't want them. That leaves a lot of extra time and money for my wife and I to do research in our respective fields, to live extremely well, pursue hobbies and leisure activities, etc.

I like where we live, and I have no desire to move (either laterally or vertically) into another, more reputable department. The only thing I miss is the opportunity to teach and mentor graduate students. Beyond that, I have no interest in becoming an academic star and am actually grateful for the lack of "free time" afforded by a heavy teaching load. It makes my research much more focused and careful, I think. I can't afford to muck about, so it's very important that I get things right the first time around. Do I have to work "harder" to get published? Sure. But since I never bother working on a project unless it's worthwhile and certainly wouldn't send it out unless I know it's sufficiently polished to be publishable, I find my productivity-to-success ratio is much higher than that of colleagues at research institutions.

The point, in any case, is that a philosophy prof with a heavy course load is not DOOMED to being merely a teacher of philosophy. I suspect this could be true even of someone who has kids, etc. The key is time management and hard work.
Yeah, maybe you'd have it "easier" at a research school, but "easier" doesn't always translate to "better." If anything, the pressure of balancing teaching with research at a SLAC or LAU tends (ex hypothesi) toward the production of better research. The harder you have to work, the better that work will be. (Also, since publishing is often a mitigable factor in gaining tenure at a teaching institution, you are in a much better position to emphasize quality over quantity. You're publishing mostly for yourself, for your own satisfaction. This may count as an incentive toward producing a handful of really excellent articles as opposed to scores of mediocre articles.

Anonymous said...

I agree with PGS that everyone thinks they're the exception coming into grad school, and so close to nobody is the exception coming out that it's better to assume you won't be, and take into account averages as a likely projection of your future prospects. Looked at another way, consider the odds that you'll continue being the exception to the rule (vanishingly small) and calculate the weighed average of different outcomes, and you'll conclude what PGS does.

"As to why I haven't dropped out yet? Well, because I've already invested a lot into this process"

Didn't anyone ever tell you not to consider sunk costs when making decisions for future investments?

Finally, I'll reiterate my earlier advice. A lot of people would benefit from doing a terminal MA, then maybe working for a year or two while you're still young (you can try community college teaching if you don't want to work in a bank or something equally mundane). Then you will have the time to get a feel for how grad school really works, go the APA and talk to lots of grad students in different departments to get their take on programs, determine how well prepared your undergrad experience really made you, figure out what you really want to specialize in, figure out where you want to apply if you decide to take the plunge, and get started on a career otherwise.

A lot of people bail on grad school, at every stage. No shame in that. You'll bail if you're meant to, and finish if you're meant to. No one can tell you what's best for YOU in this regard, but they can give you useful advice about how the system works and how likely various outcomes are for YOU.

Anonymous said...

Anon 9:14:

What kind of a job do you have in finance and how did you land it? Thanks

Anonymous said...

"It's too small of a sample to count as high-quality data[...]"

It's too small a sample to draw any conclusions at all, other than that NU is having a good year. I imagine grads from top departments are probably still weighing multiple offers and what-not.

It should also be noted that the schools having done well so far are doing well in terms of their specialties and not overall strength. For example, the two Northwestern grads with jobs are in Ancient and 20th c. Continental. The known bias in the PGR rankings toward departments with strength in "core Analytic" areas shows up in this disjunction between Northwestern's overall ranking and its placement record.

---
Unrelated question:

Can someone 3 years past the PhD legitimately claim the following expertise (6 journal articles, no books)?

Areas of Specialization

Epistemology, Modern Philosophy, Philosophy of Language

Areas of Concentration

Logic, Metaphysics, Philosophy of Mind, Philosophy of Science, Pragmatism

That's the claim of a recent poster on the job thread.

Anonymous said...

tenured lau professor:

The advice is aimed toward reasonable expectations. Your life situation, your interests, perhaps even your work habits are all exceptional. Most people don't want a 4-4. Most people couldn't be as productive as they want if they want to be productive at all with a 4-4.

dslak said...

I am an American doing at Ph.D. in the UK. Regarding anonymous 9:49's description of the system in the UK, the auditing requirement is not universal (my school only requires it for the first year). There are also some sources of funding, such as the ORSAS scholarships, which are offered at many universities.

As for language and logic requirements, it seems to be understood that you'll learn what's necessary for your research, and research postgraduates can sit it on any class they wish to.

A Ph.D. really only takes three years in the US as well, if you don't include the master's, so going to the UK after getting your MA is feasible.

I would however only recommend doing so if you were going to a school with a known reputation in your AOS, or if you planned on staying in the UK.

Anonymous said...

And, as has been said before, don't take out loans to do a PhD in the U.S.!!! My understanding is that things are different in Europe, but in the U.S., you should be able to get full tuition remission plus some sort of stipend (though this may not always cover your living expenses, depending on location, children, etc). But if you aren't offered both of these, don't do it!!!

My impression is that most TT jobs pay enough to live a modest but pleasant middle class lifestyle. But that does *not* include paying off serious graduate debt!

Anonymous said...

Following up on Anon 7:44: Just to add to the list of theory heavy departments that may be good for those interested in continental philo: Emory Comp Lit. Very theory heavy, with faculty working in French philosophy, trauma theory, psychoanalysis, feminism, and legal studies. Seems to have decent ties with the Philosophy dept. as well.

UK Prof said...

Anonymous 9.49 talked a large amount of rubbish about the UK system, so I think a few words of clarification are in order.

Firstly, the DPhil just is a PhD - it's just what they call it in Oxford.

Secondly, many UK schools will offer their own funding, which is granted as a result of open competition to which anyone, including Americans, are eligible. It's competitive, of course; but it's there. As another poster said, there are, in addition to this, schemes like the ORS etc.

There is indeed commonly no formal logic or language requirement. UK undergrads will often have done more philosophy than US undergrads, so we would expect anyone coming in to have a good grasp of formal logic - if they haven't, they'll have plenty of opportunity to take an undergrad class in it. We won't force them - but they're big boys and girls, and can take charge of their own education.

There are a decent number of UK PhDs working in the US - I won't speculate on numbers, but I could list a fair few off the top of my head. They're the minority - but we're a small country. The best students coming out of the UK do well on the global job market. Coming out of a low ranked UK program isn't going to do you any favours, of course, but that's true in the US as well; and, of course, there are fewer well ranked programs in the UK - again, we're a small country. But plenty of people coming out of the good programs in the UK have gone on to good jobs in both the US and the UK.

It's simply foolish to claim that UK PhDs only come out as specialists in their field, not knowing about any other areas. That's not true of any of the good UK PhDs I know. True, we don't make you take any taught classes during the PhD. That's why we have a separate masters that is a pre-requisite for the PhD: we just call it two degrees instead of one. Admittedly, most MAs are only a year - but there is, of course, the Oxford 2 year BPhil - and anyone who claimed that someone coming out of that would be lacking a grounding in general philosophy would be talking out their ass.

Anonymous said...

Or you could study continental philosophy in Emory's very good and well-funded *philosophy* department.

Being that since I come from a continental department and therefore do not study "real" philosophy, it seems that a lot of this advice doesn't really apply. Particularly the concern with coming from a Leiter-ranked institution. Continental programs are for the most part off the Leiter radar, and very few people (outside the continental circuit) seem to pay attention to what we do. I translate this into meaning that I can keep my head down and do the work I want to do without worrying overmuch (at this point) about "professionalization." Or, alternatively, I'm one of those below-35, not even on the Leiter- list philosophy PhD.'s about to be horking up the market for the rest of you.

What is true about continentals on the job market, however, is that if you are getting a PhD. at a continental program, you will not get an interview at an Ivy league school, and you will not (usually) land a job at a research 1 institution. Believe it or not, this is not the end of the world. Instead you will likely find a home at some small liberal arts college, particularly if it is Catholic. You will teach a lot. But as tenured lau prof wrote, it is possible to have a fulfilling life teaching a 4-4 load.

Perhaps some of you had undergraduate professors, who all taught 2-2 loads and traveled to conferences and published constantly. I'm not sure where you went to school, but I expect my academic life to be very much like the one that my undergraduate professors had, and like my faculty now have. Grad school and academia is certainly not easy. But coming from the perspective of a first-gen postgrad student, it's a hell of a lot better than many other things out there.

A couple of other pieces of advice for prospective students: female students may want to consider the atmosphere of the programs they are interested in. Helpful information about this can be found at the APA's Committee on the Status of Women webpage. Along the same vein, there is a lot to be said for the community of graduate students you are potentially joining: try to visit or talk to them to get a sense of how they interact and what their concerns are.

Anonymous said...

Trauma theory, psychoanalysis? Are these the sorts of things that count as continental philosophy these days? Two questions: are we still talking about philosophy?

I think the "continental philosophy" label gets thrown around with the same laziness as the "analytic philosophy" label. Some people on this blog think that continental philosophy is mostly history of 20th century (or, more broadly, post-Kantian) European philosophy. Others think it's theoreticians of literature or politics who cite a lot of theoreticians who write in French or German. How can these be the same things?

Let's stop using the continental and analytic labels entirely for what 96% of people in philosophy departments actually do (I'll allow that there are a few people doing old-school analytic philosophy; I don't know what doing old-school continental would amount to, but I'm allocating 2% to each for good measure) and find new labels that are informative.

(I'll point out that a lot of normal Anglo-American folks are citing select European authors, like Habermas, with some regularity, so the firewall between the two has broken down even as both have morphed into other things.)

tenured lau prof said...

"The advice is aimed toward reasonable expectations. Your life situation, your interests, perhaps even your work habits are all exceptional."

Really? This is honestly the first time in my career that anyone has suggested my expectations have been "unreasonable" and/or that my "life situation," etc. is "exceptional."

To begin with, I think it is somewhat odd to regard childlessness as "exceptional." It may be the case that most philosophy professors have children, but I doubt that the number of who DON'T is so low as to qualify as "exceptional."

What exactly do you mean by my interests? Are you referring to the fact that I am as interested in research as I am in teaching, or the fact that I am NOT interested in becoming an academic star, or what? I know for a fact that there are many, many philosophy professors who regard the very idea of "academic stardom" as silly and who do not measure their professional success in such terms. It's simply not the case that the ultimately goal for all philosophers is to become "famous" in the manner of, say, Quine, Sellars, Davidson, Putnam, Rorty, or even "marginally famous" in the manner of, say, (fill in your favorite marginally famous philosopher here). Many of us simply don't think this way at all.

Most of my colleagues are people who value teaching at least as much as they value research. Only rarely have I encountered people who COMPLETELY dismiss one at the expense of the other, and those people tend to be dreadfully boring. In all events, I suspect that the average philosopher desires a healthy balance between the two.

It's probably true that "most people don't want a 4-4," but on what grounds do you claim that "most people couldn't be as productive as they want if they want to be productive at all with a 4-4"? My point is that a 4-4teaching load in and of itself is neither a necessary nor sufficient condition for gross lack of productivity. There's always something MORE going on when a philosopher with a heavy course load ends up being less than productive - oftentimes, as I have suggested, it has more to do with his or her personal life than with the teaching load in and of itself. Or maybe it is just a personal choice to give pride of place to teaching over doing research. And if anyone around here would dare to dismiss excellent teachers of philosophy merely because they fail, for whatever reason, to produce scholarship, they deserve a swift kick in the ass. Don't pretend for a minute that the top philosophers of the day got where they without the benefit of EXCELLENT TEACHERS.

Anonymous said...

anon 9:49 here,

I by no means was intending to talk "rubbish" about the UK system. And if by rubbish you mean, I was wrong about stuff well thats possible (I'm so slow at picking up the british slang!), but I think my overall point is important. I know many quite compitent, knowledgeable PhD's over here. From my point of view though (which is limited) it seems like the American system just provides better preparation for the American job market. Its competitive enough as it is. I really do think the American system which forces you to teach and forces you to do more work outside your interests seems to give the average graduate a better chance of landing a job, simply becuase that same person is, for the most part, going to look better on paper than they would have coming from the UK (not better than UK students, but better than they would coming out of a UK university, assuming their quality of work would be the same in either situation). I think its a general consensus that you need to maximize your chances as much as possible, and I think the American system seems to do that, for the american market.

Anonymous said...

Boston University doesn't do that kind of continental phil; Boston College does.

Anonymous said...

"Trauma theory, psychoanalysis? Are these the sorts of things that count as continental philosophy these days? Two questions: are we still talking about philosophy?"

"Don't worry about people complaining that "real" philosophy is not done in these programs. That's bullshit. It is, and at a very high level."

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Anon. 1:30, for suggesting such a novel idea.

Yawn.

Maybe thinking about the differences between Analytic and Continental philosophy would entail something that "Continental" philosophers have been on to for a while: the hermeneutics involved in making different kinds of philosophical claims. Maybe if we realized such a thing, at least it then wouldn't be all about pre-post-or otherwise-Kant as the dividing line between the two.

Asstro said...

I want to say some things.

1) What this advice really amounts to is more a commentary on the effect that the Leiter report has on many students in philosophy than it is responsible advice to prospective students. I think it's a shame, honestly, because there are lots of very good grad students out there who are, right now, walking around feeling bad about their position _because Leiter says their program isn't as good as some others_.

Leiter's ranking, please remember, is mostly based on the prestige and influence one, two, or several faculty members on a given faculty, and little else. It doesn't have anything to do with test scores. It doesn't have anything to do with potential. It doesn't have anything to do with the quality of grad students.

So....

2) choose a grad school that has a concentrated number of people who work in an area that interests you.

3) fucking rock that area of interest like you know you can

4) if possible, work with one (and there are usually many) of the influential people (noted by Leiter) in the AOS that interests you

5) but if they aren't available to you, fuck it. Find a bunch of people who do work in that area, and rock that shit.

6) rock your fucking work; and in doing so, work like a motherfucker.

7) treat philosophy like your job, not like your hobby. Why? Because it's your _fucking job_, not your hobby.

8) if Leiter has you slitting your wrists about your options, remember what I've just said: that the Leiter report is an important indication of what people are thinking about where the big people are in philosophy (so yes, it's fucking important), but it is not an indication of what will be the best and most nurturing environment for you to become the next philosophy rock star.

So all of you pissant wankjobs who are wallowing in your tears about your department's placement on the Leiter ranking, please, please, please buck the fuck up and recognize that Leiter offers little more than a popularity thermometer.

And Brian Leiter, dammit: look at what you've done to these poor kids!

Anonymous said...

1. I'm at a top 35 program, I work in an area where my institution is ranked very highly, I have an AOC in applied ethics, and I have taught over a dozen different classes (most with full responsibility) for three different schools. I also don't have a single job offer. So, for all the success stories and advice, I believe I instantiate a very reasonable counter example to most of the suggestions for success.

2. I have first hand evidence that the people from the top programs are considering multiple offers and are not just snatching up anything that is offered them. Thus, it is not very surprising to me that the lower or unranked programs appear to be doing well right now.

3. I think the best advice to all prospective grad students is this: avoid the base rate fallacy. One should consider the placement rate of the school one is favoring as highly important; this rate will tell you, very roughly, the base rate for your getting a job when you finish. Stop believing that you will be lucky, the exception, or what have you - last time I checked that was irrational. I thought we were philosophers after all?

Anonymous said...

Surely the relevant question w.r.t. continental philosophy/analytic philosophy on a job market blog should be whether advice about the APA and the philosophical hiring process attached to it has any bearing on a program that calls itself comparative literature and whose jobs are obtained through the MLA.

Call it philosophy, or not, as you wish, but there is a practical divide here, regardless of who gets their pants in a knot over who is the real philosopher the fastest.

Anonymous said...

"something that "Continental" philosophers have been on to for a while: the hermeneutics involved in making different kinds of philosophical claims."

That's an epistemological issue, not a hermeneutic one (either in the philological sense which you seem to have in mind, vaguely; or else in the metaphysical sense in which "hermeneutics" has been used in the 20th century). But since my original claim was that since "continental" doesn't have any clear sense anymore when people talk about "trauma theory" and other bullshit as being prototypical examples of the field, then your reply has the decided virtue of begging the question.

Once again, the defenders of "continental philosophy" demonstrate a complete inability to read a simple sentence. Maybe that's why mainline Anglo-American philosophers don't have much respect for it: weak thinkers and weak philosophers tend to be drawn to it. (Before you get all in a huff and misread my claim, notice that it is not a critique of continental philosophy as such: it's purely ad hominem and directed at you, jackass.)

Anonymous said...

UK almost-PhD here, applying to the American and Canadian markets. American BA, UK MA and PhD. Not in philosophy but in a related and also glutted field.

The biggest difference between the American and UK systems that I can see is that the UK system is fundamentally more self-directed. You may not have comps, but you still have to read widely and in-depth if you want to be taken seriously as a candidate for an academic position; it's just not officially tested like it is in America. As well, teaching is not built into the programme, and oftentimes the school will not actually offer teaching opportunities, so it's up to the student to find teaching work on his/her own. Depending on one's relationship with one's supervisor, one could be pushed to publish or left completely alone to muddle through on one's own. As for funding, North Americans aren't eligible for AHRC funding, but if a department wants you badly enough, it will fund you.

Basically, it's up to the student to make his or her own way through the PhD. On the one hand, there are fewer administrative hoops to jump through. On the other, it requires a lot of self-discipline and drive, especially if you want to enter the North American market when you graduate. And like in America, it's a much better idea to go to an Oxbridge/Russell Group/Group of 1994 university than to an unranked/lesser known one.

Anonymous said...

"It should also be noted that the schools having done well so far are doing well in terms of their specialties and not overall strength. For example, the two Northwestern grads with jobs are in Ancient and 20th c. Continental. The known bias in the PGR rankings toward departments with strength in "core Analytic" areas shows up in this disjunction between Northwestern's overall ranking and its placement record."

This is the point - overall strength" is close to meaningless on the job market (and it's a cover for "core analytic"). You get a job based on your specialty. This is why the Leiter rankings can be misleading as predictors of placement.

But it's a good reminder to look at the AOS's of the people getting the t-t jobs in any program's placement record. If they're in areas you have no desire to study, it's probably not the place for you.

Anonymous said...

Anon 6:35:

Can you name three thinkers in "trauma theory" and explain why their work is "bullshit"? Or even one?

A good philosopher would be able to back up such judgments with arguments, and I suspect you can't (although I'm open to being proven wrong).

Asstro said...

Puh-lease, Anon 6:35.

Yours is also a _dumb and childish_ ad hominem. Analytic, Continental: there are bad arguments all over the place, and stupid people to trot out those arguments.

If you're gonna insult people like that, you could at least make the insult plausible. Please give up on this "My methodology is so much better than your methodology" garbage.

Anonymous said...

As a tenured continental philosopher in a research 1 dept., I think the advice to go to grad school outside philosophy is terrible. First of all, continental philosophy is philosophy. Second, much of what's done in lit departments is not very philosophical and, in my experience, gets tedious fast. If you love continental philosophy, you need to do some serious research to figure out where to go to grad school -- go way beyond Leiter's rankings (!), which are of very limited use in this area.

Yes, if you get into Chicago you should go there. But the rest of the list is rather arbitrary, as are all the philosophy departments with continental stars left off the list. Still, this isn't too difficult: You should know who is really good in the area(s) that you're most interested in and try to go work with them! (The field is in flux: lots of old continental underground places are withering on the vine and new places are leaping in to fill the void; do some research in your area.)

That goes for any area, really, unless you're willing to shape your interests to match the market, in which case you might as well go into a profession that makes some serious money...

continental prof said...

Here's the first and most important lesson to learn if you study Continental philosophy: for better or worse, most of the top research-oriented programs in this country implicitly or explicitly favor work in the so-called "Anglo-American" or "analytic" tradition. Insofar as this blog, not to mention other blogs related to the so-called "profession," are chiefly concerned with the mainstream job market, one should take much of what is written in said blogs cum grano salis. Although some of the discussions are carried out at a sufficiently high level of generality to prove useful to Continental philosophers, a lot of the nuts and bolts simply do not apply to Continental philosophers (or to people working in other philosophical traditions outside the Anglo-American mainstream). Ergo a certain amount of judicious discretion is advisable in reading and/or contributing to these discussions.

Also, learn a lesson from your elders: some self-identified "analytic" folks like to trash Continental philosophy (it's been that way since I earned my Ph.D. thirty-odd years ago and it remains true today), but you can and should ignore them. Note that there is a difference between "critique" and "trashing." Some people do make good faith efforts to understand Continental philosophy and to found their critiques on the basis of sound exegesis and analysis. These folks deserve to be treated seriously and with respect. As for the people who dismiss everyone from Nietzsche to Husserl to Deleuze without having read or studied them at any length are just prejudiced, or overcompensating, or simply revealing themselves as "insecure" in some way or another. Like I said, just ignore them and move on.

That said, the idea that it is impossible (or even just incredibly difficult) to get a philosophy job in Continental is absurd. To be sure, the demand for Continental specialists in the U.S. tends to be much lower than the demand for specialists in other areas, but then again, there are far fewer Continental specialists to go around. In general, this means that the competition for Continental jobs tends to be somewhat less fierce than the competition for jobs in, say, core analytic.

The claims about comparative literature, etc., are somewhat anarchronistic. The demand for specialists in theory has waned considerably since the 1990s in comp. lit and related professions. What is more, it is rare that comp. lit programs hire philosophers for such positions. English and literature programs tend to want people who have degrees in literature, or else interdisciplinary Ph.Ds from places like Stonybrook and Purdue. If you want to apply for jobs in literature departments, you generally need to have some competence (if not specialization) in a literary field over and above your specialization in theory.

Your best bet, in any case, is to apply to graduate programs that have clout in Continental circles. Any even better better might be to enroll at Leiterrific school in order to become conversant in analytic philosophy or history of philosophy and then work toward achieving a terminal M.A. from said school. This makes you much more marketable, especially if it results in your being able to claim AOCs in "core" areas like history, ethics, etc. (It is probably not advisbable to go on the job market with an AOS solely in Continental unless you also have an AOS in, say, ethics and political philosophy, and/or you have several AOCs in "bread and butter" areas.)

Now, although it is indeed nearly impossible for Continental folks to achieve TT positions in "Leiterelite" programs, this does not mean that you are destined to teach at a SLAC or LAU. Many larger Catholic research universities (and a few non-religious research universities) are Continental-friendly, if not outright Continental in orientation. For folks who want smaller teaching loads and greater opportunities for research, jobs at these schools are going to be the most coveted. In Continental circles, being a TT faculty member at a place like Fordham, say, is comparable to being a TT faculty member at any number of Leiterelite institutions in analytical philosophy. It's all relative.

As a few people have pointed out, SLAC/LAU jobs generally carry higher teaching loads, but this is not necessarily an insurmountable obstacle. True, you will have less time do research, ceteris paribus, but depending on particular personal and professional circumstances this may end up being a fairly minor "setback."

Anyway, don't bother fretting about "rankings" and such if you're working (or planning to work) in Continental philosophy. It is better to consult resources such as SPEP in order to get a sense of what the top graduate programs are in CP as well as what sorts of places are attractive CP candidates. The rules are not COMPLETELY different for us, but they are different enough that much of what you read in the Leiter report, say, is at best irrelevant and at worst antagonistic.

A final word of advice: interdisciplinarity is hot right now in CP and other humanities outside the Anglo-American mainstream. (This may also be true in certain Anglo-American contexts, i.e., cognitive science, linguistics, etc., but you get my point). I highly recommend Stonybrook and Purdue if you're interested in going out on more than just the philosophy market. There are/were a number of attractive jobs this year specifically looking for folks with interdisciplinary backgrounds.

on a leiterrific SC said...

It's too small of a sample to count as high-quality data, but a quick look at Leiter's listing of tenure-track jobs sealed up so far gives the lie to PGS's sense of things. There's a very healthy mix of upper-leiterish, lower-leiterish, and unleitered departments represented among the people who have gotten jobs. Northwestern, coming in near the very bottom of the list, seems to be doing best at placement so far, with unranked places like Fordham, Purdue, and Vanderbilt outpacing the top places, which are barely represented so far.

Actual data beats armchair job market analysis, I always say!


It's way too small a sample -- it's biased because it's still early days. The top PhDs competing for the top jobs have not accepted offers yet, and it's only accepted offers that get posted on Leiter. Some top departments haven't even decided who to make offers to yet. And the people competing for the top jobs usually get multiple job offers, and need time to decide. Expect the Leiterrific jobs and candidates to start popping up in the next 2 weeks.

Anonymous said...

I have been on SCs at a couple of pretty top (analytic) schools. Fairly standard practice: ignore job applications from less than top 20 or so schools unless the file GLOWS with star quality. I.e. your letters have to say that you are the best graduate in 20 years to even have your file looked at.

I think PGS' advice is pretty much spot on.

Anonymous said...

Anon 10:25, I'd hire you. Unfortunately I don't have a job to give. My CV is probably a lot like yours, and I don't have any offers yet either.

Anonymous said...

Anon 8:01 and Asstro Boy:

I think there's still amount of agreement on what philosophy is: metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, etc, even history of philosophy though there there's a certain benign circularity. If people want to call literary theory philosophy, fine, but it's not, at least as most people use the terms. Plenty of figures in the continental canon did philosophy as it's commonly understood, and are taken seriously by many if not most people working in the Anglo-American tradition. (We might not cite them very often, but then AA philosophy is often selective about what it cites. We aren't wont to produce Willamowitz footnotes like people in literary fields often do.) Heidegger, Husserl, Gadamer, Foucault, Habermas, there are a lot of good thinkers and good philosophers in the continental tradition.

An attitude that many pro-continental posters to this blog seem to have is that anyone who does "continental philosophy", however defined, is beyond reproach. And that's crap, just like no one in mainline Anglo-American traditions is.

For the most part Anglo-American philosophy still has a center, although I think empirical philosophy is pushing it right now, and that center is largely thanks to the heritage of analytic philosophy but also of other things like Greek and modern European philosophy. I suspect that continental philosophy has been losing its center faster than AA has, and that's why I think it's naive and perhaps self-serving for you all to keep implying that it's monolithic. I'm asking for more detailed treatment of what you're talking about, because

I've read some people in the continental canon carefully, and with faculty trained in that field, but I certainly haven't read everything. In any case, I'd argue that the burden of proof is on you to explain how anything called trauma theory can count as philosophy.

And as for how this relates to this blog: if you want a job in a philosophy dept, I doubt in general that a degree in comp lit would do it. Maybe those who suggested this are the type who don't really have much training in philosophy, who like folks in MLA fields like to pretend they're doing philosophy when they're really not. As for whether a real degree in continental philosophy would get you a job in an English department, that has been addressed here by others: probably not.

I do think people who are pushing the bounds of what we can count as philosophy should attempt to define their terms a little: what is philosophy, what is continental philosophy, what is analytic.

Anonymous said...

I was the one who introduced non-philosophy depts into the mix concerning continental philosophy. Just to clarify what I said:

I'm not claiming that getting a degree in Comp Lit, Humanities, or Political Theory will get you a job in Philosophy. It sometimes does, but this is not the rule. Rather, I'm addressing myself to the undergrad who is really into Continental Philosophy and also has her heart set on working in an Ivy or aspiring Ivy. As others have corroborated, this is virtually impossible to do in Philosophy. So, do it via another discipline. This means you'll end up in a Political Theory, Humanities, Comp Lit, etc Dept. That's the cost, but if you like these things (Literature, Politics, etc), then you can make it work. And as I said, you still have to be a star to land in a top institution.

I'm suspicious of claims like Anon 8:46 who say "much of what's done in lit departments is not very philosophical and, in my experience, gets tedious fast." This is probably true, much of it is (since much of it is literature) but I think there are depts in which very good philosophical work gets done (I listed ones I thought of, there may be others). Notice too I'm not restricting myself to Lit, I think some Political Theory programs can be great for someone interested in Continental and Politics. I find philosophers, continental philosophers included, love to trash literature depts as a way of feeling good about what they're doing. I sometimes wonder how much exposure to top theory programs they have. But then I'm not tenured at an R1.

And since Continental Prof mentioned SPEP, its worth noting that many people in SPEP aren't actually in Philosophy Departments. Most are, but others are in Political Science, Theology, Women's Studies, Comp Lit, and so on. But presumably they're equally Continental Philosophers. The SPEP Executive Committee has two people on it (Robert Gooding Williams and Shannon Lundeen) who aren't in Philosophy Departments (yes, they trained as philosophers, but that just goes to show movement out is also possible). I think it's just too easy to follow the institutional boundaries when defining these things, and as a result aspiring continental philosophers fail to explore what could be very promising opportunities.

Of course I don't think one should necessarily be Ivy or Ivy aspiring - I agree with so much of what has been said here about rich intellectually fulfilled lives in very good conditions at other institutions. So by all means go to a philosophy dept to do Continental Philosophy, and follow a lot of the advice given here on how to do it.

Just to indulge myself - Anon 11:53:

I don't know shit about Trauma Theory. But I find it amazing you're happy to dismiss something as "not philosophy" because its name doesn't coincide with "metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, etc, even history of philosophy". Be imaginative! I imagine trauma theory deals with issues to do with the Holocaust, child development, moral psychology, violence, power, autonomy... but perhaps you don't think these are proper topics for philosophers to discuss. The call is not to include anything as Continental Philosophy, it's to stop excluding things that you've never read as not being so.

Anonymous said...

As a recent Ph.D. grad of a Catholic University, I thought I should explain the advantages we have on the market. The main source of the advantage is the fact that there are simply a dispproportionate number of philosophy jobs available at Catholic colleges.

Virtually all Catholic colleges require philosophy courses as part of the central core classwork that every student must take.... some Catholic colleges require as many as four philosophy courses. Therefore, they need many more philosophy professors than non-Catholic schools.

Unsurprisingly, Catholic colleges look to the relatively small number of Catholic Ph.D. granting universities as their primary source of candidates. Surprisingly, many Catholic colleges care less about the religious committments of their philosophy professor candidates, than the candidates' familiarity with the Catholic models of higher education (which means that you have an interest in the history of philosophy, expect to teach required core courses instead of a lot of upper level coures, and promise not to publically denigrade the church). We had one job candidate come to our University who had a great CV, but seemed to think that 'being Catholic' would help him get the job. It didn't. He knew nothing about the history of philosophy and came across as religiously shallow. He would have been much better off saying 'I'm an atheist, but I think Plato, Aristotle and Aquinas should be read by every student'. Of course, this isn't true at every Catholic school, but it is true more often than you would expect.

continental prof said...

Anon 11:53 -

Having been an avid lurker of this blog for quite some time, I can say with some authority that this topic ("analytic vs. continental") has been done to death. (Hell, I've been dealing with it for several decades now!) I don't really want to get into it with you, but certain things you said are just begging for a response.

First, it is an increasingly common view that the terms "analytic" and "continental" philosophy are meaningless. Even Brian Leiter champions this position.

Second, Continental philosophy is not monolithic: in fact, people who do CP don't think of ourselves as doing CP, but rather as working on Hegelianism or Marxism or phenomenology or existentialism or hermeneutics or feminism or poststructuralism or psychoanalytic philosophy, etc. etc. As someone else noted awhile back "continental philosophy" was a term coined by Anglo-American philosophers FOR Anglo-American philosophers. Continental philosophy refers to all forms of non-analytic philosophy excluding American pragmatism and Eastern philosophies [or to translate that into analytic-speak: (Ax)(Cx <-> ~Ax)* (~Px V ~Ex).] What qualifies as "non-analytic"? Again, all sorts of philosophical schools and methodologies which, for a variety of reasons, have tended to be ignored, overlooked, or dismissed outright in American, British, Canadian, etc. philosophy departments for the past 50 odd years. Oddly, we CP folks don't think of ourselves as doing anything other than philosophy. It's always the analytic folks suggesting that what we do is "soft" or "fluffy," or that it doesn't even qualify as philosophy. In three decades in the academy, I have never once heard a fellow CP suggest that analytical philosophy ISN'T philosophy. I've heard plenty of criticisms, to be sure, but I've never heard anyone make such a strong and utterly absurd claim.

Also, note the many subfields of analytical philosophy which extend philosophical methodologies to fields outside of traditional philosophy (or import non-philosophical methodologies INTO philosophy): philosophy of science, philosophy of math, philosophy of language, etc. How exactly is literary theory any different? Isn't it just philosophy of literature? (Yes, it is). Why can physics and neuroscience be analyzed through a philosophical lens but literature can't? Give me a break.

As for CP "being beyond reproach," I think the frustration some people have expressed is a result of blanket generalizations about CP! Remember, we don't think of ourselves as "continental philosophers" but as phenomenologists or deconstructionists, etc. So if you're going to advance a critique, it should be against something REAL and CONCRETE (existentialism, say) as opposed to the non-existent straw man people call "continental philosophy." Better yet, save your critiques for a more proper venue: this is a philosophy JOB blog, remember.

It's funny how people mention "trauma theory" and it sends up all sorts of outraged red flags. My guess is that the mention of "game theory," say, wouldn't elicit such a response.

Look - trauma theory, as I understand it, is part of post-Freudian psychoanalytic philosophy as articulated by Lacan and his followers (Zizek for example). If you don't think it's philosophy, try reading some of it some time. It's every bit as philosophical as anything Jerry Fodor or Fred Dretschke ever wrote about the operation of the mind; it just employs a different methodology, parlance, etc.

Anonymous said...

Coming from a PhD program that actually is continental-friendly, I still found some of continental prof's assertions puzzling. For example, he ends by saying of 'trauma theory': "...it just employs a different methodology, parlance, etc."

I am certainly willing to say philosophy isn't just a common vocabulary, nor a defined subject matter (i.e., M&E and ethics). This is why philosophy wasn't radically altered by the defection of the natural sciences and then of psychology, (though they may have been!). But one of the things that I have always imagined unified philosophy was our method. (I'm not generally a big Leiter fan, but I do enjoy the post he has going on something like this question). If certain areas don't use philosophy's particular sort of close analysis then, no, I don't particularly think they are philosophy. For example, I don't think all literary theory is philosophy of literature. This isn't to say that it is worthless or shallow - just to say that I think one benefit of giving up philosophy's title as "queen of the sciences" is insisting on at least some commonalities among the various things that count as philosophy.

continental prof said...

"I am certainly willing to say philosophy isn't just a common vocabulary, nor a defined subject matter (i.e., M&E and ethics). This is why philosophy wasn't radically altered by the defection of the natural sciences and then of psychology, (though they may have been!). But one of the things that I have always imagined unified philosophy was our method."

I'm not sure that there is such a thing as a uniform philosophical method. It seems to me that conceptual analysis, for example, is considerably different from from Nietzschean genealogy, which is in turn considerably different from phenomenological reduction.

That said, I agree that there must be some unifying feature or set of features according to which various practices are properly termed "philosophical."

Clearly "common vocabularly" doesn't cut the muster. As for a "defined subject matter," I suppose it depends on what you mean. Deleuze claims that philosophy involves the creation of concepts. A lot of folks would disagree with that idea, no doubt, but surely Deleuze is right that philosophy has something to do with concepts, or, as he suggests elsewhere, with specific kinds of "problems" (and "solutions"). I don't have a ready-at-hand answer to this question, but I'm not sure that there is such a thing as a "common philosophical methodology."

"(I'm not generally a big Leiter fan, but I do enjoy the post he has going on something like this question). If certain areas don't use philosophy's particular sort of close analysis then, no, I don't particularly think they are philosophy. For example, I don't think all literary theory is philosophy of literature."

No, and I certainly never meant to suggest this. The so-called "New Theory" of the 1950s was very clearly NOT philosophy, for example (although its stock-in-trade was "close reading" of literary texts, which suggests that "close analysis" in and of itself is not the exclusive province of philosophy). The way I see it, literary theory took a philosophical turn when it began to question the assumptions and presuppisions underlying the interpretive enterprise. This was prompted, in large part, by the appropriation in literary circles of certain in/famous French philosophical theories for which language (meaning, representation, etc) was the central problem (semiotics, structuralism, deconstruction, etc). So most contemporary literary theory is concerned with problems that are appreciably part of what we call "philosophy of language," though obviously its scope is limited to specific forms of language (i.e., "the literary"). To this extent it does this, it is rightly called "philosophy of literature." To the extent that it does something entirely different, it deserves to be called something else.

"This isn't to say that it is worthless or shallow - just to say that I think one benefit of giving up philosophy's title as 'queen of the sciences' is insisting on at least some commonalities among the various things that count as philosophy."

I agree, but I think we can agree that pinpointing exactly what those commonalities are aint easy.

Back when I was in graduate school and dinosaurs roamed the earth, a professor of mine suggested that "philosophy is the discipline which analyzes the presuppositions upon which all other disciplines rest" (or something like that). He wasn't saying this is ALL philosophy is, by the way, but that this is something that sets philosophy apart. I've always thought this is right, though maybe it's not as helpful as I once thought...

You always hear buzz about "analyzing fundamental concepts" and such. Again, probably not very helpful on the whole, but it would let us see why Heidegger and Quine, say, are both philosophers. Plenty of "fundamental concepts" under discussion in both Sein_und_Zeit AND "Two Dogmas of Empiricism," no?

Anonymous said...

Although "Two Dogmas" is, ironically, about why conceptual analysis traditionally conceived is impossible.

Anonymous said...

Continental Prof. said:

"Continental philosophy refers to all forms of non-analytic philosophy excluding American pragmatism and Eastern philosophies [or to translate that into analytic-speak: (Ax)(Cx <-> ~Ax)* (~Px V ~Ex).]"

I just have to point out that the formalization is incorrect.