Monday, February 4, 2008

Come on Pretty Baby Call My Bluff, 'Cause for You My Best Was Never Good Enough

So here's an admission that hardly puts me in the minority of grad students. I have some perfectionist tendencies. I'm almost never happy with my work. I know perfectionism's supposed be bad because it's keeping me from being happy and it's unhealthy and blah, blah fucking blah, but fuck that. I want the work to be good, so cram it Dr. Phil.

Except that right now I happen to be gunning to finish my dissertation, so spending two days getting the language and organization of a single paragraph exactly right isn't going to work. The problem, of course, is that you can't just turn the perfectionism off when it won't work with your schedule. So I'm fucked, right?

Actually, no. It turns out getting the shit kicked out of me on the job market's been really awesome for making me not fucking care about the quality of my work. I wrote a sucky paragraph this morning, and when I reread it and realized just how deeply sucky it was, I thought, "Fuck, that paragraph sucks. I should really fix that." Then I stared at it for another minute or two before thinking, "Fuck it." And then I kept writing.


Anonymous said...

Your pathetic.

Anonymous said...

I don't think you are pathetic. A good dissertation is a finished dissertation. Sometimes you just have to put a period at the end of the sentence and move on.
Keep going!

Anonymous said...

"Your pathetic."

So is your grammar.

Anonymous said...

PGS, I agree with anon 6:55. It's just a dissertation, not your life's work or your magnum opus. Get it done.

My dissertational strategy is, write a paper for publication in the general area of my diss, and then sort of slide/shoehorn it in. I've had pretty good luck with the strategy as far as it goes, though things didn't go well for me on the market this year. But I think once the diss is done, I'll do better. I hope. I hope. I hope.

Anonymous said...

you generally write sucky paragraphs most of the time. maybe the "perfectionism" is your own rationalization for the desire not to have to admit that. if you're never finished with a piece of writing, you can't be told it's no good, right?

Anonymous said...

I don't know why this is so hard for you to understand. Part of the reason you are doing so poorly on the job market is precisely because you are unable to finish your dissertation. It's a sure sign of someone not-ready-for-prime-time.

Anonymous said...

""Your pathetic."

So is your grammar."

Spelling, not grammar.

Anonymous said...

PGS isn't pathetic, but the trolls like anon. 7:17 are.

Not being able to finish a dissertation may be a symptom of many things, least of which, I imagine, is not being ready for prime-time (whatever the fuck that is), e.g., perfectionism, a demanding advisor or committee, having to teach, having to learn a language, et cetera. Most of PGS's loyal readers have no fucking idea what the extenuating circumstances are surrounding the completion of his dissertation other than his self-proclaimed perfectionism and whatever he lets us know. So, fuck the fuck off.

And, secondly, who knew that having a finished dissertation (and not just an advanced one) was the magic bag of beans that will allow me to do well on the job market? I need to trade me some cows to get me one of those dissertation things that will suddenly guarantee that I won't do poorly on the market.

Hopeful Philosopher said...

Damn. Simmer down people. Who seriously has beautifully crafted every paragraph of your dissertation?

If I've learned anything in grad school is that most of the writing process takes place in revision.

And anon 7:17, of course being UNABLE to finish your diss is a problem. But clearly to be ready for the big time you have to do a lot more than finish the diss (which seems to give you a good reason to put off working on the diss to work on things like publishing).

All that is to say, PGS crank that diss out.

Anonymous said...

You only label me a troll after I call myself one. What someone calls a thing, that is what it is! x=x as you so wisely pointed out before. Such a fount of wisdom you are.

PGS applied last year for jobs, with an unfinished dissertation. Applied this year for jobs, with an unfinished disseration. It is February. Was it "advanced" last year? Is it "advanced" now?

An "almost-finished" dissertation is a lot different from an "I'm hoping to finish it soon but I'm a perfectionist, and I'm so upset about not getting a job so I can't focus on writing it, and really I'm only going to finished the second HALF if I get a tenure track job offer from a university, otherwise I'm going to keep blogging about how I haven't finished it."

Anonymous said...

No. Grammar. Everything was spelled correctly. The wrong word was used.

And 7:15: shut your pie hole. I see no mention of his perfectionism being tied to his job marker failure, only that his job market experience has led to a lessened perfectionism. It is a good thing to be able to write at an efficient pace. He can always go back and edit those crappy paragraphs.

Anonymous said...

Out of 4 on campus candidates brought to my program, 3 are ABD. I'm sure they're working at least on the final chapter, wrestling between perfectionism and getting it done. They've demonstrated (to me, at least) that they're each ready to come here next fall. Only in academia must you be ready to start your fucking job a full year before you can actually start it (if anon 7:17 is to be believed).

Anonymous said...

anon 8:06 here. I meant to refer to 7:17. Sorry, 7:15.

Anonymous said...

"No. Grammar. Everything was spelled correctly. The wrong word was used."

No, spelling. The person who wrote it is most likely a native English speaker. They meant to convey "You (contraction) are pathetic" but spelled "you're" incorrectly. You may have decoded their incorrect spelling as "your (possessive) pathetic", which I guess would be a grammar problem, but they didn't intend for you to decode their sentence that way. You only decoded it that way because of their spelling mistake. So they made a spelling mistake, not a grammar mistake.

So why don't you go shut your piehole whatever the fuck that means. Is that some euphemism for cunt? You mysoginistic pig.

btw, I'm anonymous 7:17 not anonymous 7:35.

Anonymous said...

I'm a perfectionist too. I can never get anything written, literally. I'm hoping to finish by the summer, but I'm worried about my writing not being up to par. Advice for me and PGS, please

Anonymous said...

PGS: Three words: The Quota Method. The key to all finished dissertations is cranking out a fixed number of pages (or paragraphs) a day, where the fixed number is actually achievable (like 2, maybe 3). Good old fashioned alienation from your work product works amazing tricks. Keep typing.

Kalynne Pudner said...

A brilliant (female) scholar once said to me, "When it comes to dissertations, 'done' carries more weight than 'brilliant.' Get it done. Later, you can revise it into 'brilliant'."

Best grad school advice I ever got.

And please, anonymi, let my scare quote placement and improper Latin pluralization slide this time.

Anonymous said...

PGS, you are a splendid person. Don't, please, let your perfectionism lead you to feel the only acceptable post is a tt one. It might be that a tt one is the best, though of course getting a tt job might encourage you to stay in a sucky dept. Where you could end up stuck. For the rest of your life.

Sucky paragraphs are fine. Sucky chapters are fine. What is not really fine is to fail to realize at some point they are sucky. A sucky chapter probably has at least 50% usuable material. Or maybe just 30%. Each is MUCH better than zero.

Anonymous said...

It sounds like you are moving in the right direction.

Chances are no one outside of your committee is ever going to read your dissertation, so you should save all your perfectionism for when you turn that material into a book or a bunch of articles. As long as the arguments are in place, you shouldn't care if the presentation is a little rough around the edges.

Anonymous said...

what's pathetic is how honest admissions of vulnerability seem to draw braying bullies from the woodwork.

all one can hope is that the 7:15s and 7:17s of this world are never allowed near an actual student, whether grad or undergrad.

but fuck the trolls, let's get to the post:

does anyone else have advice about how to silence your inner censor, or at least get him/her to chill for a bit so that you can get more written?

presumably this is part of why many writers drink, i.e. to get to the "fuck it" stage where you just continue writing, line after line, untroubled by doubts and self-criticism.

but however well the liquored approach worked for hemingway or kerouac or the like, i cannot see it working for philosophers so well.

so who has found other inhibition-relaxers, ones that are less self-destructive, as well as being consistent with minimal philosophical coherence?

Anonymous said...

This is actually pretty helpful:

Writing Your Dissertation in Fifteen Minutes a Day by Joan Bolker, Ed.D.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure why so many people are ragging on PGS. (Several of the comments I simply don't understand.) Stick with it and you'll get it done. And yes, you're right, no need to perfect it at this stage. You need something that your committee will accept, and which you can revise into something publishable at a later date if you plan to go that route, and ideally a chapter that's well-polished that you can use in applications. Beyond that, don't sweat it.

Anonymous said...

I sympathize entirely.

When I started my dissertation, I remember thinking, Finally, this will be the paper I won't compromise; everything will be perfect. I guess I don't have to finish the story -- everyone must know how that went. But someday I really will write the completely uncompromised paper!

I was successful as an ABD, by the way. And I really did finish my thesis during my first semester in a TT job. I would in no way penalize a candidate for not having finished, although I do think most places would rather not hire someone who isn't pretty close to finishing.

There are a lot of trolls here. You could consider disenvoweling them. It's a common practice.

Anonymous said...

Your dissertation should be a perfect masterpiece.

("Perfect", in the sense of "perfected", or "complete." "Masterpiece", as in the piece of craft a journeyman would exhibit not as his life's work, but to prove his admission to the masters of the craft. I.e., finish it and get it done.)

Anonymous said...

re: being ABD.

Sure, a fair number of ABDs do end up getting jobs, and having a Ph.D. is no guarantee of success. But being ABD is still a significant handicap in most cases, at least if you're not a hotshot from a top program.

And if you're ABD, there is a huge difference between your diss. director writing

(i) "X has completed a draft of the whole dissertation and has revised the first 3 chapters. We anticipate a defense in early February. (Or even better "The defense is scheduled for January 25.")"

and him writing,

(ii) "X has made significant progress on his dissertation, and I am confident he will be able to finish by this summer."

Many SC members will treat (i) as basically equivalent to PhD in hand, whereas (ii) often equals a quick trip to the circular file (unless you're one of those awesome-looking hottshots).

Anonymous said...

Some of the pressure to hire completed PhDs comes from above the department level. Often funding for a position can be made contingent upon a Dean (or higher)'s determination that a candidate is "acceptable". Searches are really expensive and administrators who think about it a while (a non-null set) want to hire people who can be tenured. A person coming in ABD, teaching 3-3 or more is not a good bet to finish quickly --thus they are poor risks for tenure (generally). Notice: ABDs get hired out of research dept.s and into research dept.s. There are two or more distinct job markets out there, the mostly-research market and the mostly-teaching market( the VAP/CC side markets).

Anonymous said...

One more thought about why someone might not get a fly-out/APA interview: are you sure your letters don't contain a land mine or two? I know folks who are great philosophers, but who languished in non-TT jobs for years because of bum letters. Older letters, letters that don't reflect your current position, or letters which raise more questions than they answer can all plant a seed of doubt for a SC. In one case I recall a letter where a big name philosopher didn't know that a student had taken a series of adjunct positions in another town. So in the letter he wrote: "[X] sort of disappeared for 18 months but he is close to finishing now." -- Talk about raising some doubts! --A good strategy for checking your letters (assuming your dissertation chair/graduate placement officer is not doing their job [or is too junior to stand up to an older faculty memeber and leaves a bum letter in your file b/c they are up for tenure and don't want to rock the boat]) is to apply to a job at a state school in an open record state -- then request your application file. You *should* get copies of your current letters this way. If you find a bum letter, pull it from your file or request a new letter from your reference. Or if you are lucky enough to have a friend on a hiring committee you can apply for that job and ask them to look at your file and make some recommendations.

Anonymous said...

Just think about your own teaching and grading. How many marks do you give for pretty talkin'? For my part, when I read philosophy, I mostly evaluate it for the quality of the thoughts expressed, with bonus marks/appreciation for clarity.

A recent example: I handed in a draft of a paper and asked for comments, as the prof had offered to do so, but he misunderstood and/or didn't bother to read the e-mail and just marked the draft. He refused to read the final version I sent him, and I got all worried about it, of course, but he ended up giving me a great grade on the draft. I realized that the main differences between the draft and the final version were stylistic, and in the end, he wouldn't have given a crap about them.

The same probably goes for those reading your dissertation. Let 'em "mark the rough draft" and point out where you need to make substantive changes, and then you can pretty it up later if you have time.

Anonymous said...

"No. Grammar. Everything was spelled correctly. The wrong word was used."

That is wrong in two ways. First, were the wrong word to have been used, then the problem would be with diction, not grammar.

But the wrong word wasn't used. The writer did not intend to use the possessive case of the second person pronoun. The writer misspelled the contraction of "you are". (Or to put it another way: the writer made a mistake concerning how to spell the contraction of "you are".)


Hopeful Philosopher said...

"does anyone else have advice about how to silence your inner censor, or at least get him/her to chill for a bit so that you can get more written?

presumably this is part of why many writers drink"

I never consciously put it in those terms, but that's the thought of the day.

Anonymous said...

Re the attempted grammar and/or spelling smack-talk:

ur lame. STFU.

Anonymous said...

Why this is being debated, I've no idea. But let me but the matter to rest: The (putative) sentence "Your pathetic." suffers from flawed grammar, not flawed spelling.

The "sentence" has two words, "Your" and "pathetic", neither of which is misspelled (I am assuming that this is an English sentence). However, the syntax is obviously flawed; and syntax is a subfield of grammar.

If the verb (viz. "are") were present in the sentence, the syntax would be fine but the subject would be misspelled. That's obviously a spelling error. (However, one might also consider it a morphological error, which would also make it a grammar error.) However, the verb is missing completely.

Grammar, not spelling.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

the best advice I got when at the stage PGS is at was:
"Don't get it right, get it written".
The senior professor giving the advice joked that it should be embroidered and hung on every dissertator's wall.

The advice helped. It also helps after one gets a job and has publication pressures.

I found when writing the dissertation that it was helpful to put together a list/time line of everything that I had gone through (and the support I had had along the way) to get to the stage of having just the dissertation to complete. Getting a Ph.D. requires many hoops to be jumped, and listing them helped me to put the dissertation in perspective as one big hoop, but not the only hoop.
Good luck finishing your degree, as that is what the dissertation's completion does,even if it not your perfect work. Save perfection for your third book or seventh article, to be completed after you are employed, tenured, and promoted.

Anonymous said...

prof j., you better stop agreeing with me, you will be x=x a trll shddr.

Anonymous said...

jimmyjimmycocoapuff, go back to 8th grade English class and get a clue.

I will explain this simply so even a self-important ignoramous like you can get it.

The person mistakenly spelled "you're" as "your". They made a spelling mistake. Their grammar is fine. Their spelling is poor. They didn't follow the rules of English spelling. There is nothing wrong with their knowledge of English grammar.

Here is a hypothetical argument for all you self-abusers. Imagine a world in which we spell "you're" and "your" the same, since they are pronounced the same. Let's say we had spelling reform and both were spelled "yor". Would his sentence be ungrammatical? No. He would have written "yor puhthetik", and this discussion would never have occurred. The problem is spelling, not grammar.

Anonymous said...

This is the part where Homer Simpson walks by on his first day of college and says, "Hey Buddy! Did you get a load of the NERD?"

Anonymous said...

I cannot comment on what is or is not the case in a possible world where morphology is different from the actual world.

But in the actual world, in English, when you say "Your pathetic." you are making a grammar error. That it is not a spelling error is evident from the fact that there are no misspelled words in the sentence. Omission of a verb is a syntax error, and confusion over possessives and contractions might be considered a morphological problem. Both syntax and morphology are in the domain of grammar.

If you want to show that a sentence has a spelling error, you must compare each one of the words in the sentence against your lexicon, and demonstrate that at least one is not in the lexicon. Both 'your' and "pathetic" are in the OED (my standard).

Anonymous said...

Okay, there was an extent to which I enjoyed the grammar/spelling debate, both because I'm a nerdy philosopher, and because I'm constantly appalled by how many of my students (a lot of whom went to prep schools that cost more than my college education) make those kind of stupid mistakes.

Now, I think we're just illustrating why philosophers are not that popular at social functions.

Anonymous said...

"Omission of a verb is a syntax error, and confusion over possessives and contractions might be considered a morphological problem."

No verb was omitted. The word "you're" was just spelled wrong. How many times do we have to explain this to you?

Confusion over "possessives and contractions" is only confusion of the spelling convention. It is a spelling error.

The original poster made a perfectly well-formed English sentence, grammatically and morphologically, the only problem was that he spelled it wrong.

If I write:
"I red the book yesterday"
Is that a grammar error? That is what you are saying, since I can find "red" in the OED. Obviously it's a spelling error. The idea that a typo is a grammatical error if my typo results in a word in the OED, is silly. I just made a typo, which is a spelling error.

Anonymous said...

Also, you are all assuming an error was made by the commenter. I think it's likely that the misspelling was meant ironically to insult PGS.

Anonymous said...

(1) A verb *was* omitted (viz. "are"). In fact, you have claimed this yourself: Doubtless you are aware that "you're" is a contraction of "you are".

(2) Your claim, "The original poster made a perfectly well-formed English sentence, grammatically and morphologically, the only problem was that he spelled it wrong." is false. "Your pathetic." is not well-formed. It is either (i) missing a verb (cf. (1)), or (ii) uses a possessive adjective to modify an adjective, which is not allowed.

Anonymous said...

["Your pathetic." is not well-formed. It is either (i) missing a verb (cf. (1)), or (ii) uses a possessive adjective to modify an adjective, which is not allowed.]

This part isn't even true. It isn't missing a verb. What verb could you insert to make that sentence "grammatical"?

Also, there is nothing wrong with "Your pathetic", you could say something like:

"Your pathetic attempt to argue with me is making me want to vomit on my keyboard"

Nothing wrong wrong gramatically with that sentence, probably no spelling errors either.

Anyway, I admit that you're completely correct. You are a genius, both of logical and linguistic analysis. Your 8th grade teacher was right to give you that well-earned A-.

Anonymous said...

I can't believe I'm weighing in on this stupid debate, but I am.

There are reasonable ways of interpreting the error as a spelling mistake. If he thought 'you're' was spelled y-o-u-r, omitting an apostrophe and an 'e', then it's spelling. However, that's probably not what happened. Probably what happened is, the guy didn't realize that there was a difference between 'your' and 'you're'. In which case it's a grammatical error. 'Your' is the wrong kind of word to fit in that slot, and the sentence lacks a verb. That's grammar, not spelling.

Also, what's with calling people names for thinking something is a grammatical error when you think it's a spelling error? Especially when the claim is so plausible (even if you think it's ultimately wrong). It's not like they said that Superman is Jimmy Olsen or something. Overreact much? Jesus.

PGS, Anon 6:44 is right. So is ma program faculty member. Having a finished dissertation is key, so finish the fucking thing. You have until September. Do it. Do it.

Anonymous said...

This has been covered *ad nauseum*. "Are" is missing. The sentence is supposed to be 'You are pathetic.' That is obvious from context. Instead, the "sentence" contains only a possessive adjective and an adjective.

You're quite right that there's nothing wrong with 'Your pathetic', though there most definitely is something wrong with 'Your pathetic.', which is the "sentence" at issue. There are of course plenty of well-formed English sentences which include the locutions 'Your pathetic' or 'your pathetic'.

Anonymous said...

Uh, backing away from the taxonmoy of mistakes and going back to the perfectionism & diss thing....

It's not just that "you can revise it later," and "done is better than brilliant," and all the other eminently sensible things people have said. It's something stronger.

Once you get it past your advisor and committee -- NO ONE WILL EVER READ IT AGAIN.

I promise.

People will read the articles you pull out and publish. People will read the book you turn it into. But NOBODY will read your dissertation itself ever again.

Anonymous said...

If "are" is missing, then it would be "Your are pathetic".

Anonymous said...

I'm completely convinced by the "It's a spelling error" guy.
The commenter intended to put the word "you're" in the sentence, but wrote "your". Whether the commenter realized that "your" and "you're" are two different words seems irrelevant. When someone writes "loose" for "lose" (this is alleged to be the most common spelling error on the web), it's still a spelling mistake. This case seems exactly the same.

It's a completely uninteresting issue, but it's kind of interesting to see what arguments people can give for one side or the other. (Kind of, but not very.)

Anonymous said...

Rb said

"A good strategy for checking your letters (assuming your dissertation chair/graduate placement officer is not doing their job [or is too junior to stand up to an older faculty memeber and leaves a bum letter in your file b/c they are up for tenure and don't want to rock the boat]) is to apply to a job at a state school in an open record state -- then request your application file. You *should* get copies of your current letters this way. If you find a bum letter, pull it from your file or request a new letter from your reference."

This is shady, shady, shady. If I caught one of my students doing this I can't express how pissed I'd be, or what I would do--better hope the people who are supposed to/have to write your letters (your director (s)) are more forgiving than me! Seriously, you can't do this.

Plus, how exactly are you going to manage to pull the letter from your file if not by going through the placement director. I can't imagine how that conversation is supposed to go...or are you going behind that professor's back to the department secretary?

The other strategy is fine--get a colleague in another department to look at the letters (and the rest of the crap you sent) to check for red flags, and give advice.

If this doesn't work, you have to take some initiative. If you think the placement director is too junior, go to someone with some muscle in the dept. (surely you must know someone like this you trust) and say this: "Hey. I haven't had any luck on the market this year and a friend suggested that I have a few senior folks look over my file. Would you be willing to look over my letters and the materials I am sending out?"

Or ask the chair to do this. They should take appropriate action if there is something bad (and it may be something bad in what you are sending out).

Violating the trust of those supporting you is not a good idea.

Anonymous said...

"Probably what happened is, the guy didn't realize that there was a difference between 'your' and 'you're'. In which case it's a grammatical error."

That is still a spelling error. He doesn't realize that there is such a convention in English to spell two words that sound the same differently. It's an issue of spelling, not grammar.

If he thought "your (possessive0 pathetic" like "his pathetic" is a well-formed complete English sentence, then it would be a grammatical error. But it is extremely unlikely that was the case.

As far as calling out dumbshits as dumbshits, that is the custom on this blog. I don't make the rules, I just follow them.

Anonymous said...

re: the letters.

In my department, we sign a waiver that says we won't look at the letters. The letters, they say, have no value unless they are confidential. So I'd try to work with the placement director/department chair on the letter issues, and not go sneaking around behind their backs. Particularly since you can't do anything about any information you'd gather without letting the cat out of the bag.

re: grammar/spelling.

I don't really give a shit about which kind of error the guy really made. It sort of depends on what he thought he was doing. I mainly wanted to point out that calling someone a dumbshit or an ignoramus for arguing that the sentence, as written, contains no verb and is therefore ungrammatical is kind of an asshole move. Because the sentence, as written, contains no verb and is therefore ungrammatical. Perhaps it's ungrammatical because of a spelling error. So what? Ask yourself: Is there a verb in there? No, there's not.

re: everybody being a dickhead.

What the fuck?

Anonymous said...

There are two notions of mispelling. One notion is to write down an orthographic type which is not associated with any word in the language. Another is to write down an orthographic type which is not associated with the word you intended to write. You can misspell in the latter sense without misspelling in the former. This is probably what the commenter did.

Anonymous said...

There seems to be confusion. The point is that some professor may be sabotaging you and doesn't want you to know it. The whole department may be sabotaging you and hiding behind confidentiality. You may have to go behind their backs to find that out. They've stabbed you in the back, it's OK to give a reach around and stab them back. So it may not be the case of "Violating the trust of those supporting you"; it's violating the trust of those trying to destroy you. And that's your paranoid tip for the day.


"Because the sentence, as written, contains no verb and is therefore ungrammatical."

I already explained this. It is not missing a verb. You can't add in a very and make a grammatical sentence. It isn't really ungrammatical "as written", it's just a sentence fragment. That's because it IS a grammatical sentence, it's just spelled wrong.

Anonymous said...

At this point the "arguments" being advanced in favor of the it's-a-spelling-error position are not even comprehensible. Witness this claim: "Perhaps it's ungrammatical because of a spelling error." is necessarily false because grammar explicitly excludes lexical issues of spelling.

I find it extremely hard to believe that the original poster *meant* something other than 'You are pathetic.', but of course we'd need him to weigh in to prove this.

But on the prima facie semantics, the sentence is not well-formed because a verb is missing. It is extremely hard to believe that the poster accidentally forgot to include an apostrophe and an "e" (i.e. committed a mere typo which *happened* to produce a commonly-seen morphological mistake). He mistook the possessive adjective for the pronoun-verb contraction; not an uncommon thing to do. People make grammatical mistakes all the time.

Anonymous said...

Wow, reading this thread has actually made me want to work on my dissertation. That's a first. And not because of the perfectionism discussion.

One caveat regarding the claim that nobody will ever read your dissertation: at the very least, it depends on your sub-field. In writing mine, I've consulted 4 or 5 dissertations because I'm working on a topic that doesn't have a ton of literature, and because they contain some other amazing resources that aren't available elsewhere. In at least one case, the dissertation is actually cited widely b/c the person never really published many articles, and there is a lot of valuable info in the diss. In others, the person is revising the diss into a book, and the book isn't out yet (glacial pace), but the articles since put out don't cover all the key issues (because they were planned mostly for the revised book).

But note I said "consulted". I don't read through from beginning to end. It's about mining the really useful stuff. Perhaps they aren't that good all the way through, but they did enough important work to merit my (and my advisor's) attention.

My point is (mostly) this: put all the good stuff you can in there, but don't worry about whether you've prettied it up sufficiently. Even if some/much of it sucks, if someone uses it later, they'll find the good stuff and be thankful for it.

Here's another point: Our discipline accentuates the value of nice tidy articles over the advancement of genuine understanding. (far too global and general a claim, but you all know what I'm talking about) However, you can make valuable contributions in philosophy even when you are not writing a publishable piece. Dissertations (and conversation) are prime examples of this.

Anonymous said...

holy shit.

ok, if the person thought "your pathetic" is a sentence, and intended to write "your pathetic", then it's a grammatical error.

if s/he thought "you're pathetic" is a sentence, and intended to write "you're pathetic", and wrote "your pathetic", then it's a spelling error.

either way, it's a mistake that shouldn't be made after the 3rd grade.

Anonymous said...

I'm the original anonymous who claimed it was a spelling error, and then called the other person a dumbass for insisting it was a grammatical error. Just wanted to give a little thanks to the other anonymous who stepped in to help (try to) disabuse cocoa puff head or whatever of his errors. I laughed my ass off reading your comments.

A further point directed at Mr. Zero, who commented:

"Probably what happened is, the guy didn't realize that there was a difference between 'your' and 'you're'."

Is the suggestion that the person did not realize that there is a difference between the word "your" and the word "you're", or is the suggestion that the person didn't raelize that those two words are not merely distinct but also spelled differently? If the first, then the error is diction. If the second, the error is spelling.

I find it hard to imagine that the person does not realize that there is a different between the contraction and the possessive. This is why I concluded it was a spelling error.

Sisyphus said...

Point one: I have a friend who finished her diss, even walked in graduation last spring, but then remained a grad student this year when she didn't get a job because she still had funding, and more importantly, health insurance, which the adjuncts around here don't.

Point two: Some people write "blind," ie type with the monitor dark so that they don't get mesmerized by making every word perfect. I personally scribble out crap by hand as fast as possible and then clean it up to the point where it makes sense when I type it in and move the paragraphs around. Sometimes jolting yourself out of your usual writing style helps shake up the perfectionism traits.

Point three: The grammar/spelling debate ... are you freaking kidding me?

Anonymous said...

I can't fucking believe I'm being baited into this. Fuck.

The sentence, as written, contains two words: 'your,' and 'pathetic,' neither of which is a verb. There's no verb there. Since grammatically proper declarative sentences must contain at least one verb, and this one doesn't, I conclude that it is ungrammatical. Whether you can simply add a verb in there somewhere is irrelevant. "His pathetic" is just as ungrammatical. Look at the words. Whatever virtues it may possess, being a grammatically proper sentence of English isn't one of them. It means, "the pathetic that belongs to you." I don't think that's a sentence of English, either, although it contains a verb.

Whatever. Whether it's a spelling error or a grammar error, I don't fucking care. The guy who wrote it is still a fucking moron. Fuck you, guy who wrote it. Fuck your mom, too.

Anonymous said...

" apply to a job at a state school in an open record state -- then request your application file...."

You really, really, REALLY don't want to do this. Letters are written in confidence, and trying to get to them in this way is an appalling violation of trust. It's fine, though, to ask someone who has seen them if there are any red flags in them that should be dealt with, but you really shouldn't try to access them yourself. If I found out that someone had done this, their credibility would suffer irreparable damage in my eyes.

Anonymous said...


so what we have here is an issue over how to type the token 'your pathetic'. Is it a mispelled grammatical sentence or a perfectly spelled ungrammatical sentence? But hey guess what? Just given the token we can't setermine which type it belongs to! So why is everyone getting so worked up???

Anonymous said...

What the speaker meant and which token she produced are two different questions. So the commentor may have meant to express 'you are pathetic' but what is at issue here is what token she produced.

Did she produce a mispelled grammatical sentence or a perfectly spelled ungrammatical sentence? depends on your theory of thoughts and sentences and how the two relate! DUH!!

Anonymous said...

Mr. Zero, the more you write the keener is my understanding of why you are Mr. ZERO.

Your claim is that since the sentence as written contains no verb, it is a grammatical error. But consider the following sentence:

I an hungry.

We should properly consider that sentence as containing a typo, not as missing a verb.

Or consider:

Last Tuesday I flue to Texas.

We should properly consider that sentence as containing a spelling error, not as missing a verb.

Anonymous said...

Anon 6:21,

My claim is, fuck that guy and his mom. Argue with me about that. I dare you.

Anonymous said...

A friend who is an last-year (we hope) philosophy grad student turned me on to this blog. I check in every once in a while to see how things are going. I just have to praise the titles for many of the posts, especially the obscure Springsteen references. They make me smile. Good luck!

Anonymous said...

Correct, anonymous 6:21 PM. (Can't you guys just pick a name and run with it?) However, that's not the sentence at issue; and your analogy is not an accurate one.

Those in the 'spelling' camp (i.e. Hillary supporters) really want us to believe that the poster *really intended* to write "You're" but accidentally failed to hit the "a" and "'" keys, *and*, moreover, failed to catch the error. We Obamamaniacs understand that he made a very common mistake: He mistook the possessive adjective for the noun-verb contraction.

Ask yourself this: Is "Its going to be a tough election." a failure of spelling or grammar? The clear answer is the latter; and people make the mistake because they do not have a clear understanding of possessives and contractions, not because they manhandle the keyboard.

Anonymous said...

I wrote "Your pathetic." I knew the underlying message wouldn't be posted by the moderator, so this was my way of sneaking it in while giving fodder to my philosophy compatriots. Sneaky, yes?

P.S. You are not pathetic (just so there is no misunderstanding: spelling and grammar are perfectly). And this sentence has one error.

But seriously folks, EVERY philosophy grad student thinks s/he can "do philosophy", so there must some/many students (and PhDs?) who really do suck at philosophy. My philosophy is...why not you? ;)

Anonymous said...

To 4:14A,

Uh....yeah, it's called GANGA, mon.

Anonymous said...

And "Your pathetic" wasn't meant to be the end of my sentence. The rest is as follows:

...monkey ass.

Anonymous said...

so what we have here is an issue over how to type the token 'your pathetic'. Is it a mispelled grammatical sentence or a perfectly spelled ungrammatical sentence? But hey guess what? Just given the token we can't setermine which type it belongs to! So why is everyone getting so worked up???


Incidentally, I think a few people have read my dissertation, and its been cited at least twice. But it shouldnt be. And when people email me to ask for it, I tell them "If I thought there was anything left of value in there that I hadnt already mined for an article, dont you think I would have done that by now?--Dumbass" OK, I dont say "dumbass", but the rest is true.

Anonymous said...

if someone who hated philosophers wanted to trigger your pathetic tendency to prove that you're pathetic, then they picked a concise way of doing it.

Anonymous said...

There are two questions, Jimmyjimmy. One is, as you say, was the mistake a mistake of the keyboard, or something else. It was probably something else. But that's consistent with its being a spelling error. Some people don't know how to spell 'separate'. They think it has an 'e' in the middle. Some people don't know how to spell 'lose'. They think it has two 'o's. Those are spelling mistakes. I am assuming the same is true for someone who writes 'your' where the correct string of letters is "you're". That makes it a spelling mistake.
I take it that nobody who posts comments here is unaware that declarative sentences of English have to have a verb, so it's unlikely to be a mistake of grammar.

Anonymous said...

Look at Zilcho and jimmynumbnuts. They picked aliases and now we know immediately to disregard everything they write as shit before we even read it. Better to keep posting anonymously.

Anonymous said...

By the way, I think this thread shows how hungry folks here are to sink their teeth into some analytic philosophy, esp. phil. of language. How about some more posts to see such discussions?

And here's an interesting idea: Philosophy is typically a solitary activity; you write a paper, someone else comments on it, you might revise it, etc. But maybe we can create an open philosophy project here in which dozens of people can collaborate at the same time (as with this thread)? New website for that, anyone?

Anonymous said...

The problem with philosophy is that people get involved in the subject largely because they are interested in proving to others how smart they are. That makes constructive discussion among peers almost impossible.

Anonymous said...

A fellow graduate student related to me the following advice his advisor had given him:
'A dissertation needs to be three things: done, done, and done.'

'Another Senior woman' is right, no one will read the thing besides you and your chair. Honestly, you'll be lucky if 'yor' other committee members read the whole thing at all let alone carefully.
And just one comment after reading 'yore' posts regarding the job market. I sympathize with you but I think you will be rather unhappy in academia if you don't manage some ironic detachment regarding the distance between your idea of what you deserve and what you actually get.
I received a tt job abd but my colleagues in grad school were better philosophers, and I am a white male.
I have mentioned this before, but the job market and hiring is not a rational process. Philosophers are especially blind to the non-rational motivations they base decisions on and are the worst at conflating their rationalizations in the psychoanlytic sense with reasons in the philosophical sense.

So , I laugh out loud at 'yoar' posts. Use some of that humor to create some distance between 'yoor' narcissism and the absurd, non-meritocratic elements of our profession, which are legend. It's more fun.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, I think anon. 10:39 is pretty right on.

Anonymous said...

That's weird.

In my graduate program, there is a TON of constructive discussion among peers. Maybe you guys (11:23 and 10:39) should think about transferring...?

Anonymous said...

Yeah, there's probably a good reason why philosophy is such a solitary activity, and it has something to do with the prototypical personality of a philosopher.

But in my experience the philosopher's mind is not too different from the lawyer's mind; and while lawyers can be argumentative (ya think?), they are also capable of working on the same team, e.g., to finish a legal brief. So maybe we philosophers can be more productive too through collaboration. A wiki or a blog seems to be a good medium for that.

Anonymous said...

Presumably, a piehole is a hole for putting in pies. If that's your vagina - well, to each her own. I hope I used 'your' correctly.

Anonymous said...

a piehole could also be a hole for taking out pies, or for baking pies in, or it could be a hole in a pie, or a hole that was dug with a pie.

Anonymous said...

a piehole could also be a hole for taking out pies, or for baking pies in, or it could be a hole in a pie, or a hole that was dug with a pie

Still, if any of those is your vagina, you've got more problems than no TT philosophy job.

Anonymous said...

The only was "piehole" might refer to the female hoo-hoo is if "pie" is short for "fur pie."

But it usually refers to one's mouth, in which pies check in but don't check out. I suppose you can still link this to a punani, if it's the mouth eating a fur pie.

Anonymous said...

According to "Muffy's World of Vagina Euphemisms", Pie euphemisms (you can do your own research on "hole"):

Fish pie
Fur pie
Hair Pie
Hairy cream pie
Moan pie
Pink pie
Poontang pie
Puddin pie
Shrimp pie
Dirty cumpie

Anonymous said...

"'Another Senior woman' is right, no one will read the thing besides you and your chair."

I've met people who've read my dissertation, including someone I hadn't previously met who invited me to submit a paper on the strength of it. I've also had colleagues ask for a copy because (apparently) they wanted to read it, though I haven't quizzed them subsequently. And my adviser put it on the reading list of another advisee of his. This last isn't unusual, I gather. I was googling someone recently and found the person's diss listed in the dissertation prospectus of another person in the same department. Oh, the paper I'm currently writing cites two unpublished dissertations.

Let me suggest that no one will read your dissertation if it sucks, but people will if it's good. Notice the key here: good, not perfect. One of the dissertations I'm currently mining has all sorts of typographical errors, especially citations of papers that aren't in his bibliography (or have the wrong date).

Anonymous said...

Just catching up, but there's too much irony in Anon 8:44's misspelling of 'misogynistic' to let pass. Can't believe nobody caught that.

Anonymous said...

Here is my best advice for finishing your dissertation. When I was dissertating, I would contact my director several weeks out and tell him I would be finished with chapter X by a given date. As the date approached, it was more important to me to keep my word than to "perfect" my writing--so I always made my deadlines. This technique allowed me to defend my dissertation 14 months after I started it.