Monday, March 24, 2008

Everywhere You Look You Only See Red

I just got the rejection from the last postdoc I really wanted. Not the last application I have out there, but the last one for something I wanted. This was the last thing I was still hoping for, my last chance to not feel like an unqualified failure.

What's wrong with me? What the fuck is wrong with me? Every last application I've sent has failed. What the fuck am I doing wrong?



Anonymous said...

You gotta finish your dissertation...

Anonymous said...

You might not be doing anything wrong. Could be the luck of the draw and you'll do great next year, it could be your AOS/AOC combo is limiting your options, it could be that you don't have the degree in hand, it could be lots of things. When departments send rejections that say basically "we liked you, but we liked other people more" I think sometimes they mean it. Google everyone who got a job in your field, acc. to Leiter's list, and see if they all have something that you don't (besides a job).

Of course, it's possible you are doing something wrong, and systematically fucking up your chances everywhere. It might be good to send your entire application packet (including letters if you can swing it) to someone TT who graduated from your program maybe 4 years ago, or someone you've met at a conference and seemed willing to befriend/mentor you. Don't ask them what's in your letters, because they are supposed to be confidential, but ask if there are any flags in any of them and if so how to approach the guilty party (professor).

Anonymous said...

I'm asking the same questions, PGS.

Sisyphus said...


Stop it! Stop it! It is not about you! The whole point of seeing how fucked up the job market is as a system and how incredibly competitive and random the process is, is to _separate_ your sense of identity and self worth as an individual from the shittyness of the market. It's structural! Not personal!

You not getting a job /= you are a failure or a crappy philosopher. You not getting a job = you not getting a job. That's it.

PS there's a huge feeling of relief to _ending_ the search season, even if you don't have any offers. You'll need to build up some reserves to tackle the next season in fall.

Good luck and all best.

Anonymous said...

I know the feeling it’s not you – it’s the market.

Hang in there!!

To add insult to injury I visited a buddy of mine over Easter.

He has a BA in philosophy and is now a computer programmer making major bucks.

He has a wife, kids, big house, big bank account, stock portfolio and goes on killer vacations.

And look what I have with a PhD – Nothing.

Anonymous said...

sisyphus is totally making sense, and you should heed the advice.

this blog is best understood as the equivalent of a forum for the sufferers of a rare disease. it's not lupus leprosy or lou gehrig's we've got, it's something rarer still. but since we all suffer from it, we can support each other and pass on advice and commiserate when there's no advice to give.

and, most importantly, we can keep in mind that, like leprosy, our condition does not reflect any moral depravity or divine disfavor. being on the job market is not a punishment for sins in a past life or in this one. sure, it feels like that some days, but it isn't.

one thing that lepers can do for lepers is say, "hey, it's a disease, a bacillus, not a judgement from god".

that's what sisyphus is telling you: it's not a judgment, it's just a process. a fucked up process in many ways, but fucked up no matter how you fare with it. not your fault that you get whacked.

being able to give each other this support is one of the real contributions this blog has made. it would be a shame if you were unable to profit from it yourself.

listen to sisyphus, stop blaming yourself, and go do something to enjoy a spring day.

Anonymous said...

Anon 9:25 has it right - it is possible that there is something in your dossier that is impeding your success.

Here's an example. One of my senior, tenured colleagues told me that when he was first on the job market, he barely got any interviews and certainly, no job offers. He began to think as you are thinking, there is something wrong with me, my dissertation topic, etc. So he went to the grad advisor for his PHD program and shared these concerns. The advisor pulled his dossier, including his letters of recommendation, and discovered that my friend's dissertation director had put a line in the recommendation letter to the effect that "i can't believe X can't get a job; he's so talented." or something like that.

They concluded that line item was screwing up my friend's chances.
It's possible there is something like that in one of your letters. or not. but it might be worth a look,

Anonymous said...

I hear you. I'm currently worried about even getting a mildly OK VAP position at this point.

Is anyone as bothered as I am about VAP-position interviews being conducted at the Pacific and Central APAs? People complain about conducting interviews for TT positions at the Eastern APA, but making candidates attend the Pacific and Central takes the cake. The people seeking visiting jobs are obviously in tight circumstances--we're talking about junior people who didn't find luck at the Eastern APA. So it's a big commitment, and the payoffs aren't great. Worse, what's the point? One might argue that with TT positions, departments have an interest in vetting candidates that they might be stuck with for years. But for a one-year visiting position, surely a telephone interview and a candidate's dossier should suffice. It had always been my impression that telephone interviews are how schools interviewed for VAP positions.

I'm curious to know what the thought process is of schools that demand APA interviews for these positions. Do the departments just want an excuse to get their schools to pay their way out of town? Is there a good faith rationale?

Anonymous said...

I'm with Anon 2:35 here. Paying your own way to the eastern APA is one thing. One hopes to have multiple interviews, so it's worthwhile cost-wise. Even if one doesn't have more than one or two, it's still considered THE place, and as Anon 2:35 said, they're mostly TT position. At this stage, asking us to travel to the Central or Pacific when we wouldn't ordinarily be planning to do so, for what is probably just one interview, which is probably for a one year VAP. That is unreasonable.

Anonymous said...

I think the good faith rationale might just be that the jobs are competitive, so they *can* interview in person. Also, they might be skeptical of candidates who didn't get a job at the Eastern. They might want to do a little vetting to make sure you're up to the task.

That's totally unfair (because there are frickin' *awesome* candidates applying for most of those VAP jobs), but I think that might be the "rationale".

Anonymous said...

I agree with Anon 9:24. Fucked up though the market is, it still generally favors candidates who have completed their diss and, even more, those who actually have their PhD. There's enough candidates with PhD's - in fact, a shitload - for committees to be plenty satisfied considering them before the non-PhD's and especially before the ABD's. This is actually one way in which the market is "fucked up" - i.e. just too many highly qualified candidates compared to the number of jobs available.

Anonymous said...

so what you're saying, 11:31, is that we're lepers, but it's really not our fault?

and this is meant to cheer us up?

great: philosophy job's comforters.

"My bowels boiled, and rested not: the days of affliction prevented me."

Anonymous said...

Anon 5:35 writes,

There's enough candidates with PhD's - in fact, a shitload - for committees to be plenty satisfied considering them before the non-PhD's and especially before the ABD's.

What's the difference between a "non-PhD" and an "ABD"?

Anonymous said...

Anon 6:19 makes a good point.
It's not the Philosophy job market blog. It's the Philosophy JOB blog.
("Job" from the Bible)
Complete with suffering, the Devil, and Job's friends...

Anonymous said...

It is rarely something wrong with you. But I sympathize. I know it's easy to say "It's not me," but a lot harder to believe it.

On the brighter, if not bright, side, at least you're still finishing your degree--which means not finding a job this season doesn't officially count against you.

It's also worth remembering those in a much worse situation: the many, many candidates who've finished multiple rounds, their PhD's growing stale, the black marks of multiple failed passes on their CV's, despite degrees in hand, lots of experience, decent publications, etc, who have finished this season just as empty handed as you have.

At least there's something you can do to try to improve your chances: get the degree. That's better than a feeling absolutely helpless, as so many do.

Anonymous said...

Look, your blog screams "My dissertation is not finished!" which means your dossier screams "My dissertation is not finished!" which means your letters scream "His dissertation is not finished!"

No one wants to futz around with hiring people that will be finishing their dissertations well into their first/second semester of a new job. Suck it up, defend that shit before the next market year, then see what happens. Unfortunately, you have gotten some rotten advice. No way in hell you should've gone out last year, and you prolly should've held off this year.

Finish your dissertation this summer (and I mean finished, done, approved, piece of paper from admin proving it kind of done), make sure your letters are updated to reflect this, and then cross your fingers and try again.

Anonymous said...

"What's the difference between a 'non-PhD' and an 'ABD'?"

I'm not the original poster--but I believe the difference might be between one not having defended one's diss (ABD), and having defended but not yet having one's degree conferred (not PhD).

apriori said...

ABD's are stronger candidates than those with non-Ph.D.s and here is an example that shows the difference.

Philosophy of Law/Social Political Job.

ABD from Princeton in Phil
JD from Harvard (no Ph.D. chance)

Job goes to ABD b/c in some departments like mine, you have to have a Ph.D. to get tenure.

You would not believe how many non-Ph.D.s (not ABD) apply for jobs each year thinking they can become professors. Seriously! Sometimes it is just MA people looking to get lucky. It doesn't happen except at Community Colleges.

Anonymous said...

The job market is non-existent, unfair and stacked against almost everyone. I finished my PhD in December 2004 in a supposedly hot topic area "philosophy of technology." This earned me no interviews, considerations or anything else. I work FT as a lecturer at a technical school and have an adjunct job teaching 1/4 time at a local state school in PA. My next step is to leave the field entirely if I can figure out a way to make money. If you do not go to the right conferences, know the right people and kiss the right asses, there will be no job in philosophy for you, PhD or not.

Anonymous said...

Yes Yes, the market is unfair, the market is fickle, the market is evil, the market has no scruples, the market eats puppies. Come on, folks, could it possibly be, perhaps, that the market does an okay job of tracking talent? That perhaps A's failure to get a job has quite a bit to do with A not comparing favourably to B, C, and D? Perhaps A needs to publish, perhaps A needs to finish her dissertation, perhaps A should have more than three letters, perhaps A shouldn't think that failure to get a job means of the market failed to track A's awesomeness but rather A's awesomeness tends to seem less awesome when side-by-side with B, C, and D, all of whom are done, have published in good/great journals, and have letter from respected folks outside their departments.

Then again, perhaps A just isn't that good, and the market's reactions to A are further evidence of that. Just because you got or will get a PhD in philosophy doesn't mean that you are any good. How many years of poor performance before A should stop blaming the market and start blaming herself? 3, 5, none?

PGA, it needs to be said, but if your dossier doesn't substantially change, you should expect more of the same next year. Get those meaningless letters after your name, publish an article in Phil Studies, get some more rec letters, then try try again.

Blaming the market may make you feel better, but it certainly won't make you a better philosopher and being a better philosopher (or at least appearing so) than you are right now is key to getting a job next year. Good luck.

Anonymous said...

Dear Anon 11:49,

Instead of complaining about the unfairness of the market, you should be complaining about whoever it was in your program that let you believe that "philosophy of technology" was a "hot" topic. Even a casual glance through the JFP should make it pretty clear that you are shooting yourself in the foot by picking a topic like that.

Anonymous said...

Yes, it IS you. Some folks like to deflect blame on the "job market", which may rightly be part of the problem. But at the end of the day, if you were any good, you'd be hired. Sorry.

tenured philosophy girl said...


I'd sort of like to hear you respond to all this. Every few weeks you post about how you are mystified and depressed about not getting a job. Every time tons of people write in and tell you that it's probably because you aren't done with your diss, and that you really shouldn't be complaining or getting depressed or surprised about not getting a job without Ph.D. in hand. (Of course some people do get their jobs ABD, but that's a perk, a gift, a special award of merit, a stroke of luck ... not something anyone has the right to expect.)

So what isn't connecting? Why the silence in the face of this obviously satisfactory response to your queries?

I mean for goodness sake, in this post you complain about not getting a POST-DOC. That's POST as in after, and DOC as in doctorate. Can you think of any reason - any reason at all - why they might have chosen someone other than you for this??

Anonymous said...

Anon 1:53: "...being a better philosopher (or at least appearing so) than you are right now is key to getting a job...."

Ah, there's the rub: least appearing so....

Any fool should know that being a good philosopher doesn't count for much. The key is: find out whatever it is that makes people appear to be good philosophers, and just do that. Who knows? - it might even turn out to be a hell of a lot easier than actually being good....

Anonymous said...

Anon 2:53,

If we were "any good" we'd be hired? You mean that or are you what apparently some people call a "troll"? Either way, it's a stupid-ass commnet. Just considered a priori, it's false. Lots of people can be "any good" and not get hired because there's more "any good" people than there are job openings. Universities don't just hire all the "good" philosophers and leave the rest to rot, you dumbass. You must just be yankin' our collective chains because no one is as stupid as you seem to be.

Anonymous said...

How much ya bet the people saying it's not the job market are people who've got jobs? Funny how being ordained has a way of washing away all the injustices of the ordaining system. Anyone who's got a job bold enough to admit that they didn't really deserve it, or didn't deserve it any more than a zillion others??

Anonymous said...

Anon 1:53,

Exactly how does one get these outside letters? Other than teaching VAP for TWO years (I shouldn't have to explain why it takes two years, but I will if needed) or really impressing someone outside your department over the course of SEVERAL conversations, conference encounters, and whatnot, I can't think of an easy way to get such letters besides being student or colleague of such people, which of course requires that one have been a student there or have gotten a job there, which requires said outside letters to begin with. I can imagine how some people might manage to get such letters (through impressing someone in a single conversation or conference presentation; on the occasion of having them read one of your papers). But this doesn't seem very honest (that's my problem, I guess). Someone outside the department might write such a letter on such flimsy evidence, but no one should take it seriously.

Please, how else can one do this? I'd like to get such a letter.

Anonymous said...

wow, whomever wrote that last comment is a total asshole.

Anonymous said...

Anon 5:19,

Which comment in particular?

Pseudonymous Grad Student said...

TGP --

Fair question, although I'm afraid giving a satisfactory response would involve doing a couple of things I don't like doing: (1) going all meta, which is annoying; and (2) getting into the specifics of what's on my CV. That said:

First the meta: I think I might (wrongly) take this to be more obvious than it is sometimes, but a lot of my posts these days aren't really anything but expressions of my occasionally dark head space. From the very first posts I wrote over a year ago, this blog has been about, among other things, howling at the world. So, sometimes I howl.

The second point is, most of the advice people are telling me to do is stuff I've already done. Obviously, the one thing I haven't done is defend my dissertation. I'll stay vague about the rest, but I will say my CV (I think) shows I've spent the last year and a half very productively, despite not having defended my dissertation.

More generally: In my more even-keeled moments (like this one!), I have at least a pretty good partial sense of what my problems are. It's a sense informed by some of my experience, as well as the judgment of some profs I trust a lot. So, e.g, I suspect the relative obscurity of my diss topic, among other things, is going to be a hurtle to overcome. More--much more--about that another time.

But some of my moments are decidedly not even-keeled. Sometimes all of this just sucks and hurts like a motherfucker. Then I write posts like this one.

I'm sure that's not a completely satisfying answer. But I hope it explains a little.

Anonymous said...

Speaking as someone who has worked as placement director in a Leiterrespectable PhD program for several years, I would note: it is just plain wrong to say that you need your PhD already in hand to get a job. What is important (and I've seen people say this in previous threads) is that your letter writers make it VERY clear that you will be utterly & completely defended well before the fall that your job would start.

I would especially underscore this principle if one is choosing between (i) wrapping up the diss now, and (ii) getting some good publications out. So long as your letters are as I just said, it is much, much more important to focus on (ii) than (i).

To this anonymous poster: "I finished my PhD in December 2004 in a supposedly hot topic area "philosophy of technology."" Emphasis there on "supposedly", I'm afraid. My advice would be to develop another AOS, and fast... which is, however, probably not doable in your current teaching situation. I'm really sorry, but I agree with the person who said that someone in your grad program gave you some spectacularly bad advice.

For outside letters: "or really impressing someone outside your department over the course of SEVERAL conversations, conference encounters, and whatnot." Yep. That's the way to do it. Hopefully one's advisors can at least facilitate that happening, though.

Pseudonymous Grad Student said...

Um, I meant "TPG". Sorry, about that.

Non-defender said...

Finishing the dissertation:

1) One applies for TT jobs in the Fall, so that means if she takes the advice to finish her dissertation, she must have defended it before then.

2) People who have defended their dissertations are no longer students, and, therefore, no longer eligible for funding.

3) If you don't get a job, you're fucked. You've spent a year adjuncting, not even VAPing, and it looks bad, very bad.

4) Fuck defending the dissertation before applying for jobs. Finish it, sure, but put off defending. Have letter-writers explain that the dissertation is finished, but it has not been defended solely because of funding reasons.

5) The philosophers looking to hire are not idiots. They will understand what is going on.

6) If by finishing the dissertation, one means defending and losing funding and looking like a reject on the job market, this is bad, very bad, advice.

tenured philosophy girl said...

Anonymous Leiterrespectable 9:10 is right on all counts.

All the same, PGS, you can see why people with, say, 2004 Ph.D.s and no TT jobs might find your self-flagellation just a teeny bit unseemly. They are the ones who should be asking "what the fuck is wrong with me?", not you.

As for Philosophy of Technology guy (gal?), as others have commented - it's clear what the fuck is wrong with you. You have a hopelessly marginal AOS, some sadistic and/or stupid advisors, and a few screws loose if you didn't once look at a JFP for yourself during several years of working on your project.

velouria said...

"Yes, it IS you. Some folks like to deflect blame on the "job market", which may rightly be part of the problem. But at the end of the day, if you were any good, you'd be hired. Sorry."

I don't know if this person sincerely believes this, but I hear things like this all the time. It just seems obviously wrong; good people could easily end up without jobs. It probably happens all the time.

Consider candidate x: x has no publications and no teaching experience. x does have some letters from good people, but his advisor works on a difficult subject most people don't understand. x's writing sample is extremely difficult to understand as well. Also, x's letters warn that x can be difficult to get along with, and in interviews x comes across as a little abrasive. How would this candidate do on the market? Probably not too well, but x is Wittgenstein around 1920 - after he had already written the Tractatus.

Anonymous said...

I am anonymous 5.19. I was referring to the jerk who posted on March 25, 2008 2:53 PM. Not the reasonable individual who posted on March 25, 2008 4:01 PM.

Sorry about any confusion. I guess a lot of posts came in between, and I should have been specific when I posted.

m.a. program faculty member said...

Come on, folks, could it possibly be, perhaps, that the market does an okay job of tracking talent?

It does, I think, but there is also a huge amount of luck involved.

At the end of the day, I think that most search committees do a decent job of sorting out candidates on a semi-rational basis that does roughly track talent.

But, but, but...

Given that there is no sure-fire way of telling who is good, and given that the various factors are so hard to weigh and compare to one another, and given the huge oversupply of excellent people compared to OK TT jobs...

There still is a lot of dumb luck involved in who happens to get most of those jobs.

Anonymous said...

"'or really impressing someone outside your department over the course of SEVERAL conversations, conference encounters, and whatnot.' Yep. That's the way to do it."

Wow. It's shocking that something as worthless as a recommendation based on a handful of conversation is even read in the process--much less made a significant factor in the decision.

I'm embarrassed to be (a hired, tenure-track) part of this profession.

Oh, and in response to 3/25, 3:56 p.m.: There's no way in hell I'll say I don't deserve my job--but I can definitely confirm that if I have one, it's not because I'm unquestionably better than those who didn't get it. (I even accidentally encountered the list of competitors for my current position--and no, they did not clearly deserve it less.)

I'd add that in the numerous positions of various kinds I've held over the years, I've usually ended up with a good inkling of why I was hired and who was the strongest force in getting me hired. And in every case it was for a rather trivial reason.

So, yes, the "the invisible hand of the market" is all knowing and good" line is something that the job-having tell ourselves to feel good about ourselves. It is particularly helpful for those of us who are not entirely happy with the jobs we ended up with--it tells us we're not complete losers, since there's still a loser rung below us. Don't pay attention to it.

Pseudonymous Grad Student said...

TPG --

All the same, PGS, you can see why people with, say, 2004 Ph.D.s and no TT jobs might find your self-flagellation just a teeny bit unseemly. They are the ones who should be asking "what the fuck is wrong with me?", not you.

I'm of course aware of this sort of view, but I don't actually understand it. I don't see why finding the job market painful, and bitching about how painful it is, is something anyone has to earn the right to do.

I have one friend going through just about the worst job market nightmare I can imagine--a combination of being out for a few years and still having nothing permanent, and some really, really, really hard personal difficulties that makes not having a permanent job especially brutal. I can't think of a guy in a worse situation than him. I have nothing but sympathy for him.

I also have a friend--one of my office mates from the halcyon days of our office--who got a job ABD her first year out. But, as she and I talked about, she found the job market brutal. She talked about it as one of the most difficult things she'd ever done in her life. She hated it. And I've got nothing but sympathy for her too on that score. It was awful for her. I saw it on her face every day.

Are my two friends going through equal amounts of awfulness? Of course not. For one of them, happily, the awfulness is over. But that doesn't mean it makes sense for me to wag my finger at the second one and tell her to STFU about how hard she had it, just because lots of other people have it harder. That'd be kind of a dickish thing to do, no?

You have a hopelessly marginal AOS, some sadistic and/or stupid advisors, and a few screws loose if you didn't once look at a JFP for yourself during several years of working on your project.

Well, I at least haven't given up hope about my project. As for the rest, no, not really, but more about that another time.

inquiring mind said...

Did anyone else out there find the market exciting (as I did)? Harrowing yes, but thrilling all the same. And not entirely un-fun ... and flattering at times. Of course, it's all of the terrible things that people describe AS WELL. And maybe, in this forum, it's just perverse or unkind to mention the pros which complement the cons. If so, apologies. But I have a sneaking suspicion that those who manage to locate and relish that positives in the process fared better than those who didn't (overall, ceteris paribus, etc.).

Just a thought.

Pseudonymous Grad Student said...

Inquiring Mind --

For sure. The job market is all those those things.

But I have a sneaking suspicion that those who manage to locate and relish that positives in the process fared better than those who didn't (overall, ceteris paribus, etc.).

Maybe. But of course, it would be more flattering, and less harrowing, to the people who eventually get jobs, wouldn't it? Ceteris paribus, of course.

Anonymous said...

Very refreshing, Anon 7:08! Thank you.

inquiring mind said...

Point taken. Could be a chicken-egg phenomenon here too though ...

Anonymous said...

I suspect that the Wittgenstein comment was intended as an indictment of the standard criteria for hiring. On the contrary, would any one in his/her right mind hire Wittgenstein to teach undergraduates? Who would want to deal with him at department or faculty meetings? He would be a pain in the ass to have around. He would, in short, be unqualified for most of the jobs available. That is not an indictment of the field of philosophy, or of the goals and standards of American higher education. It is just a fact that these jobs most of us are pursuing are for philosophy teachers, not for savants. It strikes me that too many of us think we are, and should be treated as, savants. Wake up! You are not the next Wittgenstein. (And, be thankful for that.)

velouria said...

"I suspect that the Wittgenstein comment was intended as an indictment of the standard criteria for hiring."

I just wanted to make the (weak) point that the hiring process is fallible, so we shouldn't automatically say things like, "If you were any good, you would have gotten a job." People do say and think this. An example where the person was both a good philosopher and adept at doing the sorts of things one has to do in the average philosophy job today would have worked better.

"On the contrary, would any one in his/her right mind hire Wittgenstein to teach undergraduates?"

If I was on a SC, I would hire Wittgenstein to teach undergraduates. Not because he'd be good at it, but because it would be hilarious. Imagine the way he would react if a student ignored his lecture to look at Facebook instead. Imagine his student evaluations.

Anonymous said...

"What's the difference between a 'non-PhD' and an 'ABD'?"

I took the phrase to be hendiadys.

tenured philosophy girl said...

UM, PGS, my point about the hopeless AOS was clearly and explicitly directed at the Philosophy of TEchnology person, not you!

I have no problem at all with people venting and naming their own misery while also recognizing the misery of others. That's part of the kick of this blog obviously. It was specifically the 'what the fuck is wrong with me' in your latest post that prompted me to write. Since it is so obvious that there is nothing at all wrong with you if you don't get a job AHEAD OF THE EXPECTED TIME in such a tight market, then that surely insinuates that others who still don't have a job several years after finishing REALLY have something fucking wrong with them.

Others have pointed out that it sucks to be done and no longer a student and then go on the market. Yes it does suck, I agree, but it is often necessary. The very best time to go on the market is before you defend but once you are really truly ready to defend, maybe minus some very trivial neatening up, so your committee can say in full voice that you truly have a complete project and will be done.

As others have pointed out in past posts, those of us on SCs can *always* tell when a project is not really fully baked. Candidates think they can fake it but they can't.

Anonymous said...

Re: Anon 1:53's post:

I've said this before here. People who have had success in the system and those who perpetuate it have an incentive to believe that the system is efficient, and it generally does select the best people. Admittedly, those of us who've been chewed over and spit out have an incentive to believe the opposite, so I won't refer to my own virtues here.

Instead, I'll ask you to make a list of ten really good books and articles in your field, and a list of ten people you'd like your department to hire in your field, based on how much you respect their research. Cross off anyone over 60 as a first crack at getting rid of "classics" if your first list contains any of those. Sure Harvard and Pitt will probably be represented, but you'll also find some people on your lists who teach at Piece of Shit College, who are really good scholars and have just barely made it through the system. Then look at the roster of profs in your PhD program. Rank-order them in terms of how good scholars you think they are, and add to this roster the folks on your list from PSC. You'll see that a lot of good scholars don't get the recognition they deserve, and that a lot of really mediocre people do very well.

Now consider how many good-to-great scholars never even made it to PSC, and you'll see that the system isn't that efficient after all.

Anonymous said...

PGS, I'm actually an unemployed 2004 PhD (re: hypothetical above). And I do feel your pain, because I've been there. I don't feel much sympathy for your friend who got a job ABD, however. She can complain all she wants about how tough and dehumanizing the experience was, but in the end she got a job. So either it wasn't worth the pain, and she should have given up part way through, or it was worth it and then why complain? No offense to her or your judgment of her, but I fear she might turn into one of these jackass faux-chosen-one types that comment so much on this blog if she's not careful. I hope she realizes that she was in fact one of the lucky ones (her ability and qualifications notwithstanding).

Anonymous said...

Damn, I had to look up "hendiadys". No wonder I haven't got a job. I must be illiterate.

Anonymous said...

"x is Wittgenstein around 1920 - after he had already written the Tractatus."

For the record: Wittgenstein did have a book review published before the Tractatus.

Anonymous said...

A friend told me about this blog recently. It reminds me of when I was on the market after my doctorate. Many of you should try to do something else professionally. Hopefully it will make you feel better about yourself, your skills, and the possibility of using your intelligence to do something meaningful. Use your skills. Do something!

Anonymous said...

It's the market, people - not you!! You are each great philosophers and deserving of a good job of your choice. Good luck, all!!

Anonymous said...

"Wow. It's shocking that something as worthless as a recommendation based on a handful of conversation is even read in the process--much less made a significant factor in the decision."

It shouldn't be too hard for a philosopher such as yourself to recognize the distinction between a set of _necessary conditions_ for acquiring an outside letter on the one hand, and the _basis for judgment_ that might be exercised in such a letter. The personal interactions needed for the former will, most certainly, not be much of the material for the latter (which will mostly be the person's philosophical work -- which the letter-writer has only agreed to read & think on because of that history of conversation, etc.)

Anonymous said...

This post is from the "philosophy of technology" person with PhD in hand.

All of those who said that technology is (and was) not hot should look at JFP as they've advised me to do. During the time I was writing there were over 50 postings in computing ethics (which is where that topic would lead). Nevertheless, most were for far less $ than I make at the technical school.

Yes, I have other specialties in continental and social philosophy. Still no offers. All of the tenured track pompous posters on this forum don't want to admit that they were lucky and that any one of a number of persons could fill their position. For the record I've won teaching awards in three different institutions (but teaching expereience doesn't count for shit) and am quite competent in modern philosophy. My vita emphasizes experience in teaching as well as the general AOS areas above. versus only focusing on philosophy of tech.

Again, a PhD is no guarantee of a career oriented position unless you know someone and can kiss the right ass. Also be sure to publish at least two high profile articles and again, this may require ass-kissing.

lucky in love said...

To "philosophy of technology person": you write, during the time I was writing, there were over 50 postings in computing ethics. I assume this was for at least two years? So that makes for 25 jobs a year you're looking at, tops... Not "a lot" in this market, by my lights. I happily grant that I was really freakin' lucky to land a TT job right out of grad school. But at least some of that luck was helped by the fact that I was able to apply to 65+ jobs in the first round, all of which were squarely in the area of my dissertation. And I was lucky also to have advisors who urged me to focus on a dissertation project that would give me solidly some broad AOSs and hold off on my more specialized interests until after grad school.

And yes, any one of a number of people could fill my position. I'm totally happy to admit that. For some reason or another, one department picked me, and a whole lot of others didn't. I don't think the one that offered me a job did it because I was better than all the others who interviewed, and I don't think the ones that didn't offer me a job didn't because I was worse than all the others. There's a ton of factors involved (many of which --- gasp! --- weren't ass-kissing) and it's a lot of sheer dumb luck to get all of them to go your way to land that coveted TT. None of that changes the fact that you were given bad advice.

Anonymous said...

To "lucky in love" - admittedly there are many ways to carve out a specialty in philosophy. If one chooses a familiar topic like Kant, odds are much better than for those who are aiming for multidisciplinary work.

However, I am sure given the teaching and other areas of concentration in my portfolio, I could have credibly applied for 40 or so jobs the first year out. That I didn't had more to do with existing family care commitments and not wanting to take a huge pay cut to move to higher cost areas. Also throwing an employed spouse out of work, meaning yet another huge income loss, was a consideration in my case. Hence, the two body consideration has had an effect on my situation (which may be more complicated than most 20 or 30 somethings).

Nevertheless, I was not the only person to finish with a contemporary topic in my graduate school and we were encouraged to think about our projects in a multidisciplinary, versus the traditional way. That said, many so-called classicists and traditionalists did not fare much better than the post-mods in that almost all had to take jobs or make moves that represented huge economic losses even if they were taking a TT job. Those who knew somebody who also knew somebody fared much better and only applied for a few positions (because they were promised supposedly open positions for which an inside choice had already been made); those who didn't cultivate relationships with in people did the roulette routine of applying for 50+ jobs year.

Again, just to avoid more snide unproductive comments, my school had a relatively high post-graduate placement rate in interesting (worthwhile liberal arts) schools as did my dissertation director.

IMHO: This problem of oversupply is not about topics or excellence (though some candidates and topics are clearly better than others {just read the testimony above}). The real issue is the absurdity of cultivating far more PhDs than the discipline could ever absorb under the current arcane model of organization in our profession.

It is also about philosophy and the great theorists of our time having made no effort to justify the dscipline's utility outside of its own jargon-laden, precocious inbred world. We could do our discipline a favor if we could find a way to demonstrate the utility of philosophy in other areas of endeavor; e.g., every good multi-national corporate citizen (if any exist) ought to have an ethicist or two on board. Thus, more opportunities for philosophers with varied interests would begin to manifest.

BTW: it is interesting to note that on a "job market blog" which ponders the state of the profession and takes place via purely displaced, anonymous technological means so-called thinkers would not consider the vast changes in communications technologies and the resultant effects on lived experience a worthy field of investigation.(!?!)

lucky in love said...

"Philosophy of technology person" (I'm assuming that's you at 7:57): you make a lot of good points; I don't want to take issue with the quality of your grad program, the overcultivation of Ph.D.s (in philosophy and in the humanities generally), etc. But none of this was what I --- and a number of others, if I was reading aright --- originally took umbrage at. In your 11:49 post, you took wide, bitter swings at the profession generally, insinuating that it's nothing more than an old-boys club and that those who end up getting jobs do it only because they kiss the right asses. Some of the evidence for this was supposed to be that even though you worked in a super-hot topic, you had no interviews, etc. Our general point was (and still is, I think) that anyone who told you that the topic would make it *easier* to get a job was mistaken. Granted, you might have had other compensating skills --- but those were making up for a hard-to-place dissertation topic, not boosting an already helpful one. So that bit of alleged evidence didn't seem like good evidence after all.

It's also coming out that you have a lot of constraints on what sort of job you'll even consider, salary-wise, location-wise, two-head-problem-wise, etc. So while we'll all bemoan with you the sad fact that having these constraints makes a philosophy job exponentially harder to come by, it kind of undermines your claim that your own employment situation is all the fault of a manifestly unfair market that cares about and only about who you know. (After all, even those of us who get jobs only because we know the right people can't guarantee that the right people we know are at places in low-cost areas, or that will allow for good spousal employment, or whatever.)

Also, I don't think anyone here thinks philosophy of technology isn't a useful field of investigtion. We just don't think it's very helpful job-marketwise. The research project I'm most interested in is one that I (and I think a lot of people) would think more worthwhile than the one I did my dissertation on. But I decided to hold off on that for later, because it's not a topic that tends to do well on the job market. So that might be a sad state of affairs, having to put off what you're most interested in/think is most worthwhile for a time while you do what's more marketable instead --- but it's our best practical strategy given the hand we've been dealt.

Anonymous said...

OK, I'll ask the question that I'm sure is on other people's minds as well: what the hell is philosophy of technology?

Philosophy I'm good on, and I think I know what technology is. Now the guy who specialized in it seems to think it's more or less synonymous with computer ethics. And I'm a little confused there, because "philosophy of technology" does scream ETHICS, at least to me, and also, if you do computer ethics, why not say you do computer ethics rather than philosophy of technology? Something like philosophy of mind is a subfield of philosophy all its own, largely falling under M&E but also under ethics and logic, and I'd assume philosophy of technology is similarly. But computer ethics is just a branch of ethics, isn't it?

I'm sure I come off as nitpicking, and that's really NOT my intention, so I'm sorry if I have written this very well. But I've also seen the jobs looking for people to teach philosophy of technology, and I've wondered what they had in mind. I kind of naively assumed the SCs might not have had anything much in mind, just figured it sounded like a topic that would draw undergrad FTEs. But maybe that's my ignorance.

Could someone give me a list of topics other than computer ethics that fall under the heading "philosophy of technology"? I genuinely interested. Thanks

Anonymous said...

To "lucky in love" - since philosophers never agree on anything it is not surprising that you have mixed my general and specific claims concerning the sorry state of our profession. On the general side: I do believe many, many positions are filled through the old boys network as I saw ample evidence at conferences including the Eastern APA. Every single mentor I asked at both my undergraduate and graduate institution also told me the exact same thing and it was indeed true for most persons in my program. Connections, being at the "in conferences" and publishing in journals were all critical components were all critical, but the first two more so than the last.

Regarding all of my specs for a job: since I made a mid-career life change, I am selective in what I will accept and realize that I may have to find a non-mainstream position to satisfy my research/writing interests. I knew that when I selected my dissertation director and topic. I wanted to be in a multi-disciplinary, post-mod department that mixes media studies, theory and continental philosophy. There are many in perfectly cool places that I would relocate for. But, again, I also noted that even those who were younger without baggage/life commitments did not fare much better, even the traditionalists who opted for safer topics, more prestigious dissertation committee members. etc. Bottom line: if you are young, have few life constraints and will chase a $40,000 opportunity endlessly, you might get lucky enough to get a TT. If one reads Leiter's various blogs and this blog in detail, the reality of the situation becomes clear. There are many fine candidates who far surpass my supposed weak credentials and they are still not faring much better.

To be frank I am giving up on the idea of ever becoming gainfully employed in a TT philosophy job given the arcane sense of "topic correctness" that I see demonstrated in this thread.

Additionally,I am not claiming to be a helpless victim in this situation. I was an overly gullible, idealistic, optimistic undergraduate when I entered this profession and never imagined the vast amount of adjunct teaching that I would have to perform to survive while writing my dissertation. I lived in an apartment that rented for $225/month, drove a $1500 car (like many I'm sure) and did not have a lavish lifestyle. Anyone reading this who cannot live on adjunct wages for 1-2 classes take note; your writing may not happen if you teach to eat.

Thus, I stalled and finished later than planned. Yes, I graduated three years into a full time gig in philosophy, but you would laugh at my load on the quarter system (4 classes/quarter, all faculty teach all quarters). So, yes, through extremely poor choices I have put myself in this dismal state. Like the title says "it would be funny if it were happening to someone else."

Nevertheless, I did not create the job market that perpetuates the ridiculous selection process that presents itself as fair, but does not necessarily perform that way. Off the record professors at conferences, who assumed due to my age or the company of tenured friends that I was a tenured colleague, often joked about choosing from such a wide pool of candidates. In situations where there were real opportunities for nice conservative philosophers, choices were often made on social versus purely academic terms. Who would "get along" best with the dept. etc, I have been party to many discussions concerning the intangibles that help one secure employment and they are hardly ever the pristine qualifications advocated in this blog. When everyone shows up with pristine qualifications, great publications and marketable topics, the supposedly rational process becomes quite arbitrary.

For the poster who genuinely asked, philosophy of technology and computer ethics are significantly different. The former centers on understanding changes in lived experience resulting from the evolution of human involvement with various industrial/information age technologies (e.g., Marx, Heidegger, Baudrillard, Derrida, Marcuse, Lyotard, Habermas etc. ). The latter deals with specific areas of conflict regarding autonomy, copyright, intellectual property, privacy and changes in ethical/legal theory necessitated by changing modes of communication.
Certainly there is some overlap.

tenured philosophy girl said...

lucky in love -