Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Coronation.

Several readers have jumped on Leiter's "Rising Stars" post from this morning:
The Chronicle of Higher Ed used to run a feature each fall on "rising stars" focusing on newly hired junior faculty who were deemed the most promising, as evidenced in large part by the offers they accrued from leading departments. I used to suggest to them junior philosophy faculty on whom to focus, some of whom they ran stories on (such as Joshua Knobe at North Carolina, and Carolina Sartorio at Wisconsin), but now that the Chronicle is out of the business as it were, I'll just note briefly the three young philosophers whose talent and promise resulted in the most offers from leading departments this past year; they are:

Agnes Callard (PhD, Berkeley), AOS: Ethics, Philosophy of Action, Ancient Philosophy. She will be the Neubauer Family Assistant Professor of Philosophy at the University of Chicago.

Matthew Kotzen (PhD, NYU), AOS: Epistemology, Philosophy of Science. He will be Assistant Professor of Philosophy at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Japa Pallikkathayil (PhD, Harvard), AOS: Moral and Political Philosophy. She will be Assistant Professor of Philosophy at New York University.

Particularly of note, apparently, is that none of these superstars have any publications to their name.

I am, as usual, vacillating between charmed and mortified at the collective need to let the fear and loathing hang out for all the world to see. But we aim to please here at PJMB. So have at 'er. What do y'all think?

-- PGOAT

112 comments:

Anonymous said...

I was one of the people who asked for a separate post on this so, first of all, thanks - especially given the reservations about unseemly displays (which I share). I know some of the "rising stars." They're great people and really smart. I really hope everyone has the sense to lay off of them and lay blame squarely where it is deserved, namely on Leiter and hopefully to some extent on the search committees that inundated these cadidates with offers.

The fact that these candidates got so many offers from top-tier departments despite the absence of any publications (and, I might point out, without having defended at the time of the offers) gives us a great opportunity to evaluate the criteria that hiring commitees use to make their decisions. Instead, Leiter (show-boat that he is) used this as an opportunity for indirect self-congratulation and in doing so chose to legitimize and perpetuate the lousy criteria that many search committees use.

Again, these candidates are great people and smart philosophers. But there are junior candidates much more deserving of attention, candidates who have solid accomplishments beyond merely having impressed some big name philosophers at fancy schools.

This speaks really badly of our profession and I feel kind of ashamed of it.

Asstro said...

Yes, it's bullshit, based largely on a reverence for pedigree and letters of reference from kingmakers. I don't doubt that these are talented philosophers, but at this point calling "rising star" on an unpublished (and therefore, largely unknown) commodity is like divining for gold.

Anonymous said...

I'm no hater and i applaud these individuals. Be that as it may, NO PUBS and NO TEACHING BACKGROUND (or extremely little). What do you make of that?

Self-defensive said...

Hmm. I agree that the Leiter entry is yucky, and would be even if it didn't contain the reminder that CHE used to ask *him* who the stars are. (Blech. Need a quick shower. Okay, back.)

But I don't see what the big problem/scandal over unpublished rising stars is supposed to be. Is it that they couldn't really deserve all those job offers, or more that Brian Leiter isn't in a position to know whether they deserve the job offers?

How does Asstro know that the job offers were based on pedigree reverence and 'letters from kingmakers'? That seems to me to be a pretty offensive assumption, if it is just an assumption.

(Full disclosure: I had no publications in graduate school, and I was hired ABD, so I might just be getting a little defensive.)

Anonymous said...

It's funny, b/c I just read Leiter did the Google thing and was shocked as the general lack of philosophical involvement. Some comments and a conference here and there, but no pubs...

I have heard that top programs discourage publishing b/c it is either a waste of a paper for tenure or you could get something in print that might hurt your job chances.

Kingmakers is exactly what this feels like. I have no doubt that these people will be fine philosophers, but yes, there are people that have been out for fewer than five years that have done work and deserve real recognition.

Just amazing how this one worked out!

Anonymous said...

Don't some "rising stars" fail to have publications because their thesis is likely to become a book, and so they are loathe to break it apart into seperate publications? If that is the case with these people - and I have no idea if it is - that might explain their popularity despite lack of present publications.

Anonymous said...

It is not like divining for gold because these individuals have dissertations that already say a fair amount about their potential. Even at top schools, there is a fair amount of variability in the quality of the dissertation that gets produced. And, every now and then, you have a student who comes along and writes something really path-breaking in the dissertation such that they already seem like colleagues to those who are long-standing members of the field. I've seen it happen in my department and I'll admit that it made me wish I had that kind of talent because I simply don't.

Take Christine Korsgaard, for example. Most people don't realize that she started at Eastern Illinois University, a no name school. (No joke, check her CV.) But, from her very first papers in her philosopher classes, her professors realized that she had incredible talent and that she ought to move up the ranks. She was ushered on to Urbana-Champaign and, from there, Harvard.

Note, too, that each of these rising stars, as Leiter calls them, come from departments that have individuals who struggled to land a job (if they landed one at all). I take it that, even as graduate students, these rising stars likely stood out as exceptionally talented from among their peers.


Of course, a brilliant dissertation is no guarantee that an individual will then go on to do brilliant publishing, but the tenure process is supposed to weed out those duds who seem promising but fail to deliver. On the other hand, if, as a department, you have a chance to catch someone early, it can be worth the risk because they eventually add luster to your school.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said:

"But there are junior candidates much more deserving of attention, candidates who have solid accomplishments beyond merely having impressed some big name philosophers at fancy schools."

I don't doubt that there are plenty of junior candidates who deserve more attention than they received this last year. But I know Matt Kotzen's work very well and I doubt that there are many junior candidates who deserve more attention than him.

I also have to take issue with the implication that impressing prominent philosophers is a less significant accomplishment than publishing a paper. Among other people, Matt greatly impressed Roger White, Jim Pryor, Hartry Field, Paul Boghossian, Tom Nagel, Stephen Schiffer and Don Garrett. All of these philosophers read Matt's papers and interacted with him in a number of philosophical contexts. I think that this is a far greater accomplishment than merely managing to get two random referees at a journal to accept a paper.

Like many others, I think that Leiter's decision to select three "stars" is bizarre and unhelpful. Knowing Matt, I'm sure he feels the same way. But Matt deserved every job offer and its important not to confuse the two issues.

I don't know Agnes or Jappa but I assume that similar considerations extend to them.

Prof. J. said...

I have heard that top programs discourage publishing b/c it is either a waste of a paper for tenure or you could get something in print that might hurt your job chances.

I would say that the first used to be true, but is no longer; the second I'd never heard before.

Asstro said...

Self-defensive:

In the hiring process, a committee evaluates several factors, which include (but are not limited to, I suppose): (a) publications, (b) educational background, (c) letters, (d) dissertation, (e) doneness/progress, (f) future/on-going projects, (g) (sometimes) teaching, (h) (sometimes) conference presentations. The more research-oriented the SC, the more the first set of factors plays a role. (Of course, some success on the market boils down to charisma, networking, packaging, and so on; so maybe they're rising stars on these counts. But that seems wrong.) It's possible that the dissertations of these candidates were so stunning that the SCs were simply blown away, but for the SCs to know this about the dissertations, it is highly unlikely that they actually read the dissertations. Usually an SC will learn about the dissertation from (a) the abstract and (b) the dissertation advisor/committee.

I'd say that it is extremely likely that these candidates got great letters of recommendation from some of the leading lights in their areas of specialization. If John Searle -- e.g.; I know nothing about any of these candidates -- writes a letter saying that his student is the best he's had in over thirty years, there's a good damned chance that that candidate will get an interview. Note, please, that none of this suggests that this student is not a good candidate, nor that that candidate isn't deserving of high praise; only that that candidate has gotten through the door in Searle's coattails.

It may seem, then, that Searle's coattails function as a proxy for the good work of the student. But I don't think that's true.

Take an alternative case. Suppose that that same student had, instead, not had the good fortune of knowing enough to apply to Berkeley; or had gone to a low-level undergraduate college and thus not been able to get into Berkeley. Suppose that that same student had gone to a much lower ranked school with less well known philosophers. Suppose that Philosopher Joe Mid-range writes a letter saying that this student is the best he's had in thirty years. Suppose he even uses the same words that Searle uses. Will that same student _ceteris paribus_ get the same number of interviews?

I daresay: doubtful.

Anonymous said...

I really don't get why people are upset about these philosophers, and other philosophers, getting jobs prior to publication. A good dissertation and excellent writing samples can go very far, especially when accompanied by recommendation letters from leading philosophers validating their quality. I always took the rush to publication to be a symptom of a backwards academic system, and now it seems like everyone is buying into it. Being published does not mean you are a better candidate than someone not published. The schools that interviewed these candidates and offered them jobs saw a kind of potential in them that added up to more than a publication in phil. review of JOP. I can say this in part because I'm a student at a school that offered a job to one of the candidates.

Anonymous said...

To Anon 11:53:

No one is upset. People are simply wondering if the fix is in based less on merit and more on the good ol' boy network. No one here has ill will towards these superb potential scholars.

Anonymous said...

I've actually printed out these cvs and will do the following:

1) tailor my cv accordingly
2) not worry about teaching more classes
3) not worry about pubs right now (screw reviewing books too, right?)
4)feel good about my empty cv...yay for me!!

Anonymous said...

I saw all three of these people give job talks. They are all brilliant. I don't understand the big fuss. If Pitt, Stanford, Texas, NYU, UNC, etc etc etc etc etc want to hire these people then a) that says something about these people and b) it is their choice who they hire.

WorkingABD said...

In response to 12:07's reference to the "good ol' boy network":

Isn't it interesting that two of these three "rising stars" are women from other countries??

Being a) a woman, b) from another country-- and thereby (probably) contributing to diversifying the field, and c) being a kick-ass philosopher = getting tons of job offers (which seems to be the primary criteria for being a "rising star" acc. to BL).

If it is the "good ol' boy network" at work here, then at least it seems to be working against some of its traditional values.

Way to go, boys!

Anonymous said...

"I also have to take issue with the implication that impressing prominent philosophers is a less significant accomplishment than publishing a paper. Among other people, Matt greatly impressed [big NYU names]. All of these philosophers read Matt's papers and interacted with him in a number of philosophical contexts. I think that this is a far greater accomplishment than merely managing to get two random referees at a journal to accept a paper."

It no doubt takes some talent to impress these people, but it's debatable how much impressing them is a reliable indication of comparative talent given the differences in access. And why does impressing this particular group of philosophers count for so much more than impressing another group at a less prestigious school? Why does it count for more than impressing referees?

Also, don't belittle publications. First, I take it that referees at good journals aren't chosen at "random". For the most part, these are people capable of evaluating the quality of work who are forced to do so in an impartial setting (are you just totally trashing the referee review process?). Second, there are fresh candidates with *multiple* good publications right out of grad school - so we're not talking about some shmoes who got a lucky publication in "Second Rate Philosophy Quarterly" by impressing some lousy referees, but candidates who have consistently published good work - more than would be expected given the stage they are at in their careers.

"I know Matt Kotzen's work very well and I doubt that there are many junior candidates who deserve more attention than him."

Fair enough - I suppose it's reasonable to think, without looking at other people's work, this guy's work is so great that there can't be many comparable junior candidates. And no one will disagree that he's talented. But you only need *some* others (not "many") for there to be evidence of a problem. And there are some others.


"It is not like divining for gold because these individuals have dissertations that already say a fair amount about their potential."

Their dissertations were not done at the time the hiring decisions were made. And commitees don't read dissertations. I have no doubt their dissertations are good, but there are other people out there with good dissertations too and the fact that Field or Korsgaard thinks some dissertation is great is, again, a dubious indication of comparative talent for the same reasons I gave above. I've read some of these candidate's writing samples (I won't say which ones) and while I thought they were good, I just don't think they're good enough to merit all the attention from commitees or the "rising star" label - given the presence of other very talented candidates whose work I have also read and who seem to have more to say for themselves in terms of accomplishments (i.e., publications, dissertation progress, teaching, conference participation, etc.).

"How does Asstro know that the job offers were based on pedigree reverence and 'letters from kingmakers'? That seems to me to be a pretty offensive assumption, if it is just an assumption."

I don't see how the assumption is offensive (it reflects poorly on some people out there, but that doesn't make it offensive) or why that is even relevant. Pedigree and letters play a significant role at at least some stage of the hiring process given that most commitees don't read writing samples until the field is really whittled down. There were candidates who were passed over in favor of these candidates - at at least some early stage in the hiring process - because of these factors.

Anonymous said...

There is a good ol' boy network in philosophy still, and no doubt people occasionally benefit in various ways from being hooked into it. But being at one of the schools that flew back and/or offered jobs to one or more of the people named by Leiter, let me just say that it is extremely hard to make the short list at our school, and mindboggling hard to get an offer. No old-boy connection, no matter how dear the old boys are, would be sufficient to get you that far. It wouldn't matter if David Lewis had said you were the next David Lewis--if you didn't have several stunning writing samples and didn't hold your own at a vicious Q&A, then you're done.

I find Leiter's blog post nauseating and silly. But the fact that some good candidates got so many good offers doesn't trouble me at all. If anything, it seems to signal that the criteria being used across schools are somewhat consistent, since so many agreed on the merits of these candidates. (The fact that the criteria are consistent across schools does not entail that they are the right criteria or that they pick out anything predictive of future success, but we have other good reasons to think that the criteria do these things. At my school, all you have to do is look at the stunning productivity and brilliance of our junior faculty a few years post-hire to see that the search committee knows how to pick 'em.)

And I agree with the above commenters about the irrelevance of the fact that these three candidates haven't published. The search committee at my school applies a standard much higher than the standards of most journals. Also, if your work is as good as the work of these kinds of candidates, there's no reason to rush into publishing if you are still working out wrinkles in your arguments.

Anonymous said...

Look at it from the perspective of these "rising stars": the pressure is on them, they have the pedigree, the letters, the tenure-track position...what if they choke and don't produce? Many people will be disappointed. Isn't it better to get a Ph.D. from a second-tier school, work your bum off getting pubs in top journals and tell all those hiring committees that rejected you when you were nobody because of your poor pedigree "look who the losers are now"?

Asstro. said...

Quickly, for anyone inclined to defend the brilliance of these candidates. I'll spell it out for you again, because you evidently lack brilliance enough to read closely (and, potentially, even to evaluate the brilliance of these candidates). Nobody has once attacked the merit of these fine students. Most are questioning, as I think someone else put it, the "old boy network."

Jeez.

Anonymous said...

Just want to point out that while pedigree may be a necessary condition on being dubbed a prize "rising star", such "stars" are only a tiny fraction of candidates from Leiterrific departments. The vast majority of candidates still have a tough time of it on the market if they have no pubs, ***even if they have very good to excellent letters from top figures***. Just wanted to forstall another tired round of moralistic outrage over the (false) appearance that publicationless candidates from top departments routinely get passes on the market.

BTW, I am from a top 2 department (does that give it away?) and have witnessed many struggles first-hand over the past several years from candidates who had glowing letters.

Anonymous said...

I think Leiter missed one.

Seth Yalcin from MIT got offers from NYU, Princeton, and Berkeley (he took the NYU job). It looks like he might still be ABD, but has one major publication (and probably reworked a version for an upcoming compilation).

I would think he belongs on any list of "rising stars."

tenured philosophy girl said...

Look, people, I don't think there is anything contentious here. Here are some facts that seem to me completely uncontestable:

1. Leiter is a gossipy narcissist who is obsessed with professional status-jockeying.

2. You need to be mindfuckingly smart to get several offers from top places before you defend your dissertation or publish anything. Anyone who pulled this off deserves her/his job and all our respect, and did not merely play the old boys network.

3. There is a 'glow' phenomenon on the job market - once a candidate gets uptake from some top departments and people hear that s/he is a 'rising star', everyone gets interested and competition ensues. This isn't some guess on my part - I have had direct, explicit conversations with people on search committees at top departments about this. No one in her right mind would deny it. This means that there are other people (a very tiny number of other people - most of us are NOT those people) who are either just as mindfuckingly smart as the anointed few or within a hair's breath of being so, and those people will have a much, much harder time on the job market. The difference in philosophical quality and potential, if there is one at all, will get magnified by the glow effect. Who gets to move from that top layer of brilliant folks to the tiny yearly handful of 'chosen' candidates involves healthy amounts of luck, personal chemistry, etc.

To summarize: yes these people deserve their success, yes there are other brilliant people who don't get to sweep into the tenure track in a blaze of glory even though they are fantastic, and yes Leiter is a creep.

Anonymous said...

As a political theorist, thus trained in quantitative methodology, Leiter's list is methodlogically flawed in the sense that his selection criteria only hit on a single facet of what makes one successful. I doubt he has read their work, or watched them teach, or visited with them to see what sort of colleague they would make, or look at their grant writing skills; he uses a largely arbitrary measure (offers--which no one can quantify why some people get offers and others do not) to make an empirical claim. He should take a methodology course at the least before turning out something like this. And I am not even speaking to the careerist mentality that this sort of exercise puts into a discipline (like political science) that would be better of without it.
P.S. I am sure philosophers are as well qualified as a political theorist in embarking on quantitative projects/critiques, just wanted to let everyone know where I was coming from.

Anonymous said...

In my view, it's both true that these folks (and their equivalents in other disciplines, other years) are entirely deserving and also true that there is an element of unfairness (i.e., arbitrariness) to the process by which they're anointed rising stars. Hiring processes aren't fully rational--they involve an academic form of celebrity worship (not just of the candidates' kingmaker recommenders, but of the candidates themselves once the buzz gets rolling about them). I believe there's also some fetishism of the "fresh" (unpublished, embryonic) candidate--I can imagine that there's something very attractive about the notion of becoming the institution credited with nurturing a star's early work, not to mention something very compelling about the the infinitely promising blank-slate candidate. But once this kind of momentum starts to build for a particular person, for reasons that are initially more or less random, it becomes more difficult for other initially equally talented people ever to catch up and surround themselves with the same kind of aura. Chapter 2 of Randall Collins's Sociology of Philosophies lays out this idea in a depressing but also kind of reassuring way. See also (from another discipline): http://money-law.blogspot.com/2007/11/woven-webs.html

Anonymous said...

A few thoughts:

1) On the issue of whether the merit of these people is being questioned (which keeps coming up), I think the answer is "sort of" rather than "yes" or "no". Specifically, what is being questioned is the judgment of their merit. If that judgment is faulty, then they may or may not have the merit they have been judged to have.

I don't think it's really possible to attack the "old boy's network" (although, see below) style of decision-making without attacking its ability to come to correct conclusions. If the same conclusion would have been come to for other reasons, then who cares?

So, some people are saying these folks are hot shit, and other people are saying there isn't sufficient evidence to say that these people are hot shit. No one is saying that these people are definitely not hot shit.

2) Characterizing the potential problem with the number of offers these folks have received as an "old boy's network" problem is oversimplifying, and some of the defenses offered in these comments could be seen as part of the problem.

The concern about lack of publications is broader than concerns that a cabal of influential philosophers is calling the shots, the fundamental issue is the problem of substance versus personality. One of the motivations for blind peer review is the attempt to eliminate (or at least reduce) the influence of personal factors in publication. That doesn't mean that personal factors are irrelevant to hiring: being an asshole should be a negative and being a nice person should be a positive (although some departments seem to reverse this). But, generally speaking, people give over-estimate their ability to account for personal factors when judging ability.

Therefore, when some people come for job talks, they might be perceived as being great philosophers because they are great people to be around, rather than because of the quality of their work. This may or may not have happened with respect to the people on Leiter's list, but the best way to correct for that possibility would be some judgment of the person's work in an arena that removed most personal factors, and in philosophy that would generally be a blind peer-reviewed publication.

Anonymous said...

On the "no pub" issue: I have published regularly throughout my career, a bit as a grad student, never in particularly difficult venues. That said, I am not at all in the same league with just-defending but brilliant ABD candidates who can impress the hell out of folks who spend a lot of time with people who are trying, and typically failing, to impress the hell out of them. Pubs show, at minimum, (1) an ability to see a project through to completion, and (2) a promise of future publication. But they don't necessarily show much else (and not in my own case, where they are of merely passable quality), though they might. So, if you have other means, as these young philosophers apparently do, to show both (1) and (2) and many other things besides, it's not in the end all that hard to tell the difference between them and me: they're brilliant; I'm hard-working, reliable, networked. Most R1 institutions are unsurprisingly (by which I mean here also legitimately) more interested in them. (P.S. Do I need mention I am in agreement with the criticisms of Leiter's original post on both the charge of narcissistic intentions and limiting the number to three? And should I mention how very fabulously cool I think it is that two of the three are women from other countries?)

anonymous 1:57 said...

Oh, and

3) It seems to me the worst fair charge against Leiter is the gossip charge, because his post is quite clear about the criteria for inclusion on the list ("deemed the most promising, as evidenced in large part by the offers they accrued from leading departments"). "Most promising" may not follow from the latter, but "deemed the most promising" gets him off the hook (even if the only one doing the deeming is Brian Leiter).

Anonymous said...

I won't comment on Leiter although I will say the character of his blog is pretty well-established and this posting did not stand out in any way.

Rather I'm interested in the comments on the role of the CV in junior hiring at research department. When I'm looking at a file for an assistant professor position I'm primarily interested in the quality of the work they have done and promise to do. In evaluating the quality of the work I don't usually find it all that interesting whether something has been published or not. In many areas of philosophy I can evaluate the quality myself and in those in which I'm not competent to evaluate it I'd rather not rely on the outcome of a largely unknown process involving largely unknown people, i.e the referees and the way in which the editor makes use of the input from the referees. Letters can be useful here although not as useful as the opinions of colleagues I trust who are knowledgeable in the relevant field. What would be a scandal is if somebody got a job at a good department without having written anything much. It's no scandal at all that somebody can get a job in a good department without having published the stuff that they have written. Good departments tend to think, probably rightly, that they have in house the expertise they need to evaluate the work of a junior candidate. The imprimatur of a journal is useful for impressing deans but otherwise not particularly helpful.

I'm sure this attitude will strike some as arrogant. That may be but there is no doubt that good departments are arrogant in exactly this way. In any event, the line between arrogance and justified self-confidence is a tricky one to draw.

Prof. J. said...

TPG, those points aren't contentious, you're right. But I'm really struck by how different the slant is of different comments. Some people think the 'three stars' Leiter posting is evidence of something seriously wrong, while others (including me) think it's basically fine (well, not the posting, but the actual events).

I'm glad you mentioned the 'glow', though -- it's utterly familiar to me, and I'm sure to almost anyone who has served on a search committee.

Anonymous said...

Hey, Anon 1:57, I am saying that one of them is NOT hot shit. One of the three "rising stars" gave a jobtalk that impressed absolutely no one in the room. Perhaps that someone was just having a bad day, but the overwhelming opinion was one of angry disappointment. Compared to the job talk and work of at least one of the other two, this someone was anything but a star, rising or otherwise. A brown dwarf perhaps but certainly not a star.

Self-defensive said...

Asstro,

I’m having trouble. You say:

it is highly unlikely that they actually read the dissertations. Usually an SC will learn about the dissertation from (a) the abstract and (b) the dissertation advisor/committee.

If someone includes a chapter, I always read it. I don’t know for sure that every search committee member does – maybe I’m na├»ve, but I expect most do. If someone includes three chapters, I probably wouldn’t read all of them before we constructed a short list, but I’d read all of them before a final vote.
Also, I agree, if someone from Berkeley says “This is one of the top two students I’ve had in thirty years,” that is more impressive than if someone from Pretty Good State says the same. But what I don’t get is why you think this is bad, why it reflects poorly on the profession or the hiring departments.


Anon 12:29 PM,

Quoting me:
"How does Asstro know that the job offers were based on pedigree reverence and 'letters from kingmakers'? That seems to me to be a pretty offensive assumption, if it is just an assumption."

You comment:
I don't see how the assumption is offensive (it reflects poorly on some people out there, but that doesn't make it offensive) or why that is even relevant.

You think the *assumption* reflects poorly on some people out there? How does that work? If I assume you are a child molester, does that reflect poorly on you? Would you then be able to see why my assumption is offensive?
And: you don’t see why it’s relevant… to what?

Anonymous said...

The mistaken assumption is that any of these three are on a determined path toward success (however that may be defined, but surely it includes an impressive publication record)...Imagine four years into the tenure process and no published articles produced or forthcoming, the member of the now defunct hiring committee asks, "Why no articles? Didn't Leiter say you were a rising star?" Response: "The operative word is 'rising'. No assurances were given that I would be a star. [Insert a standard excuse for not publishing.] Also, I was not trained to write articles that satisfied blind referees, but rather to write dissertation chapters that pleased members of my committee, many of whom whom were quite pleased to see me and tell me that one day I would be as great as them." The upshot is not the Leiter was wrong (the three are rising stars for the insiders' club of bidders), but that anointing rising stars based on a mad group orgy of speculative bidding/offer-making is surely a flawed method for predicting career success.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone have a sense of how these "rising stars" have panned out 5-10 years later? I don't have access to the Chronicle, but it should be pretty easy to get a list.

Anonymous said...

ANON 831: That's a great question. I would also like to know if the so-called stars actually turned out to be "stars".

Anonymous said...

I'm sure Matt is swell, smart, and deserving of everything he's been given (but I'll reserve judgment about whether others deserve just as much or he deserves it more than them). This seems rather silly, however:
Among other people, Matt greatly impressed Roger White, Jim Pryor, Hartry Field, Paul Boghossian, Tom Nagel, Stephen Schiffer and Don Garrett. All of these philosophers read Matt's papers and interacted with him in a number of philosophical contexts. I think that this is a far greater accomplishment than merely managing to get two random referees at a journal to accept a paper.

Can't we all say that we've impressed a list of philosophers that we've worked with in graduate school? Wouldn't it be more impressive if the list included the odd anonymous referee in addition to his profs from grad school? They seem a bit harder to impress.

Anonymous said...

If most of us think that Leiter is a wanker, why do we continue to read his blog? It's the only source we've got, you say? Well, can't someone start an alternative source of professional news (emphasis on *professional*)? News sans Leiter -- and those bloody "poems" -- would be welcome.

Kalynne Pudner said...

What?! Leiter's a narcissistic creep? Here I've been taking everything off his blog as gospel! And -- until reading the comments here -- bitterly disappointed not to be named one of his rising stars.

Anonymous said...

I note the strange metric (which a few people have pointed out) of "the most offers from leading departments". Someone else has noted that Seth Yalcin got a set of offers that most would consider more attractive than the set of offers that at least one of these candidates got. And I'm sure there are other people that got their dream job, even without getting as many offers as these people. And others were presumably limited in the range of offers they might have received by area concerns.

Look at it this way - basically everyone who got a job before mid-March beat out all three of these people at some stage in the process. However, in at least a practical sense, it would have been better for many people if these three hadn't gotten quite so many offers - I believe at least Ohio State and Cornell ended up not hiring any junior candidates, at least in part because they spent so long trying to recruit some subset of these three. And there are probably other departments that might have been able to close their search earlier if they hadn't piled on to these offers.

Which of course, is not to say that any of these people didn't deserve the offers they got, just that some other departments and candidates would have been better served if these ones had been skipped.

Anonymous said...

7:27, you are concluding that the method used is flawed, on the basis of an entirely fictional scenario that you made up for the purpose.

Let me guess: you aren't an empiricist.

Anonymous said...

Seems to me that these 'rising stars' who lack teaching experience and publications have failed to demonstrate ability in the two things they will be expected to do for the rest of their careers: prepare and then offer innovative courses, and publish material and thus contribute to the body of scholarship in the discipline.

It's all well and good to look at the dissertation as evidence of scholarly promise, but we all know people who think a lot, but publish little. The last thing I want in my department is someone who has not demonstrated a regular willingness to publish.

b/j/k said...

What's the rate at which assistant professors right out of grad school get tenure at top schools? I'm guessing it might be low. A first tour at NYU or Chicago might be a step on the ladder towards downward mobility.

Anonymous said...

Re "How Rising Stars have fared" - Joshua Knobe was named one and has done great; it is worth noting that he had several publications prior to this and had significantly impacted the field before being noted as a rising star. I think on all counts he was and has continued to be a rising star.

Anonymous said...

One thing that always makes me laugh when I read about "stars" in Leiter is the whole idea that there are such things in philosophy. Let's face it, in the real world, kids, there are NO "star" philosophers. "Stars" are famous celebrities with face recognition, paparazzi, lots of money, and fan followings. Use of this term in an academic context is silly and inappropriate. Even within academia, few if any philosophers are "stars." The only "stars" in academe are, maybe, Nobel Prize winners, or famous authors or playwrights who bop in to teach for a semester here and there. Leiter is deluding himself with these ideas of philosophical fame and fortune, and it's indicative of the general narrowness of vision that people on this list are or are not convinced that certain other people are stars and they are not.

Anonymous Female Department Chair

Anonymous said...

From now on, nobody is allowed to use the word 'star' except in the way that Anonymous Female Department Chair uses it. In particular, you are not permitted to use it in the fifth of the senses listed by the OED, namely, "A person of brilliant reputation or talents."

In the future, I hope everyone will check with Anonymous Female Department Chair before using any word at all.

Kids.

Anonymous said...

I'm flabbergasted by those who've been deriding the importance of publishing. Doesn't the "promise" to which Leiter referred consist largely of these candidate's perceived prospects of putting good work out there? And don't the importance placed on the opinions of the big name philosophers they've impressed stem largely from the big names having put good stuff out there?

Publishing is an equalizer. Unlike getting into, say, NYU or Harvard - which gives one a degree of privileged access to big name people that others won't get - everyone has access to journals. And the blind review process hopefully gives us all a chance to have our work impartially considered.

One may have reasonable concerns about the quality of work that gets published, but the fact is a lot of great work gets published. If a search committee is concerned about tha quality of a candidate's work, then they should read the friggin' work (subject to considerations of efficiency of course). What I think should not be done - as some of the comments here could be taken to suggest - is to completely dismiss candidates with consistent publication records who havn't had the opportunity to attend fancy schools and impress big names simply because they haven't had the opportunity to do the latter and simply because lousy work *sometimes* gets published.

It seems to me those who are dismissing the importance of publishing are employing a double standard. They've got a rather strong commitment to the importance of publishing (as their evaluation of candidates rests largely on the candidate's publishing prospects and the publishing records of their recommenders). Yet they're willing to deride publication in the service of what I can only describe as elitism.

There's certainly a case to be made for placing weight on recommendations from big names. There may even be a case for placing some weight on pedigree. But it's not going to be made by dismissing the importance of publishing. Come off it.

Anonymous said...

I quoted Anon 5:12pm
"How does Asstro know that the job offers were based on pedigree reverence and 'letters from kingmakers'? That seems to me to be a pretty offensive assumption, if it is just an assumption."

Anon 5:12pm quoting me
I don't see how the assumption is offensive (it reflects poorly on some people out there, but that doesn't make it offensive) or why that is even relevant.

Anon 5:12 pm
You think the *assumption* reflects poorly on some people out there? How does that work? If I assume you are a child molester, does that reflect poorly on you? Would you then be able to see why my assumption is offensive?
And: you don’t see why it’s relevant… to what?


You claim that the assumption that the job offers were based on pedigree and letters is an offensive assumption (You're kind of stacking the deck by calling it an "assumption", but I'll use that word). I assume you're thinking it's offensive because 1) it says something bad about people making hiring decisions *and* 2) because there's insufficient evidence for the assumption.

Assuming I'm a child molester satisfies both these crieria. The assumption that people use pedigree and letters more than they should satisfies only the first (I contend). (I get the feeling you're equivocating between two senses of "offensive" here - being a child molester is in some sense an offensive characteristic, but the assumption that someone is a child molester is an offensive one only if the two criteria above are satisfied.)

I took you to be suggesting that the offensiveness of the assumption that pedigree and letters get weighed too heavily by hiring committees is a reason to reject it. To determine if the assumption is offensive, though, we have to determine whether it satisfies both criteria above. That's why I took the question of whether it's offensive to be irrelevant to the question of whether it's an appropriate assumption to make. To determine that, we have to determine whether it satisfies the criteria. I don't think it satisfies the second. There's evidence that pedigree and letters matter a great deal - more than they should.

Anonymous said...

Much of what is happening on this list appears to be sour grapes. And part of the problem, I think, is that some of those who are complaining are failing to see that there isn't a single standard in place to evaluate tenure-track job candidates in philosophy.

For most of us, the standard involves evidence of research ability (a finished, or very-near-finished dissertation at the time of application, a publication or two in a good venue, etc.) and evidence of teaching ability. No doubt, we'll all have glowing letters and interesting writing samples.

One of the complaints that keeps appearing here is that the so-called "stars" (of whom there are at least several more than Leiter has proclaimed) aren't held to the same standard. After all, they are still ABD (or were when hired), have yet to publish, perhaps have not taught terribly much, and so on.

But what's the problem? Most of us are not brilliant (or, at least, are not obviously and luminously brilliant). We have to PROVE that we're likely to be productive and that we'll publish work that makes a contribution to the field. But the "stars" don't. And that's because they're able to sit in a room with the best minds of a generation and hold their own - something I sincerely doubt all but a few can do.

Since most of us cannot immediately pique the interest of the very best simply by engaging them - that is, since we cannot inspire confidence simply in virtue of being ourselves - we have to prove it in other ways. I'm not sure I understand why this is problematic. It would have been a shame to send Davidson along to a string of one-year jobs simply because he had failed to publish anything of note as he neared the end of graduate school. Likewise, one need only peruse the websites of several top departments to find faculty who haven't lived up to normal quantitative tenure standards, but whose work has genuinely altered the state of play in their specialization. For some, normal quantitative measures don't apply precisely because the quantitative measures are an attempt to sort out what to do with the non-brilliant - a class that gets broader as philosophy becomes more professionalized. That appears to me to be what's going on here. Your complaints about unfairness fail to take this into consideration.

self-defensive said...

To determine if the assumption is offensive, though, we have to determine whether it satisfies both criteria above. That's why I took the question of whether it's offensive to be irrelevant to the question of whether it's an appropriate assumption to make.

What?
Why is that a reason to think the question of offensiveness is irrelevant? If it weren't offensive, it could be perfectly fine to make it even if there isn't enough evidence. I could assume you are a native speaker of English without sufficient evidence, and there would be nothing wrong with that.


To determine that, we have to determine whether it satisfies the criteria. I don't think it satisfies the second. There's evidence that pedigree and letters matter a great deal - more than they should.

The question isn't whether pedigree and letters matter a great deal. It's whether the offers made to the 'rising stars' were made on the basis of 'pedigree reverence' and 'letters from kingmakers'. Do you think there's sufficient evidence for that assumption? If so, would you mind saying what it is?

Anonymous said...

I wish that the blind review process was as effective as 8:36 seems to think it is. Sometimes it works and it’s lovely. But the sad truth is that the process isn’t always or even mostly so blind. When I review papers, it’s usually clear to me who the author is, and I’m fairly new to the game. In smaller sub areas, you are likely to have seen the paper at a conference or have been asked to read a draft by the author at some point. As for the three stars, most of us have now read their dissertation abstracts. And many people at departments with faculty who will be likely referees for start-authored journal submissions have seen them present and have read the papers that they will be submitting in the near future. Further, in general, if you have a networked advisor with lots of well-placed students, your academic siblings will likely be your referees. If you are a known entity, linked to one, or have a good address journal editors might be more willing to send your paper to a more generous referee, re-referee, or to give you a revise and resubmit rather than an out right rejection. . . . I’m not suggesting that pedigree is sufficient. There are lots of people at top departments that don’t do as well as others, even other from departments ranked not so highly. Of course, you need to good work to get published, but my point is that blind refereeing isn’t so unbiased. If you are unknown, you are at a great disadvantage. . . . . This, perhaps a bit too pessimistic, reflection supports Leiter’s claim that pedigree is very important. It has lasting effects, not only on where you land your first job but on your publication record as well. . . .

Anonymous said...

But what's the problem? Most of us are not brilliant (or, at least, are not obviously and luminously brilliant). We have to PROVE that we're likely to be productive and that we'll publish work that makes a contribution to the field. But the "stars" don't. And that's because they're able to sit in a room with the best minds of a generation and hold their own - something I sincerely doubt all but a few can do.

Well, part of the problem is that there are way more candidates for jobs than jobs and it's pretty fucked that people in philosophy are cool with coronation when it clearly comes with costs to others. Just a thought.

Anonymous said...

Anon 9:13,

I would be grateful if you could please indicate, at least in general terms, what you have in mind by "brilliant," "hold their own," and "best minds of a generation."

I'm not looking for a definition, just some descriptive content that might warrant the approbation.

In particular, I'd be interested to know whether defending some true and interesting claims is part of what makes for brilliance, holding one's one, or qualifying as one of the best minds of the generation.

I ask in part because I'm willing to bet that the main theses defended by the three young scholars Leiter singled out, as well as those defended by the people writing letters on their behalf, are, virtually without exception, false. If there's some other sufficient condition, though, I'd be happy to learn of it, in addition to the signs you can use to detect it, so that they can "prove" their status to us.

If the relevant signs are ineffable or it is otherwise too difficult to articulate to be worth presenting in this forum, no problem.

Anonymous said...

The most brilliant "rising stars" are the boot-strappers who got their Ph.D. from ho-dunk state university, worked their way through their studies, took that same work ethic and applied it to their academic pursuits, published like crazy and became solid academics with the ability to communicate with ordinary people outside of the academy...aaaah, now that is impressive.

Mr. Zero said...

Whatever sour grapes there may be, I would have thought that getting a shitload of job offers from hotshot departments should be insufficient to make someone a "star." I would have thought that in order to become a star, you would have to produce a large amount of very high-quality work. These three, though no-doubt brilliant and awesome, haven't really done that.

(I know, there's a relationship between the job offers and the work. But I think we can all agree that the work is more important, and the job offers are only interesting in this context because they're supposed to be evidence of good work. So why focus on the offers?)

I mean, they're probably awesome. But the reason they're singled out by Leiter as "rising stars" is because of the hotshot job offers, not their work. And that sort of sucks.

Anonymous said...

Yo, Mr. Zero --
Getting a lot of job offers might be evidence, rather than determination, of stardom.
Also, I'm not sure whether a rising star is a star. After all, a falling star isn't! More seriously, 'rising' might mean 'looks like gonna be', or something like that.

Anonymous said...

What I find interesting is that people have said, "I am sure they are great and all..." But one person saw one of them in action and said they weren't worthy of the star label.

So, with all the offers and all the people that must have seen them in action, why hasn't there been more of this kind of comment: X rocked the house with talk Y and they are totally deserving of all those offers.

So far, all we have is one really bad complaint. And I know from my grad program days seeing some Princeton and Rutgers people that fell on their faces during the talk and interview, so just b/c they are from a great places and got offers, doesn't mean they deserve them in the allegedly merit based system we have going on.

Anonymous said...

I haven't read all the comments in detail, but I just wanted to point out that hiring decisions are also made on the basis of a writing sample. So to the extent that these people did well, it's not just that they impressed famous philosophers--I'm sure that if they had great letters of recommendation backed up by a less than great writing samples, they wouldn't have done as well as they did.

In particular, Matt Kotzen's primary writing sample, which is available on his website (which you can find by googling), is fantastic. In my opinion it's really excellent stuff, and I'm not at all surprised he cleaned up on the job market.

Anonymous said...

We just have to face facts: those who are tapped for greatness by the David Lewises of this world are going to get the best jobs. Those of us outside (say) the top few grad students at top 10 departments need to publish and teach to prove our worth. People feel, rightly or wrongly, that the stars are sufficiently brilliant not to have to do that.

Anon June 11, 2008 4:15 PM: I hope the loathsome racist reading of your post is not the intended one.

Having seen these 3 give their job talks, I was particularly impressed by Kotzen. I disagree with his paper's thesis (and felt that perhaps he was bringing many weak arguments to bear where a couple of strong ones would have been better), but he picked an interesting topic and brought some original arguments to bear on it. But most impressive was his delivery: he didn't read his paper from a script, and seemed totally on top of everything. One felt that it was not mere polish, but clear thought and understanding leading to clear speech.

Watching Kotzen was not like watching a graduate student, it was like watching a talented young faculty member at an elite institution.

Deal with it.

Ion said...

I'm a grad student at a school where a couple of those "rising stars" got interviewed. I got to look at the writing samples of everyone on our shortlist. Only one of those "stars" is in my field, and I read that person's writing sample pretty carefully. It was a more striking piece of work than maybe 80% of the stuff I've read in top-tier journals.

Given that that's so, why in the world should anyone in the SC have given the slightest damn whether any material has been published under that person's name?

mr. zero: I would have thought that in order to become a star, you would have to produce a large amount of very high-quality work. These three, though no-doubt brilliant and awesome, haven't really done that.

So a paper given as a writing sample or a job-talk doesn't count as "work"? Does the process of getting a paper published effect a magical transformation from "non-work" to "work"?

Anonymous said...

This list of complaints comes across as sour grapes if not envy.

Anonymous said...

Anon 11:53, you are a fucking moron. Go learn some rudimentary astronomy. Wow, what a dumbass. Deal with it.

Anonymous said...

C'mon, people. We're philosophers -- can't we draw some distinctions?

(Claim 1) The three listed as "rising stars" are way above average. Their writing samples and recommendations make them look clearly better than (say) 90% of the other candidates.

(Claim 2) The three listed as "rising stars" are better than _every_ other candidate.

Claim (1) should be uncontroversial. If you look at the writing samples of these candidates, you can see that they definitely do satisfy claim (1). That is, they are clearly among the top 15 or 20 candidates on the market this year.

Claim (2) is in my opinion simply false, and I think it's the claim that most people here are finding offensive. Here's an anecdote: I'm in a departments that produced one of these "rising stars." I can say that most of the faculty agree that our "rising star" was a clear second to another candidate that we had on the market this year.

Anonymous said...

I haven't read all the comments on this post because there are so damned many of them, so this may not be entirely fair, but: it looks to me like people are ignoring the possibility that these three "stars" might have had the best writing samples of anyone on the job market this year. When I'm on a search committee, I actually read the writing samples that are in the files, if they're in my field. And I trust my own judgment as to their quality more than that of anonymous referees.

tenured philosophy girl said...

Wow, what did Anon 11:53 do? I've read the post twice and don't get 12:36's hate at all. Whew. See a therapist, buddy.

Is your point that you think 11:53 didn't know what a brown dwarf astral body was? Don't you think there's just the *teensiest* chance that 11:53 was right to worry (cautiously and without accusation) about the racial overtones of that choice of metaphor, under the circumstances and considering the players? Though honestly I am not even sure if that's what ticked you off.

Anonymous said...

The sour grapes / envy charge is a rather crude ad hominem.

Asstro said...

Self-Defensive:

I say: "It is highly unlikely that they actually read the dissertations..."

You say: "If someone includes a chapter, I always read it."

Did I suggest that one does not read the submitted writing sample or a sample dissertation chapter? I don't think I said that. Okay, sure. "Read" is a funny word. Like many English words, it has a perfective and an imperfective. The meaning is ambiguous. But I think the fair interpretation here is that one reads the dissertation from start to finish; to completion. I think that's pretty clear. So, either you're just not being charitable or you’re deliberately misreading what I've said. Hopefully not the latter.

As for the recommendation from famous philosophers: I hope I didn't suggest that the judgment of some very prominent philosophers was bad (though I think in some cases it is _quite_ bad). What I think is bad is pointing out rising stars who clearly haven't done what it takes to become stars in the discipline. Top philosophers are top philosophers because of their publication record; because of the things they've said and put into print. They're not top philosophers because they ask mindfuckingly perceptive questions at conference presentations, or because they have the cajones to discuss difficult topics with hotshot superstars and to be perceptive in asking their questions. That helps, no doubt, but it's certainly not going to win them a page in history. The pages in history will go to the superstar publishers who write some seriously influential shit.

Now, as I've said, I don't doubt that the anointed three will do very well for themselves. I suspect they'll publish some interesting stuff; and possibly, in fact, go on to become these superstars so that they too can Tinkerbell their own students into stardom. It would be interesting to get the stats on the predictive validity of the Chronicle story. What I think is bullshit is that, if you look at any of these candidates, their CVs are more or less empty. They’re impressive and they’re smart, sure. That counts for a lot. But it doesn’t count for anywhere near everything, particularly in a universe where very promising and published candidates are passed over in favor of those with empty CVs.

Suppose this were to happen. Suppose there were a tenured opening for a associate professor. Suppose that one of these candidates were to get _that_ job, empty CV and all. That’s silly, of course. They’d never get that job. Why not? Because they haven’t done what’s required of them to get that job. They haven’t published important books, they haven't written influential articles. They haven't become significant names in their AOS. If they _were_, however, to get that job (say, on their potential), someone might rightly say that they weren't deserving of that job.

Though the two cases aren't directly comparable, there are some significant parallels. Namely, many of us think that what is required for a candidate to qualify as a "rising star" in philosophy is clear and documented demonstration of accomplishment in areas that are central features of the discipline. That's what a "rising star" is. A rising star is expressly not someone who can hang with the big kids at the fancy-schmantsy APA cocktail parties. I suppose one might say that philosophy is a discipline in which the best philosophers are the people with the best ideas, whether bottled up or set free. If so, maybe it is the case that all it takes to be a rising star is to be able to hang with the big kids; but that starts to feel pretty fuckin' gross, doesn't it? I personally try _not_ to hang with the big kids, partly because I just don't give enough of a shit to tangle with the egos that some of them engender, but also because I've never appreciated the WWF style-philosophy that seems to accompany argumentation with some of them.

I have a good friend who has for many years aspired to a job in Hollywood. He's a damned good actor. In high school, we used to call him a "rising star". He's even been in many very nice theatre companies in reasonably large markets. Thing is, he hasn't actually ever been in any movies. So, like, right: He has talent. He's a real show stopper, once he gets his ass out there. But he's not (unfortunately for him) a rising star. He's just a person, like the rest of us, struggling to make it. If he had a few key roles that caught the attention of critics, then I think he could truly be called a "rising star." A "rising star" is not someone, it seems to me, who merely has great ideas, or who has great talent. A "rising star" must be something more; someone like Joshua Knobe, who in fact was a rising star, with an assload of innovative and different publications.

(For the finger wagglers, I should probably point out again that I'm not suggesting that these were bad hires, nor that they don't deserve their nice jobs. Only that, so far as the "rising star" appellation is concerned, it seems misplaced in the absence of some of the things that would qualify a person as a star.)

Anonymous said...

I'm one of the so-named 'rising stars'. I have to admit...it is a bit embarrassing to be singled out, especially since I sometimes feel like a fraud or at least not as good as the real stars out there(don't we all?).

As pointed out, I don't have any publications yet (but will soon), so of course that doesn't help my self-confidence. But I'd like to think I do pretty good work, judging from seminar papers, my dissertation, and forthcoming publications.

As for the discussion about pedigree, unfortunately it does matter. And it's not a bad heuristic: I have yet to meet someone from or at a top-ranked department (at least not below the A.B.D. stage) who has not done or is not capable of doing outstanding work. Grad admissions usually does a good job in separating the what from the chaff; so hiring committees can justifiably rely on the due diligence previously conducted by a candidate's Ph.D. institution.

Finally, even though I and other may have our pick of jobs, we (or at least I) don't take any of them for granted, and I understand how lucky I am. I would have to point to my high school work as the source of my good fortune, since it led to admission to my undergrad institution, which undoubtedly led to admission to my grad institution...which led to the job offer I accepted.

I know I'm the beneficiary of pedigree, but that's how it goes. Sorry.

Anonymous said...

There seems to be a lot of implicit jealousy/envy going on here, at least in the sense that there are people here who want reassurance that their candidacies for top jobs are taken as seriously as other candidates who have fancier school names or fancier letters.

Honestly, I don't really even understand why people would *want* these jobs! I'm at a top-3 school and I don't even want those jobs or think I am remotely qualified for them. Those jobs are fucking *hard*! In addition to teaching, you've got massive amounts of administrative work, graduate advising, and the pressure to live up to your potential. You've got to publish like a banshee, and even then there is no guarantee of tenure. In return, you get prestige, a high salary, and to be around some brilliant folks--those last two, especially, should not be dismissed. But overall it is a massive amount of work with a massive amount of pressure.

But for real, I hate to sound unambitious, but I'm astonished at how so many grad students think they deserve (a shot at) these jobs. Maybe it's just that being at one of these schools, and hanging around the junior faculty we hire, gives you an especially vivid impression of how good they really are. When I talk with my fellow grad students, we only expect one or two of us to even contest those jobs. When those one or two don't succeed, of course we are disappointed. But it's a tough market and you've got to have the complete package--not just great work, but great communication skills and evidence of high productivity (not necessarily pubs).

I suppose there might be some arbitrariness or unfairness that crops up in whittling the top 5% of candidates into the 1% who get fancy jobs. But for the other 95% of us, we're just not in the same league.

Anonymous said...

Rising star that went to high school wrote: "I know I'm the beneficiary of pedigree, but that's how it goes. Sorry."

Out-fucking-standing!

Ion said...

Asstro: ...clear and documented demonstration of accomplishment in areas that are central features of the discipline.

What about the writing samples and job-talks? To be sure, that material has yet to be printed in journals or books. But what magical property does a superb piece of philosophical writing gain in the process of publication? By what wizardry does that process transform an already great bit of writing from non-"accomplishment" to "accomplishment" status?

Mr. Zero said...

Getting a lot of job offers might be evidence, rather than determination, of stardom.

I know that, which is why I said it. But Leiter's remarks indicate that he thinks that the offers determine stardom. Which I was trying to object to.

So a paper given as a writing sample or a job-talk doesn't count as "work"?

It doesn't count as a large amount of work. Does it? No, it doesn't.

Somebody mentioned Joshua Knobe as an example of a formerly rising star who has realized his potential. But Knobe had a shit-ton of pubs prior to going on the market. His CV was eye-popping.

I guess I just think that stardom or whatever should be based more on actual work--which, ideally, would be publicly available in published form--and less on the number of high-dollar job offers received. Is that so crazy?

Ion said...

Mr. Zero: It doesn't count as a large amount of work. Does it? No, it doesn't.

OK, so is the idea that these three "rising stars" are outshone by others on the job market, ones who do have "a large amount" (how much is that, exactly?) of really brilliant pieces of work to show for themselves? Examples would be nice.

Personally, I think it makes sense to suppose that rising-star status might go along with coming out of grad school with "just" one likely-to-be groundbreaking paper, never mind two, and never mind whether that work has already been published or not. But if there are others out there who are even more impressive, I promise to be appropriately amazed when I hear of them.

Toby said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

can someone tell what font their cvs are in?

thanks

Mr. Zero said...

I think it makes sense to suppose that rising-star status might go along with coming out of grad school with "just" one likely-to-be groundbreaking paper, never mind two, and never mind whether that work has already been published or not.

Sure. But none of those three made Leiter's list on the basis of any groundbreaking papers, published or not. They made the list because they got the most hot-shot job offers.

If you're going to single (OK, triple) somebody out on the blog most widely-read by professional philosophers as a "rising star," is it too much to ask that the person(s) have a proven track record of producing high-quality, publicly available work?

I don't see what's "ideal" about having one's work being published versus not

For one thing, published works are easier to find. For another thing, the journal referee/editor has done some work for you and weeded out a few of the lousy papers. Seriously. You know why we don't all just post PDFs to our websites and leave it at that? Because publishing is better for everyone.

I'm not trying to say that these three are not good, or they're not rising stars, or they don't have any groundbreaking papers. I'm saying, that's not why we're talking about them. We're talking about them because they won the job-offer derby, which is a dumb reason to talk about someone.

Anonymous said...

What does all this tell you?

Get back to work and publish high quality work. That's it. Nothing else needs to be said. You should get off the net, turn to your work desk, close your office door or situate yourself in a quiet spot in the public library, turn off your cell, stop dreaming about getting job offers or checking this site (like i am doing right now), and forget about rising stars and BECOME ONE!!!!!!

Do you think Joshua Knobe spends time refreshing this site like i do (lol)? No, i'm certain he's preparing another article for publication or manuscript for an editor. As Niall Ferguson said in his Cspan In-Depth interview: "I never understand why it takes some academics ten years to write one book. I have no secrets. I just get up in the morning and work."

Anonymous said...

I think everyone agrees the following claims are true:

(1) Institutional pedigree is ONE indicator of one's intelligence, diligence, and likelihood of publishing high quality philosophical papers. Why? Top (PGR) programs attract smart, motivated applicants. Moreover, after being admitted, the already smart and motivated applicants then interact with other top students and top faculty for six plus years of graduate school.

(2) Publications in blinded, peer-refereed journals is also an indicator of one's intelligence, diligence, and likelihood of publishing high quality philosophical papers in the future.

(3) There are many other indicators of one's intelligence, diligence, and likelihood of publishing in the future, including quality of one's writing sample, letters of recommendation, number of presentations at respected conferences, etc.

As I see it, the question is whether search committees wrongly think (1) is a better indicator than (2) and (3), and hence, whether search committees unfairly ignore applications from candidates from programs that are ranked less well by the PGR. I think the answer it's unlikely that search committees do this, and if I'm wrong, it'd be nice for someone to produce an example.

If hiring committees systematically weighed institutional pedigree as more important than publishing record, for example, then we should be be able to find graduate students with significant publishing records in respected journals who failed to receive job offers from institutions at which the three "rising stars" did receive job offers. Can anyone produce an example?

I would guess the likely story is this. Few graduate students publish many papers. In general, those who do publish more than a single paper, typically publish in journals that are not incredibly selective. As a result, when shifting through a stack of CVs with empty or meager publication lists, search committees favor applications from NYU, Rutgers, and so on.

My Background: I do not attend an overall highly ranked program (according to the PGR), though my program is highly ranked in a few specialty areas. I did attend a prestigious private university as an undergraduate.

Akratic Irishman said...

'can someone tell what font their cvs are in?

thanks
'

Hilarious. Thank you. (BTW: Avoid Arial. It never did anything for me.)

'As Niall Ferguson said in his Cspan In-Depth interview: "I never understand why it takes some academics ten years to write one book. I have no secrets. I just get up in the morning and work."

Niall Ferguson obviously does not have an important wizard in World of Warcraft to level up!

Anonymous said...

Pedigree is obviously important, but it's also obviously not everything. If it was, then there would have been "rising stars" from Rutgers or Princeton rather than Harvard or Berkeley (granted, that may seem like a slight distinction to some). I graduated from the same program as one of these people this year, and was beaten out by that person for a few jobs. But I also saw the practice job talk, and it was excellent, despite not being in an area I'm familiar with. In fact, basically the first thing I did after that job talk was go out to dinner with my partner and talk about this topic, despite the fact that my partner isn't even in philosophy.

Now I can't say as much specifically about the other two people, because I didn't see their job talks, and haven't (yet) read any of their written work. But so far, in this thread, one person had a negative thing to say about one candidate's work, but everything else everyone who's seen their talks or papers has said indicates that these are clearly top-quality young philosophers, at least, relative to their career stage.

I wish people wouldn't spend so much time attacking them, and would just complain about the way that three people have been singled out from an applicant pool that had many, many very good philosophers in it. I don't think anyone's really in a position to say that these people are "better" than all the other candidates, but by the same token, no one's really in a position to say that they're not better philosophers than the other candidates.

self-defensive said...

Asstro,
For some reason I’m still not getting your main point. Right, I have not read the entire dissertation of a job candidate. But I’ve often read a chapter, and sometimes several. And I was saying that in response to this:

Usually an SC will learn about the dissertation from (a) the abstract and (b) the dissertation advisor/committee.

So I don't understand why you are stressing that search committees won't read the entire dissertation.

Top philosophers are top philosophers because of their publication record; because of the things they've said and put into print. They're not top philosophers because they ask mindfuckingly perceptive questions at conference presentations, or because they have the cajones to discuss difficult topics with hotshot superstars and to be perceptive in asking their questions. That helps, no doubt, but it's certainly not going to win them a page in history.

Hm, have you ever heard of Joe Camp? Burton Dreben? But still, it’s very unusual for an important philosopher to lack a big publication record; I agree with that of course.
But the fact that it’s of primary importance for a philosopher to publish lots of good stuff is compatible with (what I regard as) the fact that having publications isn’t a necessary condition for a job candidate to be among the most promising candidates of the year. Leaving aside what I think we all agree is the overblown rhetoric of ‘stars’, that seems to me to be the main question.

Anonymous said...

In response to 1:54:

I've seen two of the three give job talks at my department (where I'm a grad student), and read their work (in each case, their writing sample, plus the paper on which the job talk was based) thoroughly and attentively. Both of the candidates work in areas either similar or not very distant from my own. Both received simultaneous offers from our department.

One of the candidates was deeply impressive, both in writing and in person: that person had complete mastery of the field, and I have no doubt that s/he deserves all the offers. I can hardly even imagine a more impressive young job candidate.

The other, however, was quite disappointing: neither the written work nor the talk itself was more than just good. Not at all bad, mind you, quite nice even, but not more so than the work of scores of grad students whose work I've read. There was nothing brilliant or very impressive about the arguments; in fact, there was nothing particularly illuminating or surprising about them, nothing beyond what anyone working competently on these issues would be able to come up with. All the moves were predictable and relatively basic, at least for someone familiar with the topic. Again, this was NOT bad work by any stretch - it was actually quite good - but it was not even close to being innovative or particularly brilliant.

Moreover, in the Q&A part of the talk, the candidate was not able to answer properly some pretty basic, easy, clearly formulated questions, partly due to misconstruing what the questions were getting at.

Yet, in the end the candidate got an offer from our top department, and went on to decline it in favor of an offer from an even better department. Everyone I've talked to among the grad students agreed that it is a mystery.

So why did the faculty in my department, who are normally VERY selective and discerning in their hiring decisions, decide to offer this person the job? (I should mention that this person was not the only one offered the job: our department had more than one opening.) One thing to realize, of course, is that although I read two pieces of work by the candidate, at least some of the faculty may have read more. It is possible that the candidate was very impressive in one-on-one meetings; has interesting research plans for the future; etc. etc. Obviously I am basing my view on very partial information.

But it is very hard to shake the feeling that in this particular case (though, as I've mentioned, not in the case of the other candidate), the decision was influenced to an excessive degree (1) on (according to reliable sources) the jawdropping recommendations that the candidate received from the very famous members of the dissertation committee (both in letters and in follow-ups), and perhaps also on the 'glow effect' that some have mentioned here. According to the candidate's advisors (philosophical "superstars", if anyone is) the candidate's work is not only "groundbreaking," but "the best work on [the topic] since [famous philosopher's decades-old work on same topic]." Judging from the two papers I've seen -- which, I'd like to stress again, though hardly a complete body of evidence, is not an insubstantial one either -- this is a wild exaggeration. Let's put it like this: there is no way in hell that this person's work is better, or for that matter even comparable, to the work of a certain handful of philosophers in the intervening years. Again, it's good work: but nothing THAT good.

How has the candidate, good as s/he may be, make such an impression on the advisors? I don't know. But it's quite clear that the adoration is completely hyperbolic.

And who has the candidate made such an impression on our own faculty, in spite of all of the above? Well, here's one fact: none of our current faculty members, certainly none of the senior one, is a top-notch expert on the candidate's field of work. They were therefore likely to give more weight to the hyperbolic support given by the candidate's advisors.

At any rate, draw your own conclusions from all of the above. One thing it finally convinced me of, though, is that the letters and further support you get from your committee (and, of course, the committee members' own prominence) is of much greater importance that I had thought - even though I was never naive about this to begin with.

Last comment: Is this post motivated by envy? Sure. I'd be a self-deluded fool to deny that. But here's a psychological fact: While I feel envious of the not-so-brilliant candidate I've just discussed at length, I don't feel envious at all of the other candidate who clearly deserves his/her success.

Now, back to my dissertation...

Anonymous said...

self-defensive:

I suppose what I meant by "appropriate" was "epistemically appropriate" or something like that. Offensiveness certainly tracks the acceptability of the assumption (I'm going to call it a claim now). I didn't mean to deny that. But in evaluating the claim's acceptability (epistemic or otherwise), I should think the presence or absence of evidence has to be ascertained first. We probably both agree on that (calling it offensive struck me as a veiled way of simply asserting the absence of evidence or at least good evidence for it - despite the dangling conditional).



As for what evidence there is, I'll acknowledge it's anecdotal and circumstantial. That's expected given the lack of transparency (perhaps legitimate) in the hiring process. But anecdotal and circumstantial evidence can be quite strong. There are a fair number of philosophers who've been on hiring committees and who think this sort of thing goes on (see the link below to Leiter's thread on hiring practices). As for those asking to point out one candidate who lost out, I can only encourage people to look on their own. I don't want to out people or call forth a deluge of people with points to prove upon them (like Leiter did).



http://leiterreports.typepad.com/blog/2004/12/the_thread_on_t.html

Anonymous said...

Some people on here keep assuming that the dissertations these folks read were brilliant and read by all of the departments offering them jobs. Why assume this or its negation? Does anyone have any evidence either way? I doubt that. Nonetheless, it does seem naive to think that these folks would have been offered all of these jobs if they went to lower ranked programs, even if their dissertations possessed the very same intrinsic properties. If right, I guess this indicates what we knew all along: for better or worse, job placement is partially determined by the prestige of the department where you receive your degree. As a parting shot, I would note that sometimes prestigious departments do hire someone lacking publications (for whatever reason) and that person is an unproductive publisher. For example, NYU hired someone roughly five years ago that still only has one article.

Anonymous said...

In response to anon 3:08, I have empirical visual and auditory evidence that the faculty at one of the departments that offered one of these candidates a job did read that candidate's dissertation. Specifically, everyone read the writing samples that are chapters in the dissertation, and some are more familiar with the dissertation itself.

A key thing in making an offer is the collective assessment that one of the chapters is ready for publication as is, and some of the rest can be too with some not-too-major revision. As someone commented earlier, there is no special skill involved in sending off a publishable article to a journal, and so no necessary special status for "published". Coming up with a publishable article is the hard part, and presumably the faculty at the institutions who offered these candidates jobs, especially those who are in the area of whichever candidate, are good judges of whether the article is publishable or not.

Anonymous said...

Leiter has just amended the entry to include a new guy, Seth Yelcin (MIT), who has a few publications to his name:

http://mit.edu/yalcin/www/

This messes up the neat little story of the "unpublished stars." In any event, his pubs look impressive enough for "rising star" status to me, especially when the category is limited to "rising stars who are just getting their first jobs."

Anonymous said...

Questions:

First, who is anon 3:08 talking about? I cannot locate such a person in the NYU Dept. of Phil.

Second, why did Leiter amend his website?

psychologizer said...

Re. Leiter, 12:20pm said...

The man's poor taste baffles me sometimes.

I find it baffling sometimes as well. The obsession with rankings hasn't done him many favors in philosophy circles, at least not at Chicago.

But borrowing a page from his playbook for psychologizing - cf. his recent swing at Jonathan Barnes - I suspect some deep-harbored personal insecurity as the cause. Either that or an attempt to curry favor with the "big boys" club - note the various schools and luminaries affiliated with those names.

It's sad, because he's by no means a bad scholar and from what I hear rather generous on a personal and professorial level.

Anonymous said...

Jonathan Barnes, by the way, is worth 12-15 Brian Leiters.

Anonymous said...

Somebody asked who I was referring to at NYU. I think it's rude to actually name them. If you're ambitious enough, you can figure it out by looking at faculty profiles. Also, someone said that every faculty member at their department read one of these individual's dissertation, as though that proves that every person at every single department that offered these people jobs read their entire dissertation. In any case, you don't have the evidence you claim and you know it. Maybe one of the people that specialized in the person's area slogged through their entire dissertation, but I really doubt that every member of the faculty did. That just sounds wildly implausible. And since you're clearly defensive on this matter, it seems more likely to me that you're exaggerating. Not that I expect you to admit that.

Anonymous said...

Anon 3:25

No one fits your criteria at NYU. I think it was rude for you to have suggested it.

Anonymous said...

btw. NC Chapel Hill has already added Kotzen to their site, but they haven't taken Prinz off yet. (He's going to CUNY.)

http://philosophy.unc.edu/faculty.htm

Anonymous said...

Are there interview stars? I think I found at least one. I hate to name names, but it has to be done. (It's flattering in any case. . . .)

Preston at NCCH has 8, count 'em, 8 January/February presentations. That means he got 8 onsites! That's seriously impressive. He's another no-publication-cv interview star, I guess.

http://philosophy.unc.edu/preston.html


PRESENTATIONS
• “Civic Trust and the Problem of Self-Defense”
UNC Chapel Hill, February 2007
Cornell University, February 2007
University of Notre Dame, February 2007
UCLA, February 2007
UC San Diego, January 2007
University of Utah, January 2007
Harvard University, January 2007
MIT, January 2007

Wow! I would have been happy with one.

Anonymous said...

On the topic of out of date faculty pages, Stony Brook still lists Derrida. He's been dead for years!

http://www.sunysb.edu/philosophy/faculty/index.html

tenured philosophy girl said...

Um, that Stony Brook URL lists Derrida under 'previous visitors,' which is a status I don't think death can take away.

Anonymous said...

Coming up with a publishable article is the hard part, and presumably the faculty at the institutions who offered these candidates jobs, especially those who are in the area of whichever candidate, are good judges of whether the article is publishable or not.

This is a dangerous assumption. First, many professors have self-confidence problems, whether or not they admit it to themselves. ("Look inside you, Luke.") Second, this assumes that there's objectivity in the peer-review process. Ha! Some reviewers follow their biases; some aren't biased as much as they are convinced that only they are right; some differences in the reviewers' opinions are legitimate (e.g., Muslim vs. Christianity -- meaning one is not obviously true such that the outcome of the debate that hinges upon it ought to be or even can be remedied, instead of being simply accepted as a fair stalemate), and so on. It's a bit cliche (and possibly incorrect) in philosophy to say that 'there is no truth'...but there ya go.

This is also to say that if your publication had been rejected by a journal, that could be a judgment about your work...or it could just be the luck of the draw: You were assigned to some anonymous review who happened to not agree with you and does not believe in honest disagreement. I say this because, as a frequent journal reviewer, I know that some of my peers do crap work, but nonethless get published, while the superior paper gets rejected by someone who really shouldn't be qualified to be an objective/fair reviewer. (The obvious exception is when your journal has some definite leaning, e.g., one dedicated to Nietzsche, but received a paper submission about Internet porn...wait, maybe they are related.)

I recognize the ironic contradiction in the above argument. But the truth is...there's no truth out there. Except in math (maybe). And girls smell nice. But, dammit, this business of treating peer-reviewers as accurate judges (perhaps in all but the tippity-top journals is not healthy).

Anyhoo, this is all to say: If you deliberately withhold a publishable paper in order to have this diamond-in-the-rough in your application package, you are taking a risk (as well as creating a possible benefit; it's a good idea). Don't underestimate the possibility that you will draw disagreeable reviewers or the opportunity cost of actually submitting and publishing that paper.

A published paper speaks more than the (strongly)-potentially-publishable paper, since we who have served on search committees know how fickle the peer-review process can be (because we've been those disagreeable bastards on the other side, know it, and see it around us too).

Of course, if you don't have a published paper and a prayer in having one accepted soon, then why not?...take a dump on a piece of paper and send that in. Maybe you're get that one guy who likes your shit.

Anonymous said...

Um, that Stony Brook URL lists Derrida under 'previous visitors,' which is a status I don't think death can take away.

Nice. But...what if death were this process that really sent you back in time (on the exact same time continuum) such that you never visited anywhere in the first place; 'previous visitor' would be incorrect then.

...ah forget it, I don't know what I'm talking about. I'm high as a mofo.

Anonymous said...

Sure it can, TPG. To what does 'Derrida' refer? Since he's no longer present, he doesn't exist, and therefore lacks properties such as having-previously-visited.

:)

Anonymous said...

Responding to anon 9:47:-

If the peer-review process is such a crapshoot, isn't that even more reason to think that there ought not be a lot of value placed on the label of "published", contrary to what many in this thread have claimed?

Anonymous said...

Is it just me, or does the comment from Anon 9:27 seem completely phony? Sounds to me like it was written by an undergrad, not someone who has served on search committees.

Ahh, the drawbacks of anonymity.

Anonymous said...

Derrida has always already been dead.

Anonymous said...

Anons 9:06 and 9:11 (assuming 9:11 is talking about Anon 9:47),

I had *both* those thoughts, too, when I was reading that long comment. 'Undergrad', I thought. I'm not completely sure why -- "the truth is...there's no truth out there" sounds very undergradish, maybe that was a big part of it.
And, yeah, pointing out how arbitrary the refereeing process can be does undercut, rather than support, the point that the commenter was trying to make.

Anonymous said...

Something about this discussion just keeps reminding me of this fantastic documentary:
http://youtube.com/watch?v=YPLjXjObEms

Except: if it were unfunny and their "stars" had worse hair.

Anonymous said...

Anon 9:47's comment is filled with hints that it's not written by a faculty member:

1. The "Muslim vs Christianity" phrase. Do you mean "Islam vs Christianity"?

2. The whole comment about "Muslim vs Christianity"--the sentence is garbled and it's hard to figure out the author's point. And in any case, of all the controversies to use as an example of disagreement amongst philosophy journal referees, why this one? Is this really something that comes up much outside of some corners of philosophy of religion?

3. The frequent use of "reviewer" instead of "referee". An acceptable variant, perhaps, but certainly less common.

4. The phrase "ironic contradiction".

5. The stuff about there being no truth.

6. The notion that these ABD's are "deliberately withholding" their papers. That's not quite what's going on in most cases. Instead, what's most likely going on is that the paper just isn't quite ready, and the dept advises that there's no reason to rush to make it ready. (I.e., one should keep working on it, but not worry about transforming it into something to send to a journal until after defense. After all, the length, format, and content will need to be changed for a journal from a dissertation chapter.) It's not that the default is to publish and these students are deliberately deviating from it. At many top schools, the default is not to publish.

7. The vulgarity.

[It's not like I think that 9:47 said something so provocative that it would be any big news if he/she isn't a faculty member. Indeed, it is kind of silly to do this investigative work. I'm just bored is all.]

Anonymous said...

Anon 7:08:

For what it's worth, the reason that Prinz is still listed at UNC is likely that he's still at UNC. His post at CUNY doesn't start till January 2009. Nice irrelevant and uninformed jab, though.

Anonymous said...

Leiter's posting calls to mind the first editions of the Leiter Report, when it was just Leiter posting his opinion. Leiter recognized this, and the Report became much more fair when he expanded it to include more information and more input (that's not saying one way or another that it was a good thing to have at all).

Something similar seems true here. If there's going to be some annoucement about rising stars, it shouldn't come out of one person, and it should include lots of information.

Towards that end, here are a couple people who did extremely well on the market, whose work impressed a huge number of people, and which haven't appeared in the discussion so far:

David Baker, from Princeton, had offers from Michigan and NYU, and Wisconson.

Anna-Sara Malmgren, from NYU, had offers from Pitt, Cornell, Austin and other places.

And, hell, there are probably other excellent people who were on the market who I didn't hear about. Because I'm just one person, so I'm not in a position to make an authoritative list... um, just like Leiter. If he wants to do something like this in the future, I hope he'll do something similar to what he did with the Report, or else just drop the whole idea.

Anonymous said...

I have no objections to the general idea of 'rising stars', but I hope we don't start keeping close track of who gets how many offers from where. I'd fear that incentives would start going wacky, if we did. For example, I'd hate to see a decent-but-not-Leiterrific school being hesitant to make an offer to a good candidate out of fear of being just a 'notch on the holster'. Likewise, I'd hate to see good candidates drag a school along that they'd already received a better offer than, just in hopes of adding to their 'star cred'.

Anonymous said...

Well, this is a first for me. I just googled a philosopher I had never heard of till now, and I found... her IMDB page!

Aviv said...

How about calling these great young philosophers 'gLEITtERati'?

Anonymous said...

Having suffered through this whole long ugly thread, I just want to say the youtube link was my favorite bit. brilliant.

that and the leiter bashing.

Anonymous said...

I wonder when Brian Leiter will become the object of some psychological study. His creepy obsession with fame, pedigree, and professional gossip cries for an explanation. What I love especially is when he gives some 'reason' for giving in to his obsession ("often people ask me to publish the latest ranking on who's going to be the Next Big Thing in East Coast Analytic Metaphysics, so...").

His obsession does not always do him a favor. The philosophy faculty at Chicago has - this is a rumor - refused to grant him a cross-appointment with philosophy. He is going to have a very difficult time there, which is at least partly a result of the fact that he has publicly offended (on his blog) Robert Pippin and James Conant.
(Here it is remarkable that Leiter's obsession interferes even with his careerism; surely it would have been smarter to act like Jason Stanley: blogging trash about Berkeley and Harvard ONLY AFTER they would not offer him a position.)

Anonymous said...

I don't particularly have a problem with the fact that the guy running the rankings is intensely concerned with rankings, hirings, and related topics (or if you prefer "obsessed"). That seems appropriate enough to me.

What I have a problem with is the fact that Leiter so consistently makes himself, and by extension our whole profession, look bad with his petty and immature attack posts. *That* is not the sort of person I want running the philosophy rankings or representing our discipline to young graduate students. Furthermore, I find it deeply unfortunate that his shallow and naive metaphilosophical views probably have an impact on how many young philosophy students understand their discipline. I think rankings are a good thing, but I'd prefer if they were run by someone who is much more fair-minded, has a much broader and more sophisticated understanding of philosophy, and lacks Leiter's shamefully egotistical defensiveness.

Anonymous said...

Leiter attacked Conant and Pippin for their scholarship in a review of Schacht's Nietzsche's Postmoralism. Do some research.

If anyone had a serious problem with Leiter at Chicago, he would not be coming here. His work is stellar. We (they?) don't hire faculty for what they do on blogs, we hire them as powerhouse scholars in their discipline.

Jon said...

Congratulations to Prof. Callard particularly! I was lucky enough to have her as a GSI (the Berkeley equivalent of a TA) while I was there as an undergrad, and she was absolutely fantastic. She in every way deserves the accolade.