This is just a quick reminder that today is the submission deadline for the 4th annual Philosopher's Cocoon Philosophy Conference. For the full CFP, see here!
I'd like to draw Philosophers' Cocoon readers' attention to this compelling personal story by Elisa Caldarola, an Italian philosopher who has relocated several times in pursuit of her dream to become a professional analytic philosopher working in aesthetics: https://www.che-fare.com/philosophy-women-english-as-a-second-language-and-international-careers/.
She tackles several issues that are familiar to European (non-UK) philosophy PhDs: the lack of good training in analytic philosophy in one's home country, the challenges of writing articles in English if it is not one's first language, the feeling of not belonging anywhere if it turns out your home country's academic job market is dysfunctional, non-existent or deeply corrupt, the loss of focus on one's original passion for philosophy to one's employability. As she writes:
Will I get a job as a philosopher? I don’t know. This is the big question that is bothering me right now. Where did all the other questions go? Some are still here and I’ve come to realize they’ll be with me forever if I keep doing this job, although they now look less scary, domesticated, partially answered in the affirmative: can I master English well enough to work at the international level? Can I consider myself an analytic philosopher? The question about pictures has allowed me to learn much, and to learn that I wanted to know more about art than about pictures, in the end. So it’s not really a pressing question anymore. What of the question about the meaning-conferring power of art? I think I know a lot about that now. Perhaps I even have something to say. It feels good.
Check it out!
I've worked for several years in the UK now, and from conversations I've had with UK academics (particularly philosophers), I found the following as a typical career trajectory for recent PhDs. I'm not saying this is the only path to a permanent job, but I've heard many UK lecturers describe this as how they got where they are.
You get funding for 3 years to do your PhD. There's no obligatory coursework (many PhD students start out with a 2-year MA which does have coursework, though). You are encouraged to teach a bit starting year 2, but your primary duty is writing the thesis. Most people do not succeed to do this in the three allotted years. and need to take at least one or two semesters more. They get by through teaching, other jobs (one person was a waiter) or cannibalising their savings. When you defend your PhD, you typically have 0, 1 or rarely, 2 or more publications.
Your next career move is a stipendiary lectureship (a bit like adjuncting in the US) where you’re paid a bit better than you were as a grad student and get more teaching experience. Still, it’s a lot of work for little pay and does not really allow you to do research as you would need to be competitive.
Then, after half a year or so stipendiary teaching, you land a postdoc.
There's a discussion today over at Leiter Reports responding to a grad student's question about accepting a job in a "third world" country. To my dismay, it took exactly one comment for someone to mention how accepting such a job might "actually be better than coming from a crappy US university", and a second comment to note that, "you would be infinitely better off by teaching at the top university of a developing country, than by teaching at an average US college."
On the one hand, I understand that such stereotypes exist, and that the commenters on the Leiter thread are attempting to give the graduate student in question sound advice based on that such stereotypes exist--and I appreciate them attempting to give sound advice. On the other hand, I think it is really important to combat such stereotypes.
First, I think such stereotypes send a harmful, dismissive message to grad students and our colleagues in the discipline more broadly. For instance, consider the commenter in Basil Smith's recent thread who stated, "But (say the values inculcated in me by my graduate department) [are] only losers and idiots work at community colleges." Is this really the kind of discipline we want to work in? I hope not. Second, the stereotypes in question seem to me profoundly unfair to job-candidates. There are all kinds of reasons unrelated to merit or philosophical ability for why someone could end up working at a given type of school:
Anyway, I honestly have no idea how common the aforementioned stereotypes are. All I can say is: please, let's be fair to our colleagues and job-candidates. Let's stop talking about "crappy schools" and the like, and try our best evaluate job-candidates on the basis of their accomplishments rather than stereotypes about their institutional affiliation.
By Liz Goodnick
I’d like to thank Helen De Cruz for inviting me to participate in this series. I will continue to (roughly) follow the pattern of previous posts in the series.
I earned my PhD from the University of Michigan in 2010, after starting the program in 2000 (between taking a year off, changing topics from Spinoza to Hume, and various personal issues and shortcomings--it took a long time). My dissertation focused on Hume’s neglected masterpiece, The Natural History of Religion.
For the last several years of graduate school I did not have funding, so I adjuncted at Eastern Michigan University, Washtenaw Community College, and for the final year and a half, at Illinois Wesleyan University (where my husband had a renewing 1 year VAP position). I went on the philosophy job market 5 years in a row (2008-12), and, during that time, had 4 different temporary jobs. I completed multi-state moves 5 times during this period.
I am now in my 3rd year of a tenure-track (TT) position at the Metropolitan State University of Denver. MSU Denver is a large urban University with 24,000 students (The 2nd largest in Colorado). We are a commuter campus and many of our students have families, jobs, have been in the military, etc. The philosophy department has 13 Tenured/TT professors, 1 full-time lecturer, and many adjuncts. We have about 40 Philosophy majors and 80 minors. I am expected to spend roughly 50% of my time/energy on teaching, 25% on service, and 25% on research. I don’t carefully track how much time I spend on each of these things, so I’m not sure what my actual ratios are.
I have a 4/4 load (and have taught 4/4 every year, with some additional summer teaching). Typically, I teach 3 lower-division sections of the same class (either Introduction to Philosophy or Introduction to Ethics) and 1 upper-division class (so far: Philosophy of Religion, History of Modern Philosophy, a “special topics” class on the Problem of Evil, and a “senior seminar” class on Modern Women Philosophers; next fall I’ll teach Social and Political Philosophy). This keeps preparations to a minimum, while still allowing me to teach classes connected to my areas of interest and research. I have a lot of flexibility on which upper division courses I teach.
I have received several queries recently asking whether Helen De Cruz and I will be running our Job-Market Mentoring Project again, and am happy to report that we will indeed be relaunching the program this Spring. For those of you who may not be familiar with the project, its primary aim is to enable job candidates in philosophy who face special challenges, including those with little access to mentoring (e.g., because their department or advisor does not offer this), to receive advice and support from more experienced members of the profession. Although we are not currently taking sign-ups, our tentative plan is to run the project from late May through August—and we plan to announce the signup period sometime next month.
Helen and I were fortunate to receive helpful feedback from a number of mentors and mentees—and we are happy to report that, by and large, the feedback we received was mostly positive. Here are a few brief testimonials:
I am Professor of Philosophy and Chair of the Humanities and Philosophy Departments at Saddleback College. Two years ago, I was granted tenure.
I never thought I’d get here.
In 1988, when I started studying Philosophy at Purchase College, my interests were interdisciplinary. After completing my B.A. in Philosophy and Psychology in 1991, I entered the Ph.D. program at the Claremont Graduate University. But having lived in Britain, I wanted to return. So I applied to Kings College London to do the MPhil/Ph.D. At Kings, I mostly studied analytic philosophy of language and mind.
In 1997, I met Christopher Norris from Cardiff University, who had similar interdisciplinary interests. So I enrolled in the Ph.D. program at Cardiff, hoping to finish quickly. But actually, after intending to write a thesis that included analytic philosophy, existentialism, and psychoanalysis, I became obsessed with philosophical skepticism. So my Ph.D. thesis addresses epistemic and semantic responses to skepticism.
In 2001, I was trading American equities from my flat on the Isle of Wight to get by. I was oddly good at such trading, but it was truly meaningless work. So I moved back to Philadelphia to begin teaching as an adjunct at Lebanon Valley College, LaSalle University and many other universities. I taught at least 8 classes a semester. I taught whatever anyone wanted no matter what it was. Of course, many would consider this an academic nightmare, but it taught me to manage my time. Still, because of the driving, reading, and preparing, I only defended my PhD. in 2005.
In 2006, I started applying to jobs and was hired immediately by John Tyler Community College in Richmond, VA, where I was made Chair of Philosophy and Religion. My JTCC colleagues and dean were welcoming and supportive, and I felt at home. But in 2009, after a holiday to Orange Country, CA, I applied for a few jobs just to see what would happen. Amazingly, I was granted interviews at almost everywhere that I applied. Mesmerized by the beach, Disneyland, and other fun things, I accepted a position at Saddleback College, where I am now Chair of the Humanities and Philosophy Departments.
At JTCC and Saddleback, the teaching load has been 5/5, with an option to teach summers. Classes at SB are capped at 45 (so 225 students per semester) and faculty are encouraged to let in more. As Chair, I get a modest stipend but the teaching is the same. This teaching load might sound daunting, but it is not that bad. Because I teach Introduction to Philosophy, Ethics, and Logic over and over again, preparation is minimal. Moreover, because I arrange my schedule to teach between Monday and Thursday mornings, I have afternoons, evenings and long weekends. Lastly, because I not longer drive between many universities, there is no driving stress, nor recovery time. Given such full time privileges, my 5/5 teaching load can be done.
Recently, I was able to push two new classes - Ancient and Modern- through the Curriculum Committee, as part of our new AAT degree. So I’m looking forward to teaching Modern.
Still, I think that teaching philosophy at a community college is uniquely challenging, for two reasons. First, because my 225 students are often badly prepared for the subject, they need constant feedback to quell their worries and bolster their confidence. Given this, the grading of such classes is constant, and can be overwhelming. Second, because my students are often badly prepared, they can read sparsely and carelessly, and eventually dismiss philosophy. Even during the class, such students can disparage philosophy (i.e. verbally or online), which hurts enrollment. But actually, because I want my students to appreciate the material, I try to be creative, inclusive, and engaging. Clearly, though, such efforts are work, and can be overwhelming.
If you are reading this blogpost, chances are you have relocated recently for your academic position. Many of us have relocated several times in pursuit of a permanent (tenure-track or equivalent) academic job. This frequent relocation has large financial costs - with employers providing limited (in the best case scenario) or no funds for relocation, but it also has psychological costs, as this blogpost points out in great detail.
If your relatives are anything like mine, the frequent relocations spark disbelief or disapprobation among your parents and other family members. For the years I worked at the University of Leuven as a postdoc, my parents could not fathom why they did not offer me a permanent job, or why I would not just ask them for a permanent job “After all, they know what you are worth. Just tell them you will move on otherwise”. Moving on is what I eventually did. I went to the University of Oxford, then to the VU Amsterdam in the Netherlands, and then Oxford again (Oxford Brookes this time) for a permanent post, in a city where I still have friends and a support network. Oxford is an expensive city, but real life friends are valuable.
Our itinerant lifestyle as academics brings with it n-body problems, as the author of this post points out. It brings out the classical two-body problem. Many people I know are in this situation and I am in this situation too. Often the choice is between one of the partners being underemployed or unemployed, or the partners living apart, sometimes even in different continents. When there are children or other dependents involved, the problems amplify. But academic relocation also results in a one-body problem, namely the problem to find a suitable partner, especially for well-educated women, ethnic or other minorities.
Relatively more women than men have academic partners. In a 2008 study, among STEM academics, “Fully 83 percent of women scientists in academic couples are partnered with another scientist, compared with 54 percent of men scientists.” The two-body problem is a feminist issue. Still, the issue is under explored on fora such as Feminist Philosophers or Being a Woman in Philosophy.
Bad as relocating and the associated n-body problems are, especially for women academics, there are structural incentives that make it worse. For instance, the Marie Curie postdoctoral fellowship, which is the main postdoctoral opportunity offered by the European Research Council, explicitly asks that a prospective fellow has not worked in the country where the institution is situated, or has not lived there for at least 5 years. It is almost as if the Marie Curie Fellowship is written with the express intention that the fellow should go somewhere where she has no support network whatsoever. People who have followed their spouses to a permanent academic post are de facto excluded, because they live in the country where they would want to do the postdoc, even if they have never worked there.
As Chris Lebron (on FaceBook) suggested, “I think one reason there is a lot of silence [on the two-body problem] is because the academic life is so closely associated with the idea of a solitary male achiever. In this model, there is never a need to take account of anyone else except him. Women are becoming a more powerful and present force in the academy, but the idea of the solitary achiever just seems to be moving over to women as well (though often with perverse forms of unfairness). In both cases, it then becomes a disincentive (not justifiably, but due to social norms and pressures) to openly declare that one's professional well-being in fact depends on more than what is happening in one's mind and one's bank account.”
I think Chris is right in saying that there is a certain disincentive in openly talking about one’s n-body problems (I was hesitating to write this post since we have this problem, but I felt it was important to discuss the issue). So I hope that commenters will weigh in with stories of how n-body problems have affected them, how they solved their two-body problem, and with ideas of how we can address the issue.
In the comments section of my recent post, "Reviewers as ghost authors - a strange worry?", Wesley Buckwalter raised some interesting questions about the nature of peer-review and the main job of referees in that process. I would like to continue that conversation here, as I think our back-and-forth raised some interesting issues I think may be worth further discussing.
Wesley's view, in brief, is that, "the main job of referees is to ensure the minimum standard necessary for publishing", not help authors improve their papers. Wesley added, "I flatly deny the purpose of peer review is to help authors with papers. The purpose of it is to evaluate papers. Issuing an evaluation might and maybe should end up helping authors when done well, but in my view, as a consequence of its main function."
As I explain below, I think this is a natural and plausible way to understand the nature of peer-review and referee's "main job." However, I also think there are normative/moral grounds to favor an alternative model--one in which "the main job" of referees is twofold:
Before I provide the grounds that I think favor this model, I think it is worth noting that there is at least one influential journal in another field that explicitly endorses it. Consider the following editorial policy of Cognition, a leading journal in psychology (my emphases):
Barry Maguire (UNC Chapel Hill) has drawn my attention to the new Mark Sanders Award for Public Philosophy. Here are the details:
Marc Sanders Award for Public Philosophy
We are pleased to announce a Call for Papers for the Inaugural Marc Sanders Award for Public Philosophy. We hope that this award will incentivize and draw attention to excellent new long-form public philosophy.
We invite submissions of unpublished essays (minimum 3,000 words, maximum 10,000) with significant philosophical content or method by authors with significant philosophical training addressed primarily to the general reader. There is no restriction to any area of philosophy. In particular, there is no restriction to practical philosophy. Everyone from graduate students to emeritus professors is encouraged to apply.
The winner of the Marc Sanders Award for Public Philosophy will receive $4,500. The winning essay will be published in Philosophers’ Imprint. Philosophers’ Imprint is a free online journal specializing in major original contributions to philosophy. The second best essay will be published in Aeon, whose editorial staff will be available to help with the final draft. The top two essays will both be published (or cross-posted) in Salon and The Point. There will also be an opportunity for the winner(s) to present their work directly to a general audience.
The Award Committee is Chaired by Susan Wolf, Edna J. Koury Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at UNC Chapel Hill. The other committee members are Patricia O’Toole, Professor of Literary Nonfiction at Columbia University School of the Arts and Pulitzer Prize finalist,Thomas Hofweber, Professor of Philosophy at UNC Chapel Hill, and Barry Maguire, Research Assistant Professor at UNC Chapel Hill and incoming Director of the Northern Institute of Philosophy.
Deadline: 10 / 10
Please submit your entry to email@example.com by 10 October 2016. Please include the essay title in the Subject line. Receipt of submissions will be acknowledged by email. Refereeing will be blind; authors should omit all remarks and references that might disclose their identities. Unlike other Marc Sanders Prizes there is no restriction to junior candidates. Philosophers at any career stage are encouraged to submit. No more than one submission per person. Previously published essays will not be considered. The winner will be determined by the committee and will be announced by the end of the year.
Any inquiries should be sent to Barry Maguire at firstname.lastname@example.org
Here are some examples of long form public philosophy:
This is a final call-for-papers for the 4th Annual Philosophers' Cocoon Philosophy Conference (PCPC), which is provisionally scheduled to be held at University of Tampa from Saturday October 8th to Sunday October 9th, 2016. If you're curious about what the conference has been like in past years, see here!
As in the past, this year's conference will be unique in several respects:
To submit a paper to present at the PCPC, please email the following to me at email@example.com by May 1st, 2016:
Decision emails indicating whether your paper has been accepted should be sent out around July 1st (yes, papers will undergo peer-review!). Finally, please bear the following in mind: In order to ensure that the conference is well-attended, there will be relatively few Skype sessions -- so the probability that your paper will be accepted is higher should you state in your submission email that you can attend in person.
I look forward to receiving some great submissions, and to another great conference!
I just noticed that the Cocoon surpassed 1 million site visits yesterday. It may have taken us almost four years to get there, but I still think it's kind of cool. Thanks, as always, to all of our readers, commenters, and contributors for making the Cocoon such a great place to discuss early-career issues!
An anonymous reader writes in:
This year's job-circus is mostly done, and that got me to thinking about the hot topic from past years -- prestige bias. I don't want to open the `is it real' or `is it bad' worm-cans, but I'm also curious about something: presumably there are at least some people who (a) think/realize prestige bias is real, (b) think/realize prestige bias is bad, and (c) were on hiring committees this year. Among those people, I'm curious what concrete steps were taken to combat prestige bias, and whether any of these strategies were seen as successful.
Good questions. Anyone have any answers?
Along with other people who work in experimental philosophy, I think the time is ripe for experimental philosophy to have its own journal.
X-phi should of course still be published in mainstream journals, which is its main venue today, but a specialist journal would greatly benefit the visibility of experimental philosophy. For comparison, in the 1980s the journal Biology and Philosophy was founded, and this journal helped a lot in raising the profile of philosophy of biology although authors in that field had (and still have) many alternative options.
A second reason to have an experimental philosophy journal is that it could have unique, distinctive features that set it apart from other journals, including (with thanks for FB friends for suggestions on this):
The main problem is money. Even if the journal would use submission fees, as Philosophers' Imprint does, it would seem risky to rely on submission fees and if one makes them too high it would deter grad students, underemployed and unemployed philosophers. So that is why The Journal of Experimental Philosophy* should be hosted by an institution/department that is both willing and able to make the long-term commitment of hosting the journal.
If you are interested in being on the editorial board, please send me a message at helenldecruz at gmail dot com or in comments below, to express your interest. If you have any ideas about the scope of the journal, further features that may make it distinctive, and of long-term funding or institutional hosting, please also let me know
* The name of the journal, suggested by James Andow, is not set in gold but seems apt to me. It seems that journals with boring names do well, so having a boring name that describe the journal's scope would be important
I'm traveling home from the APA Pacific right now, and have to say it was probably the most enjoyable APA conference I've been to. There were some great sessions, and I was lucky to run into (and meet) some really kind, cool people. Anyway, while I was on the first leg of my flight home, I got to thinking about some things that sort of stuck out to me about my trip. Although my impressions are admittedly anecdotal, I couldn't help but be struck by a few things.
Is philosophical blood-sport dying (a much-needed death)?
I recall going to some APAs not too long ago where some sessions were really aggressive, with commentators and/or audience members really "going for the jugular." Obviously, I couldn't go to every talk, but I have to (pleasantly) say that I didn't run into one example of this sort of thing. Every session I was in was constructive and professional--and everyone, speakers, commentators, and audience members, seemed to enjoy the conversations. I don't know if this conference was an anomaly in this respect, or whether I just got lucky in the sessions that I went to, but I do have to say--from my perspective, it was really nice. And, at least anecdotally, I do get the impression that the blood-sport stuff just doesn't fly anymore, or at least, most people seem to be putting it to rest. Are my impressions accurate? What were your experiences?