Given that the fall JFP comes out on Monday, I just wanted to wish all of our job-marketeering readers the best of luck on the market. For what it is worth, my own experience is that it's best not to let the market dominate one's (or at least my) life. I've found that the more that I focus on ordinary things like teaching, research, and spending time with friends and family, and the less I focus on the viccissitudes of the market -- job wikis, etc. -- the easier it all is to handle. Anyway, those a just a few thoughts for the road. I sincerely wish you all the best of luck on it, as I know all too well what a difficult road it is.
As I understand it, one of Williamson’s main concerns with Experimental Philosophy is that it has failed to target a unique philosophical method that (experimental philosophers claim) is in need of revision. As Williamson writes:
What the Experimental Philosophy revolution is supposed to change — systematize, restrict, or abolish — is a philosophical method: the use of philosophical intuitions as evidence. Alexander’s starting-point is that such a method is obviously widespread in, and distinctive of, contemporary philosophy (pp. 1, 11). The systematic deployment of elaborate hypothetical cases is indeed an eye-catching feature of much recent analytic work. But what Experimental Philosophers target is neither the systematicity nor the elaboration. Nor, officially, is it the hypothetical nature of the cases. For many of them can be replaced by real life cases.
In support of this claim about experimental philosophy, Williamson seems to be saying that experimental philosophers have failed to identify something that is uniquely “philosophical” about what they call “philosophical intuitions.” As Williamson writes:
Alexander’s own gloss on ‘philosophical intuitions’, ‘what we would say or how things seem to us’, does no better. In both everyday and scientific situations, when I say that P, I would say that P, and (if I am sincere) it seems to me that P. If I am not idiosyncratic, we would say that P, and it seems to us that P. If I believe that I am not idiosyncratic, I believe that what we would say, and how things seem to us, is that P. [emphasis added]
But isn’t that a big IF? I take it that some work in experimental philosophy has shown precisely that intuitions are idiosyncratic insofar as they vary across cultures and are subject to all sorts of effects, such as order and framing effects. In other words, now that the empirical evidence is out there, we (philosophers) don’t get to assume without argument that we (more precisely, our intuitions) are not idiosyncratic.
I found myself caught in a dilemma today that brings to mind recent posts about reviewerly duties. The paper defends a new theory of something by arguing that the theory avoids a certain "problem" that many others in the field have raised. Here's a reviewerly dilemma: I think the so-called "problem" that the entire paper assumes is a bunch of hooey. I think there there's nothing even remotely close to a good argument for its being a genuine problem (just a lot of table-banging). In my estimation, the only reason some people think it is a problem is that they are grip in a very, very bad theory -- one that I think there are decisive reasons to reject, and which shocks me to no end that (some) people take seriously to begin with (again, almost entirely on the basis of table-banging assertions).
Here, then, is my dilemma:
Now, in the abstract, I generally loathe to hold authors responsible for (what I take to be) others' mistakes. However, in this case, the entire argument that the paper rests on seems to me to be utter madness. It's hard for me to say to myself, in good conscience, "Let this pass", when I simply can't believe how others in the discipline have let it pass for so long.
What say you, my fellow Cocooners? What's a reviewer to do in this sort of situation?
Like the “proving too much” charge, philosophers tend to level the “begging the question” charge too hastily. I just had a paper—in which I argue that p is false (where p is a commonly held view in field F)—rejected on the grounds that my argument against p begs the question.
Strictly speaking, an argument begs the question only if it is a circular argument and the circle is vicious. That is:
p => p
This is a viciously circular argument because the conclusion (= p) is assumed as a premise.
Now, if my argument were something like this:
~p => ~p
then it would have been viciously circular. But my argument actually goes like this:
(q -> ~p) & q => ~p
It just so happens, however, that q is a proposition that my opponent cannot accept. Does that make my argument viciously circular? I don’t think so. I suppose that is what Putnam had in mind when he said that “one philosopher’s modus ponens is another philosopher’s modus tollens.”
What do you think, my fellow pupae?
*Updated Sat. 9/22*
Given that the October JFP is less than two weeks away, I thought this might be a good time to present and discuss some...suggestions...for how to behave/not behave while out on the job market. Notice that I didn't say "do's" and "don'ts." Lists of do's and don'ts often come off as holier-than-thou. So I propose we venture and discuss suggestions. Here are a few I offer:
Okay, guess that's all for now. Gotta run off to teach! I'm curious to see what you all think of these, and what suggestions you all have to offer in turn.
Update: here's one I forgot:
At the moment, I'm 25, single, and childless. While some may regard these facts as a bit depressing (because I haven't found that special someone), it has some advantages. Most notably, I have more personal freedom and fewer non-professional obligations to meet. Because professional development during graduate school is so important to landing a job in philosophy (especially since the 2008 economic collapse), being able to focus more narrowly on philosophy is a benefit that I'm hesitant to minimize.
Having said this, the majority of graduate students I know are not in my situation. Most of the ones I know are older and married. Some of them have a child, and a few have more than one. I have seen plenty of examples of graduate students who have been able to manage their marriage during graduate study without any noticeable difficulty, so I infer that having a spouse does not meaningfully affect one's chances of having a prosperous graduate career. (In fact, having a spouse to help ease the stress of graduate study probably offsets whatever so-called "inconveniences" to your professional life arise.) But the same cannot be said for having children.
I have known several graduate students who had children midway through their graduate career. In every case, the same pattern transpired. Following their child's birth, they were almost completely absent from departmental events for a while. They rarely attended their course meetings, never attended special events (including those that featured distinguished visiting speakers), and were never spotted around the graduate student offices. When they eventually snapped out of this phase (usually after 1-2 months), their involvement in the philosophical community was still significantly reduced from where it had been when they were childless.
It's not hard to imagine why this is the case. Having a child involves undertaking responsibilities that have no equal: you are fully responsible for the development and welfare of another human life. The burdens of care impose stress on you financially, physically, and emotionally in ways that nothing else can. And unfortunately, in the tug-of-war between the needs of your child and fulfilling your obligations as a graduate student, your child carries more weight most of the time. Moreover, observing your child's first steps, hearing her first words, playing with her in the evenings—these activities tend to be so much more rewarding than, say, reading that article for tomorrow's graduate seminar, revising that paper draft to send off to a conference, or working on the ever-so-daunting dissertation. The temptation to let yourself underachieve grows (as does the temptation to accept it or rationalize it).
The strain created by having a child is also not likely to disappear when you finally finish the dissertation. Given the difficulty of finding tenure-track employment right after graduate school, it's likely that you, your spouse, and your child will be bouncing around to temporary positions for a little while. During that time, it will be even more important for you to publish and build up your CV so that you can acquire a tenure-track position, but the demands of your child (or children) will still be present. Moreover, as your child gets older, the impacts of your moving (which may be frequent) could impact her more significantly. (They won't remember much of the move at 3 years old or younger, but once they're 5 or 6 and start to make friends, the impact of moving could be quite significant to them.)
I do know a few professors who are able to juggle their professional responsibilities with their personal commitments to multiple children; some of them were even able to do this during graduate school. If I were like them, I would offer some advice on how to balance these commitments successfully. But since I lack that experience, I'll offer a more candid, less compromising sentiment: wait until you have finished your graduate education to have children. Ideally, you'd wait until you have tenure (so that your career is firmly established), but because you can't achieve this until many years after graduate school, such a standard seems implausible.
Of course, one may wonder how I, given my autobiographical notes above, can make such a bold statement about how people ought to conduct their personal lives. After all, how can I understand the importance of one's decision to have a child when I have never been in a position to seriously consider the decision myself? I may not have a convincing answer to someone who presses this objection. I have only my personal observations and some anecdotes from graduate students and professors who have children. It's become clear to me from these anecdotes that graduate students who have children, even if they accurately appraise how valuable their child will be to them, usually underestimate just how great the sacrifice will be and how much it will (professionally) cost them.
I also confess that I am not particularly sympathetic to those who feel they must have a child before the age of 30. (Perhaps I'm biased because I was born when both my parents were in their mid-30s.) Mainly, I fail to see what great loss it would be to wait a few years (hopefully until after the dissertation is complete) when the professional benefits appear so signficant. Moreover, the child is likely to benefit because you will be in better position to secure a tenure-track job, leading to higher income and a stable location. For graduate students in their mid-30s, I admit that their window for having a child is narrowing, and this fact can weigh very heavily on them. Some, I suspect, do not envision that they could live a genuinely happy life without having a child. This dreadful dilemma, where a person faces such a basic and significant conflict between personal life and professional life, is one with no easy solution and is best avoided altogether. This highlights one significant reason why it is beneficial to begin graduate work in philosophy (and likely in any field) shortly after obtaining her undergraduate degree.
I doubt that this post will persuade all (or even most) philosophy graduate students from having children before they finish their dissertation, but I hope it at least makes them realize the professional costs of their decision to do so. The journey to a tenure-track job in philosophy traces a long uphill path. I advise any philosophy grad student to be cautious about making that incline any steeper than it already is.
There's a good question about whether and to what extent philosophers ought to be professionally ambitious. After all, work is only one of many good things in life. But that's a question for another post by a different cocooner. Here I want to ask what it even means to pursue a philosophical career. If you want to strive for professional excellence as a philosopher, what should you do? And how can you tell whether you're doing it?
In some professions, success is tied to income. If you work in sales, for instance, the size of your commissions is roughly equal to the size of your professional success. This makes it easy for salespeople to know how well they're doing.
But matters are more complicated for us. Some low-status philosophy jobs actually pay better than higher-status jobs. Professional philosophers rarely put on displays of wealth, and that's not because philosophers are reluctant to display their successes. (Philosophers brag just as much as anyone else, in my experience. Bragging is what a CV is for.) Instead, I think, philosophers don't display wealth because they don't see wealth as a sign of success.
I don't know the best way to fill in the blank, but I'll list some possibilities off the top of my head. Maybe professional success in philosophy is (or is indicated by): (1) the production of high-quality philosophical writing; or (2) the production of influential philosophical writing; or (3) landing a job at a well-regarded philosophy department; or (4) being a good philosophy teacher; or (5) acquiring a deep understanding of important philosophical problems; or (6) actually solving important philosophical problems...
Of course, we don't have to pick just one. Perhaps there will be a combination of different factors that make up our notion of professional success. Given this, we should be attentive to cases in which one dimension of professional success is at odds with another.
There is also an interesting scope issue. It's conceivable to be regarded as a success (or failure) within your department or university and simultaneously be regarded as a failure (or success) by the wider profession. Does the ambitious philosopher (qua ambitious philosopher) try to gain worldwide fame, or does she try to be the favorite philosopher on campus?
I think it might turn out that we just don't have any coherent idea of what it is to have a successful career as a philosopher. Maybe we should simply count certain events as successes (e.g., the publication of a paper in an excellent journal seems clearly to be a kind of success). I'm tempted by the idea that it just isn't possible to add up all the successes and failures in one's career in order to correctly reach an aggregative judgment about one's career as a whole. Maybe this is one of the differences between professional sales and professional philosophy. In sales (and presumably in a lot of other professions, too), each of your professional activities meaningfully contributes to the overall value of your career. But in philosophy, perhaps, your career as a whole can't be informatively evaluated, even though each of the things you do in the course of your career—read, reflect, write, publish, teach, etc.—is independently worthwhile.
There have been a lot of posts recently, both here and elsewhere, on the perils of peer-review -- particularly on irresponsible, unaccountable reviewers, as well as on whether contemporary philosophy (and so, reviewers) have fetishized rigor to an unhealthy (and comical) extent.
In light of these issues, I'd like to ask ye, my fellow Cocooners, the following two questions:
I suppose I'll kick things off by giving my short-answer to both questions.
A while ago I was asked by a journal of high standing to referee a paper on a topic of which I had little knowledge. I immediately pointed this out, but the editorial assistant soon afterwards replied that it would be fine as they valued my opinion nevertheless. I was uncomfortable. The journal in question had, during the course of my career, rejected every one of my submissions, now numbering almost a dozen. Their position seemed to be that while they had consistently deemed me unworthy of publication, I was nevertheless worthy of passing judgement on what was good enough for them to publish: outside my own topic too. If I really knew what they wanted, I would no doubt have produced it myself by now. I turned down the assignment.
There is a big intellectual flaw in the peer-review system. It is inherently conservative. Suppose an editor succeeds in securing an ideal referee, eminent in the field and working on the same subject area. Such a reviewer could well have a vested interest in protecting a particular view or theory. Paradigm-changing work is unlikely to go down well with those who support an existing paradigm. Many papers in my own field work within an existing set of shared assumptions, offering only small additions or footnotes, which produce a dull read.
Let us see with each published paper a date of submission, date of acceptance and names of the referees. Let authors know in advance the average decision time. Let us know if asked to revise and resubmit whether it will go back to the same referees or to different ones.
Personally, I think that Mumford's observations on the problems with peer-review are spot-on. However, I don't think his positive proposals would do much at all to improve the situation. How would posting dates, of submission, acceptance, names of referees, etc., correct for any of the problems Mumford cites in his article? Although I hesistate to get on my hobby-horse yet again, I can't help but think that there is already another system out there that does correct for most, if not all, of our current system's problems. Here, again, is how the physicists do it. They:
Now, this alternative system isn't without potential problems. It is, strictly speaking, possible for bad work to get a lot of attention on messageboards -- though, for what it is worth, when this happens in physics it usually comes out on the messageboards why the work is bad, and the bad stuff doesn't make it into print. Still, it seems to me that, all things considered, the physicists' approach is far superior. It:
All of this seems totally awesome to me. Why don't we philosophers do it?
I just received the following query from one of our readers (a grad student):
I had a question for you and the fellow cocooners that I thought might be an interesting topic. I've got a paper that I've been working on for a couple of years and I can't figure out how to make it into a journal type article. I have been thinking recently about submitting it as a discussion piece. I've seen plenty of stuff on the web about publishing articles, but I haven't seen much about publishing discussion pieces. Is there a rule of thumb for the content? How recent does the work being discussed need to be? Any help would be appreciated.
What say you, my fellow pupae? Any advice?
Here are a few thoughts of my own. The first piece I ever published was actually just the kind of piece the reader refers to: a longer paper that I had trouble placing, and which I then transformed into a much shorter piece. So I guess my first thought is that this kind of thing can work. A second thought is that Thom Brooks' guide to publishing for grad students is a good place to look, since he discusses replies there a bit. His advice, if I recall, is to make sure that the piece makes one very good point very clearly, and stays on point at every instant. In other words, the piece should probably begin with a very short summary of the point -- and no more than the point -- you mean to object to, and then provide the objection as quickly and powerfully as possible. As for how recently the piece being discussed needs to be, I don't know if there's a good rule to follow here besides a "sliding-scale": namely, the newer the piece, the better. An exception would perhaps be a slightly older piece that is very influential. My final thought (echoed by Brooks) is that it's probably not a good idea to spend a great deal of time on any given reply. Since very few journals accept replies to pieces in *other* journals (JESP is a rare exception), you pretty much only have one shot to get the piece in print. I have several replies myself that went nowhere, and I'm glad I didn't waste any more time on them than I did. In other words, I suggest that if you want to write a reply, just write it up quickly, maybe get a couple people to read it, edit it for gross errors, and send it off. If the point you're arguing for really is a good one, you'll probably get an R&R and be able to polish it later (this happened to me twice).
I just returned from a 6-day trip to England, where I attended the excellent MANCEPT workshops in political theory. Let me begin by saying that the organizers did a wonderful job with everything. A conference of that size has to be a logistical nightmare to set up, but everything went off (as far as I could tell) without a hitch. My experiences with international travel itself, on the other hand, is a very different story.
This is the second time I've travelled internationally in the past two months, and both trips were absolutely terrible. Why? Although I have no idea how representative my experiences are, let me just say that I do not do well with jet lag. Actually, "not do well" is a vast understatement, if ever there were one. Generally speaking, I am a pretty level-headed individual -- but both times I've traveled abroad I've been gripped by what I can only call a profound sense of anxiety, sadness, and a profound fogginess of mind, all of which, as I understand it, are symptoms of severe jet-lag, and which lasted a good 4 days, and led to this post. Now again, maybe I'm unrepresentative, but for those of you who haven't travelled abroad before, you have been warned. As far as I am concerned, my days of international travel are over. Both trips were that bad.
On the flip-side, my experience did have at least one positive effect. For a few days, I felt pretty embarassed by my post on my publishing travails. Goodness, I thought to myself, I publicly opened up way too much. I felt like my jet-lag threw my good sense out the window, and that I never would have made the post if I were in my right mind. And truth be told, I'm still a wee bit embarassed. But I learned a few things from the experience that I would like to share with you all. First, if you need help, ask for it. Many of us are not good at asking for help. I have never been good at it, and I have known many people who are bad at it too (particularly fellow grad students back when I was seeking my degree). Asking for help is uncomfortable -- but I can tell you this: it is even more uncomfortable in the long run not to receive the help you need because you never asked for it. This is sort of how I'm feeling at the moment. I think I probably could have published the darn paper in question a long, long time ago if I had just sought out more help than I have. But better late than never, I suppose. The comments and offers to read the paper I received from you all have really, really helped (thanks in particular to Kristina Meshelski for her paper comments and encouragement, as well as Brad Cokelet and all of you who shared your kind comments). Which brings me to the second point I would like to share: there really are good people out there who are willing to help and encourage you -- and share their knowledge and expertise -- if only you ask. It's all too easy, sometimes, to regard one another as competitors, or to worry that others will judge you and your work. It's important to keep in mind that there are a lot of people of good will out there. Don't be afraid to approach them, particularly here on the Cocoon. ;) Also, thanks again to you all. You helped salvage at least one person's awful week.
What do you make of it? Is this a scam?
Here is why I tend to be suspicious of new open access journals. I published my first paper with Philosophical Frontiers. At the time, I was a graduate student eager to get his name in print and the journal was supposed to be open access. It turned out to be a mistake, since the journal has disappeard from cyberspace since then.
Here is the email from The Open Journal of Philosophy:
Dear Dr. Moti Mizrahi ,
I am writing to cordially invite you to submit or recommend papers to Open Journal of Philosophy (OJPP, ISSN: 2163-9442), a fast track peer-reviewed and open access academic journal published by Scientific Research Publishing (SCIRP), which is one of the largest open access journal publishers with more than 200 journals. To date SCIRP journals have been indexed by many important databases.
As an Open Access Journal, OJPP devotes itself to promoting scholarship in philosophy and to speeding up the publication cycle thereof. Researchers worldwide will have full access to all the articles published online and be able to download them with zero subscription fee. Moreover, the influence of your research will rapidly expand once you become an OA author, because an OA article enjoys more chances to be used and cited than does one that plods through the subscription barriers of traditional publishing model.
"Open" makes this Journal unique. "Open" goes global, historical, cultural; actual, theoretical, detailed; artistic, scientific, sociopolitical. "Open" goes outer space and nuclear minute, and heartfelt subtle.
The only desideratum is to go basic, and go sensitively coherent. Be clear, even in the wrong, not vague, even in the right. Never beat around the bush; burn the bush itself!
This is "philosophy"! It means that any theme in any methodology, written as above, is welcome.
We shall eagerly look forward to your vigorous submissions of exciting essay within our aims and scope which is shown at www.scirp.org/journal/ojpp. And papers are expected to be submitted at "Submission" section in the above website.
There's a paper I've been working on for several years now -- one that formed the basis for my dissertation -- but which I just haven't had any luck publishing. To be perfectly frank, for a long while I thought there were very good reasons for reviewers to reject it. I recognized from reader and reviewer comments that there were things that I just had wrong, and other things that I hadn't worked out yet. And so the rejections, while hard to take, were incredibly helpful. They helped me recognize and solve a ton of problems. Now, however, I finally feel pretty confident that I've finally worked most (if not all) of the kinks out. Anyway, to make a long story short...after many major revisions I've gotten reasonably close to publishing the thing a couple of times (i.e. a couple of R&R's) -- close, but still, no cigar.
So what's my query, you ask? Well, before I get to that, let me continue the story a bit. Some might suggest (some have!) that given the trouble I've had publishing the paper, perhaps it would be best to give up on it. However, there are a few reasons I don't think that's appropriate. First, the paper has changed a lot over the years, and I recognize that some things I was doing a while back were mistaken. Second, when objections are raised these days (by readers and reviewers), I have good replies in hand (replies which tend to satisfy people in person and have progressively satisfied more journal reviewers). Third, I keep having well-known and not-so-well-known readers -- and conferences and elsewhere (including, importantly, people who have no vested interest in telling me what I want to hear) -- tell me they think it's a good and important paper, and that I should not give up on it. Finally, and perhaps most importantly (to me, anyway), I still believe in the darn thing. Trust me, I've given up lots of papers for dead. I'm not that obtuse. I recognize when a paper just isn't happening philosophically -- and I'm pretty sure that's just not the case with this paper. Is everything in it perfect? Of course not. There are a few dicey spots, to be sure. But that's the case in just about every paper, even many of the most influential ones we read and teach -- and we tend to tolerate a dicey step here or there if a project is particularly interesting or illuminating (see e.g. Rawls' entire argument for his principles of justice;).
Finally, then, I come to my earnest query: what in the world are reviewers looking for? Really, I don't mean this facetiously, or to disparage reviewers in any way, shape, or form. I mean it in the most earnest way possible. I just don't understand what more I can do with this thing. It's on a hot topic. It steps into uncharted waters. It aims to navigate those waters in a new way -- in a way that many people who have written on the topic have said "really needs to be done" in their papers. And, I think, the arguments in it are good. Further, just to forestall the objection that I might be totally deluded about all of these things, I've had numerous readers -- well-known and less-well-known alike -- tell me all of these things. Now, I suppose it is epistemically possible that I am deluded, and all of the people who've told me good things are incorrect, or dishonest, etc. Epistemically possible yes -- but, I think, unlikely. So, what's the deal? What am I doing wrong? Is this just the way it is sometime? To borrow a phrase from the movie Jerry McGuire (?), help me, help you, help me. Please, I ask, again, in the most earnest way. Truly, any helpful advice, similar experiences, etc., you wish to share would be immensely appreciated. (Heck, I'll even send you the paper if you want, if you're the sort of publishing maniac who's willing to lend your time and awesomeness to a pupae in need:).
Finally, thanks all of you for taking the time to slog through this admittedly strange, frank post. I know we tend to hide our insecurities and frustrations, and only discuss them privately, not in public forums like this. This is something that I've hoped this blog can help serve to change. Sometimes private discussions, as helpful as they can be, just don't quite suffice. A few well-known people here or there saying, "Stick with it -- this is a good paper", or "Yeah, I had this one paper that I think is my best work, but it took seven years to come out", is encouraging. But sometimes, just sometimes, when you've been tirelessly at work on something for years, and the frustrations mount, you need just a little more than that. Sometimes you need help from your friends. Sometimes you just need to ask your friends for help and encouragement, and hope that some among them will answer. Thus, I humbly approach you, my cocooning friends, for your help and/or advice. Help me, help you, help me. ;)
In Episode 37 of the Elucidations podcast, Catarina Dutilh Novaes discusses methods in philosophy. She talks about four kinds of methodologies:
During this discussion, an interesting question about demarcation comes up. What, if anything, separates philosophy from other disciplines? Which of the aforementioned methods, if any, is unique to philosophy? Should we worry about setting clear boundaries between philosophy and other disciplines?
Catarina Dutilh Novaes says that this demarcation worry is recent and misguided. She claims that philosophers should "mingle" with practitioners from other disciplines. Do you agree with her? If so, why?
More on the subject of job recommendation letters for the US market, now that that the season is upon us. In particular, I'd like to ask your help on recommendation letters addressing teaching. I'm under the impression that it doesn't matter very much whether the teaching letter comes from someone famous -- it could be anyone from your current institution. The problem with this for someone like myself, who is based in a non-US institution, is that few people at my institution have ever seen or written such a letter. I can probably find someone who is willing to write one, but how should I direct them, i.e. what is expected of a teaching reference? I guess that my fellow cocooners may not have seen such letters either, but perhaps someone knows about the typical format for teaching references, or even better, knows where to find a sample letter?
Related to teaching, there's a lot of talk about teaching evaluations that one should attach to a job application. These are not easy to come by outside the US. For instance, I've taught small seminar style classes for the last couple of years and although there is an online student evaluation system in effect, the (already few) students are under no obligation to submit evaluations. Lazy as they are, they generally don't. This means that I have hardly any teaching evaluations to attach to my application. Any suggestions on how to deal with that?
Now that the job season is just about upon us, I figured it might be helpful to compile a list of job-market-related Cocoon posts. So, without further ado, here's the list (hope some of you find 'em helpful!):
I'd like to thank Eric Schliesser over at New APPS for his kind words about the Cocoon (if you don't know of New APPS, you should; it's a great blog on art, politics, philosophy, and science!). Because we appear to have some new readers, I'd like to share our mission statement once again. Here it is:
This blog aims to be a safe and supportive "grass roots" forum for early-career professional philosophers -- graduate students, post-docs, and entry-level faculty members -- to discuss their work, ideas, and personal-professional issues. Philosophers who are not in the "early" stages of their careers are also invited to become contributing members, as their experiences in the profession may, for obvious reasons, be very much relevant to the blog's aims.
Blog participants (i.e. any philosopher who wises to participate!) are invited to post (A) working papers and ideas, as well as (B) comments, questions, or concerns on issues including but not limited to:
This is not intended to be "my" blog. My hope is to serve as primarily as blog moderator, and for the blog's content to be driven by and for any and every early-career philosopher who wishes to contribute. As blog moderator, I promise to rigorously ensure a safe and supportive environment for all. I will not approve, and will immediately remove, any contributions or comments that I (or anyone else) reasonably finds remotely derogatory or threatening. Finally, anyone who wishes to make an anonymous post (e.g. to discuss an issue they are not comfortable attaching their name to) is welcome to email me their post and request that I post it anymously. I will post any and all such requests, provided they otherwise satisfy the aims described in this mission statement.
If you would like to become a contributor to the Philosopher's Cocoon, please simply send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please also be sure to tell me in the email your present status (grad student, etc.), and feel free to provide me with a link to your homepage.
So I had quite a surprise the other day after taking this nifty little quiz. Turns out I appear to side with Gary Johnson -- the Libertarian Party candidate for President -- on 87% of policy issues. This is a bit awkward for me. Although I like libertarian views on some things (stay out of our bedrooms, decriminalize drugs, don't drop bombs on on people's heads halfway across the world, etc.), on most matters I have always considered myself a Rawlsian. What gives? One possibility is that I don't practice what I preach -- that I am a Rawlsian in the philosophy room but a libertarian out of it. But I don't think that's what's going on. Another possibility is that I think Rawlsians tend to misunderstand how Rawls' theory applies to nonideal social and political conditions, and this has somehow affected how I judge real-world policies. But I don't think this is what's going on either in this case. No, what I think is going on is that my "libertarian" policy views probably reflect Rawls' sometimes-neglected distinction between the welfare state and property-owning democracy. Rawls, after all, was not a fan of the welfare state. For although the welfare state has social programs for the (unjustly) disadvantaged, it is also marked by enormous concentrations of capital that serve to (A) unjustly influence politics, and (B) encourage the poor to become disaffected in light of the vast inequalities they face. In contrast, a property-owning democracy spreads capital widely throughout its citizenry, encouraging the development of small-business, entrepreneurship, and an independent citizenry that supports the self-respect of its members. This, I think, is the most likely explanation of my results.
What say you, my fellow Cocooners? If you've taken the quiz (and you should!), do your results surprise you?