Eric Schwitzgebel's defense of faculty research time got me thinking about a tension that, I suspect, afflicts a lot of young philosophers—perhaps more so than young academics in many other disciplines. Schwitzgebel writes:
If it is valuable to have some public universities in which the undergraduate teaching and graduate supervision is done by the foremost experts in the world on the topics in question, then you have to allow professors considerable research time to attain and sustain that world-beating expertise. Being among the world's foremost experts on childhood leukemia, or on the neuroscience of visual illusion, or on the history of early modern political philosophy, is not something one can squeeze in on the side, with a few hours a week.
Leave aside the policy question of whether public universities should aim to have "world-beating" experts teaching students. For your own sake, should you aim to be a world-beating expert on some philosophical topic?
Here's the problem, as I see it: To be truly expert at some topic requires an enormous investment of time in a very specific topic—something smaller than a typical "area of specialization" but usually larger than an individual problem. (Reliabilism in epistemology, functionalism in philosophy of mind, or scientific challenges to virtue ethics in moral psychology all strike me as about the "right size.") Yet, one thing that attracts many people to philosophy is the desire "to understand how things in the broadest possible sense of the term hang together in the broadest possible sense of the term," as Sellars puts it. That would seem to require reading and thinking about a wide range of topics across a number of specializations. And if you're like me, you get excited about a broad range of philosophical problems. Given that ordinary academics don't have the time or capacity to become world-beating experts in something and pursue the Sellarsian dream, what's a philosopher to do?