This Real Jobs in Philosophy post comes with an opportunity to become my colleague by getting a real tenure-track job like mine! More information is at the end of this post.
In my first year at Harvard, my chemistry grades fell from an A first semester to a C second semester because I couldn't stop thinking about philosophy. I was crazy about Nietzsche, so I ended up doing my PhD at the University of Texas at Austin where lots of Nietzsche scholars were. In graduate school it became clear to me that Nietzsche's question of how there could be objective good and evil after the Death of God was basically the question of whether naturalistic moral realism was the right metaethical theory. As I turned my focus to metaethics, I discovered that every area in philosophy borders on metaethics in some way. So I've tried to learn as much as I can about everything.
After a near-miss in the 2006-2007 academic year, I sent off 99 applications in 2007-2008 as I was finishing my PhD at Texas. When friends outside philosophy asked where I was applying, I told them that I was applying everywhere -- even Singapore! So it was a surprise when I got an email inviting me for a flyout at the National University of Singapore. I didn't know what to expect, but I found an exciting community of philosophers interested in issues from ancient Chinese philosophy to contemporary metaethics. It ended up being my only tenure-track offer, but I would've chosen it over any of the other jobs I interviewed for. I got tenure at the end of 2014, and I'm happy to still be employed there today.
Singapore is an island city-state slightly smaller than the five boroughs of New York City, with a population between 5 and 6 million. The National University of Singapore is its major public research university, with about 28,000 undergraduates and 10,000 graduate students. If Singapore were North Carolina, we'd be its UNC-Chapel Hill.
After building successful research units in the sciences and technical fields over the years, the university decided to invest more resources in humanities research. As a result, our department has expanded considerably in size and quality over the last 25 years. Several newly wealthy nations in East Asia are moving in a similar direction, with new philosophy units opening up at a variety of universities in Hong Kong, Macau, Korea, and Taiwan. At present we have about 12 permanent faculty, though this is down from a peak of around 17 due to retirements and other attrition. We have a vibrant MA program and a small but good group of PhD students.
I have a nice light 2/2 teaching load. With a number of colleagues working beside me in a broad department, I've mostly gotten to teach things I like. Over the years that has ranged from epistemology to political philosophy to Nietzsche, with metaethics at the center. Students in Singapore are generally intelligent, hard-working, and very polite.
Since our students are very good, there are considerable research supervision duties outside of teaching -- supervising independent study modules, undergraduate theses, and graduate work. Some of our best undergraduates are now at philosophy PhD programs at ANU, Arizona, Brown, and Penn, and one is getting a psychology PhD in the UK.
It's a very friendly department. I usually knock on all my colleagues' doors at noon before going to lunch so we can eat together, and then we sometimes get coffee afterwards. My colleagues in Asian philosophy are interested in engaging with contemporary Western work, and my colleagues working on contemporary stuff are curious and interested in what philosophers thousands of years ago in Asia were doing. (I've acquired an appreciation of Mohist moral philosophy in ancient China from my colleague Loy Hui Chieh, and I've learned a lot about cool classical Indian arguments in metaphysics and epistemology from Jay Garfield.)
I've managed to use the flexibility and research funding that comes with the job to give an enormous number of talks -- 50 in 8 months during 2011 when I had a semester off of teaching, and 60 in 8 months during 2013 after I taught extra classes in prior semesters to get an extra semester off. Right now I've gotten a post-tenure sabbatical with a summer on each side of it, and I'm pretty sure I can give well over a hundred. It's delightful to have an intense Q&A on one of my favorite ideas every couple days, and then eat and drink with a variety of experts on a range of philosophical issues as they tell me all sorts of cool things they know. If you'd like me to come by your institution in the next year or so, let me know! I'll be going all around the world.
I was mostly shielded from major departmental service obligations prior to tenure, but in the past year I was head of a search committee. This was an exciting but extremely time-consuming process, as we were trying to get extra positions from our administration which might be awarded to people coming out of graduate school with spectacular publication records. As it turned out, we got one of these bonus positions for Bob Beddor, who came out of his PhD program at Rutgers with two papers in Phil Studies, one in Phil Quarterly, and a Phil Review R&R, plus a co-authored Stanford Encyclopedia article! Seeing that, our administration gave him a prestigious Presidents' Assistant Professorship. But we ended up unable to fill a serious teaching need in moral and political philosophy. Now we're advertising specifically in that area.
So if you're looking for a job teaching moral and political philosophy at one of many up-and-coming universities in Asia, please apply! Our PhilJobs ad is here, and it connects to the AcademicJobsOnline site where you can submit an application: