An anonymous reader writes in with the following query:
An anonymous reader writes in with the following query:
Today's interview with a philosopher who shares his passion outside of philosophy is Tomas Bogardus, Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Pepperdine University in Malibu, California. He works mostly on the mind-body problem and the rationality of religious belief, and has a forthcoming paper on whether Christians and Muslims worship the same God. Let me know at helenldecruz at gmail dot com if you'd like to be featured!
Most of my free time is spent hanging out with my wife and daughter, and that’s what I enjoy most. Aside from that, these days, I have three main hobbies. I’ve been surfing for about twenty years now, and being near the ocean was an attraction of my current job at Pepperdine. My commute into Malibu takes me down the coast through Ventura and western Malibu, and there are lots of surf spots on the way. When I have some extra time and the waves are good, I’ll magically compress a longboard or a funboard into my Honda Accord and make a little surf stop on the way to campus.
My wife, my daughter, and I live at a bit of an elevation now, close to Los Padres National Forest, and it gets cool at night, so I’ve learned from my neighbors how to hunt, butcher, and season firewood. (Don’t worry, the trees have all fallen naturally.) On one of these adventures, I happened into some really beautiful and rare wood from a giant Catalina Ironwood tree that had died in the drought. The wood has a shimmering ochre color, it’s super dense (hence, “ironwood”), and looks almost like copper when it’s sanded and finished. After burning more of the wood than I’d like to admit, I decided to try my hand at shaping it into little hearts and triangles, and gifting them to my wife and daughter who display them around the house. At first I had only a circular saw, which I’d run with one hand while guiding the wood with my other hand. By the grace of God, no fingers were lost during that reckless confusion. Things have progressed a bit now, I have better tools, and some of the necklaces I’ve made are featured in a local store here in my hometown, and on the website of a chic local clothing line. (You can see some by following the new ojai_holtz account on Instagram.)
By Amy Berg (Research Assistant Professor - UNC Chapel Hill)
Someone asked recently about how to prepare a "plan B" while in grad school. I did this, without really meaning to, and it was enormously beneficial for me. For the last four years of grad school, I volunteered in HR at a healthcare nonprofit. I spent about three hours most Friday mornings filing, doing Excel spreadsheets, and generally being a gofer for the HR staff. Obviously one of the points of volunteering is to help people, but there are also tons of self-centered benefits to be had, especially if you're thinking about careers outside professional philosophy. Here are some:
-Most relevant to the question about "plan Bs," volunteering is a low-cost way to investigate some plans. You can see whether you like work outside academia better. There are lots of things that are attractive about non-academic work: like, for example, many workplaces have the default expectation that your work is done when you leave for the day. You might find (for good reason!) that you like that lifestyle. Getting to know what else is out there can reassure you that academia isn't the only life worth having, and it may also make you feel more secure in your decision if you do decide to stay in academia.
A couple of months ago, the first review of my book, Rightness as Fairness: A Moral and Political Theory appeared at NDPR. Because I think books should speak for themselves, but think Rob Gressis is right that it could be helpful to clear up interpretive issues, I have decided that instead of penning a full response to my book's review, it might be best to let the text of Rightness as Fairness address the review itself.
Accordingly, in what follows below, I have chosen to simply juxtapose claims made in the book review against the actual text of my book (with one exception where I must paraphrase an argument spanning multiple chapters). For reasons of space, I cannot include every relevant passage from the book. However, I hope the passages I provide clear up some interpretive issues and encourage readers to examine the book more closely.
Before I begin, I would like to thank NDPR for commissioning the review, and Richard Dees for taking the time to engage with my work. While I think a few of his critiques have some merit--and thank him for some of the complimentary things he says about the book (e.g. that it has "some interesting insights" and "many inventive arguments")--there are some interpretive issues I would like to clarify.
NDPR Review: "Marcus Arvan sets an ambitious project for himself. Using constraints on theory construction modeled on the sciences, he formulates a new moral theory that is supposed to solve all the controversial issues that have always surrounded ethics."
What Rightness as Fairness says:
"This book does not purport to be the final word on morality. As with all theories, problems are sure to remain, and mistakes sure to be made. Yet, despite this, I will argue that it is a worthwhile new word on the subject – indeed, one that succeeds substantially where other theories founder." (p. 8, emphasis added for clarity; see also p. 229)
NDPR Review: "Leaning heavily on the claim that theories must have "Firm Foundations"...Arvan claims that only instrumentalism qualifies as a possible theory of normativity."
What Rightness as Fairness says:
"Before proceeding, I want clarify that I am not claiming that instrumentalism is the one true theory of normativity. Perhaps there are other kinds of normativity: categorical normativity12–16 , teleological normativity97 , and so on. All I am arguing is that instrumentalism is the safest place – the firmest foundation – to begin moral philosophy from, as it is a conception of normative rationality that is universally recognized." (p. 27, emphases added for clarity)
"Rather than presupposing that instrumentalism is the one true theory of normativity, I argue that insofar as it is the most widely accepted theory of normative rationality available – one commonly recognized both in everyday life and in the history of moral philosophy – it is the only starting point for moral philosophy that satisfies Firm Foundations and promises maximal explanatory power, unity, and parsimony." (p. 4, emphases added for clarity)
NDPR Review: If we grant [Arvan] the truth of [his moral principle] the Categorical-Instrumental Imperative, his next move is to note that to act on interests that satisfy our present selves and our future selves, we must take into account the fact that our future selves may come to identify with other people, alien races, and animals (118-28)...
But this move...goes too far. Why, exactly, I have to eliminate my own interests in a negotiation between my present interests and my future ones is a mystery...The bare possibility that I might have interests in others is not enough instrumentally to treat the interests of others as equal to my own. No matter what my future holds, for example, I will not be a black woman in the future, so it is simply false that from a prudential point of view, I should act like I might be. To make that claim, Arvan sneaks in a notion of fairness that simply is not a product of mere instrumental reasoning." (emphases added for clarity of focus)
What Rightness as Fairness says [my paraphrase]:
Across five chapters (Chapters 2-6), my book argues that,
In this way, my argument does:
Call For Papers: Linguistic Justice and Analytic Philosophy
Special issue of Philosophical Papers
The topics of linguistic discrimination and linguistic justice have received little attention from contemporary analytic philosophers despite the fact that there is a growing body of evidence in linguistics and social psychology about implicit negative biases towards speakers and writers perceived as non-native. In fact, issues of linguistic discrimination and justice are particularly urgent in analytic philosophy because English is undoubtedly the lingua franca of contemporary analytic philosophy. For this reason, it is important to think about what it means to be a person for whom English is not a first language and who tries to participate in the academic life of contemporary analytic philosophy.
The aim of this special issue of Philosophical Papers is to consider the circumstances of being a non-native speaker and writer of English in analytic philosophy. In addition to philosophical and meta-philosophical perspectives, we also encourage submissions from different approaches and disciplines, including psychology, linguistics and the social sciences.
Possible questions for discussion include:
The deadline for receipt of submissions is 1 October, 2017. This issue of Philosophical Papers, comprising both invited and submitted articles, will appear in March 2018.
Authors should submit manuscripts electronically, as a PDF or MS Word document attachment, to the Managing Editor of Philosophical Papers at Philosophical.Papers@ru.ac.za. Authors must include their full name, affiliation, and address for email correspondence with their submission.
In the comments section of our newest "How can we help you?" post, Anon Grad Student writes:
The question has two closely related parts:
The obvious problem with doing such things is that it could take time, indeed quite a lot of it, from dissertating and publishing papers, and taking time away from these things could be fatal for international grad students like me, who really do have to graduate on time.
But there are also obvious benefits, especially given how academia doesn't seem to have good long-term prospects as an 'industry'. Perhaps the solution is just to take 1 - 2 non-phil classes (especially if they also prove to be philosophically helpful) and leave it at that: e.g., perhaps one stats class?
Excellent questions. I think the answer to question 1 is, "Obviously, yes."
I looked up the numbers a while back, and seem to recall only about 50% of PhD students ever finish their degree, and of those who do, only a fraction get a tenure-track job. I almost didn't finish my PhD myself (I came within a hair's breadth of "flunking out"), and then, after getting it, I spent seven years on the academic job-market--all the while feeling like if I failed, I had no other options. Trust me, it was not pleasant--and I've seen things turn out very badly for others (alcoholism, etc.). Having marketable skills beyond philosophy can be a godsend. So, go get them.
This, however, brings me to a (nevertheless very relevant) side-issue. Getting a job outside of philosophy is not just about skills. Surveys consistently show that 80-85% of all jobs are found through networking. It behooves graduate students and even more so graduate programs to forge job-networks outside of philosophy (such as other philosophers from the program who entered non-academic sectors). My spouse's PhD department (in another discipline) does this sort of thing, and I think we should expect the same of philosophy departments. Let's do right by our students. Given PhD program attrition rates, the state of the academic job-market, high levels of student debt, and 7.5-year median time-to-degree (it took me eight years), programs should do what they can to help their students be successful, not just in academia but outside of it as well.
Question 2, on the other hand, seems to me more difficult to settle. How much should you do to lay the groundwork for a "plan B"? I have no idea, but I would very helpfully say, "Do as much as you possibly can without screwing up your grad studies." Yes, I know that wasn't very helpful--but it's the best I got. :) It might be helpful to hear from people who have laid the groundwork for a plan B on what they did and how they did it.
Anyway, what do you all think? Do you have any tips for preparing for a plan B while in a graduate program?
By C. Thi Nguyen, Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Utah Valley University.
Unexpectedly, it turns out - to my brain at least - that the pleasures of rock climbing and the pleasures of philosophy are weirdly similar. Before I starting climbing, I’d had completely the wrong idea about it. I’d thought rock climbing was something for thugs and bros. I had this vague mental image that involved some combination of pull-ups, screaming, and maybe spraying Red Bull on people. But it turns out that rock climbing is this subtle, refined, and in many cases hyper-intellectual sport. It’s puzzle-solving, but with your body.
What I mostly do is a sub-discipline of climbing called bouldering. This involves finding short little climbs - like 10 to 20 feet - often steep and overhanging, which force you through a handful of moves of great difficulty and trickiness.
(This isn’t me. This is current female world champion Shauna Coxsey. Note the toe hook.)
Bouldering originally started as a way to train for longer climbs by replicating the most difficult sequences in a safer environment, much like a book of chess problems. In fact, some of that language is still there - we call them “boulder problems” and talk in great detail about which particular sequences will solve them.
The aesthetic of the whole business is: you want to find a weird little climb that, at first, seems utterly impossible. There just aren’t enough handholds; the feet are all in the wrong place. And then, slowly, piece by piece, you put together a solution. If you move your hand here instead of there, then you can inch your left foot up a few inches, and then rebalance yourself, and then get your hips over just the tiniest bit over to the right, and then you’re in the position to just barely reach that next hold, and then…
A really interesting boulder problems - and that’s exactly the language climbers will use - often involves bizarre solutions. Like hooking your heel around something over your head, or sneaking a toe in between two fingers, or squeezing a corner of rock between your heels while you ever so carefully inch your center of gravity over.
Climbing isn’t thuggery. It’s solving a logic problem, with your body, in the alphabet of yoga.
And that’s another thing: the skills aren’t what I expected. Upper body strength eventually turns out to be important for, like, climbing cave roofs, but it’s much more about: balance, finesse, precision and refinement of movement. Check out, for example, this video of rock climbing legend Lynn Hill dancing her way up some boulder problems:
I’ve seduced some very large number of philosophers into rock climbing, despite their initial reluctance and disbelief. The pleasures of climbing, especially of bouldering, are about puzzles and epiphanies, about weaving your way through something you thought was impossible, about success through subtly and refinement. And sometimes, it’s about trying really, really hard.
It’s so weird, and it’s so satisfying, that explaining this pleasure to myself has actually inspired a recent turn in my philosophical work. I became entranced with Bernard Suits’ view on games - that they’re arbitrary goals and obstacles taken on for the sake of the activity of overcoming them – because it explained so much about my bizarre love of bouldering, and board games, and, in fact, some parts of philosophy - because it was the only way to explain what the hell I was doing with my weekends.
It’s also an excellent thing to do after a long day of mental labor. I have trouble hauling my mind out of philosophy-land — problems in my papers, admin stresses. But climbing is so intense that it breaks through all that. You absolutely cannot be distracted when you climb. A favorite yoga writer, Godfrey Devereux, once explained that difficult and precarious yoga positions were just tools to help you meditate. They give instant feedback on your degree of mental focus. If your mind wanders, your body would wobble and fall over; yoga amplifies and physicalizes the mind’s focus level. Climbing is like that. On a hard climb, if your focus isn’t absolute, you will fall off the damn wall.
Finally: I’m a terrible rock climber, though I love it dearly. And doing something I’m terrible at, regularly, has helped my teaching. It’s easy to forget how alien and difficult and weird and tortuous philosophy is for so many people, since we live there. But forcing myself, several times a week, to deal with my recalcitrant body, and guide it through tiny subtleties of refined motion, reminds me of what it’s like to learn something you’ve got no instinct for.
In the comments section of our newest "How can we help you?" post, a reader ('Stuck, PhD) writes,
I am feeling really, really stuck, and am unsure how to even begin to ask for help. All of the issues Amanda brought up in her recent post (http://philosopherscocoon.typepad.com/blog/2017/03/reader-query-on-professional-frustrations.html) present serious obstacles to achieving professional success on the basis of merit. But even if you have the good fortune to surmount those obstacles--as I have to some extent--that's no guarantee that you'll get a job. And then, it's not even clear what you're supposed to do to improve your candidacy next time around (even if you had the time and opportunity to do those things, which Amanda points out one doesn't always have). I'm sure there are lots of others in my position with even better CVs than me who don't know what else to do.
To begin with, I have several unearned job market advantages that I don't deserve to have but have nonetheless: I'm a male with no geographic restrictions who went to a top-20 Leiter school and thereby also have a letter from a bigshot in my dossier. Then there are things I've actually worked for: I've taught over a dozen classes; I've sole-authored 3 papers in good specialty journals, all of which have been cited; and I have a 4th paper forthcoming in a top 10 generalist journal.
This year I got two Skype interviews from about 80 applications. What else can I do, other than teach and publish more an hope that makes a difference? I don't have much service experience, but I can't get any of that at this point without a job.
I empathize. I spent seven years on the academic job-market feelingly similarly stuck. While I do not have any silver-bullet type answers, allow me to briefly share a few thoughts and then open things up for reader comments/advice.
It's been a while now since we had our last "how can we help you?" post, so I thought now might be a good time for another post. For those of you unfamiliar with the series, this is a chance for you to post openly or anonymously in the comments section on anything you could use help with right now as an early-career philosopher. After you post your query in the comments section, I will then post new threads for readers to discuss (and hopefully help you with!) your query.
Please do feel free to post a query on anything we can help you with:
So fire away: we're here to help!
I came across Pea Soup's NDPR Discussion Series today, which features authors responding to book reviews, and am curious what readers think: should authors respond to book reviews? If so, when? If not, why not?
As an author of a relatively new book myself, I confess to feeling a bit torn here. On the one hand, I very much appreciate why authors might want to respond to reviews, particularly if they are invited to do so or if they have philosophical concerns about the content of a review, such as misrepresentations of their work. Further and more generally, as a philosopher I find myself attracted to the idea of scholarly debate and discussion: if a book is reviewed, it might be illuminating to see how the author responds. Finally, because academic books are expensive; because the reception of a book can make a difference to an author's career (including tenure and promotion decisions); and because books by early-career authors may only receive a handful of reviews (journals can be selective in which books they decide to review), there may be a pragmatic case to be made for responding to some reviews. I cannot help but be reminded here of R.M. Hare's brutal two-part review of Rawls' A Theory of Justice in The Philosophical Quarterly, which concludes:
In concluding this not very sympathetic notice, it must be said that a reviewer with more ample patience and leisure might possibly have done better for Rawls. I have taken a great deal of pains (and it really has been painful) trying to get hold of his ideas, but with the feeling all the time that they were slipping through my fingers...The book is extremely repetitious, and it is seldom clear whether the repetitions really are repetitions, or modifications of previously expressed views. I have drawn attention to some of these difficulties, and there are all too many others. Rawls is not to be blamed for failing to keep the whole of this huge book in his head at the same time (the only way to avoid inconsistencies when writing a book); and still less are his readers. He is to be blamed, if at all, for not attempting something more modest and doing it properly.
Many years ago [Rawls] wrote some extremely promising articles, containing in germ, though without clarity, a most valuable suggestion about the form and nature of moral thought. It might have been possible to work this idea out with concision and rigour (Rawls' disciple Mr Richards has made a tolerably good job of it in his book A Theory of Reasons for Action, which is much clearer than Rawls' own book as an exposition of this type of theory). If Rawls had limited himself to, say, 300 pages, and had resolved to get his main ideas straight and express them with absolute clarity, he could have made a valuable contribution to moral philosophy.
Because reviews can be fair or unfair, charitable or uncharitable, etc., it is not hard to imagine philosophical or professional reasons why an author might want to respond to some reviews. And indeed, as a new author, I have given some thought to doing so myself.
At the same time, there seem to me to be pretty good countervailing reasons not to respond to reviews. First, there may be good pragmatic reasons not to: it might reflect poorly on the author (prejudicing other reviewers?); the author's time might simply be better spent publishing new work; and so on. Second, and perhaps more to the heart of the matter, my own feeling is that a published work can, should, and usually will ultimately speak for itself. After all, despite Hare's review, Rawls' book caught on. What Hare took to be serious errors in A Theory of Justice, generations of other philosophers took to be the foundations for research programmes. Similarly, as I'm sure we all know, Hume famously remarked that his Treatise "fell still-born from the press"--and, or so Wikipedia tells me of Kant's Critique of Pure Reason, "Although now uniformly recognized as one of the greatest works in the history of philosophy, this Critique was largely ignored upon its initial publication...It received few reviews, and these granted it no significance."
Now, of course, very few of us will be a Hume or Kant (I certainly don't pretend to be!). Still, my feeling is that the following principle may be the best perspective for authors to adopt: good work does not usually go unrecognized forever, bad work usually does not stand the test of time, and one must leave it to readers to decide for themselves.
But these are just some of my current thoughts--and I am far from certain about them. What are yours? Should authors respond to book reviews? If so, when? If not, why not?
Okay,so I want to begin by apologizing for what is going to be a very negative post. Marcus I know that in the past you have written about falling out of love with philosophy, and I believe managing to re fall in love at some point. In any case, I have been feeling pretty down about philosophy lately, and find it hard to motivate myself to do my research, and other things that I should be doing to make myself a better philosopher. Here are some of the reasons I feel that way. (And,yeah, I realize these problems are problems for a lot of people, def. not just me, which is why I'm posting).
1. Being on the job market is a full-time job, and it has become even more so with the extended market. It seems like I am constantly either completing applications or preparing for interviews. Why this is frustrating, is it leaves little time to do anything else, and to improve my CV so I am more likely to get a job in the future.
2.Blind review is a joke. I know many people, both professors and students, who send their papers around to buddies before publication, or present them at conferences, and hence the person reviewing the paper knows who they are reviewing. What bothers me most about this is the guise of blind review and how people pretend that publishing is a fair assessment of philosophical ability. I do think there is some correlation between publishing and merit, maybe even a strong correlation, but it is absolutely not a fair game of blind review. I know a better person than me would just push on and write and submit the best work they can, but the insincerity of it all really saps my motivation.
3. I know that even when I do write great work and publish it, like less than 10 people will ever read my work. Once again, some people are better than me and can appreciate the intrinsic value of philosophy writing. I, however, love philosophy in so far as it is a conversation with others. I could do any old job and write my own philosophical musings in a journal. What makes the philosophy profession worthwhile is interactions with other philosophers. My writing however, seems to rarely result in such interaction.
4.Most work (or a lot of work) that gets published in top journals is 3/4 literature review and then makes a tiny point at the end. I find this kind of philosophy boring, both to read and write. Now it is fine that others like it, but I wish it was at least even and there was more space for new ideas that made major points rather than small adjustments to what has been said before. I do think a few journals are trying to expand their purview, which is a great development.
5. When I go to philosophy conferences, it seems that there is clear hierarchy for those who are big shots and those who are not. People have consistently been incredibly rude to me at conferences, as if their whole point is to tell me my paper is horrible and why the hell did I bother to present it? This happens all the time, and not just to me. Why does philosophy have to always be about showing someone how wrong they are? Why? In addition, it is common that I will raise my hand at a conference and am never called on, while all the big shots are called on.
6.The profession does not take teaching seriously. I was given absolutely no training as a teacher in grad school, and this is common. I wish we just cared a little more.
Okay, that's it for now. If anybody has any insights on how to get out of my super negative rut it would be much appreciated. And yes, I know my rant came off as whiny and unappreciative and I am sorry for that. It is because , however, that complaining in other forums is seen as socially unacceptable that I come here.
Thanks to all.
Amanda's frustrations resonate with me in part because (A) I did indeed temporarily fall out of love with (academic) philosophy in grad school for similar reasons; (B) I still struggle with some broadly related frustrations today; but most of all because (C) I have heard these kinds of frustrations (and many more) expressed repeatedly by other people I know in the profession, particularly (but not only) by early-career people.
Because in my experience frustrations with professional philosophy are not uncommon, I think indeed it might be beneficial to explore two issues in today's thread--namely:
I think exploring the first question may be helpful sociologically, to learn and draw attention to potential or at least perceived problems in the profession; and in turn, that exploring the second issue might be helpful not only to individuals (helping people like Amanda grapple with their frustrations in productive rather than unproductively), but also helpful to the broader profession, perhaps by drawing attention to ways in which we might all chip in to make our profession a better, less frustrating place to be.
At long last, I am happy to introduce the third entry in the Cocoon's Alt-Ac Workshop--our new series providing tips, information, and testimonials on how people with higher degrees in philosophy can effectively pursue careers outside of academia. Today's post is by Carl Baker, who is now a statistical researcher in the UK's House of Commons. I hope you all find his entry helpful and informative!:
By Carl Baker
This post contains some thoughts on how experience teaching and researching philosophy might prepare you for a job in Parliament or Government.
First, a bit of information about me. I did a PhD in Philosophy at Leeds on at the debate around semantic relativism and aesthetic disagreement. After that I worked for two years as a postdoc at Aberdeen’s Northern Institute of Philosophy. During that time I decided that a life in academia wasn’t for me. Mainly, I was daunted by the prospect of career insecurity for the foreseeable future. Nevertheless I assumed that my skills would be ill-suited to any other career that I would be interested in. But with hindsight, I now see that lots of the skills I developed during my PhD and postdoc are central to what I do now.
Long story short, I got a job as a researcher at the House of Commons Library. I’ve been working there for three years now and I enjoy the job immensely. My colleagues and I offer a confidential and impartial enquiry research service to MPs and their staff, who they can ask questions on any topic and get expert answers. We also publish public-facing briefing papers on a wide range of policy and stats topics. My work is mostly on health statistics, with a smattering of other topics such as telecoms statistics.
Below are a few skills that I think will be valued by those recruiting for jobs in Parliament and Government, and ideas for how a philosophical career might have prepared you for them. None of the points below are particularly novel, and are not all specific to public sector jobs. There will also be specialist requirements for some roles (e.g. getting my job in stats required a test of numerical competency). But this might be of use to anyone thinking of making the leap from academia.
Today's interview with a philosopher who shares her passion outside of philosophy is Sara L. Uckelman, lecturer in philosophy at Durham University. Let me know at helenldecruz at gmail dot com if you'd like to be featured!
1. Can you tell me something about your side-interest/hobby, and 2. How did you get into this hobby?
I’ll take these two together! It was the summer I was 13, and my mom saw an advertisement for what was essentially a local “Ren Faire”, and thought “that sounds like something Sara would be interested,” and we went on a family outing. Yes, indeed, it was something I was interested in, but I figured – there’s no way my parents will want to get involved, and there’s no way they’d let their 13 year old daughter go off and do this by herself, so I filed away the name of the group so I could look it up again when I went off to university.
One thing led to another and a few months later my mom was like “But I thought that group would be something you’d want to get involved in,” and it turned out they didn’t have any objections to my being involved without them! So that is how I joined the Society for Creative Anachronism a few months shy of my 14th birthday. This year, I have now spent 2/3 of my life as a member.
The SCA is a world-wide educational non-profit dedicated to the study of pre-1600 European culture (and cultures it came in contact with). We have events on weekends filled with all sorts of medieval activities – cooking, sewing, music, fighting, fencing, archery, dyeing, brewing, calligraphy, illumination, you name it, we do it. It isn’t a re-enactment group like Civil War (American or British!) re-enactors are; we don’t re-create specific historic events or characters, and the only level of authenticity required of participants is that one makes an attempt at pre-1600 clothing – and “attempt” can be taken very loosely! People are encouraged to develop “personas”, but this is also not a requirement. My persona, Aryanhwy merch Catmael, lives in the 11th C and is the daughter of a minor Welsh lord; she’s widowed and has three childrens, and beyond that, the details are hazy.
Because it is a world-wide group, I have been able to be involved continuously through undergrad grad school, through moving from one continent to another, to living in three different countries in the latter continent. After we moved to Europe, my husband told me that if there were ever an event in some neat castle or something, maybe he’d like to come too. So I took he to Raglan Castle, where we have a 10 day event every August. Now, the SCA is a family affair; our five-year-old daughter has been attending events since she was four months old. When we moved from Germany to England 2.5 years ago, we moved 20 minutes away from another SCAdian family, whose young daughter was already a friend of ours. How often do you move countries and end up 20 minutes away from good friends?
3. Do you have goals that you want to achieve (e.g., getting to a certain level/winning in a certain kind of competition?)
My main interests within the Society are heraldry and onomastics (the study of names); and calligraphy and illumination. I had long been interested in names, but it was taking on the office of “herald” in the Society (someone who helps people pick a medieval name and coat of arms, and develop a persona) that caused me to concentrate this interest into pre-1600 Europe, and to first learn about medieval names and naming practices, and then ultimately being doing my own original research. As a result of my research, I held the highest onomastic office in the Society for two years about a decade ago – in the middle of writing a PhD in medieval logic, my onomastic research gave me an outlet that was still scholarly but <i>wasn’t</i> my dissertation!
4. Are there any accomplishments that you are particularly proud of and want to share?
So many. A few years ago, I finally took my onomastic research “professional”, so to speak, and launched the Dictionary of Medieval Names from European Sources; (blog http://dmnes.wordpress.com/), an ongoing concern that I have actively incorporated into my academic research agenda. I, who have always felt I had no artistic skill whatsoever, have developed my drawing and painting skills to be able to create beautiful images on parchment, often with real gold leaf (see here for pictures!). And, despite both being bad at sewing and hating it, I have managed to sew enough outfits to keep three people entirely clothed medievally for a 10 day stretch. Oh, and I’ve recently gotten into sausage making and charcuterie. I make a damned good lamb bresaola, if I do say so myself.
5. How do you make enough time for your hobby?
It’s been a part of my life for so long, its just part of the routine. Some years we get to more events than others, but if I need to be sewing new clothes for an event, then I sew while watching TV in the evenings, or I bring my sewing along to departmental meetings. If I have an illumination commission that I need to finish, my daughter and I will sit and paint together on a weekend. My onomastic research has always been my haven and quiet space – if ever I am stressed or anxious or worried about something, if ever my other research isn’t going well, I can sit down and transcribe and analyse some names, and come away relaxed and with a sense of accomplishment. I also like to tie getting to events with traveling for conferences; because it is a world-wide group, pretty much anywhere I might go for a conference is within spitting distance of a local branch. Maybe they’re having an event the weekend after the conference, or even just a local get together, or maybe I can just meet up with someone for a beer.
6. Does your hobby relate to philosophy at all? Any crossovers?
The SCA is how I ended up doing a dissertation in medieval logic in the first place! When I first discovered that not only were they writing logic textbooks in the 13th and 14th centuries, what they were writing was really really interesting in terms of modalities and dynamics, my first thought was “What, you mean I can combine my hobby and my academic interests into one and write a dissertation on it?!” I also love giving classes on logic and philosophy at SCA events. Two of the highlights of my logic/teaching career involved Raglan Castle: One year I lectured on Paul of Venice’s Logica Parva (c. 1400) in Latin (well, partially), and another year, I hosted a public salon on Avicenna’s Logic, complete with drawing a square of opposition in the dirt beneath one of the castle bridges (see here). (for more info on the SCA see here www.sca.org)
Today's interview with a philosopher who shares his passion outside of philosophy is Gregg Caruso, Associate Professor of Philosophy at SUNY Corning. Let me know at helenldecruz at gmail dot com if you'd like to be featured!
For several years now, I have been obsessed with collecting fossils. Since I live in central New York State, most of what I hunt and find myself comes from the Devonian period—a geologic period of the Paleozoic, spanning roughly 60 million years from the end of the Silurian (416 million years ago) to the beginning of the Carboniferous (358 million years ago). The fossils in the Devonian rocks of New York have attracted the attention of serious and causal collectors for nearly 200 years. I am very lucky to live in such a fossil-rich part of the country! At the start of the Devonian, the North American protocontinent was located at the equator, with much of what would become New York covered by a shallow tropical sea. The fossils in this area provide a nice snapshot of the rich diversity of life in the ancient Paleozoic waters. I sometimes joke and say "I collect seashells, they just happen to be 390 million years old." The most common fossils in this area are brachiopods, gastropods, cephalopods, and various species of sponges and coral. If you are lucky, however, you may also find eurypterids (ancient sea scorpions) and trilobites (ancient arthropods that look like little alien bugs).
Now that I have been collected for a number of years, I really prize the "big finds"— which for me are full trilobites. They are very hard to come by because most of the time you just find bits and pieces—e.g., a part of the head shield, a segment of the thorax, or a tail piece. It is also hard to find fully outstretched ones since trilobites when scared would tuck in their legs and antennae and roll themselves into tight little balls. Collectors call these "rolly pollies" and I have at least a dozen of them. My most prized fossils, however, are the fully outstretched trilobites I have collected myself.
Here is one example. I found this little guy by cracking open rocks at a quarry near Buffalo, NY. I typically use hammers and chisels of various sizes when I'm out collecting. If I am luck enough to find a trilobite, I then bring it home and take it to my prep lab, which I built in my garage. With this trilobite I used drills and picks to shape the rock and clear away some of the big stuff. Then for the more delicate work, I put the little guy in my blast tank and use my airgun. The abrasive and air pressure need to be enough to eat away the rock but not the shell of the trilobite. As you can imagine, it took a lot of trial and error for me to figure out the right combination. In the end, though, you get this beautiful display piece!
In addition to going out and hunting fossils, I also buy and trade fossils with other collectors. My collection includes some museum-quality pieces. I have a number of big and small ammonites, some rare species of trilobite from around the world, as well as dinosaur bones, teeth, eggs, and tracks. At some point, I will need a larger space to display my collection—it is starting to take over our house.
It was my daughter Maya. She rekindled in me a love of dinosaurs and one weekend I thought it might be fun to go out searching for fossils together. I also thought it would be an enjoyable educational activity for the whole family. Since there are no dinosaur fossils in this area, we started looking for other things. At first I just fumbled about not knowing where to look or what to look for. Then I started doing some research. I discovered a great fossil park near Buffalo, NY called Penn Dixie. During our first trip there I got hooked. We started finding horn coral (buckets of it), brachiopods, and pieces of trilobites. I left with a new hobby. My wife, Elaini, and Maya also enjoyed themselves—Maya especially enjoyed playing among the rocks and hitting things with her hammer. We still enjoy going there, even if now I often have to bribe my daughter by promising to take her to Chuck E. Cheese afterwards.
Over time, though, my hobby has become an obsession. I now typically go on fossil trips myself. I joined a few groups that organize outings—such as the New York Paleontological Society and Paleontological Research Institution. And when I am traveling or on vacation I also like to see if there are any good fossil locations nearby. Last summer when we were down in Florida, for example, my wife sent me on a day trip for my birthday down the Peace River with a guide searching for ancient shark teeth. It was a great adventure. After rowing for about an hour, I had to stand in chest-high water with a shovel and sifter digging into the gravel bed below. I was a bit nervous because I saw three alligators long the bank of the river but it was worth it since I left with dozens of shark teeth, including two megalodon teeth.
I have no particular goals. Of course I would love to unearth a complete dinosaur skeleton or discover a new species of trilobite, but that will never happen. I will have to settle for going out west one day and spending a few weeks looking for dinosaur fossils with an expert. I fancy myself an amateur paleontologist and I just want to continue learning. It has been a very rewarding hobby thus far and I just want to continue doing what I’ve been doing for as long as I can.
I’m not sure it’s an accomplishment, but I am very proud of the skills I have acquired finding and preparing fossils. While the process can be time consuming, the end result is a one-of-the-kind work of art.
That’s difficult. I always have a number of projects in the works so one’s free time is never truly free. Nevertheless, I just force myself to take the time. It’s a great hobby because it includes a number of different components. It’s part treasure hunt, part scientific adventure. And when you do not have the time to go out hunting for fossils, you can always read and learn more about fossils. Or you can go into your lab and prep some fossils. Or you can work on keeping records or create informational cards for your fossils. Or you can simply study your fossils.
Well, there is some really interesting work being done in the philosophy of paleontology. See, for example, the blog Extinct, which is run by several philosophers who work at the crossroads of philosophy and paleontology. Reading that blog has tempted me to write about my two loves (philosophy and fossils) and how they relate, but I haven’t found the opportunity to do so yet. Perhaps one day I will write a book entitled Socratosaurus, exploring questions about knowledge, language, and the philosophy of science through the lens of paleontology. There definitely are issues to be explored here. Unfortunately, I have not done so myself.
On a more basic level, however, I will say that my hobby has provided me with a deeper understand of evolution—and evolution has always been of great philosophical interest to me. To that extent, they are related.
This is our first instalment of the philosophy side-interest/hobby project. The author is Rachel McKinnon, Assistant Professor of Philosophy in the Department of Philosophy at the College of Charleston.
Can you tell me something about your side-interest/hobby?
I race bikes (bicycles) at an elite level internationally. In the US, I carry a ‘Category 1’ license, which is the highest category (they go from 5 to 1). I also have an international ‘UCI’ license, which lets me race around the world. This year, I’ll race primarily in the US, and I’m targeting the Canadian Elite Road National Championships in June. Next spring, I’ll spend some time in and around the Netherlands racing (e.g., possibly also Belgium, Germany, France).
I also co-founded and serve as captain for an international cycling team, Foxy Moxy Racing. Our one sentence description is: "Racing bikes, radically promoting trans and gender non-conforming inclusion in sport." We have racers all over the US and Canada. That adds an extra, interesting layer to my life.
I started racing just over two years ago. I’ve been an elite athlete most of my life, with my primary focus on badminton and golf when I was younger. But when I moved to the US in 2014, there wasn’t any elite badminton in my area. I needed a new sport, and somehow I found myself in cycling.
At the moment, I train 12-15hrs/week. In the winter it’s a little more (up to 18-20hrs/week).
How did you get into this hobby?
Since I couldn’t really continue training in badminton without quality facilities and competition in my area, I struggled to stay fit. I don’t really like running, and it’s pretty hard on my body. So I put on some weight, and found my way in a spin class in December 2014. And I loved it! I had a road bike in undergrad, and had thought about racing, but never got around to it. I was loving the spin classes and decided to buy a road bike in February 2015. I did my first race in March 2015, and won my first race in April.
Are there any significant accomplishments you’d like to share?
I’m a two-time defending state champion in the road race and current criterium champion. In 2016 one of my main season goals was the Crossroads Classic, a four-day race series in NC. I won all four stages, the overall yellow jersey, and the blue jersey sprint competition. I also took 3rd in a big pro criterium—the USA Crits Speed Week #3: Michelin Test Track event. In 2017 I’ve had a great start to my season with four wins, including Stage 2 in the pro Tour of the Southern Highlands stage race.
Do you have goals that you want to achieve (e.g., getting to a certain level/winning in a certain kind of competition?)
My primary goal is to win the 2018 Canadian Elite Road Race National Championships. I’m hoping to be on the podium this year. I think that’s attainable. My really ambitious goal is to make Team Canada for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics in the road cycling event.
Does your hobby relate to philosophy at all? Any crossovers?
My various sports careers (including my 6yr stint as a professional poker player) have certainly informed my philosophical work on the metaphysics of luck and how we evaluate performances. I think that athletes (and poker players, definitely) have fairly sophisticated understandings of luck and how to think about performance norms. I draw on sports examples often. Much more recently, I’ve been working on issues of trans-inclusive sport ethics, law, and policy. And being an elite trans athlete is certainly helpful for that work! Increasingly, I find myself enjoying that work, too. I think it has the chance to make a real difference in people’s lives. I’ve also started teaching our sports ethics course, and the personal experience as an elite athlete is extremely valuable.
How do you make enough time for your hobby?
Really, really good time management. I basically only have my work and my cycling. I’m single; I don’t have much time for a social life. I don’t really drink, since that interferes with training. I think I’m pretty lucky that I’m able to finish projects relatively quickly. But I’ve certainly had to scale back my research output as my cycling became more serious. I rarely work on weekends, as I’m usually doing 8+ hrs of training, or I’m out of town racing. So I mostly schedule my life around training and racing where I can. I have a really good daily planner and calendar!
I've been lucky to get a lot of advice from people who have recently hired and also those who have recently been on the job market, but all of it has been from people who have spent all their time at R1 schools, and so particularly the advice about questions I would be asked in first-round interviews has been totally different than what I was told to expect.
Lauren's experience here coheres with my own experience on the market. Just about all of my mentors--both in grad school and post-graduation--were people who had only worked at highly-ranked research institutions. Once I got a temporary job at a teaching-focused institution and started interviewing at more teaching institutions each year, it became progressively clear to me that the advice I was receiving was not all that helpful for applying to or interviewing successfully for teaching schools. Make no mistake about it, the values and hiring priorities at teaching schools can be very different than at R1s. And, or so I've heard, things are different still at community colleges. But this raises a difficult set of questions we haven't ever really answered at the Cocoon--the most general of which is, how can candidates best prepare for interviews at different types of schools?
Since we've never addressed this and other related questions head on, I figured now might be a good time to begin a new series: an Interview Tips Series where candidates share the kinds of questions they received in different types of interviews, search committee members at different types of schools share their personal, departmental, and institutional hiring priorities, and so on. My hope is that it will be a helpful, informative series!
We are starting a new series of interviews/testimonials here at the Cocoon where philosophers talk about their passions outside of philosophy. What excites us? What do we enjoy doing? Does it connect to philosophy, or not at all? We will provide a series of posts, starting with Rachel McKinnon who races bicycles, followed by Greg Caruso, who hunts fossils. Please contact me (helenldecruz at gmail dot com) if you are interested in contributing!
An anonymous reader wrote in recently:
If there is a slow period sometime in the not-too-distant future, it might be good to have a thread where current faculty give advice to people for the transition into and first six months or year of being an assistant professor.
Although most new jobs don't begin until the fall, I don't see any reason why we can't have a helpful thread on this now. I suppose I will share a few quick thoughts, and then open things up for discussion. I also hope to start a new series on this in the fall, a New Faculty Support Group where new faculty may write in anonymously with challenges they are facing and get advice from our community!
I don't have a terrible interview story, but I have a potentially controversial interview suggestion. I have gone into my interviews with questions about the faculty interviewing me sufficient to occupy _all_ of the relevant time. That is, I have been prepared to hijack the interviews and turn them around. My prepared questions have been about anything I can find out about the faculty: about their bios (as apparent on their faculty websites, no deep searching), about specific things they've written, specific classes they've taught. They aren't questions about the department; they are questions about individual faculty members. I've then worked to include those questions in my answers to their questions early on, flipping who is doing the interviewing.
This does a couple of things: 1) it disrupts the awful interrogation feeling, changing interviews into conversations, 2) it shows that I am really interested in the department, 3) it actually makes me more interested in the department (skimming an article or two really helped), and 4) it leads the faculty to talk about themselves and, in my experience, people enjoy talking about themselves.
When I've discussed this strategy with people, especially when I've mentioned interviews I completely hijacked, where I was 'on the offensive' the whole time, some people have thought either a) that I'm doing something inappropriate or b) that people will reject me because they won't learn enough about me. I'm not an expert on a, but my experience is that b is false.
When another anonymous commenter and I expressed some skepticism about these tactics, the initial commenter responded that the people they know who actually used the tactics seemed to have done so very successfully:
An anonymous reader writes in:
As someone on the job market, I'm befuddled consistently by the amount hiring committees care about "whether this person will want to come here" or "whether they will be happy here". Actually, I'm more than befuddled by it: I think it's a very obviously wrongheaded and backwards thing for departments to be focused on.
Here's why it befuddles me: getting a job is such a ludicrously difficult and lucky thing. You're willing to give me a job? I'll be thrilled. Ecstatic. Yes, I'll be happy to be there. Why? Because it means I'll get to continue to do philosophy, and that's a *FAR* from guaranteed thing otherwise.
In the comments section of our most recent "How can we help you?" post, Amanda writes:
So I think it would be helpful/fun to have an "Interviews gone wrong" post where people share their stories of, well, interviews gone wrong. This might not only help people learn what to avoid, but serve empathetic purposes for those on the market.
I agree. Sharing stories of interviews gone wrong might not only help candidates learn what to avoid, and serve empathetic purposes. It might also give candidates a better idea of the kinds of unexpected things that can happen during interviews to cause them to go awry. Finally, it might also give search committees and hiring institutions important information on things to avoid, so as to better ensure that candidates get a fair shake to succeed in interviews. I suppose, then, that I will kick things with a couple of stories of my own - and then invite you to share your stories!
In the comments section of our most recent "How can we help you?" post, a reader asks:
Say I am (somewhat) in a (the?) closet and decide to publish something scholarly anonymously or pseudonymously. I don't mind my colleagues knowing, but I'd rather my mom didn't google me and find this. I need to put it on my CV. Do you know of any issues that can arise with not having one's name or institution on a paper?