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It's not unusual for aesthetics to have 0-1 jobs a year, but it's too bad because it means that over time it's being priced out of the discipline entirely.

That's a little strange, since aesthetics-related courses are very popular among undergrads, and since the subfield isn't very insular (it engages pretty closely and fruitfully with just about every other subfield). It's also strange since it's by no means a small subfield (it has a ~600-member national association, with one national and three divisional meetings a year, plus three more yearly meetings in Canada, the EU, and the UK), and it's attracting more graduate students and young scholars now than ever before. I'd think that kind of visibility would be helpful, but it doesn't seem to have had much effect.

The end result is that you have to be kind of closeted about your AOS in a way that doesn't seem true of most other subfields (maybe not any).


Hi Marcus, thanks this is interesting! One thing I think mentioned last year, is that value theory is a very broad term. Personally I think political philosophy and ethics shouldn't be lumped together. A lot depends a lot on what area of value theory you focus on. For instance, if you work in virtue ethics it does you almost no good that there are so many jobs in value theory since there is only one job in virtue ethics. Also, I am curious how many value theory jobs would accept somebody who specialized in race/gender issues, since these are often ethics related.

Lastly I will note that we can't take this to mean much unless we know how many graduates specialize in each area. My guess is there are a fraction of the number of historian graduates as there are "value theory" graduates. If so it might be that a historian has just as good of a chance, if not a better chance, of getting a job than a person in value theory.

UK reader

Michel, I agree - I'm also puzzled about the poor showing of aesthetics. In my experience, it's one of the more popular offerings among undergraduates. Seems strange schools don't need more teachers for it.

I guess enough people have aesthetics as an AOC that its teaching needs can generally be covered by non-specialists.


UK reader: I think that's right, although really the same can be said for pretty much any other subfield, especially if the department doesn't offer several courses in it beyond the introductory survey. That's probably why language and mathematical logic aren't in high demand, either. But at least those subfields are still hiring into PhD-granting departments.

Judging from the average aesthetics syllabus (the Plato-to-Heidegger survey), though, even the AOC level is suffering from its relative absence from graduate education. There's room for pretty significant improvement. It also seems like a missed opportunity to develop high-enrollment courses beyond the survey level (focused, e.g., on literature or music or film), or courses that dovetail with others being offered (e.g. on abstracta, ethics, ontology, truth, etc.). But now I'm just grumbling. :)

Malcolm Keating

Marcus, a quibble which has larger implications. "Cultural philosophy" refers to the study of culture. People such as myself who engage in philosophy in ways that are constructive between, say, the Euro-American analytic tradition and classical Indian philosophy are not doing cultural philosophy. Why not use the category (still not perfect but better) that Philjobs does: History/Traditions?

As it is you have "Ancient Chinese" under history while "Chinese Philosophy" is under cultural philosophy. Granted, there are bigger issues in this disambiguation (everyone doing Chinese philosophy is not doing history of philosophy, or at least not in the same way as people doing Indian and Greek). But I think "cultural philosophy" is not correct.

Sara L. Uckelman

UK reader: Something to keep in mind is that some UK departments cannot take into account teaching needs when justifying areas for future hires to their superiors -- they can only take into account research needs.


To get a job you need to have an AOS of ethics, and to have a PhD from leiterrific program. But leiterrific programs are on core - not ethics, right? So how does this works?

Small US perspective

I think the Aesthetic people are misunderstanding. At many small departments in the USA you may be able to offer one aesthetic course a year (and its enrollment may be 40 students). But that does not warrant hiring a position, not to a dean. Even if the person taught two aesthetic courses a year, there is no need for a specialist. And it would be very hard to say to a dean, I know we already have 5 full time philosophers in the dept. but we cannot operate without a aesthetics specialist. On the other hand, if you teach a few courses in applied ethics, to business students, to engineering students, etc., then you can say to a dean we cannot meet our department's demands in ethics.

Marcus Arvan

Hi Malcolm: That's a good point. I'd be happy to revise the post to combine the two categories under that heading!

Marcus Arvan

Hi Amanda: I get your point about graduates per job. I might run another follow-up post asking candidates for PFO letter numbers (which often report how many candidates applied for a given job).

I'm less sure of your point about running ethics and political together under "value theory." Ethics and political are typically run together under that category, I think for good reason. While you're right that there may be few jobs for a virtue theorist, I think that's a good reason to look at the raw data breakdown.

Scott Clifton

Re: aesthetics
Marcus, if you're counting the Hunter College job in aesthetics, it's important to point out that this was a senior OR junior hire. The position was professor/associate/assistant. The odds for those looking for tenure-track positions are not favorable when squaring off with established philosophers looking for a move up.


Is there any assessment of how many people go on the market each year?

Marcus Arvan

Anon: I'm planning to do a follow-up post asking people on the market about that. Hopefully, we will be able to get some kind of rough indication how many people apply for jobs in different AOSs.

UK reader

Given what's been said about aesthetics, do you think it might pay to develop aesthetics as an AOC? If departments recognise the benefits of having someone who can teach aesthetics, but can't hire a specialist in aesthetics for the reasons given, perhaps they're likely to look favourably upon people who can teach aesthetics well? Or do you think an aesthetics AOC is unlikely to help one much on the job market?

Marcus Arvan

UK reader: yes, at least for jobs at teaching schools. While teaching schools rarely need specialists in aesthetics, they may very much want someone with real teaching competence in the area.


Given the trend over the past few years, does it seem possible that M&E is dying out? Maybe giving way to social philosophy, more political topics, or less 'traditional' areas? Are people just getting bored with M&E? Anecdotally, I've heard that grad students at many top departments, many of whom do M&E, have had a terrible job cycle this year.


Small US perspective (with apologies for the length of my reply!): Oh, I understand that. That's why I suggested that similar reasoning probably explains the paucity of language and logic jobs, too. It's just that I don't think it holds much water.

That's because:

(1) Most other subfields are in the same boat, and yet most other subfields have regular job openings. An AOC will suffice for most undergraduate teaching, after all, and there aren't many subfields that get more than one or two classes a year.

I'm not saying there should be tons of aesthetics jobs. I'm just saying that 0-1 a year seems significantly lower than it is for all the other subfields that find themselves in a similarly boutique boat. And at least they can expect a job or two at PhD-granting programs.

(2) It's not like people working in aesthetics can only do one thing. We all have multiple AOSes and AOCs, just like everyone else on the market. (I suspect that the trouble is actually that aesthetics takes the fore in everyone's mind, so that someone who does aesthetics and metaphysics, for example, isn't thought of as a real metaphysicist.)

(3) Like I said earlier, the demand question seems a little off, since it trades on pre-existing demand, and that in turn depends on the connections a department has fostered in the past. Obviously existing demand matters more than potential demand. But it seems unfortunate to sit atop a gold mine and never tap it. That's how other boutique specializations are justified, isn't it?

The ethics demand exists (when it exists) because it was cultivated by the department; the same could easily be true of aesthetics demand (or philosophy of science or feminist theory demand, for that matter). But it does require a department to decide that it's going to try to do that, and to make an explicit commitment to it. And that's going to be much easier with a specialist on board (who'll also be teaching plenty in history or core or whatever), since she's in a better position to see how and where to build those bridges. And again, I understand that there are significant obstacles to getting that sort of thing going. I just find it strange that people are willing to do it (or at least countenance it) for other "niche" subfields, but just throw up their hands when it comes to this one because "all you ever need is an AOC". Nobody thinks that's true for other subfields, for which the justifications are ready to hand.

As for cultivating it as an AOC, that seems like a good idea to me, since most departments do offer an aesthetics course every year. But it also seems like it's relatively difficult to do since there aren't many graduate faculty specializing in aesthetics in North America, and it's easier to cultivate an AOC when you've got help and teaching experience than it is to do it all alone. The paucity of training infects every level.


I want to second Amanda's suggestion of not running together ethics and social/political philosophy. I work on normative ethics and social philosophy. When I talked with my advisor (who, over his career, has worked broadly in ethics and political philosophy), he felt strongly that since I don't work on theory/practice of high-level social structures (I work on issues involved in individual social relationships), I shouldn't apply for political philosophy jobs (which seems right to me). He also felt that social/political philosophy nearly always *actually* meant political philosophy. FWIW, when I asked other faculty members about this, I heard fairly widespread agreement on this point. If that's right, then someone like could realistically be competitive for jobs labeled as "ethics," plus a few other categories (not including social/political)--maybe as many as 23-24 of the jobs listed up there, and someone who works on political philosophy on 22.5 (and more if the work intersects with philosophy of law). Someone who works on bioethics/health ethics would be looking at 38-39. I think disambiguating this makes better sense of how the jobs are distributed.

Malcolm Keating

Marcus, I hate to harp on this, but there is a reason that Philjobs puts Ancient Greek into the same category as Ancient Chinese and Latin American philosophy and Classical Indian. People working in these areas are working on particular historical traditions and (maybe) not primarily particular problems.

In any case, as you have it:

Ancient Chinese is still under history while Chinese philosophy is under non-Western. What do you think the difference is between these? Zhu Xi is a Chinese thinker and so why is he under history still along with Ancient Chinese? Either Ancient Chinese & Zhu Xi should go under non-Western or the Chinese Philosophy should go back into history. (Someone working on Zhu Xi does "non-Western" philosophy, yes?)

Latin American is counted as "non-Western" which it most certainly is not! Last time I checked, Cuba is part of the "West."

Islamic philosophy is a hard case and many people would say it is *not* non-Western as it is in large part indebted to Greek philosophy. Too, many Islamic philosophers are in a direct line of influence to "Western" philosophers. This is yet another reason to eschew the "Western/non-Western distinction" in favor of talking about traditions.

Finally, having a subcategory of non-Western without the category of non-Western seems to me to indicate that there's something off about that category.

So again, what is the benefit in carving out a category of "non-Western" rather than history/tradition?

Marcus Arvan

Hi Malcolm: thanks for pressing the concern. I received a few competing suggestions today, one of which was to use the categories I used last year. Your concerns make sense though, so I’ll plan on updating things ASAP.

Malcolm Keating

Thanks, Marcus. There are a lot of issues in how to categorize these AOSes, which go beyond the direct focus of this post, but at least having something consistent is a good start.

Given that history/traditions makes up a sizeable chunk of the market on this way of putting things, with a significant subsection of that being topics in Asian philosophy of some sort of another, it seems like developing an AOC in this area would be a useful aim. (I also think it has benefits Anglophone analytic philosophers philosophically to read outside of our own, typically unmarked/invisible, tradition.)

Matt Tedesco

Marcus, first, thanks for compiling this data--it's a great service to the profession.

I think, though, you might be moving a bit too quickly when you say: "The ethics demand exists (when it exists) because it was cultivated by the department; the same could easily be true of aesthetics demand (or philosophy of science or feminist theory demand, for that matter)." I think for many people working in fields outside philosophy (especially interdisciplinary ones like environmental ethics or public health), the idea that their students ought to do some ethics, and that this is a natural place for the program to intersect with philosophy, is common. In some cases, that may be due to the history of local, cultivated relationships. But I think it surely goes beyond this. I know that, when I arrived at my institution (a SLAC) back in '04, a variety of programs (esp. interdisciplinary) were eager to connect with the new ethics guy, and this was not because the department had made all of these deep connections beforehand. I suspect this is not an anomalous experience. It would be surprising if the same were true of the arrival of a new aesthetics person.

This is not to say that the groundwork couldn't be laid, and the connections built, for those kinds of connections with aesthetics. But with ethics, I think some of that groundwork comes pre-laid.

Marcus Arvan

Matt: Thanks for the kind words! However, the comment that you're directing your concerns at were made by Michel, not me. :)

Matt Tedesco

Gah! Well, then: thanks again, Marcus, and Michel, the gentle pushback is for you. :)

Liam Kofi Bright

Why is social epistemology counted among the social identity jobs? I run in both social epistemology circles and with folk who work more on the social identity based stuff - there's some overlap (just as there's some overlap between all the core or value theory stuff and the social identity stuff), but they're pretty clearly distinct.

Marcus Arvan

Hi Liam: I debated that one for a while, and it wasn't clear to me where to put it, given the overlap. Anyway, I can move it to "epistemology" if you think that's best.


Matt: Fair enough!

Liam Kofi Bright

Aye I think that moving this to epistemology would be best - i'd wager that it would far better reflect the intellectual affinities of most work that goes on under this aegis, and so better guide students considering what people are looking for in recent hiring years.

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