As I explained in my first post in this series, this series aims to investigate:
- Some of the tensions that exist between academic philosophy and living a good life.
- Things we can do, both as individuals and as a discipline, to address those tensions.
This series was inspired by several things: Helen's excellent post asking how academic philosophy's competitive environment "affects our moral lives", my own experiences struggling with well-being and happiness as an academic, and my sense--which I get from numerous sources, both online and from other academics I know personally--that such struggles are quite common. For a good part of my life as an academic, I sort of thought that some of the struggles I encountered were "just me." Of course, I knew others who faced serious struggles in academia--fellow students who felt anxious and/or lost at the dissertation stage, on the job market, etc. Still, I guess I sort of conceived myself as an outlier: as someone who is preternaturally hard on myself, "never feeling good" enough as a philosopher, teacher, etc. Yet, the longer I've been in the academic game, the more it seems to me that this particular challenge to well-being--not to mention many others besides--is relatively ubiquitous. Time and again, I have seen academia turn otherwise happy-go-lucky people into people suffering from habitual anxiety, self-doubt, etc. Why? Because, at least in my experience, much of the academic game is designed to evoke such feelings. Our papers are rejected from journals 90% of the time. Referees continually point out our work's shortcomings. If we are lucky to publish work and have people engage with it, chances are our every error will be revealed! And, of course, we have to compete on a brutal job-market, meet standards for tenure, etc. It is predictably hard to ever feel "good enough" in a system where, frankly, one is (almost?) never good enough!
But I am getting ahead of myself. My hope in this series is to investigate different tensions between academic philosophy and living a good life--tensions that arise in grad school, tensions that arise on the job-market, tensions that arise when it comes to research and teaching specifically, and so on--and then examine, together, how to best grapple with those tensions. So, I would like to begin today by examining tensions between academic philosophy and the good life that arise in graduate school. In what follows, I will simply lay out some tensions that I've witnessed--some of which I have experienced first-hand, others of which I have experience with second- and third-hand--and then ask you all to chime in with your own thoughts (including tensions that I may have left out!). Then, in my next post, I will ask for your help in examining how we--as individuals and as a discipline--can best grapple with these tensions. Then we will move on to post-grads-school tensions, and move on from them. That, at any rate, is my hope!