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Marcus Arvan

A wonderful post. I had a very difficult time grappling with all of these issues my first couple of years out, and you've done a great service by raising them here. I hope other Cocooners will share some of their experiences. Here are just a couple of my own reactions. First, although I think a tough time on the job market (and publishing) can lead to healthy reflection and reevaluation, I would like to urge people not to give up too soon. My first year at Tampa, when I suffering from stress-induced insomnia, trouble publishing, and a failed hard disk that erased a year's worth of work, I gave serious thought to leaving the academy. I was incredibly unhappy, and even started looking at alternative career paths. But...I'm very, very glad I stuck it out. I am incredibly happy now, and feel like I'm finally starting to hit my stride. So, I would suggest to readers that even when things get very bad, don't give up yet. Keep going until you're sure you don't want to do it anymore. Second, as I indicated in a previous post, I actually think obsessive competitiveness -- which I was guilty of myself -- is usually counterproductive. My (admittedly anecdotal) experience has been that the more one chills out, enjoys life, and does philosophy for its own sake, the more apt you are to do good work (enjoyment, after all, quite naturally begets more effort! It is so difficult to work when you're miserable, and so easy when you're happy). Third, you're absolutely right: there are more important things than philosophy. The people you care about -- your spouse, your family, your friends -- are far, far more important than a paper. They will love you even if you fail...so don't push them away. Finally, on your point about the "harsh realities" of teaching, I would suggest they are more a matter of perception than anything else. When one is struggling and unhappy, one's attitude can carry into the classroom, leading one to alienate students. On the flip side, excitement about philosophy can inspire students to great heights -- height you might not have imagined they could reach. Further, the classroom is an excellent place to play with ideas. The last 5 papers I've written, for example, originated from issues that arose in putting together lectures for my intro class. This is actually far more common than you might. One of my personal intellectual heroes -- the late physicist Richard Feynmann -- was notorious for rejecting offers from Princeton's Institute for Advanced studies so he could keep teaching undergrads in California. Or take my undergrad advisor, Dan Dennett. I once asked him why he was in a little school like Tufts instead of a big R1. His answer was: "Simple. Undergrads aren't as caught up in the 'game' of philosophy. They're fearless, and all too often approach problems with fresh eyes.". In other words, teach like there's no tomorrow, and try to enjoy yourself doing it. You just might inspire your students, remind yourself why you got into this in the first place, and come up with some good ideas!

Anyway, thanks again for your post!

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