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03/27/2013

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Chike Jeffers

Well said, and glad to have gotten the chance to briefly meet you in New Orleans.

Marcus Arvan

Agreed -- well said.

David Morrow

Well said. Let me add:

5) Speaking at conferences makes other people more interested in reading your work. There's so much being published now that it's impossible for anyone to keep track of it all -- at least with stuff that's not squarely in their specific research areas. By speaking at conferences, you expose more people to your ideas, which might make them more inclined to read a paper of yours the next time they run across it. (Stephen Finlay pointed this out to me.)

6) Listening to papers at conferences keeps you abreast of current developments in parts of your AOS, broadly construed, that you don't study very much anymore. Most of what I know about the current state of play in the free will literature, for instance, comes from attending conference papers. These are papers that interested me enough to attend the conference session, but probably wouldn't have made it onto my reading list at home.

7) Conferences give you deadlines; some people need deadlines. If you have trouble getting papers finished, conference submission deadlines and presentation deadlines give you a date by which you must be done -- or at least "done enough" that you won't embarrass yourself too much in public.

8) The professional friendships and relationships you develop at conferences are not only valuable in their own right, but they're professionally useful in various ways. I've met a number of my philosopher-friends at conferences. Those in your own academic-age-peer group can often provide helpful comments on works in progress. Those who are more senior may be able to provide useful letters of recommendation when you're job-hunting or serve as external reviewers when you come up for tenure. (In our search this year, more than one applicant sent a recommendation letter from Famous Philosopher X who said, "I met the applicant at conference Y, where she gave a fantastic paper on Z. I was so impressed that I've read more of her work and can assure you that I think she's an excellent philosopher.")

9) Some conferences are lots of fun. This is especially true of the various annual, non-APA conferences. Rocky Mountain Ethics Congress, for instance, at CU-Boulder, is a consistently fantastic experience.

10) Occasionally you get to hang out with awesome and/or famous philosophers whom you would never get to talk to otherwise, which is fun and exciting even if you don't develop any kind of professional or personal relationship with them.

Kate Manne

It was great to get to meet you, Mark, and to subsequently become friends! And I very much agree with everything here. I love going to conferences - making new friends, learning what new ideas are out there, getting a sense of which of your ideas are interesting to folks, the travel itself... all pretty great.

Mark Alfano

Thanks for your replies, all.

David: I agree with everything you had to add.

Kate: Yes, indeed! Hope we cross paths again soon.

Gradjunct

This is intended to be a serious question and not simply a snide contumelious remark: who is this paper targeted at? Is there a surplus of talented people doing interesting research and sitting on heaps of unused travel funds who are refusing to go to professional conferences (where their papers would be shoe-ins for inclusion) simply because they "hate" conferences? I find that hard to swallow. For most us there are enough financial, pragmatic, or intellectual barriers that keep us from conference participation as it is. We're too busy adjunct teaching, we're too cash poor (with no department travel funds), or we're simply having to worker harder to get our papers polished to enough to merit the attention of the conference-cliquers (you know, the kind of successful over-achievers who seem to be at every conference in their field and who remind us of their ubiquitous presence by posting a never-ending stream of photos of themselves carousing with anyone who is anyone in philosophy on their Facebook/Twitter feeds.

The real reason to go to conferences is this: if you are in the laudable position of getting a paper accepted, and having the travel funds available, and the freedom to spend the requisite time away from the classroom, then you should take advantage of that position. Because there are a good many of us who'd love to be in your position, but (likely) never will be.

Marcus Arvan

Gradadjunct: I appreciate your comment. I've never understood people who claim to "hate" conferences. I love everything about them, from the papers themselves to the people. I always think of myself as "lucky to be there."

Mark Alfano

Gradjunct: I'm sorry that the post seems to have struck you as bragging or self-satisfied. I do realize that many people are without research/travel budgets. I finished grad school just a a couple years ago, and in my program there was basically no financial support of this kind. Even still, one might consider attending a conference in another town or going to one in one's own town. And there are ways to attend a conference even if you don't get a paper in -- for instance by volunteering to comment on someone else's paper (there's usually a dearth of commentators) or just chairing.

I wish you all the best, and hope we get a chance to run into each other at a conference or elsewhere.

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