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I think this has much more to do with the inherent nature of the grad student experience where people aren't quite undergrads, but they're not quite faculty. It's a time when nothing is good enough, and people are on edge about what might impact them in an extremely competitive job market.

The truth is, and this came up over on NewAPPS at least a few times, you have to put yourself out there. You can't just be 'average' and not have a personality. Take risks. Sometimes they'll blow up in your face, but even those usually aren't *that* bad.

I remember my time as a grad student. I was essentially the *only* one who regularly ate lunch with the faculty. At first I was afraid to say anything, lest they think I'm stupid or something. Eventually, I just integrated and became one of the gang...taking it as much as giving it back. Sure I said a few stupid things here and there. But guess what: *people* stay stupid things now and again, even faculty. It happens. Get over it. You're more likely to be remembered for your positive contributions than your negative ones (provided there are enough positive ones).

Of course, this entails that you don't say racist, homophobic, transphobic, etc etc things. Those might stick, and rightly so.


Pardon the tone of this comment, but it strikes me that the last sentence of the previous comment is quite important. Marcus is certainly right, in my opinion, to recommend taking risks and put oneself "out there." But in my own experience, one should only do so with regard to inconsequential things. Be bold when it comes to your intuitions about possible worlds, free will, or the nature of the a priori.

But I think that graduate students and the untenured would be well advised to worry what might be in the "etc etc" of Rachel's comment. If you hold the wrong views about Ayn Rand, Colin McGinn, Leo Strauss, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, homosexual marriage, race, capitalism, the American immigration debate, evangelical Christianity, or any of a hundred other important issues today, I can't imagine you would want to put yourself out there. There is no amount of philosophical skill or personal kindness that will compensate for the wrong view on such an issue. There is no argument that will make you seem like a respectable person (and I know from insider experience it will harm your publishing career).

So by all means, take a chance on disseminating your view of the theory of universals, but do not say the wrong thing about universal health care.


Hi Marcus,
Your experience sounds like a contrast from this recent Leiter post:


Would you say that your experience has been genuinely different, or is it a case of half full vs half empty?

Marcus Arvan

K: really good point. I meant: be bold and take *philosophical* risks, and "put yourself out there" in the sense of "don't be afraid to ask for help." I am full agreement that it can be bad to go around taking risks on announcing one's views about current events or matters of public policy (provided, at least, one isn't defending those views in print -- which is another matter).

Eyeyethink: thanks for your comment. Well, I agree with the point in the Leiter post that people can be unreliable and lazy. My point is that, more often than not, there are many people who are *wiling* to help, if only you ask. While getting them off their bums to do can be difficult sometimes, my experience is that with some prodding, most people will follow through on their commitments.

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