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John Protevi

Thank you for these reflections, Marcus.

I highly recommend this essay by Chris Newfield on points 1 and 2 above: https://profession.commons.mla.org/2015/12/16/the-humanities-as-service-departments-facing-the-budget-logic/

The blog to which Newfield contributes: http://utotherescue.blogspot.com/

Newfield's home page, with links to his excellent books: https://www.english.ucsb.edu/people/newfield-christopher (_Ivy and Industry_ and _Unmaking the Public University_ are essential reading IMO).

My two cents: http://www.newappsblog.com/2012/12/changing-our-frame-of-reference-from-job-market-to-political-economy-of-philosophy-instruction.html


I am not sure if improving journal editorial practices will help that much with the prestige bias. (Although, it is a good thing in itself!) I know candidates from lower ranked schools who have multiple publications in top 5 journals. They have been on the job market for multiple years with no TT job offers. And we all know that individuals from top schools often get hired with no publications.

What we need is for hiring committees to give candidates from lower ranked (or even middle ranked) schools a chance. This would be especially helpful if higher ranked schools did so. But alas, reputation is probably too important to most schools to even give this a try. I do not doubt that, on average, those from top schools are better philosophical researchers. My problem is that it is Nearly Impossible for even the best individuals from even mid-ranked schools to have a chance at top research schools.


On 5.

It used to be that at the smoker famous supervisors and professors of job seekers would make the rounds and chat up their students. I got the sense that more famous and more senior people at more prestigious departments did more of this than less famous, less senior people from less prestigious departments.

I've been on one search committee and we did get a little bit of this sort of thing via email and if anecdotes from trusted friends are to be believed, there are some people (and indeed some departments) who really hype their students via email and phone calls now that the smoker is less of an event.

So a couple questions (which are possibly concerns too):

1. IF this sort of student promoting goes on, do more prestigious departments take part more than less prestigious ones?

2. IF this sort of thing goes on, should it be of concern? I think it should be if 1 is a 'yes'.

If it doesn't go on (or if no one pays attention to it if it does), never mind me. My sense is that it does go on and that it matters. I think it would make more sense if everyone to agreed to write the letters they want read and let the committees work with those rather than doing this extra thing that not all supervisors are comfortable or willing to do.


All good thoughts. Another way philosophy departments can and do and should "insinuate" themselves into the core curriculum of the university is through critical thinking courses.


I looked through NYU's placement and noticed that many of their students are getting placed with little or no publications.

I guess we need to rethink what it means to be a good philosopher. What's relevant to getting into a program like NYU? Great grades, great writing sample, great undergrad institution. In my experience, none of these things are sufficient for being a great philosopher or even necessary.

Imagine someone who goes to a middle of the row university, ends up doing a terminal MA to get his/her grades up, and goes to a decent PhD program towards the bottom of the Leiter rankings, but then hits his/her stride and makes numerous original, quality contributions to philosophy.

Isn't this person a better philosopher than an NYU student who hasn't ever published anything?

Let's put this another way: Shouldn't the student who contributed to philosophy by publishing high quality original research be rewarded with a job before an NYU student who has contributed nothing?

I wish I had been aware of how messed up philosophy is as a profession.

Derek Bowman

Two thoughts on (1), one though on (2), and one thought on (5).

1a: You don't say anything about reducing the number of people competing for academic jobs. This will require not only by broadening our horizons about other career paths for PhDs, but also reducing the number of PhDs produced, possibly by redirecting funds for PhD stipends/waivers to fully funded MA spots. Without this, the job market will continue to be terrible, even with whatever feasible steps we take to improve institutional support for filling/creating faculty lines in philosophy.

1b: I have heard anecdotal reports of senior scientists who spend most of their research time working on grant proposals. There are similar anecdotes of accomplished scientists being denied tenure, or otherwise losing their jobs, because they could not secure enough "soft" money to fund their position. I don't know if these anecdotes are representative, but I do know that grant funding is a double edged sword. Those who live by the grant die by the grant.

We should also think seriously about the kinds of grant money that is likely to be available in philosophy and what effects that might have on the direction of philosophical scholarship. Templeton is one example. Although some worries about their theological biases are overblown, nonetheless they do fund projects only about areas that they think are worthwhile. Similarly, there's lots of grant and donor money available from market-libertarian think tanks. The more that philosophy is dependent on donor money, the more power donors have to shape academic work - something that should be even more troubling if we simultaneously shift to more applied areas of work.

2: The more work philosophers have to do developing "outcomes assessment" measures and selling ourselves (and chasing grants, etc), the more we have to ask what we're making all those sacrifices for. At that point we're no longer fighting to be able to have a career studying and teaching philosophy - we're struggling specifically to keep philosophy teaching and scholarship within the university.

There is also something almost paradoxical in this sort of suggestion. Philosophy education (as it is now; as we know it) is valuable and important, so we have to radically transform it in order to preserve it. When we do that we must always be wary that we don't give up what is valuable about it in order to save it.

(5): While I don't doubt the existence of prestige bias, it is seriously problematic only as a secondary effect of the bad job market. In a world where there are enough decent, full-time jobs for most candidates, prestige only matters to those who care whether they end up at prestigious places.

It's a mistake to put ourselves in the position of trying to rank - among a pool of already talented, highly qualified people - who is and isn't a good philosopher by counting publications. The tragedy is not that the NYU student got a job with no publications - the tragedy is that most people have to publish as graduate students and that many still don't get decent jobs. There are a number of ways to be a great philosopher - only some of them involve prolific (and early) publications.

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