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Thanks this is interesting Marcus. What would really put some perspective to it is knowing to things:

1. How many people on the market are in each specialty area. For instance, I suspect there are far more people doing Metaphysics than Ancient, so even though they have about the same number of jobs we can't take too much away from that.
2. Who gets hired for open jobs? I have heard people say it is usually M&E but I have no idea if that is true. I suspect there are a lot of ethics hires and not a lot of history but I could be totally wrong.

Anon UK reader

1.3 jobs in logic? I'm not a logician, but I regard logic as absolutely central to the discipline. That is seriously depressing. Can anyone explain why logic is so out of favour?

The lack of aesthetics jobs is no surprise, but is also very disappointing.

Andrew Sepielli

This is dispiriting. Apart from everything else, if philosophy becomes 80% ethics, I can't imagine that much of the ethics will be worth reading. My guess is that considerations of undergraduate teaching are responsible for this imbalance. If so, then I'd say: (a) we need more restrictive course requirements; (b) do they really not think that these young metaphysicians and epistemologists could teach undergrad ethics?

Marcus Arvan

Andrew: I suspect more restrictive course requirements are not the way to go. As the Mills College and many other cases show, philosophy departments are increasingly on the chopping block for "budgetary" reasons. I suspect there are a lot of Ethics hires because ethics courses (particularly applies ethics courses) put "butts in seats", whereas courses in metaphysics and epistemology draw fewer students. There seem to me several ways to resolve these issues: (A) fundamentally change how universities work so that they are not so market driven (which seems to me highly unlikely), (B) wait for the economy to improve so that students and parents become less obsessed with "useful" majors (also unlikely), or (C) change how we understand and market philosophy, such as focusing more on "naturalistic" metaphysics and epistemology (viz. cog sci and Phil science) over a priori/armchair versions thereof. Of course, none of these seem like very good options--they all arguably reflect just how far the academy has devolved from the liberal arts to technical education--but alas, I cannot help but wonder, given current and foreseeable economic and political conditions, whether they nevertheless reflect the unfortunate reality philosophy faces.

Kate Norlock

Anon UK reader, I regard logic as central to the discipline, too, but in the two small departments in which I've worked, resources are stretched and it is unusual to be able to offer more than one or two symbolic logic courses per year. So it's always the case that my departments would be pleased to see someone had an AOC or AOS in logic, which must be taught, but since the logic-capable will only offer one or at most two courses in that a year, it's never going to be an AOS in hiring. It would be an AOC, which is not part of the study above. Of course, one with an AOS in logic would have a huge advantage when the AOC in the ad is logic! But it won't be the thing that most departments need someone to solely specialize in.

Now that I think about it, even at UW-Madison, my sizable grad program with a huge barn of faculty, there were only two logicians there (Mike Byrd and Ellery Eells). They were there for decades. So even at the R1 level, one may not need many with AOS logic or need to hire very often?

Person in Philosophy

On logic ...
I work at a typical 4 year state college. We would never hire a logician. We teach logic, of course. But anyone who went to a good program with a technical aspect can teach enough logic to meet our needs. We even have a 2nd logic course on the books. Still we would never hire a logician in such a small (typical) department.
When you convince the administration you need a new line or even a replacement, you have to say you need an expert in that area or they just say make do with what you have. Hence, if ethics sells, we hire ethicists. Yes, it is perverse. And once an ad is written we are even bound to use the criteria specified in the ad. That is typical at many 4 year state schools.

Brandon Beasley

One thing I found interesting is to compare the number of TT and non-TT jobs within each AOS to see if there was a disparity there that isn't evident from the total number of jobs. So below I present the % of jobs in each AOS that were *non-TT*:

Value theory = 58.28%
Open = 67.86%
Core (mind, language, metaphysics, epistemology, logic) = 42.22%
History = 39.47%
Science (including cog. sci) = 60.53%

So although there were fewer 'core' jobs, more of the 'core' job postings were for "better" jobs than Value Theory or PhilSci jobs. History does very well, though, somewhat surprisingly?

I'll let others do more interpretation. I'd especially like to know people's thoughts about the "Open" jobs, which some have said might as well be "core", or "core + value theory", but this is disputed.

Brandon Beasley

A quick response to Marcus' response to Andrew: I've found that getting students interested in M&E (or LEMM generally) is all in the *way* it is taught, as well as the sorts of readings that one selects to give to first year students. A lot of the problem, if I may diagnose from my armchair, is that in many cases the way in which LEMM topics are taught makes them horribly boring to many students. And I don't even think that in order to make them interesting you have to switch wholesale to "naturalized" approaches (although including this a bit is useful). Rather it has more to do with the way the instructor approaches and presents the material, and whether or not they do a good job in motivating why anyone would *care* about these questions, rather than just assuming that it is obvious to anyone why these sometimes abstruse problems matter.


After all, major philosophers think it's ok to publicly make fun of LEMMING as irrelevant and "out-of-touch", as if their philosophical analysis of race is "in touch" with Chicago's South Side. Perhaps Marco Rubio agrees with them. Otherwise this is an unfortunate and short-sighted trend.

Andrew Sepielli

Marcus -- I guess I was thinking of college-wide requirements, too, not just intradepartmental ones. I haven't seen any studies of this, but I wouldn't be surprised if students generally liked more requirements. But yeah, I take your point. Re: the economic stuff -- I'm a little more optimistic, just b/c of technological changes and the globalization of the labour market.

Marcus Arvan

Hi Andrew: Fair point - but aren't college-wide requirements at least as responsive to market forces (viz. student demand) as departmental ones? Colleges seem to me to tend to make college-wide requirements (e.g. writing courses) in response to parent/student demand, not the other way around.

Andrew Sepielli

Hmmm...Person and Marcus, you make good points. My takeaway from this thread, then, is that the problem is other people making autonomous decisions, guided by their own freely chosen ends.

Anon UK reader

Hi Kate and 'person in philosophy' - thanks for your responses.

In response, I'd just say that one of the biggest regrets of my academic career so far is that I've not had the chance to learn logic and other formal methods beyond the 'baby' level routinely taught to undergraduates. The institutions I attended simply lacked much in the way of courses on formal methods, and it was not possible to pick up credits from other depts. like mathematics. Now I'm frantically trying to teach myself various formal methods, since I judge aptitude in them to be crucial for research success in my AOS (epistemology).

Of course, I took several ethics courses, despite not having much interest in them, simply because these courses were required for me to pick up my degrees.

Teaching aside, R1 unis should be hiring more logicians. Their work is often interdisciplinary, and makes progress in ways that other areas of philosophy don't (or don't obviously). They would be a serious asset when it comes to defending the role of philosophy in research universities.

Anon UK reader

(Sorry, I didn't mean 'aptitude', I meant 'proficiency' in the above post.)

Marcus Arvan

Andrew: I agree - but as I plan to explore in a thread tomorrow, I suspect this means that if we want to preserve our discipline's viability (getting more jobs rather than fewer), we may have to change how we understand and market philosophy to make it more attractive to people guided by their own chosen ends.

In most areas of life (i.e. markets), one has to "make oneself useful" before one can get people to give you money for other, less "useful" things. For instance, physics has to make itself useful (viz. missiles, GPS, etc.) in order to get funding for theoretical physics (e.g. the Large Hadron Collider). Without being useful to the public, physics wouldn't get funding for its more speculative endeavors. The same is true of applied and theoretical mathematics. Etc. I suspect that unless market forces suddenly change (which I think is unlikely), in order for philosophy to preserve itself we must make ourselves "useful"--and I will explore in a post tomorrow what I think this means (hint: I think it requires philosophy to become much more applied and interdisciplinary).

Anyway, that post will come tomorrow. I suspect quite a few people won't like it--but my suggestion will be that if we want to defend our more speculative endeavors (i.e. if we want to preserve speculative metaphysics, epistemology, etc.), we first need to expand our discipline as much as possible in an applied and interdisciplinary direction--as these are the ways to put butts in seats, justify our discipline to the public and administrators, and ultimately, get more jobs in philosophy for all of us. Of course, I may be wrong, but this is roughly how I'm thinking about these things.

Trevor Hedberg

One thing worth noting is that many of the jobs listed as "Open" are not really open in my view. Often, they come with caveats like "strong preference for feminist philosophy and/or history of modern philosophy" or something similar. I applied to a lot of jobs that were listed as open but had such preferences for ethics-oriented subject areas. I'm doubtful that 1/4 of the jobs listed over the past year are really "open" in the fullest sense.

Chris Stephens

Anon UK reader-

One other issue re: the decline of jobs with AOS in logic has to do with the perception - how true this is I'm not sure - that much research in logic has drifted away from the centre of philosophy. So, many think that much of the best research in logic is relevant to say, computer science (or perhaps mathematics) more than to philosophy. Gone are the days when the most imminent philosophers (e.g., Quine? Carnap? Kripke? Marcus?) were also doing cutting edge work in logic.

Perhaps this is a result of the specialization required to do new work in logic, or perhaps with accidental features of how interests of the profession have drifted. But even at a big research school like the one I'm at, we typically only have one specialist in logic, and so the odds that we'll hire one in any given year are small. We offer undergraduate courses in metalogic, modal logic and relevance logics, but its rare that we have graduate seminars in these topics. If you can find someone competent to teach these at the undergraduate level, they don't need to be active producers of new logic resarch.

Many of the people doing metaphysics are consumers (rather than producers) of modal logic, many of the people doing 20th century history work on the logic of Frege and Russell, and many of the people in epistemology use epistemic logics.

But: I suspect it is more likely that, even at a research oriented school, people will hire someone whose research seems more connected to other areas of philosophy. If you've got a new paper in the Journal of Symbolic Logic (or wherever), you've got to make sure you can sell it to the average philosopher.

The last few decades have also seen the rise of more and more use of probability in philosophy, rather than traditional logic as such. But hires for the folks doing this work are usually philosophers of science or epistemologists. The rise of experimental philosophy has lead to more emphasis on training people in statistics, rather than metalogic. I suspect these trends have also contributed to the decline of philosophy departments hiring logic as an AOS.

These are possible additional factors contributing to the decline, besides the ones motivated by undergraduate course enrollments.

Anon UK reader

Chris, thanks for that - food for thought.

James Beebe

I'm surprised by the low numbers of Continental jobs (11 and 5). I assume this included all jobs that used the word 'Continental' and jobs that listed particular Continental thinkers? Just curious.

Marcus Arvan

Hi James: Yep, I made a point of researching each job that was even remotely/plausibly Continental (based not only on the job ad but also institutional reputation) just to make sure.

James Beebe

Thanks. Surprising numbers. Thanks for doing the analysis.


Marcus: "In most areas of life (i.e. markets), one has to "make oneself useful" before one can get people to give you money for other, less "useful" things. For instance, physics has to make itself useful (viz. missiles, GPS, etc.) in order to get funding for theoretical physics (e.g. the Large Hadron Collider). Without being useful to the public, physics wouldn't get funding for its more speculative endeavors. The same is true of applied and theoretical mathematics. Etc. I suspect that unless market forces suddenly change (which I think is unlikely), in order for philosophy to preserve itself we must make ourselves 'useful'."

People forget that there would be no physics, no chemistry, no psychology, no cosmology... if it were not for philosophy. What new disciplines has philosophy yet to create? There is much about the world that we do not understand, and it is unlikely that our current disciplines in their current forms can answer all the questions. Modern science still has no grasp on consciousness, free will, ethics, or the color red. But these are all issues that philosophers have some grasp on and debate and think about. And who knows what kinds of future inventions might come from the future sciences we birth.

Marcus Arvan

Postdoc: with respect, I read a lot of history of science and I just don't think that common story about philosophy giving birth to other disciplines is generally true. More often than not, what happens is that philosophers struggle to answer a question and then scientists come along and answer it using new technology. Anyway, keep an eye out for my post tomorrow, as I'm going to write on this. I do think philosophy can be useful, but that it tends to be most helpful when it is interdisciplinary and continuous with science. Also, for what it is worth, I very much think empirical psychology promises to illuminate moral philosophy. See e.g. http://philosopherscocoon.typepad.com/blog/2017/02/empirical-underpinnings-of-moral-judgment-and-motivation.html. I also very much think naturalistic philosophy can help with the free will problem.


"With respect, I read a lot of history of science and I just don't think that common, comforting story about philosophy giving birth to other disciplines is true. More often than not, what happens is that philosophers struggle to answer a question and then scientists come along and answer it using new technology."

Even you just admitted in those lines that philosophy in a way gives birth to the different sciences by asking the questions in the first place. The questions are required first before they can be answered. In fact, it is not always even clear whether there is a real question to be answered or just the illusion of a question in need of an answer, and that itself is something philosophy sorts out.

I actually think philosophy is most useful when it doesn't try to be continuous with science but looks at science with a skeptical eye. There is a lot in modern physics today that is arguably conceptual nonsense. And the future of ethics is certainly not going to come from empirical psychology, as that's a category mistake. But whether I am right is itself a philosophical question. So, right or wrong, we can see that philosophy is required for and is presupposed by the absorption of ethics into psychology. Thus, any ethical advancements such a field might make are owed to philosophy. And this is just an instance of a more general argument for my previous claims.

Pendaran Roberts

Only 22 core TT jobs in philosophy the last year! This shows that people should NOT being doing PhDs in these areas! I would suspect that there are hundreds of PhDs being pumped out in these areas each year.

This certainly explains why I'll be unemployed soon!

Marcus Arvan

Postdoc: In a manner of speaking, I agree with some of what you say (though we will have to agree to disagree about moral philosophy)! I just think we could do a better job selling philosophy's usefulness, and that the way to sell it is to focus the kind of interdisciplinary, naturalistic philosophy that is continuous with/leads to scientific progress. For this just is the kind of philosophy that "gets results"--at least the kinds of results society wants to fund (thus enabling us to better support our more speculative pursuits, which I also think are important!).

Tristan Haze

'my suggestion will be that if we want to defend our more speculative endeavors (i.e. if we want to preserve speculative metaphysics, epistemology, etc.), we first need to expand our discipline as much as possible in an applied and interdisciplinary direction--as these are the ways to put butts in seats, justify our discipline to the public and administrators, and ultimately, get more jobs in philosophy for all of us. Of course, I may be wrong, but this is roughly how I'm thinking about these things.'

I am dead against this being the only sort of effort, although not really opposed to it in itself. I think to overlook or downplay the deep interest of core philosophy, the deep inherent interest it can have to reflective, intelligent people with enough leisure to have an interest in it, would ultimately be to forfeit the most truthful and powerful justification for the subject. We can't *only* pander to people who aren't philosophically minded - we need to defend and foster the philosophical attitude in humanity as an inherently worthy thing.

Marcus Arvan

Tristan: I don't think it should be the only type of effort. There's an important place for the deep, speculative core of philosophy. I just worry we might not have many jobs in those areas unless and until we make philosophy more relevant to the general public, which I think interdisciplinarity and greater engagement with science do. I think abstract, theoretical math is ultimately more important than applied math--but the former kind of math gets funding largely because the latter. By a similar token, I think the deepest questions of physics are more important than most applied questions--but again it is the latter that funds the former. I want *all* philosophy to flourish. I just think the route to this--on many different grounds--likely involves making philosophy more scientific and interdisplinary. We are losing ground and entire departments being eliminated, in my view, because we have isolated ourselves. It's increasingly hard for philosophers to get grants, for instance, because grants are decided upon by interdisciplinary committees. It's the interdisciplinary, applied parts of philosophy that are growing--and instead of resisting these market forces, I think we should use them to grow all parts of the field. Again, I may be wrong, but with all the philosophy departments closing--and with how few philosophy jobs there are (except in interdisplinary areas)--it seems fairly clear to me that we need to think carefully about how to better sell and grow the discipline.


It is fine to talk about how important core, non-applied philosophy is to those who have the interest and aptitude. But what doesn't make sense is demanding that OTHER PEOPLE fund it because YOU think its important. Either philosophy should fund itself (which it is doing, through private organizations like John Templeton who is a private dead rich guy who believed in the intrinsic value of philosophy (but mostly ethics)) OR it can demand public help but only by proving why it is a worthy thing for the public. No matter how right I might be that metaphysics is good in itself, I am not justified it taking money out of another person's pocket and using it to fund my speculative metaphysics. To do that I need to convince those others that it is worth funding.


'No matter how right I might be that metaphysics is good in itself, I am not justified it taking money out of another person's pocket and using it to fund my speculative metaphysics.'

Wow, I just don't know what to say.

I thought speculative metaphysics was understood to be an important part of western academia.

Marcus Arvan

Pendaran: I think your bemused reply is indicative of why philosophy is in such a problematic, underfunded state. We philosophers need to focus a whole lot less on an idealized picture of what people *should* care about and instead engage with reality. The reality is that much of this world is--and always has been--about money. If you want money to do important things, you do unfortunately need to appeal to the people who have it: taxpayers and administrators. This is reality, and we need to deal with it, not wish it away.


Marcus: We could also fight that reality, by trying to persuade taxpayers and administrators that it's a mistake to spend money only on things that make more money. And we could do so by, say, trying to persuade them that the study of speculative metaphysics (or whatever) is important, even it doesn't increase GDP.

Maybe that counts as making philosophy more practical, in the relevant sense. But it's importantly different from simply giving students and administrators what (and only what?) they're willing to pay for––which, as Mill pointed out long ago, is a method of educating the public that's unlikely to have very good long-term results (even as measured by GDP, though that's at least partly beside the point).

Marcus Arvan

NK: we could do that, but I am doubtful it will ever work. I am skeptical that the average person on the street or those with purse strings will ever understand the value of things like speculative metaphysics. I think they are far more likely to fund these sorts of things--as in math and physics--if we can make philosophy of *tangible* use. We've tried convincing the public of philosophy's value N times. I am doubtful that N+1 times will work, unless and until meet them on their level, which I think interdisciplinary, applied, scientifically-engaged philosophy has real promise of doing. Let's stop trying to tell the wind not to blow. It will blow whether we like it or not. Let's instead turn the wind to our favor.

Sam Duncan

Amanda, hear hear. I was going to say exactly the same thing but you beat me to the punch. I have to say that the sense of entitlement academics seem to feel definitely rubs me the wrong way. Why should we expect the public to subsidize what we do? If we're providing them a valuable service then we have every right to have such support, but if we aren't then why exactly to they owe us support for what we do? Just because something is an important part of academia or has value doesn't mean that the public has a duty to pay for it. Our salaries are paid either by some combination of tax dollars and tuition or mainly by tuition depending on where we work; we are, or should be, public servants. Given that it bothers me that many philosophers and other academics don't even feel like we should have to articulate what public benefit we provide much less to explain that benefit to the public. Yes there's a pragmatic issue here as Marcus points out; we won't survive if we can't make the public see the value of what we do. But I think there's a deeper moral issue as well: Why does academic philosophy even deserve to survive if we don't provide some kind of benefit to the people who pay our salaries?
I also want to push back on the implicit assumption in the field that the so-called "core" areas are more important than others. As Elizabeth Barnes memorably put it it's really weird that someone who spends his or her entire career wondering whether tables are real is considered to be working on a foundational, "core" area of philosophy while someone who works on the question of whether race is real is working in a niche area that's peripheral to philosophy as a whole.

The whole interview with Barnes I'm quoting is really worth reading in its entirety:



Marcus: The problem is that, for a lot of us (for me, at any rate), doing that amounts to relegating our core philosophical projects to side projects, i.e., essentially, giving up on what we think is worthwhile in philosophy. In other words, it's not so far from saying that we should all just join other, more practical, disciplines, and, if we're so inclined, do philosophy in our spare time.

In fact, I wonder whether that isn't what your view implies: some of us should join psychology departments, some should join political science departments, some should join physics or math departments, and so on, and we should just eliminate the philosophy departments entirely. At least, if you don't think that's the sort of "practical" strategy your views recommend, I'd be interested to know why.


Sam and Amanda,
I do not care much for metaphysics. But I do not think that we should determine the worth of higher education by its economic impact. Indeed, what America suffers from these days is thinking everything - including education - can be assessed (completely) on the basis of its economic impact. We are educating people after all. There is a moral dimension to that (even in my very secular world view).

Chris Stephens

I agree that a multi-pronged approach is a good one - we should try to convince people of philosophy's intrinsic as well as instrumental value. Maybe only that latter will convince many, but that doesn't mean we also shouldn't try the former.

They're also linked - at least in theory - maybe in the way Marcus is suggesting. I seem to recall a story of some manager or CEO of Bell Labs, back in its hey day - talking about how most of his employee's work (a lot of which was "pure" research) would amount to nothing, but he didn't know which projects would amount to something, and so it was good to fund a variety of projects with no clear applications and let the researchers pursue their interests, whatever they were. In the long run, they'd get big practical payoffs this way. But also big theoretical payoffs.

Perhaps there is an analogue to this in philosophy research - I gather Andrew was getting at something like this when he said if most everyone does ethics then the ethics won't be as good as if they also have the metaphysicians (or psychologists, or etc.) work to draw upon.

I agree that we have some obligation to whomever is paying our way. But: if we can get students interested in some area of philosophy that doesn't have a direct "practical" payoff, that can be enough to justify it (they, after all, indirectly contribute to paying us via tuition).

To connect back to the logic issue: I personally think the Godel's work is some of the greatest intellectual achievements of the 20th century - of course it is related to "more practical" work in the foundations of computing, etc. but I think it would be a shame if philosophers stopping teaching this. With just a two course sequence in logic as background, the work is approachable. Plus: it isn't like most math departments are teaching it these days (ours here at UBC, despite being a big research department, doesn't). But of course we have to make our case that teaching it is worthwhile.

I also agree with Sam about the "core" label - but of course, I'm a philosopher of science, so I think that should be considered "core"! :)

Sam Duncan

Educator, I said that we ought to provide the public some benefit. I never said that that benefit has to be something we can measure in purely economic terms. I think that philosophy in any form likely does provide an economic benefit: It's absolutely wonderful for developing critical thinking, creative problem solving, and writing clearly about complex topics among other things. I also think some philosophy (though likely not contemporary analytic metaphysics) has a number of intangible benefits. I believe that someone's life will be richer in all kinds of ways for having been exposed to say Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, or Kierkegaard. I also think that it benefits us as a society if the people who are voting have some knowledge of say Locke, Rousseau, Mill, and Rawls.
Having said that I do resist this idea that we shouldn't have to give any account of the economic benefits of what we do. Students are spending a lot of money to take our classes and in many cases they're going deeply into debt to do so. We owe them some account of why it's a good use of their money.

Andrew Sepielli

Another reply to Sam and Amanda: The claim is not that so-called "core" areas of philosophy should be funded because some people THINK they're important. It's that they should be funded because they ARE important. Now you can deny that they are, but the issue needs to be debated, rather than brushed under the rug as though it were all a matter of mere preference. As for the stuff about other people's pockets and whether they have a duty to pay and academics' "sense of entitlement" -- what can I say, it's a serious philosophical question whether an account of property of the sort that would have to undergird this kind of talk can be justified. I think "no", but I don't really work in the area.


Economic impact? Where did I say anything about economic impact? I agree with you Educator that we should try to convince the public philosophy is valuable in both intrinsic and instrumental ways. All I said was that in order to expect other people to fund our salaries, we need to explain why what we do is valuable.

I agree with Sam that there are many reasons to think that lots of the history of philosophy and stuff that isn't obviously practical is valuable, and we should explain to the public why. And I know it may be obvious to you Pendaran, but not everyone is that privileged. Perhaps one could convince the public that metaphysics is valuable by explaining its intrinsic value. If someone can do it then great! My point is that the value has to be explained, for most people are not born knowing why philosophy (especially metaphysics) is valuable.

Explaining why the public should fund philosophy in addition to welding takes work and convincing - not an entitled sense of: "Of course my work is valuable and you people better pay for it." That type of attitude is what makes the public (justifiably) hate academics. For those who are lucky enough to get tenure-track jobs, the life is unbelievably privileged. I think it is worth funding, but those who fund it absolutely are owed an explanation.

I will also add that while I think the "core" areas are valuable, it is not obvious to me that it is the most valuable part of philosophy. I think the most valuable part of philosophy is ethics, others are welcome to disagree. Please explain why, not to me, but to those who fund your livelihood.


Even fields that have proven useful have a difficult time these days. I've read that physics PhDs do not have an easy time finding good academic jobs. My wife works in probably one of the most 'useful' fields, healthcare research, and her situation isn't great. She has no job security. Her future employment is dependent on grants she may or may not get. Her salary is low, especially with the collapse of the pound. It would be impossible to buy a house, raise a family, and own a car on what she makes, especially after taxes.

What's happening to philosophy is a symptom of a wider disease and is not due specifically to philosophy's less than immediate rewards. The disease at the most fundamental level is neoclassical economics bridled with the old-fashioned idea that education is the answer to our problems. Let’s look at a few ways that this disease destroys the host.

1. In the US, government backed loans have driven up the price of education at way beyond the rate of inflation. The value of something is whatever someone is willing to loan for it, and neoclassical thinking is that the government should support the private banks and the loans that they make (because the banks are so important!). Universities have learned then that yearly 5-10% fee increases have little impact on the ability of students to secure loans, and so little impact on enrollment. Neoclassical thinking doesn’t allow for this to be regulated. When degrees are so expensive students must pursue the most profitable degrees. Education is replaced by job training; universities turned into technical schools.

2. With all the money diverted to wall street, there is a lack of public funding for universities. This has the effect of turning them into businesses rather than public charities. The universities then hire people to help manage who run the universities like businesses. Neoclassical thinking is to loot businesses to maximize short-term profits. Instead of adding more tenure lines, faculty are required to work more and longer hours, pay doesn't go up, and cheap part-time labor is hired. What money isn’t diverted to huge salaries for the ruling elite is used to build swimming pools and fitness clubs to attract students.

3. Millennials were taught that education is the answer, and generally the more education the better. This in conjunction with questionable job prospects for graduates, together with the easy availability of loans, sends PhD application rates soaring. Universities do little to deter this, and faculty are certainly not encouraged to turn away students. Why would a company deter people from buying their products? There are thus more PhDs than good academic jobs many times over. And this just works in favor of the universities, allowing them to pay less and less and require more and more of their faculties.

Solutions? The public must demand change. The public must demand that our governments start supporting the real economy and not the banks, that universities be free or low cost (as used to be the case), and that they be primarily concerned with education.

Marcus Arvan

Postdoc: I think you are broadly right about the macroeconomic issues. At the same time, it isn't physics and math departments that are being closed down. They're doing pretty fine. It's humanities departments--and philosophy departments in particular--that are on the chopping block. See e.g.:







By all means, we should fight for economic and political change. But, unless and until that happens, we should do what we can to protect and promote philosophy given the reality in which we find ourselves--and, as your economics story itself indicates, it is economic interests that are driving things.

In this social and economic reality--the only one we have for now--whether philosophers will have jobs and departments stay open will be a matter of how well we attract students and investment.



Maybe they ARE important - but I don't believe in Plato's world of philosopher kings who get to decide what is important and have the rest of the underclass work for them. The reason why what the public thinks matters (as opposed to the absolute truth) is because we are using their money to pay for it. Whatever theory of property one might believe in, it seems a self-serving one to think things that are publicly funded need no explanation or justification to the public. Now there IS an alternative, which is to self-fund. Many private schools are largely successful doing this, and that is a fine alternative. So those who know that metaphysics IS important, can fund private universities. Many of the Leiter top 50 schools are funded mostly by rich alumni and market investment. That is an alternative.

Of course, in a more perfect world with a more perfect political system, things might be much different. But in many places philosophy departments are closing. The "house is on fire", as some would say. So an entirely different political solution, if at all plausible, will take a very very long time to change and many things need changing now.


Just curious as to why you started with jobs posted in September. It looks like there were 79 positions/50 ads posted in August 2016 -- 40 tenured, TT, or continuing positions and 10 open-contract (meaning they should be tenured or tenure-track) positions. I didn't look at the AOS, so I don't know how much the overall picture would change.

Marcus Arvan

Hi Paul: I wasn't sure how far I should go back, so I just stopped at September. In any case, I'd be happy to go back to August and update the numbers later today!

Andrew Sepielli

Amanda -- If your point is just that people should see it as incumbent upon themselves to explain to others why they should get a bigger slice of the pie, I agree. But you suggest that "things that are publicly funded need...explanation or justification to the public"; I agree, but this is just as true, I think, of things that are privately funded. If you don't think so, then we have different normative views about property.

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