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Words McCaffee

I agree that the pressure to publish is problematic. For me, though, the worst - and I would guess related - thing about being a philosopher is the increasing climate of bitterness in the discipline, especially among early career philosophers. There are so many of us who are desperate for jobs, feeling hopeless about our prospects of getting the kind of job we planned to pursue through our graduate studies, and feeling misled and abandoned by our mentors/professors/grad programs. The result seems to me a kind of growing resentment toward the discipline as a whole and toward those individuals who manage to do well. "She only got the job because she is a woman," or "He only got it because he is a minority," or "I have more or better publications than the other guy - he is undeserving." And so some of those who do well become bitter too - unsure of whether they "deserve" their success or how to prove that they do. Chips on shoulders all around. At least that is my pessimistic perception at the moment. I guess I understand the bitterness, but I also lament it. Thank goodness for supportive pockets in the discipline like those who run and contribute to this blog. May the good will spread!


I think people are bitter for good reason. Many who have worked hard are not rewarded for their labor. It's not hard if you look at philjobs appointments to see some very questionable hiring decisions that seem to be based entirely on gender or prestige or connections. I think it makes sense to be angry with the discipline.

Besides the horrible job market and all its unfairness, the worst thing about the profession isn't special to philosophy. Western academia is in decline. The pay is poor, the bureaucracy is out of control, students are coddled and treated as if they're children. Free speech is being attacked, campuses are becoming increasingly one note politically, with fewer and fewer people willing to vocalize dissent.

I could go on, but I'm not saying anything new. It's the same complaints that many more conservative\libertarian minded people have about modern academia. Well, I guess we can all complain about the pay!

Post Doc

The first two comments resonate with me. Another biggie is I wish the job market application process could be made more centralized, more standardized, and less time consuming. Some semesters on the market the application process took a huge chunk of time (almost as much as teaching or research, individually) and since wrestling with HR forms and self promotion is less fulfilling than teaching and research the time sink itself is hard to take. I wish institutions would try as hard as possible to adopt standardized sets of materials, or anything to make the process less time consuming.

Words McCaffee

Post Doc's idea sounds good to me too. Nameless, how exactly can looking at appointments on PhilJobs lead one to the conclusion that departments are making "very questionable hiring decisions"? I think assumptions like these are part of the problem. It's pretty audacious to click on a link and deem someone a questionable hiring choice unless you have some inside knowledge of the competing candidates, the department's needs, and most importantly, all of the qualifications of the new hire that you suggest is based "entirely on gender or prestige or connections." If you're on the hiring committee and know how the choices were made, that's one thing, but I don't think a mere glance at a CV or publication record is sufficient to come to an informed decision. My guess is that most if not all of the hires are talented philosophers. That's not inconsistent with there being unfair discrimination in hiring practices, but I'd like to know what licenses the judgment that a hiring decision is "very questionable."


Rather late back to this party, but for my part, what I would like to see happen is a thorough critique of, and push-back, against the whole notion of academic `productivity'. Demands for an increase in production are, presumably, caused by an increase in demand. Where is this demand coming from? Is the demand for philosophy papers so high, and always growing, to justify such levels of production? I can't really keep up with the literature in my own area, not least because it would take too long to really absord it, and thereby effect my own ability to produce. It is pretty clear that the demand is not coming from the supposed consumers of our product, i.e. other philosophers. It comes rather from administrators who know nothing about the subject matter, let alone will ever even come close to themselves consuming the product in question, and in many cases know nothing about the nature of intellectual work because they themselves are not academics, but simply professional managers. We produce for them because they tell us academics are "knowledge-producers", and the minimal unit of knowledge is the peer-revewed journal article, because they are easy to count. Nevermind that the peer-review system cannot bear the weight of so much production and has long since collapsed, thereby ceasing to be a reasonable proxy for intellectual quality. It is pretty clear that there is something fundamentally wrong with this model of how to measure the value of academic work, which needs to be scrapped in favor of something more in keeping with the real nature of what we do.

I know this is not a concrete suggestion for improvement, but only a call to action, and a pretty wide ranging one at that. But, personally, I think that we are well past the stage where tinkering at the edges will cut it.

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