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06/10/2019

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just me

Marcus
The one troubling thing about these harsh warnings is that they fail to account for the fact that all these young people were going to choose another career if they did not choose philosophy, and they are probably as equally in the dark about what that career is about. I had a career in another field before I turned to philosophy. It was quite disappointing to realize what the career I choose involved. Philosophy is a far better fit for me, and I had a hell of time getting a permanent position. So I am reluctant to warn people off philosophy.

Peter Furlong

Hi Marcus,

Thanks for this post. I think this hits the nail on the head, and it is distinct, if importantly related, to the main worry that is often discussed about going to grad school: Will I get a job? For most people, even those who get jobs and publish lots of articles and/or books, there is far more dealing with the negativity of rejection than people from the outside might realize. This is especially problematic for those who both think they have a grasp of what academic life is like (undergrads and some graduate students), and who plan to pursue this life at least in part because of this misinformation. Some people have little problem with the nearly constant rejection. For many of us though, it can be weirdly difficult. I remember getting a rejection letter for an article the day after receiving an offer (perhaps for a post-doc that I eventually declined in favor of my current job, but perhaps it was the offer for my current job). It was very strange to me, even at the time, how much that affected the high I was riding from the offer. Having such rejections repeated often, even if punctuated by some positivity, such as accepted articles, books, and job offers, can be difficult. I have known some brilliant philosophers, both grad students and professors, who eventually stop writing for this very reason.

Peter Furlong

One more note: Although your post wasn't about how to deal with some of this negativity, I wanted to share a suggestion I have heard from a fiction writer: At the beginning of the year, set goals regarding publication in terms of rejection, rather than acceptance. For example, aim to collect ten (or seven, or five) rejections that year. To do this, you will need to be fairly productive in terms of writing and submitting, and it probably won't encourage decreased quality (since any actual writing and editing will still aim at quality--you still actually know you want to be published). Moreover, it will be something like gamifying rejection, which can help avoid some of the sting.

I have no idea whether this works, but I thought it was an interested suggestion.

Marcus Arvan

just me: That's fair. But I don't think most other careers have the same kinds opportunity-costs as pursuing a PhD.

Time and again, I have heard philosophy PhD students and job-marketeers wistfully say say things like this, "I'm 30, and have spent the last seven years of my life in grad school making next to no money, going into debt, putting off children, and having next to no chance of getting a tenure-track job. All the while, my non-academic friends have advanced in their careers, had children, bought homes, saved money for retirement."

Maybe the alternative lives they are talking about here aren't all that wonderful (though, for what it's worth, I have plenty of non-academic friends who seem to enjoy their lives). But given that the costs of a PhD are unique--and significant--I think it is absolutely vital to educate people what those opportunity costs are likely to be. If those same people want to find out about the opportunity costs of work in another field (like law or business), I am sure there are blogs or people in those fields they could ask about what to expect there. In sum, I see it as my job to provide information--and to let the Cocoon's readers use that information and other information they can gleam from other sources to make a (more) informed decision about their lives.

One other note: I'm not here to warn people away from a philosophy PhD. As I've said before, I still think it can make sense to try to be a philosophy professor (https://philosopherscocoon.typepad.com/blog/2014/11/why-you-should-still-maybe-be-a-professor.html ). I'm not about dissuading people from pursuing their dreams. Far from it. I feel *incredibly* lucky to do what I do for a living, as I truly love doing philosophy. My aim, rather, is to warn people away from pursuing a PhD in philosophy on the basis of ill-informed reasons. And "wanting to be a professor" is one of them.

I've known people who pursued a PhD because they wanted to be a professor. The life a professor seemed attractive to them: autonomy, lots of time off, and so on. That is, they pursued a PhD primarily because of extrinsic reasons--because it seemed to them to offer an attractive lifestyle. The problem is, when these people made it past comp exams--and encountered the constant negative feedback described in this post--that extrinsic reward wasn't enough to keep them going. They *didn't* love their work, and so when the rewards dried up (viz. no more coursework to get A's in) and the constant punishment set in (viz. rejections from journals, jobs, etc.), they *gave up* and stop working (as Peter describes above). It's these people, by and large, that I've seen fail to finish PhD programs etc. There is one thing--and one thing only--that kept me going in grad school throughout all of this: not "wanting to be a professor" but the fact that, deep in my bones, I loved *philosophy* more than anything else I've ever done.

So, that's really my message here. It's not to warn people away from philosophy PhD programs. It's to warn people away who are motivated to do it on the basis of perceived extrinsic benefits ("the life of an academic"). If you need extrinsic reward and validation...my sense is that this path is probably not the one to choose--as again, once you pass comp exams, there is often *so* little validation. I would only advise pursuing a philosophy PhD to someone who loves philosophy *so* much--and who is willing to recognize and accept the opportunity-costs with open eyes--that they can reasonably expect themselves to survive constant negative feedback for years on end. And, in my experience, there really aren't that many people like this.

There's a great scene in Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead (don't ask me why I read it; the answer is that I read everything!) where an old, drunk, washed-out architect describes to a young architect in excruciating detail all that he is getting himself into if he pursues that career. He tells him of all of the ways he will struggle and fail, want to give up, and hate his choice. He then asks the young architect whether, knowing all that, he still wants to go through with it. The architect says "yes." But surely most of us would say no...because most of us *don't* want to go through hell. That's what I'm trying to do here: to describe what "becoming a professor" is really like for a lot (if not all) of us, so that young people considering this path can make an informed choice rather than choose naively, finding themselves 10 years later (as I did) wondering what the hell they got themselves into.

Frank

This conversation made me wonder something that I'm sure has occurred to smarter people already:
I think it's fair to think that (a) seeking a job in philosophy is imprudent and (b) success in an imprudent endeavor strengthens a tendency toward imprudent behavior. Therefore, most of us who wind up in the profession now are the subset of an imprudent population lucky enough to have their imprudence reinforced. Couple that with our tendency to inflate our own capacities for reason, and you have a group of people who are convinced of their ability to reason well and likely to be poor at acting on reason - especially regarding large life decisions. This has got to be dangerous, right?

Ross Colebrook

I appreciate posts like this; it's good to get people's honest feedback about the road into the profession. As somebody who's been struggling on the job market for a while now, it's important that people get a sense of what it's like, day in, day out. My biggest problems at this stage (immediately post-PhD) simply involve money and other forms of precarity. Losing your health insurance every other semester because some classes didn't fill up is tough. Having to cobble together enough classes at multiple universities is stressful.

But one thing discussions like this often ignore is that not all of our students have grown up with expectations of a middle-class, professional career. When I compare the odd jobs my single mother did to get by, and to put herself through college, to my current job, it's still night and day. My job involves significant time off, it's intellectually stimulating, I choose my own hours, and my "bosses" are extremely distant from my day to day work. Anybody who's worked food service or retail knows just how soul-crushing and demeaning so many jobs can be for the working class. Even though I've got one of the worst jobs in academia right now (a 5-5 of adjunct work), it's still vastly better than any other job I've had. I guess it's all a matter of perspective!

Marcus Arvan

Hi Frank: I'm not at all certain that pursuing a career in philosophy is always imprudent. As 'just me' notes above, all careers--and most major life choices--have serious risks and opportunity costs. Pursuing a career in philosophy is a *risky* choice, to be sure (at least for most people). But that alone doesn't make it imprudent. For me, the question of whether a choice is prudent depends on how it is made--on (among other things) whether the person adequately understands the risks they are taking before they take them, or whether the decision is made in ignorance of relevant facts.

Part of the point of my last comment is that I think pursuing a career in philosophy probably *is* imprudent for someone who wants to pursue it for extrinsic reasons (e.g. to "live the life of an academic"). I think this is probably imprudent because I've seen plenty of people with that kind of extrinsic orientation lose all motivation to continue on when extrinsic rewards dry up (as they typically do after comp exams). On the other hand, it does not seem to me obviously imprudent for someone to pursue a career in philosophy because they *love* philosophy, provided they also take ample precautions to ensure a good "plan B" if things don't work out.

This is why I think it is vital to get all of these things out into the open--so that people making these kinds of life-altering decisions (typically, young people) can think more clearly than they otherwise might, and with better information, on *whether* pursuing philosophy as a career is a prudent risk to take.

Frank

Thanks Marcus! So I take your claim here to be that we might not be acting contrary to reason if (only if?) we pursue a career in philosophy out of a love of philosophy. I would really like to agree with this, so maybe you could help me a little more. I can't help but think that a love of philosophy is a good reason to read, write, and discuss philosophy - all things that can be done pretty effectively without pursuing a career in it. The career part has got to involve, I think at the moment, a desire to "live the life of an academic." That is, in a sense, just what you get when you subtract philosophy from a career in philosophy. I suppose my question is this: isn't everything that we pursue professionally "extrinsic" in just the sense you mean? Or have I misunderstood the point?

Amanda

Thanks for making that point Ross. I wish more philosophers would make it, or at least recognize it. Adjuncts should be treated much better, but even so, their career is often very privileged compared to many. By the way, do you get benefits? The philosophers I know who are long-term adjuncts get very good benefits, and so even if their income isn't great, they have enough to live on and a relatively stress free employment source. And yes, they could get fired tomorrow. But almost every job outside of academia is like that.

Ross Colebrook

Yes, Amanda. I'm lucky enough to be part of the PSC, which gets CUNY adjuncts health insurance as long as we teach two classes per semester. Our pay is very bad, but the health insurance is at least quite humane, and we've only gotten it through robust union activism. Regardless of how much I like the job, I do think that adjuncts and non-tenure-track workers in academia deserve a fairer shake. (7k per course is our union's demand, and I think it's perfectly reasonable considering the cost of living here in NYC).

But yeah, it sure beats flagging for highway construction in 90 degree heat all summer, or mowing lawns, waiting tables, or selling computers at Best Buy for $10 an hour. The lesson for me is that we should build solidarity with exploited workers in other industries. Unionization and activism is the only way we're going to make things better for non-tenure-track people, but it's also the only way we're going to make things better for the giant swath of working-class people suffering from unfettered capitalism outside of academia.

A Philosopher

"But yeah, it sure beats flagging for highway construction in 90 degree heat all summer, or mowing lawns, waiting tables, or selling computers at Best Buy for $10 an hour."

This is not clear to me. I've done some of these jobs. If I had to pick between adjuncting 4-5 courses/term (about what's needed to make ends meet) vs selling goods at Best Buy or making pizza at a pizza shop, I would (and have actually) chosen the latter. These jobs are easy. They have well-circumscribed hours. They allow for work-life balance. They don't involve checking my email at 9pm to make sure I catch questions from students whose evaluations determine my fate. They don't involve intellectually demanding prep. I'm not up on random Friday nights until 2am grading or prepping powerpoint slides.

Are there some menial service jobs which are shittier than adjuncting? Sure. I read an account awhile back of what it was like for a lesbian woman to be a cable installer. It sounded like hell. I wouldn't want to be a roofer either, although my father was a general contractor for 15 yrs and enjoyed the job.

I guess my point is that the conditions involved in adjuncting aren't so much better than those involved in menial service jobs and the like so as to clearly separate it as "better". It depends on the job and the details of the situation, your personal temperament, etc. For whatever it's worth, I have chosen other jobs over adjuncting because I found the adjuncting worse in all sorts of ways.

I will say $7k/course would probably change my tune a bit. But at the more normal $2-3k/course, I'd do any number of other things before attempting to support myself off adjuncting.

Michel

I expected to have summers "off" (as in: to myself, to work at my own pace). But I now have to teach summers, even though my job is stable and long-term, and otherwise quite a good deal.

I may get out of summer teaching eventually, several years down the line, once I've got seniority. But until then, it feels like a big, negative tradeoff, since my time off in the summer amounts to two weeks between semesters.

Paul

RE: A Philosopher. The 7K mentioned is in NYC, where one has to make $250K to afford the same standard of living that approximately $50 gets you in smaller (and even some decent sized) towns in the south. But I do grasp your larger point. I wasn't going to adjunct for an extended period of time (largely due to having a family) and the reality is that working at a major university makes you see how many jobs are available to someone with a master's degree that pay well and have reasonable hours. But I would also rather be a manager at Guitar center or best buy than adjunct 5 classes a semester indefinitely...

Amanda

A philosopher: Well, we all have different preferences. I guess some people prefer adjuncting because they love philosophy - teaching it, reading it, etc. And while it is more intellectually demanding than retail, it is also more rewarding. As far as scheduling is concerned. A 5-5 load with a lot of time off for breaks seems a benefit to many, as also not working a 9-5. As you said, others like working 9 to 5, so if so, then what seems like benefits of academia to some wouldn't be benefits to them. Fair enough. Of course, at least half of those in low-end wage jobs don't work a 9 to 5 either: there is night shift, swing, shifts, etc.

And yes, to be clear I think we do not treat adjuncts anywhere near the way we should. Especially considering the generous benefits available at some places in the country for teaching 2 or more courses isn't available at a lot of other places. That is truly awful. And the pay almost everywhere should be much better, etc. Lastly, one of things that I actually think adjuncts deserve the most is professional respect from colleagues - but that is not something that can be solved through unions, alas.

Pendaran

This discussion is really silly and very disturbing. You can work retail with a high school degree. Most adjuncts have a PhD these days. Despite a decade of education difference, we’re sitting here comparing these jobs. LOL! Guys, that’s all you need to know about the state of the world and philosophy today!

Al

The main post seems exactly right to me and I shared some of those experiences. I think, on the topic of getting a taste of a certain kind of life, it is also worth keeping in mind that there is yet another important turning point. Marcus points out the difficult shift from student to professional on the research and feedback front but it is also worth bearing in mind that A LOT of one’s time as a professor is spent doing committee work, meeting with students, reorganising courses, and other admin. This differs from job to job of course, but with very rare exception my impression is that one should expect to do quite a bit of work that broadly falls under ‘service’ in the US and under ‘admin’ in the UK. Just in my own case, I spend a lot of time each week looking at applications to our program, organising student events, organising conferences and workshops, meeting with students at various levels, grading papers, and so on. Many of these things I enjoy, especially meeting with students about their research. But I didn’t really know about this stuff until I had to do it. It definitely was lost on me as an undergrad and because my grad professors were on a pretty cushy load with lots of TA support, I didn’t get a clear sense of what a more realistic workload might look like. Moreover, despite their cushy situation, I have come to appreciate that as a student I just wasn’t really paying attention to the committee work they all were doing behind the scenes. I sort of thought they met with PhDs sometimes and worked on hiring committees sometimes. There is an awful lot more! And it seems to build each year to the point where my in term research is getting to be less and less. I think it’s important not to forget about that 3rd aspect of academic work along side research and teaching.

A Philosopher

Hi Amanda. I'm not disagreeing with what you say, just further commenting. Since this is a thread about what it's like to be a philosopher, I might as well share more of my experience.

I love philosophy --- as I assume those just finishing their BA or just starting grad school do as well --- but there are many aspects of doing philosophy which I do not love. As Marcus notes, there's the rejection. To add another: grading the same poorly written essay for the 70th time late at night when I just want to be relaxing. It is surprising just how truly exhausting it is to read dozens of subtly different but still near identical (and mostly bad) essays in a row. Teasing out the differences, applying a rubric, commenting, etc. is exhausting.

Unless you just give up and don't take your teaching responsibility seriously, if teaching a 5-5 load you will often find yourself in just this position, or some similarly arduous act of grading.

Then, of course, there is the barrage of whinny emails you get throughout the semester from students who "deserve" a better grade.

Of course, everyone has these problems, but when you have a 2/2 or 3/3 load they are more limited and clearly outweighed by all the time you have to do research and by the job security. I have found that when I'm adjuncting a bunch of courses it just turns out that the downsides of teaching by far consume all the things I love about philosophy: both doing and teaching it. I find myself becoming resentful of philosophy as less and less of my effort goes to (well) philosophy and more and more of it goes to managing student expectations and the rot aspects of grading, like applying a rubric or devising efficient commenting schemes.

I'm also not sure what you mean by "A 5-5 load with a lot of time off for breaks". If you're teaching 5-5, it is across different schools. So, you're driving to different campuses, likely 5 days a week. These campuses likely aren't close by. So, a realistic picture is a 30-60 minute commute, 5 days a week, where you teach 2-3 classes (awkwardly spaced) throughout the day. Perhaps you teach at 9, 10, and 3 on MWF, 10:30 on TR and have a 6-9 night class on T. Some people might get a better schedule than that, but you might also have a much worse schedule --- e.g., perhaps driving to both campuses in a single day. That schedule, average as it is, doesn't leave much flexibility. MWF are essentially 9-5 days, plus grading and course prep at night. TR look a little more flexible --- perhaps you could run to the doctors or do other errands in there --- but given that you're already commuting 30-60 minutes, you're then looking at 2-4 hours in a car that day just so you can teach in the morning, run to the doctors, and go back and teach at night (or whatever). You may get breaks for Christmas and all that, but you'll likely be looking to snag winter term courses over Christmas and summer courses, plus given how those courses are often staff last minute, you can't do much serious planning around those breaks.

The work load at the average R1 does indeed afford a shocking number of breaks and flexibility, but as a practical matter I don't think the average adjunct doing 5/5 (really 5/1/4/2/1) really has a meaningfully more flexible or open schedule than the average 9-5 worker.

Of course, many academic jobs (e.g., a 4/4 permanent position at a regional state school) fall somewhere in between these two extremes of adjuncting and being at an R1.

Anyway, the point isn't that adjuncting is *worse* than the average service sector or working-class job. The point is that, on the whole, adjuncting is not clearly better than these jobs. There seems to be a lot of overlap, so that, for the most part, the two are comparable, although the pros and cons of each will differ. Which is worse will depend on the details of the job and personal temperament.

I guess I'm also trying to push back on the idea that adjuncts are in some higher socioeconomic class than the average working-class person. In some ways, perhaps. Saying you're a college professor (as thinly true as that is, for adjuncts) is socially more respectable than saying you clean toilets (which is *not* a job we should look down on), but that's an extreme case. More realistically: e.g., "teaching at the local community college" doesn't get you any more social standing than tending bar at a popular club or building hand-crafted furniture. I'm cherry picking examples, but that's the point. There's a spectrum of cases. Take something in the middle: long-haul trucker, pipeline worker, and road maintenance crew. These jobs are physically demanding, but generally pay better (sometimes wildly better) than adjuncting. The pipeliner may not get the same social nods as the adjunct, but if they make 4x/yr, I doubt that matters much in the end. Service jobs like Walmart or fast food are trickier. The adjunct has more social standing, but likely works more hours for only marginally better pay.

Here is the upshot. What should you expect, as an early student just starting off in philosophy? At the top end, it's amazing. R1 professors do what they love, teach great students, have lots of free time, and travel the world. Profs at your regional schools don't do as much traveling, do more teaching, don't get as much respect, but still enjoy decent money and good social standing. At the low end of adjuncting, your mileage may vary, but don't expect a socioeconomic position notably different from everyone else making 20-30k/yr. There will be some benefits, you get to call yourself a "professor" (although you're stretching the truth a great deal), you do philosophy, and can have an impact on students. But you will work crazy hours for little pay under highly uncertain circumstances and (at least for many people, like myself) much of what you loved about philosophy will be squeezed out by the time-sink of managing student expectations and grading. If you say "but I'm still doing philosophy!", that's my point --- you're not. Some may find ways to make this work so that they're still doing what they love while under a heavy adjunct load, but I could not. What I loved about philosophy was gone under all the negatives I outlined above. Again, your mileage may vary a lot.

I hope these comments help some early philosophy students with their own deliberations about what to do.

Amanda

I seriously considered working full-time as an adjunct because I didn't want to move. Many of fellow grad school mates did go this route. They are happy and live well enough in an expensive but highly desirable location. I know this is not typical, but it is one situation that some adjuncts live.

They do not teach winter or summer courses. The idea that most working class people get anything even remotely equivalent to summers and winters and spring break off - it just isn't so. If that isn't obvious, then there is nothing I can say to convince you. They teach 8 months a year, and get four months a year off. And most of it really is off, because they are life adjuncts and they have no research or service responsibilities. Some choose to do some research and some service in their free time, and some do not. But we all choose to do all sorts of things in our free time. Anyway, they certainly have more time off than me (R1 professor) because I'm *always* doing research. Another reason I considered doing the adjunct route is it would be a lot less stressful (less pressure to constantly accomplish things), and I would get a lot more time that is actually off. I travel a lot for work and it is paid for. But I never travel if it isn't for work. My adjunct friends travel in the summer, with their own money, but they get to use the time as they like.

The problem with lots of adjuncts is they are trying not to be adjuncts (or they work somewhere with crappy pay and benefits, which is another thing.) But if one is trying to not be an adjunct, then you really can't take advantage of the silver lining of the position, i.e. you don't have to care about research or service.

Why do I care about this? For two reasons: One, it bothers me that people I used to be close to and that I respect, who take pride in their work and their status as a philosopher and academic, are constantly running into criticism from people of their own discipline, telling them they might as well be working the same job as their neighbor who dropped out of high school. While dropping out of high school and working retail doesn't make you any less of a person, it does typically make you less of an *intellectual* than someone who got a PhD and works as a college professor. My adjunct friends are, as far as I am concerned, real academics, real philosophers, and living an incredibly privileged life of the mind. It is privileged in the sense they do what they love every day, and they get paid/healthcare to do it. They also participate in the life of the university, and love that environment, etc. While there might be exceptions, few people I know who work retail as a career consider themselves to have a career doing what they love and are passionate about.

Now, of course, I could say a million times that not everyone's experience is like this. So we should fight for better conditions for adjuncts. And those who are adjuncting and miserable and would rather work at Best Buy should go work at Best Buy.

I also care about this because I often wonder whether I made the right career choice. I love my job, but I did lose exactly what I knew I would: my home, my community, and my friends. One of the things that keeps me believing I made the right decision was the lack of respect and nauseating pity I would face if I were an adjunct. I think it's a shame.

Amanda

A philosopher: I will also say I agree with you in the sense that teaching a lot comes with the downsides you mentioned. I love my R1 job because teaching exhausts me - so I sort of feel like if I had a high teaching load long-term, I would rather just sort of stop doing research. This is because I want to do whatever it is well, and if I was teaching a lot and doing research I think I would just do both badly.

All that said - people are different. Not everyone finds teaching as tiring as perhaps me and you do. In general extroverted persons do not get as tired by this kind of "performance." Also not everyone loves writing and research, and not everyone feels this constant pressure to "achieve." I am jealous of my friends who are happy being adjuncts mainly because I could just not get in their mindset. So I think what would really prevent me from being happy doing their job, is that I am not happy unless I feel as though I am "successful" in the eyes of society and the profession. I hate this fact about myself, but it is very hard to change. For those who don't have it, life has many more opportunities.

Ross Colebrook

To A Philosopher: you've made a lot of good points here. I guess for me, as someone who's never been outside the working class, being an adjunct (which is decidedly working class in virtually every case) isn't so bad. It's better than most working class jobs I've had, and better than the ones I was raised to expect. But you're right that it's worse than a lot of middle class jobs that philosophy students often expect at the start of their studies.

It's frustrating that the profession perpetuates lots of the economic inequalities and class distinctions present in the rest of the economic system. It's also frustrating that it perpetuates the same kind of non-democratic economic decision-making that's common in the private sector, too. One of the professional things that appealed to me about academia was the extent to which decisions appeared to be made in a somewhat democratic fashion by faculty who treat each other as equals. I've been largely disabused of that notion as I've gotten more experience in academia, but I still think academia is still less hierarchical than lots of the private sector, where your boss dictates your day-to-day work and you have no control over company priorities. I wonder how tenure-stream people see this aspect of the job, because on the one hand, you have more say in major issues and policies that affect the department, but on the other, you do have deans and provosts and other hierarchy to manage, whereas adjuncts just have to deal with the department head.

A Philosopher

It sounds like we're on the same page, Amanda. I don't disagree with anything you said. I think we're just emphasizing different things. Part of why I'm focused on the negatives is because that's the point of this blog post: how expectations of life as a professor can fail to match up to reality.

Let me just comment on this:

"One, it bothers me that people I used to be close to and that I respect, who take pride in their work and their status as a philosopher and academic, are constantly running into criticism from people of their own discipline, telling them they might as well be working the same job as their neighbor who dropped out of high school."

I am not saying this at all. If you are an adjunct who finds themselves in a desirable location with adjuncting work that pays enough so that you only need to teach in the traditional fall and spring terms, and you are content to just be an adjunct --- if all that, that's great. If I could have put that together and been that person a few years ago when I graduated, I would have done it. I certainly don't think these people might as well quit adjuncting and go work at Starbucks or whatever.

My point was simply that for many people, for both practical and personal reasons, this is not how adjuncting will work out. So regarding realistic expectations, I think it's important for early philosophy students to know that among the many ways in which the reality of being an academic might fall short of their expectations are all the ones I've listed above.

Of course, we should be fighting as a profession to improve the position of our adjuncts, so that more of them can live better lives and don't (like me) find themselves in a position where it's a better option to leave what they love. Even simply doubling the average adjunct pay rate to something like 5-6k/course would go a long way. Some professional recognition and respect would help too. I suspect (hope?) that, as more up-and-coming "star" philosophers see their own bright friends from grad school fall through the cracks into adjuncting work, some of the culture will change a bit.

Ross Colebrook

Amanda: I should also say that, even though this is the best job I've had, I'm not someone who's satisfied with adjuncting. Aside from it not being a good middle-class job, I suspect people seldom express appreciation for adjuncting because they're worried about prospective full-time employers thinking that they don't want the responsibility of a full-time job, or aren't interested in doing the research that full-time job would require. (I almost didn't put my real name on my previous comments for that reason). Just so everybody knows: I disavow those implicatures! :)

Amanda

A philosopher: fair enough - there are a lot of different ways to look at things. And as I mentioned, the folks I know who are life adjuncts are in unusually good positions for adjuncts -sadly I think they are the exception for adjuncts across the country.

Ross Colebrook: Yes, I understand that. I definitely didn't mean everyone should, much less is, satisfied with full-time adjuncting. And that is partly my point. I totally get caring about research and wanting something different, and that in itself makes the adjunct life much less desirable. Part of what makes a job satisfying is that you don't feel the pressure to do something else. I guess my point was only that not everyone wants that. Some people like the intellectual life of a university but don't really like to do research, or not much. Others might like research but just place a higher priority on choosing their location, and throwing away the stress that comes with trying to change places in a very competitive field.

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