Our books

Become a Fan

« Student evaluations: what to include in a dossier | Main | Writing diversity & inclusion statements »



Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.


Some of the recent 'advice' posts from those well-established in their careers are becoming a little staid and, quite frankly, demoralising. Some of these posts simply come off as self-congratulatory. Moreover, we really don't need be told one more time about the importance of making time for writing and cultivating a work-life balance. It's great that these people have their personal and professional lives sorted. But for the rest of us struggling to find the balance, these posts risk simply reinforcing imposter syndrome. Please don't solicit or post such pieces again, or at least edit out the seemingly superhuman achievements and braggart tone...


Nearly every single job ad I read says something like the following: "Please explain how your research, teaching, or service would/do contribute to a climate of diversity and inclusivity."

Are there effective ways to do this without sounding too on the nose, so to speak?

I would love for committee members to speak to how they think this can be done effectively because it is so pervasive in job ads now.

What are you looking for?

My general worry is that things I say come across as forced/disingenuous, i.e. "I make sure I include non-canonical texts in my courses."


I’m set to enlist in the Israel Defense Forces but I have the option to exempt from the military if I wish to. So I’m in a big moral dilemma on whether I should serve or not, I’m currently leaning towards not serving being the morally right decision, but I want to be very certain that it is because if I don’t serve, a lot of my family and friends will hate and shame me for it. So if I would be certain that I did the right thing it would really help me cope with the hatred and disappointment. Therefore, if you could validate or refute my moral conclusion on whether to serve or not based on your philosophical knowledge I would be very grateful.

So I would say that I believe it’s immoral to serve in the IDF (Israel Defense Forces) if given the option not to because if I serve I’m contributing towards unjustified harm towards Palestinians E.G. IDF is used as a tool to make new Israeli settlements in Palestinian land which definitely cause unjust harm to Palestinians. If the IDF had less power, Israel would have fewer resources to force settlements therefore reducing the harm.

But I also do believe that a military for Israel is necessary for preventing serious harm that might be caused by a lack of protection. And a problem might arise when I acknowledge that a byproduct of my goal/career in life is becoming a public person which would undoubtedly amplify the impact of whatever choice I make.

In other words, If I become an influential figure and I choose to not serve I will inevitably impact other people to not serve as well. And if enough people don’t serve it will cause a problem because of the lack of protection in the military that will occur. It might be relevant to state that I also genuinely believe that given my current opportunities I will probably rise to be somewhat of a public figure so you could say that (even if I’m delusional) I’m acknowledging that my decision will likely have an amplified impact.

So the new problem is that there is now a likelihood that me not serving will cause enough other people to not serve that it would cause a war or a fight big enough that it would result in more harm done than there would have been if I had served instead. But if I had to estimate, I would say the odds of that happening are pretty small considering the power of the IDF which could be estimated by the sheer statistics of Palestinian/Israeli deaths (3465/68).

On top of that, I also know for certain that if I don’t serve (and I assume others would follow) I will be preventing unjustified harm towards Palestinians and I can conclude that by the factual evidence of unjust harm that the IDF is contributing to.

So would it be correct for me to say that since I know with good likelihood that me not serving has positive consequences for society and since I think the odds of the negative outcomes are quite low (even if they could be really bad) then me not serving would be morally right from my point of view?

Because on the second hand, if we take the settlements that are built on Palestinian land as the example of unjust harm towards Palestinians, if I claim that the IDF is so strong, wouldn’t it mean that not serving wouldn’t help because the IDF could just gather other troops to do the settlement work since they’re so strong?

To counter that you could say that even if they did gather other troops, it would still make the process harder so you would still contribute to preventing harm. Therefore, even if it’s very little the action of not serving would still be in the moral side rather than the immoral.

But then you could counter this by saying that in that case, since not serving only prevents very little harm it might be better to serve and protect Israel from a war or a big fight because even if the odds of that happening are very small (since the IDF is so strong), it is still the right thing to do because if something bad would happen it could end up being disastrous so it’s better to take even the small chance of that happening in to account because there aren’t major drawbacks to do so. In the same way that if we found out that an asteroid has a 1/10,000 chance of hitting earth, we would still do our best to take that into account and take measurements to prevent it.

Based on all these conclusions, I can’t really say that serving is immoral as much as it sounds like it is. So I’m worried that I’m just overthinking and that these points don’t make sense, or that I’m grasping at straws because unconsciously I’m scared of the hate I will receive if I don’t serve. I really just don’t know what to do, if I do serve I’ll feel like I was probably just justifying it in my head and I’m actually morally wrong in doing so. And if I don’t serve, since I’m still internally unsure whether it’s moral or not, I won’t be able to "deflect" and overcome the hate and disappointment from my family, friends and society.

So if you could in some way validate/invalidate some of these thought processes and help me reach a conclusion on this moral conflict it would mean the world to me.

potential future chair

Would you be willing to run a "do's and don't's" post on being a chair? I want to see what kind of consensuses there are.


The deadlines for submitting PhD applications are approaching. Any advise for applying in 2019? Any recent shifts in how applications are evaluated? Being an international student, how much of that effect my chances positively or negatively? And how to deal with the demands of the GRE?


Pub-Impeding VAP vs. Pub-Conducive Adjuncting

I received my PhD this spring. No pubs yet. Extracting papers from my dissertation has taken a long time. I'm well-positioned for 3 decent, but far-from-elite pubs over the next year. As for this year’s job market: at best, 1 pub *very* late into the job-market season.

I gather there’s a good chance I’ll face the following choice:

(A) Pub-Impeding VAP: Take a VAP with a 4/4 load that includes major preps, not to mention moving. Being realistic, this will lead to little pub-work getting done.

(B) Pub-Conducive Adjuncting: Local adjuncting with classes requiring very little prep. This would be highly conducive to getting pubs over the next year.

I would pick (B) in a heartbeat but have heard that doing so would have significant costs when going on the market in 2020-2021, especially since it took me forever to finish the PhD.

Would it?



I was told not to make any head space for a paper under review and that after submitting it, try not to think about it too much. I submitted a manuscript in May, under review since June. After how much time is it appropriate to ask the editor about its status?


It's been five months, it's entirely appropriate to ask, unless the journal explicitly states that they aim to review most submissions under {some time greater than five months}.

Anon #21

How old is too old to be admitted to an elite philosophy PhD program? (the type capable of placing at least some students some of the time in tenure track positions at research universities)

And, how can older (30-35 yo) candidates make themselves credible to elite PhD programs?

In my case, I have studied and worked in another academic field at very prestigious universities for many years after doing my undergraduate degree in philosophy. I know that I am unsatisfied with the kind of work I can do in my current field and that working as a philosophy professor would be incomparably more satisfying and fulfilling than being a professor in my field. I have publications in credible peer-reviewed philosophy journals though not top journals.

Any thoughts would be appreciated.


Hello there,
I realize this is an 'early career' site, but has anyone ever had to write a statement of 'leadership and administration philosophy' when applying for a chair position? I am interested in applying to such a position at another college and am looking for some pointers. There seem to be some obvious things, like how you would mentor faculty, but any advice would be welcome.

Just wondering

Connected to, but distinct from, anon's question above. Most job ads say they particularly welcome applications from under-represented groups. What does this mean in practice? Should I, or should I not, disclose that I am transgender? If yes, how do I do that elegantly? The application forms I've seen so far have not had a way to do that, so I suppose it belongs in the cover letter, if anywhere.

Prof. L

Just wondering:

Ive seen 'disclosing identities' done best in the following manner:

"As a [insert identity here], I am particularly drawn to your department [for the following reason(s)]".


When your applying for a job opening in your own department, is it assumed your going to say things in your cover letter that play on your knowledge of the department? Would it be stupid not to?

Or, instead, would it be stupid to over-emphasize these aspects because it shows that you somehow presume it will give you an advantage?



1. I don't mean to be pedantic, but you make sure you don't confuse "your"/"you're" in a cover letter. Anytime I've seen this as a search committee member (or "its"/"it's", etc.), I can't help but think less of the applicant.

2. I would say anything that you think helps to describe why you're a good fit for the job. Some of your knowledge of the department will be relevant in this regard, but not all your knowledge of the department.

Prof L

ANON—why not just say what you love about your department and how it makes you want to stay forever? This will be convincing since you are there already. Eg “I have had a fulfilling professional life at U. I have benefitted from the rich intellectual culture, the inquisitive students, and [&c.]. As a professor on the tenure track I could see myself contributing in such -and-such a way.. I have settled in the area and have a strong desire to stay...”. You can make this very specific, which does give you an edge. It would be odd to say “you should hire me because I know so much...” The mere fact that you know so much does not give you an advantage. That’s not a good reason to hire someone.


Marcus and others have spoken recently about the chances of landing an R1 job given the kind of PhD program one graduates from (one's "expected trajectory"). I'm wondering how much different it is trying to land a job at an R2. (Apologies if this has been discussed elsewhere already.) I'm fairly certain I'm not on track to land a job at these top schools, given that my PhD program is ranked fairly low. Could I be productive enough to hope for a job at an R2 or should I resign myself to a heavy teaching load?


LM: I have a PhD from Italy and I work as a VAP at a R1 institution. Last year I was finalist for two jobs at R1 universities. One job was landed by a philosopher from a R1 program, while the second by a philosopher from an unranked program. Therefore, if you do good work, you can definitely land a research job (even though I don't understand what's wrong with a teaching job - I think that teaching is an essential part of being a philosopher).
However, if by R1 you mean Ivy League universities or similar places (Leiterrific programs etc), then where you did your PhD is gonna be essential.

Helen De Cruz

I agree with an earlier poster there should be a post on how to be an effective chair. I have no experience being department chair, so perhaps we can get someone to guest blog one, or perhaps you feel willing, Marcus? It's a tricky position to do well, it seems to me.

Marcus Arvan

Hey Helen: yes! I haven’t forgotten about that query in this thread. I’ll plan on writing something up soon!


I'd be interested in the chairs discussion. FWIW, there is a Philosophy Chairs Facebook group. Private, but takes new members, I think.



Question: Is this normal?

(I hope this is the right place to post this) I'm a graduate student at a medium to large size r1 program. When we have visiting speakers for keynote talks, colloquia, etc., we have a department-sponsored social event after their talk. Usually, only one or two faculty members attend this event (sometimes none). While typically more than one or two faculty members will go to the actual talks, the number of them at any given talk has never exceeded say, 30% of the faculty we have working here (in my experience), and is usually more like 8-15%. And I almost never see any faculty at talks given by visiting graduate students for graduate conferences.

Is this normal? This is the only graduate program I've ever been in, so all I have to compare it to is my undergrad, where a much larger portion of the faculty were very involved. Was my undergrad abnormally awesome? Or does the faculty culture at my graduate program just suck?

I'd like to know this because I want to know if my feelings of embarrassment / shame for my program are reasonable, or whether visiting speakers just don't expect anything more. I would also like to know what (if anything) we as graduate students might be able to do to improve faculty participation. Is asking nicely an option?


You should not be ashamed, the faculty should be. Those numbers are pretty bad. Where I did my graduate work, I would say about 60-80 percent of faculty came to the talks of visiting speakers. We had a good line up, generally. Burton Dreben, Ray Monk, I B Cohen, Miriam Solomon, etc. Incidentally, where I was first employed, we also had a good turn out. At my third job, things were pretty bad though. Numbers like you describe. But that was a very dysfunctional department.
To be honest with you, though, I do not think you should expect a huge turn out at graduate student talks and conferences, if the department faculty are active researchers.


Can someone explain to me the basics of writing a letter of recommendation for a PhD applicant? How long? What do you spend time talking about? Do you make direct comparisons? Is there a big difference between writing one for an undergrad vs a MA student?


I teach at a research school with a PhD program and faculty are expected to go to all talks. And I'd say most talks have 90% of faculty there. However, where I got my PhD the numbers were more like what you describe. And indeed, it was a dysfunctional department in many ways. Having spent time at many PhD programs now, I think what you describe is not normal, but also not unheard of, either. It doesn't speak well to the environment of your program. I don't know what the rest of your situation is like, but don' forget transferring is a possibility. As a grad student I was completely unaware this is something that could even be done.


Oh, and anon, there is nothing you can do and I would recommend not trying. You will most likely only piss off the faculty who don't want a grad student telling them what to do. I think I am very generous, insofar as I take the opinion of grad students more seriously than most faculty. However, it would very much rub me the wrong way if a grad student told me to start coming to talks. That is just not within your realm of authority. Also, if a department has this type of environment, they already show they are not the type of faculty to care about community building and grad student needs. You are better off coming up with a personal strategy to get the most out of your program in spite of the lack of communal environment. Who you pick as a thesis director, for instance, can make a big difference.


A (perhaps related?) question, something I haven’t seen a whole lot of discussion about, but something that I’ve thought about from both sides, is how to navigate scheduling late afternoon and evening events for people with children, especially young children. Most of the time departments seem to schedule events in mid to late afternoons, I think sometimes in an effort to be family friendly. For me and I think others, this can be the worst time of day, because it’s typically when we are due to pick up kids from daycare or school. Or there’s a move away from weekend events, so people have more family time. I’ve strongly suspected that family friendly policies are made while thinking of a person who has a family at home and wants to spend more time with them, that is, of a person whose partner has the majority of duties with respect to children. But if both partners work (as is increasingly the case) scheduling events in a way that works for people with dependent family members may look very different. Just wanting to hear perspectives on this. Maybe it’s just a losing battle.

bitter childless


As a childless person, I've often resented that faculty with kids attend fewer talks and pass off weekend/evening service responsibilities to the childless faculty. For many people--not all, obviously--having a kid is a choice. One side effect of that choice is that they will have a much busier, more expensive life. I know that childcare is expensive and that going to talks, etc. will cut into time with your child. But missing a few hours with a child every now and then is not going to undermine the child's future or his/her potential to bond with the parent in question. So, I think it is unfair for faculty with kids to pass off burdens to the childless just because they have children. If a time slot cannot be found in the middle of the day, then I think attendance should be mandatory for everyone or for nobody.

FWIW, I've heard this complaint from other childless faculty too, men and women alike, some of them feminists.


There is not going to be any schedule time that is good for everyone. What is good for your family might not be good for another persons's family. And I guess I agree with bitter and childless that the needs of people with kids shouldn't automatically be put ahead of the needs of people without them.

There are a million things that are more work and more time-consuming when you are single - you have to do 100% of the chores, the shopping, pay 100% of the rent, no one gives you a ride to the doctor or to the airport, no one helps you pack your house and move, no one helps you manage your bills, and if your car breaks down, you can't borrow one from your spouse, or ask them for a ride, or ask them to do that chore that you were going to do. I am not trying to say the life of a single person is harder (although I think it is, because of the lack of emotional support.) However, what I am trying to say is this odd assumption that the childless have way more time and freedom is not necessarily true. It might be true sometimes, but often it isn't. And we don't get the love and feelings of satisfaction that having children brings.

There are also all sorts of other life issues that people of all kinds must manage into their schedule: taking care of parents, having a long distance partner, dealing with an illness, overcoming an addiction, etc. Maybe someone is passionately committed to volunteer work and their volunteer work starts at a particular time of day. There is no reason that person's commitment to volunteer work shouldn't be as important as another person's commitment to childcare.

All things considered, it just seems a bit odd to schedule things around people who have young children because, (1) why is their schedule more important than anybody else's schedule, and (2) not everyone with young kids has the same schedule, anyway.

I do think it is very reasonable for departments to discuss, maybe at a faculty meeting, if there might be an agreed upon time that is best for everyone to go to talks (or whatever). If a department can work out a change, then fine. There is just too much variance to attempt to have a more general change that goes beyond a specific department.

Nicolas Delon

bitter childless, I frankly can’t tell if you’re trolling or not. I think the spirit of the question is that we can’t expect faculty with children to attend events at inconvenient times. And Amanda, no one is denying that the same would hold of others with equally stringent responsibilities.

Are you guys suggesting that it’s unfair for parents to think their parental responsibilities should not be held *against* them? That campuses should be no more family friendly than they are, say, random hobbies friendly, because, hey, that’s a personal choice? Do you really think that whenever you’ve had more work to do this was because of parents supposedly evading their professional responsibilities?

That parents’ having this excuse fuels your resentment and that you consider this as some sort of unfair freeloading boggles the mind, but then I’m biased: I made the extremely selfish, unfair decision of having kids, and I also think I happen to be doing more than my fair share where I work.


Just to be clear, this is a follow-up to Anon's query about faculty attending talks. We have a department in which a lot of people have young children. The motivation for my question was pragmatic -- how do we schedule things so that it's *possible* for people with young children to attend them? Obviously, there are other pressing obligations (adult dependents, perhaps, ailing parents, friends who are in need, etc.) that may take one away from department events. Taking into account the serious obligations of other department members is part of what it means to be a good colleague.

This isn't a contest about who is busiest or who has the most pressing obligations, but I would venture that caring for dependents is more important than other obligations one might take on (voluntarily or involuntarily) because that person (depending on their age/capabilities) is entirely dependent on you for their health and well-being, and having the role of a parent or guardian produces special duties, failing to perform those duties can be incredibly damaging to that dependent, and is often illegal. In any case, we are all human beings with extra-professional roles and obligations, and trying to understand and accommodate these can go a long way toward having good professional relationships.

I can't speak for everyone with children, but attending late afternoon talks isn't just expensive, it's prohibitively expensive, given our salaries, the COL where we are, and how much we already spend on housing, daycare, and health care, and other things. People might find that annoying -- I had all these kids, after all, it's not their problem that I literally don't have the $200 to spare to pay for extended care/babysitting that day -- to which I will just shrug and say, okay, but I still can't come. I could come to a talk at 6 pm, or a talk on Saturday, or even a talk at 3 am Tuesday morning, but 4 pm on a Friday? I can't do it. My partner is working and I have to pick up the kids. I'm just wondering if it's the same for other people with kids.

Bitter childless


I'm all for family-friendly environments. But I'm also for equality, in this context equality in the distribution of departmental responsibility. This is why I advocated that everyone be required to attend, or that nobody be required. Are you advocating that those with a family be allowed fewer responsibilities than those without? I can't see how that is fair.

I would be open to a split of responsibility. If only the childless can attend colloquia and weekend events on a consistent basis, then only those with children can take care of all the administrative paperwork (for example).


Bitter childless: No one has suggested that people with children should do less work. We are talking about accommodating parents; there has been no suggestion that we reduce their workload.

Nicolas Delon

I’m saying that if you schedule events when people just can’t attend them you should not resent them.

That idea that parents are overall more likely than others to miss events would also require evidence. I’m actually quite skeptical.


I think Bitter Childless and Curious/Nicolas might be talking past one another - Bitter childless is talking about "requiring everyone to attend" or "requiring no one to attend". I didn't see anywhere where Curious said that only some people should be required to attend. The point is just to find colloquium times that maximize attendance. So I suspect all of Curious and Nicolas's suggestions can be read under the case where "no one is required to attend" if that helps appease your concerns, Bitter childless.

In my own department, only about 1/3 of the faculty attend talks regularly. Another 1/3 will attend when the talk is close to their area. Another 1/3 almost never come.(Graduate student attendance is similar.) The difference between these groups doesn't track whether the faculty are single, childless or whatever. Some folks who are single or childless are in the group that never comes, etc.
But of course, other departments are different.

What we did to try to improve attendance: hold fewer talks, but try to get speakers more people would find of interest, and try holding talks during the day (e.g., a lunch time hour event).

I think these were only marginally successful. We still seemed to get about the same 1/3, 1/3, 1/3 breakdowns among faculty and graduate students. Some of the faculty and students don't attend because they're attending talks in other disciplines. It is hard if you have a big, diverse, department, with a lot of folks doing interdisciplinary work. If our department were more unified around a few subspecialties we might get better attendance.


Nicoles: "Do you really think that whenever you’ve had more work to do this was because of parents supposedly evading their professional responsibilities?" No, I don't (in case you were asking me.) This happens on occasion, I guess. But not so much I would complain about it. I'm happy to help people out, actually. I just don't want a default policy that the needs of others come first.

"This isn't a contest about who is busiest or who has the most pressing obligations, but I would venture that caring for dependents is more important than other obligations one might take on (voluntarily or involuntarily) because that person (depending on their age/capabilities) is entirely dependent on you for their health and well-being, and having the role of a parent or guardian produces special duties, failing to perform those duties can be incredibly damaging to that dependent, and is often illegal."

Well, I would like to think it isn't about this. But you just contradicted yourself in the second half of the sentence. This, of course, is the assumption most people make, and it is why I feel I need to argue. No, I don't think it is obvious that caring for dependents is "more important." That would take a lot of argument, and would be highly contingent on the case. Because by "caring for dependents" you are assuming a whole lot: caring for them in a particular sort of way, with having a particular type of job and lifestyle, etc. And even if it was more important, when did we decide that department policies should be arranged around the "most important" needs of the faculty? Because we don't do this with other areas of importance - not with health, not with parental care, etc. No, just this one area.

Second, the whole, "it is illegal thing" is silly. People arrange childcare for goodness sake. Some people have one parent stay at home. Most parents make this work without neglecting their children. And if you can't, then maybe one of the two parents needs to find a different career. It is jut not the job of your colleges and university to work around your schedule so you can avoid doing something illegal. That is not part of the contract. FWIW, of course I don't think that people with kids need to quit their job. I don't even think they need to come to most department events. In most cases, it is very possible to manage all this and be a good colleague. What I am saying is this: there should not be a default policy of arranging the department around the needs of people with young children. And there shouldn't be a policy of assuming their needs are more important. If you want to have this policy, well, then let's be upfront about it, have a discussion, and then write into the contracts that persons with young children will be given priority As of now, this isn't what I singed up for.

Curious, I am also curious about what kind of babysitting services you use that it costs you $200 to have someone watch your kids for 3 hours? My next door neighbor (a college student) does it for $10 an hour. Maybe she is cutting herself short, but $200???? Anyway, fine, you can't come. Okay, I am totally cool with you making it up it in some other way. We should all work around each others' schedules. That's fine. But it should be a give and take.

I started all this by saying that grad students *shouldn't* tell people to come to colloquia. I really do think it's fine if department duties are shared in a ay that some people do some things, and other people do other things.


Hi Amanda. This is a bit of a rabbit hole. But I would encourage you to talk to some parents in person about what their lives are like. Only I know what it costs for my kids to have alternate care arrangements. Note that I would have to find someone *to pick them up*, this involves logistics and carseats and a capable adult; it is not the same as just hiring a neighbor kid to come over for a couple of hours. After school care is on a per-kid basis, typically, and is not cheap. I have a baby and a toddler and so finding someone capable and available can be a challenge. Of course, money can work wonders, but we don't have a lot of money. I know there are people in my department who have adult children with special needs in daycare, I don't presume to know the cost of that or their particular arrangements, but I would not presume that it is easy or cheap for them to adjust their schedules for various events. Every family is different, of course, so I am literally just wondering how people approach this.

Note that NO ONE is asking for special favors here. Nowhere did I say "my department and university need to schedule events around my schedule" or "I shouldn't have to attend department events because I have young kids". Attending department events is not a zero-sum game where my lack of attendance makes more work for you. Obviously, I've hit a nerve and caused some people to get on a soapbox about people with kids, but like Nicholas, it seems to me to be the opposite, people with young kids often do more than their fair share, for whatever reason. This is just my experience, but I've also heard it enough to make me think it's a general trend.

But TO BE CLEAR AGAIN: I am NOT saying that people without kids should do more work than people with kids. No one said that. I want to explore the concept of family-friendly scheduling. Maybe you think that taking into account the fact that some people in the department have children when scheduling events is absurd, okay, whatever. But still, this has nothing to do with workload. In my department, faculty are generally expected, but not required, to attend talks, and this has nothing to do with service allocations, since attending talks is not departmental service. I LIKE to go to the talks, but I often find them scheduled at times when it is impossible for me to go. I go when I can, and would LIKE to go more often. Note that people are taking my suggestion to be the OPPOSITE of what it is. What I'm thinking about is how to schedule events so that people with kids can attend more of them. This has somehow turned into me saying that people with kids *shouldn't* attend department events. That is the *converse* of what I am suggesting.

And because I'm grumpy, I'll bite: The idea that raising children should be considered an expensive hobby, like skiing or something, is just nonsense. It's a paradigmatically human activity which our institutions, laws, etc. should recognize as such and accommodate. Not all people have children, but all people were children at some point. There's some important sense in which we should make it possible for everyone to care for their children adequately (if they have them, the same goes for other human dependents); the same is not true of hobbies or volunteer work. But me taking care of my kids might prevent me from pursuing my hobbies, it in no way prevents you from pursuing your hobbies, so I don't understand the resentment on display here.


I just say Chris's helpful comment above -- yes, thanks, I have in mind a situation in which no one is required to attend, and I'm talking not about committee work or anything like that, just colloquia w/ receptions and other talks. Lunchtime seems like a good idea, at least for more casual, specialized talks.

bitter childless

"Attending department events is not a zero-sum game where my lack of attendance makes more work for you."

This is false. Not attending colloquia puts pressure on others to attend/ask good questions/attend dinner afterwards, so as not to make the department look bad. I have gone to many dinners that I would rather not be at because it's embarrassing to have your department invite someone to campus and have one person take them to dinner (when there are double-digit faculty members). Also, open houses and so on require attendance by *some* faculty, so if someone can't go for family reasons, that shrinks the pool of those called on to go.


Bitter, if that's the case, scheduling these events at a time when people with kids could attend them would make *less* work for those without young kids at home.

Nicolas Delon

Even if that were true, it’s still not proven that parents are the worst offenders, if they’re offenders at all. As it turns out I’ve been that person to go to dinner, ask questions, etc, many times, when others, who didn’t have kids, did not attend. As it turns out too, I did not resent them. Maybe you’re disgruntled with your job but please don’t take this on us.


"Maybe you think that taking into account the fact that some people in the department have children when scheduling events is absurd, okay, whatever."

No, I''ll what I said earlier. I think it is perfectly reasonable (in fact, I wish this would happen more) that departments get together and discuss everyone's schedule and see if there are times to do things that are collectively better for everyone. This includes, of course, taking into account people with children, as well as people with other responsibilities.

As far as society supporting children, I don't think whether it is like skiing or not is really the point .Even if something is a paradigmatic human activity, that is not what would justify structuring a social order around that activity. Sex is a paradigmatic human activity, and I really don't think we should structure society around that. However, I do think we should structure society around kids. And I *do*support all of these things:

1. My tax money going to fund other people's kids eduction.
2. Parental leave (we have this at my US university, it is 6 months off per child, that I am glad parents get, but of course I will never get anything comparable.)
3. My tax money going to pay for kids whose parents can't care for them.
4. Having laws that are inconvenient, even distressing, to me, if it protects children.

I"m sure there are more, but no need to get into that . I support all of those things not because it is paradigmatic human activity, but because, (1) having kids grow-up well cared for benefits all of society, and (2) I believe society has a duty to protect those who are innocent and helpless, like children are, of course.

That said, what I think is not okay is that those who do not have children, get no comparable benefit, ever. If I am funding all of this, at lest in some times there should be a comparable benefit.For instance, I think people who do not take parental leave should have the *option* (which they can decline) of taking 6 months off to do some type of care duty, whether that be caring for parents, a sick friend, or spending 6 months working for habit of humanity.

Having kids is either morally neutral (my belief), or even morally bad, as many philosophers I know argue (because of global warming, because of the drain of resources, because of the dangerous world we live-in, because of overpopulation, because of all the kids who need to be adopted, etc) I don't believe it-is bad, because it is asking too . much of people to sacrifice having children when so many people see this fundamental to a life well-lived. Hence, I think it is neutral. And I am happy and willing to support the morally neutral lifestyles of others, for the reasons said above. My only gripe is that I have to do that any suggestion childless people get some type of similar compensation will laughingly be dismissed. I am under no guise that my suggestion of 6 months off of parental leave be offered more generally will ever happen. Still, I think it is wrong that it won't.

Lastly, I haven't the slightest idea whether childless people or people with children do more work overall. I don't know how anyone could and I don't take any issue with any of that. The only thing that bothers me, which I see consistently, are assumptions about scheduling things around parents with children but *not* around others. I was responding to the question, "Why don't we schedule things around people with young kids?" My reply, "Sure, we should do that in the exact same way we schedule things around people with other needs." As usual, I was reminded that having kids is "more important" than these other needs. Oh well. Here is what I think: Because needs vary, each department should make scheduling decisions on their own, taking into account the needs of all members of the department. There is no sense coming up with some grand type of scheduling scheme for the profession as a whole.


Amanda -- fair enough. Really the scheduling question was just about maximizing attendance and making the department a pleasant and not uncomfortably demanding place. By 'more important' I just meant it has a higher priority and so is more constraining. If my kid needs me, I HAVE to be there; there aren't many obligations that are like that.

childless but bitter (for other reasons)

Bit of a detour from the familial discussions taking place here, but...

In listing teaching experience on my CV (I'm still a grad student at this point), how do I clearly and succinctly list courses for which I taught multiple sections in a semester? Right now I am teaching three sections of an intro course (and another three sections in the Spring), and I think the volume of courses I'm teaching is just as important as the content.

Any guidance would be appreciated.


I would just do something like this:


Fall 2019

Introduction to Ethics (three sections)

Or if you're not doing it chronologically, and instead by course, list total sections across the years parenthetically in the same way.

elisa freschi

Would someone help me (or other people from outside NA) to navigate the GRE system? I am not sure I understand why it should be relevant for a candidate for a PhD in philosophy to undergo an examination about completely different topics. Is there a way to have a GRE focussed on philosophically relevant topics? Any help would be appreciate! (I need it to advise prospective students who don't know or don't understand the GRE system).

Danny Weltman

elisa: the GRE is a standardized test, which means there is no way to get a special test focused just on philosophy. (There are GRE subject tests on topics like physics and chemistry, but no philosophy graduate programs require any of them.) The GRE has three sections: verbal, math, and writing. You can find sample GRE questions and information about the three topics online and in test preparation books (which you can probably also find online).

My impression is that the main challenges of the GRE are: 1) the verbal section expects great facility with the English language, which is tougher to acquire if one did not grow up speaking English a lot; 2) the math section requires doing math, which one may not have done in a while; 3) you have to schedule the test somewhere, which seems to be tougher in certain countries than one would wish it to be. Beyond that I don't think there is much to worry about with the GRE as long as you look at some practice questions/tests to get an idea for what it entails. But, others might disagree.

As for why a test like this should be relevant for PhD applicant in philosophy: many people think it shouldn't, but many American universities require applicants to take the GRE even if the department doesn't particularly care; some American universities use GRE scores to decide in part on inter-university fellowships, and so applicants with good GRE scores can often be good candidates for these fellowships; some people take the GRE to be a generally good proxy for things like the ability to study or general intelligence or something else that they think is going to be important for a PhD student to succeed. And some departments have dropped the GRE requirement entirely or made it optional.

In terms of advising students, I would suggest that in addition to the above information, you should tell them that many departments will have information about typical GRE scores, what the GRE scores are used for, and so on somewhere on their website. Many (or at least some) places tend to use GRE scores as a way of narrowing down the applicant pile, although a very good application in other areas may overcome bad GRE scores. The verbal and writing scores tend to be paid more attention than the math scores, and the percentile score is the one that matters, not the bare number score.

Chris Stephens

Hi elisa:

1. There used to be a GRE subject test focused on philosophy, many years ago. Apparently (?) it was dropped in part because there just weren't enough people applying to philosophy graduate school to make it worthwhile for the test-taking people to make and implement. It probably also got push-pack from philosophers who were skeptical of its value (since it was multiple choice, and was only testing knowledge of famous philosophers' positions, etc.)

2. Many philosophers agree with you that the GRE has little value in predicting graduate school success in philosophy. But, some argue that the "analytical writing" section is relevant. Or perhaps some think the math score is relevant to those who work in logic or formal philosophy. Or that a high score on the Verbal part correlates with being generally good at reading and writing. My sense is that there is quite a bit of variation in how much weight people put on these scores.

3. Many philosophers agree that as such, the GRE has little value in predicting success in philosophy graduate school. However, these schools continue to use it because there are some funding opportunities that are competitive between different departments (Psychology, English, History and Philosophy graduate students are all competing for these scholarships) and so the Universities put weight on the GRE because it provides a common metric across these different disciplines.

4. Some like the GREs because, unlike grades, you don't have the problem of comparing people who took different classes and were at different schools.

5. I'm skeptical of their value. Grades in upper level philosophy courses and the writing sample are probably much better predictors of graduate success. But, I'm in Canada, and here at UBC, the GRE scores are not part of the application. Encourage your students to consider schools that don't require the GRE! (Some Universties in the US don't require it as well).


If one's dissertation is accepted for book publication, how does that read for search committees? Does it look really good? Just, meh?
Does it still have the grad student stench to it?

Say one doesn't have many Peer Reviewed Pubs. Does this compensate for that at all?


anon: how good it looks probably depends on how good the press is.


For those who have followed discussion on the cocoon about blind review practices, I wanted to flag that there is an interesting discussion going on at Brian Leiter's page. As usual, there are comments about how blind review must be violated sometimes, because there are some niche fields and the only way to get an expert to review the paper is to violate blind review. However, if this is so, it seems odd that journals would not simply change their editorial process so that they clearly stated something like, "we are a peer review journal and strive for blind review, but this is not always possible." Alas, instead journals tend claim in the strongest terms they are a completely blind (double or triple) review journal. This comment from David Velleman stuck out at me:

"Why is it considered a sign of sound editorial practice that an author is invited to referee his/her own paper, or that a referee is invited to referee a paper of his own student? In those two cases, the invitations were declined. Would such invitations always be declined? I doubt it. Not everyone who recognizes the work of a friend, colleague, or student can be counted on to decline a refereeing request. *Someone* at the journal — someone knowledgeable about the field — should know the identity of the author so as to avoid inviting referees who are known to be colleagues, friends, former co-authors, teachers, or students of the author. That said, the decisions about whether to referee a paper and whether to accept it should be made in the dark."

I am not sure what Velleman means by the decisions about whether to referee a paper should "be made in the dark," but it seems like he is suggesting that if the reviewer knows the author, the reviewer should decide whether or not to review it themselves, instead of asking the editor (like lots of people say they have done.) Interesting. Perhaps he doesn't want to be put in the position (or have editors generally put in the position) of having to decide whether to let such a person review? I'm not sure, though.

It is very hard for me to think of a strong justification to support both, (1) not having strict policies about blind review because it is too hard to find an expert otherwise, and (2) Nonetheless insisting that journals *call* it blind review. I just don't know what could be good about this situation in comparison to admitting that blind review is not guaranteed All the things I think of suggest to me this policy could only possibly benefit the already well-connected. Perhaps I am not thinking creatively enough, though.

elisa freschi

@Danny and @Chris, many thanks!
You address or answer most of my doubts, e.g., why should one be forced to study maths [and not literature] if one wants to focus on, say, philosophy of art in France? I hope most departments will not take them too seriously.

In case there are readers around who took the GRE tests sometime after end of school, could you still remember enough maths to be able to pass without extra hours of study?
Thanks again!

Danny Weltman

elisa: I studied for the math section for about three hours. That was enough for me to get a score that wasn't low enough to be embarrassing. I like to think I'm rather bad at math and at studying but rather good at standardized tests, so the results will vary for others depending on how they stack up along those variables. Also I imagine it will depend how long it was since they learned the relevant math. In my case I learned it my second year of high school, I think, so that was about 5 or 6 years before I took the GRE, I think. So it was relatively fresh.

That is all rather unhelpful. Here is something more helpful. I suggest that potential test takers take a practice test. That will give them a pretty good sense of where they are at and how much they need to study, if any.

elisa freschi

@Danny, many thanks!


I am applying to PhD programs in Philosophy. Many require submitting a resume/cv. As someone just coming out of undergrad, I do not have the level of publications/academic achievements that I am seeing on current grad students or faculty. What kinds of things should be included on this and how should it be organized? Should employment history also be included?



I'm unsure how to submit a question under the "How can we help you," thread but I have question concerning job prospects.
I'm relatively early ish in my Grad program, but I've had some conversations recently with others in my program and they made me curious about what others thought (not just in my department).
1. How important are your grades when applying for a job? Do they even look at them? Straight A's vs. a couple of B's?
2. Should one just focus more on publication than grades?
3. How many publications should one aim for? For instance, avg number for most graduates, a good number, a great number, and an outstanding number of publications?
4. Mainly, is it better to focus on conferences, publication rather than getting top grades when it comes to getting a job?
I know that my advisor has a big role to play in me landing a good job, but I'm wanting to figure out where I should be putting most of my energy.


I was wondering what people think of showing one's letter of recommendation to their students. The student has not asked me to do it, and of course they agree to the letter being sent without them seeing it. But I think by showing the letter to the student I might get feedback to help me write a better letter for that particular student. Perhaps they would alert me to the fact that something they find important isn't highlighted, or that I made some factual error. Is there any reason I should refrain from doing this?

ABD mama

I am a pregnant first-time job seeker on the North American market and my baby is due during the height of flyout season. I see no reason to mention this situation to search committees unless and until they invite me to visit, but I would like to prepare myself for such a conversation ahead of time. Can anyone illuminate the constraints on campus visit scheduling? How much flexibility do hiring departments have? Does this vary from institution to institution? Who makes these decisions? Also, does anyone have experience (either as a job candidate or hiring department) with a flyout involving a baby? I am 99% certain that I would rather cope with the challenges of bringing a nursing newborn than with the challenges of being separated from said newborn overnight. I am fortunate to have a family member who can travel with me to provide childcare. I imagine that I should plan for her to travel on my own dime, though please correct me if I am wrong. I should also add that this is not my first kid, so I have at least some idea of the exhaustion and other things I will be feeling.


To search committee members: how does receiving a book contract from a mid-tier press look to potential search committee members?

How should one go about listing this on their CV?


Book contracts are not that impressive - in part, because they are not binding on the press, and they are often based on work not yet done. You say mid-tier ... that is hard to image which press. Can you be more specific: Springer, Chicago, Cornell, MIT? If you are dipping lower still, it really cannot count for much.


The "Any questions for us?" question. I'd be curious to hear general thoughts on how to handle this question, but even more, I'd appreciate concrete examples of good questions that search committee members have heard.

Geographically Restricted

I'm applying for a TT position at a local community college. I live down the street (wrote half my dissertation in their library, in fact), am restricted to the area, and I think I would be an excellent fit with the current faculty in terms of teaching and research interests and general school + department culture.

I have two questions:

1. Would it be appropriate to reach out to faculty outside of the application process- say, to meet with them for coffee or something? I'm happy to use my proximity to my advantage, but I don't want to come across as (or be!) pushy or conniving.

2. In cover letters, how much is it appropriate / useful to go into one's reasons for being geographically restricted? (Mine are not extremely sensitive, but a bit on the personal side.)


I plan to submit a paper to Mind's essay contest for graduate students, since they are asking for submissions on a theme that matches my paper. I have written many previous drafts and have received extensive feedback. However, with the revisions I am currently making it will require much more writing and editing. The deadline is December 31st and I still don't have a completed draft.

How long does it take professional philosophers to write their papers? Also is three weeks an insufficient amount of time to make extensive revisions to a developed (although far too short) paper?


Tom there is so, so, much variance. 3 weeks would be enough time for me, but I am a fast writer. I know others where it wouldn't. One thing you do in grad school is learn these kinds of things about yourself. I say, go for it, and see if you can or you can't. It doesn't seem like there is much harm in trying.

Also, as Marcus has talked about a lot. Many philosophers write way slower than they really should. They spend too much time reading the literature or too much time trying to "perfect" every aspect of the paper. I think learning to write quickly, or at least "quicker," is immensely important.


Geographically restricted: I would only meet with them if you have some other reason to do so. Personally I would feel weird about meeting with an applicant that applied for the job that I'm a search committee member for. But if they had some other reason to meet with me then it would be okay.

Personally, I wouldn't say anything too personal about the geographic restrictions, but I would def mention it. I might say something like, "For family reasons I am committed to living in this area, and hence I have only applied to jobs within a such and such mile radius." Most geographic restriction are family reasons. IS that yours? I am not sure what to say unless I know what kind of other reason it might be. You do want to come across as sincere about these restrictions, since some people might say they have them when they don't. But you don't want to get too weirdly personal, either. Could you tell us (Cocoon readers) what it is, broadly?

If you don't end up getting the job, then I might ask to meet with a faculty member and ask for advice about working in a CC. If you are restricted, this would be good advice to have. And even if you don't get a job at that institution, you might be tipped off by this faculty member to other hiring institutions as local people often know each other. Lots of grad students get into PhD programs, in part, do to personal connections with nearby faculty people. I would suspect something similar can happen with jobs.


Also, I think it might be helpful to mentioning writing half of your dissertation in their library. It shows true interest in this particular college and that you have some familiarity with things. If there is something about the CC you noticed and like when there, I would mention that, too.

Geographically Restricted

Amanda: Thank you for such helpful advice. The restriction is twofold. My son is developmentally disabled and we need to keep the same team of doctors/therapists for at least another year or two. Because of that, my wife and I accepted a (part time) position at a local not for profit, which will up my chances of being able to make it adjuncting but has a couple year commitment. So we're committed to the area for at least AY2020-2021, but possibly longer.

Geographically Restricted

(and would strongly prefer to stay in the area if possible, for family + medical reasons.)


I think it would probably be fine to say something like, "I am committed to staying in the area for the sake of my son, who receives specialized care from local practitioners." I think that would communicate a unique and real need to stay without coming across in the wrong way. That's just my sense, though. I'd be open to hearing other thoughts. Definitely don't mention you are committed only until 2021 :)!

ABD Philosophy Student

In the recent 'What do first-round academic philosophy job interviews look like?' it's suggested that there are two common questions one might get: (1) How would you recruit majors? and (2) How would you promote diversity in the classroom and/or on campus?

I'm wondering: (1) How does one recruit majors? and (2) How does one promote diversity?

Not just, what can I say? But, what are genuinely effective tactics for these projects?

European PhD candidate

I am currently a PhD candidate at an European university, and I wonder what exactly the relationship between the candidate and the external members of their committee is.
What are exactly the tasks of the external committee members?
How soon should one invite an external professor to be member of their committee?
Can one ask the external members of their committee to write letters of recommendation on their behalf?
Thank you in advance!


I am a professor at an European University, and I would have a question concerning letters of recommendation.
Is it appropriate to write something like "This is an impressive list of accomplishments for someone who has not reached their 30s yet"? I want to emphasize that these accomplishments are exceptional for a 28-year-old. Or should I never mention or refer to the student's age?

Big Dawg

I would sincerely appreciate if you could create a thread that seeks advice on the general topic of turning a dissertation into a book. I understand there is already a series on "book publishing" but this is obviously a different scenario.

I am looking for the following advice:

Where does one begin?

What is the best way to think about how to do this?

Is there any advice from someone who has done it themselves and what they would recommend?

Are there specific things one can do to make this process easier?

I realize advice may vary depending upon the specifics of the dissertation itself but any general advice would be much appreciate.

**Please note: I am not looking for advice on whether to do this. I have a book contract


I have been hearing that it is bad for an early career scholar's reputation to have received funding from the Institute for Humane Studies (George Mason).
Any opinions?


Could we have a thread about publishing translations of philosophical texts? Is this kind of work recognized by the profession? Or should I rather publish "original" work?


If you have not yet got a TT job, I would not recommend translations. But if you do have a TT job, and you are at the right sort of place, they will count for something. Clearly with a good academic commentary published along side a translation, you can make a worthy contribution.


Has anyone done a teaching demonstration by Skype? In what ways would it differ from a regular teaching demo? I am thinking, for instance, that it would make it difficult in case of a group activities to provide each group with feedback on the task. Would preparing handouts with some of the main questions I plan to ask on the material make communication easier?


A desired qualification I've often seen on European job listings is for the candidate to have an "international network or record of international collaboration". (This specific language is from a current listing at Groningen, but I've seen similar things on European job ads many times.) What exactly does this mean, what's the motivation for requiring such a thing, and how important is it?

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until the author has approved them.

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)

Subscribe to the Cocoon

Job-market reporting thread

Current Job-Market Discussion Thread

Philosophers in Industry Directory


Subscribe to the Cocoon