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Prof L

Indeed—a TT job is primarily a status symbol (one with real effects for how people see you, sure ...) but there are many NTT jobs that are better than TT jobs. The things that actually matter — job security, pay, course load, location, collegiality of dept, and so on — may be better at a NTT job than a TT job. I think increasingly we will see people taking the work of NTTs more seriously, since we all recognize the doling out of TT jobs is an irrational and fairly arbitrary process.

Also, as someone with a TT job, I think the “dream” turns out to be somewhat disappointing. I would give up the “prestige” and all of that for a NTT job in a low cost of living area, close to family.

One reason to prefer an NTT is that I think the TT is corrupting. It makes you get caught up in all this nonsense. There’s incentive to climb that ladder, seek power and influence, to impress the right people, to suck up to administrators, to disdain those who haven’t “made it” and idolize those who have. It incentives the kind of life that philosophers in the tradition of Socrates have always despised.


Prof L
I do not like the direction this is going. Tenure is a hard won privilege and the way to make the world better and more equitable is not to have everyone cut off their legs. We should rather encourage things to go the other direction. Extend the various privileges associated with tenure to more people (and more types of work). It is especially important in the academic world, because the training period is long, and as researchers we need protections for academic freedom. This is one dimension of tenure.

anonymous philosopher

"your real dream is to be able to teach full-time at a university and have a good quality of life, such as being able to spend time with family, spend time with friends and hobbies, live in a good area, and so on. Many of us know all too well that staying on the market and getting a TT job can be inimical to that."

I second this comment from Marcus. I suspect this is a good way to explain the situation, and also it's the truth.

To Tenured, I'm not exactly sure why you don't like "the direction" Prof L's comment is going. Prof L's comment strikes me as completely true, and both of your comments seem mutually satisfiable to me. Maybe you don't like pessimistic tone of the comment, but for most of us, what Prof L describes is the reality we have to live with on a day-to-day basis.


Prof L has things right, I think.

Tenure, even at an elite institution, no longer signals much--about, say, how good a philosopher one is, or the quality of one's research, or still less one's ability as a teacher. It mostly signals that one is good at a certain sociological game--that one went to the right schools, knows the right people, expresses fashionable beliefs, and so on. Philosophy as an intellectual enterprise has little to do with things. The words used in the game are philosophical, sure, but any terminology would serve as well.

As Prof L says, a tenure-track job has real costs. People should think carefully about whether they wish to incur those costs. For some it will be rational given their preferences; for others, not. Young scholars should keep in mind that the salaries are terrible; one must be willing to live anywhere; many of the people who surround you, and who control your professional future, will be unpleasant; you might find yourself the object of ridicule by idiots on Twitter; promising relationships might suffer under the stress of a brutal and unfair job market. I will stop there, but, amazingly, I could go on.

Many people are attracted to the philosophy profession because they are attracted to the image of being a philosopher, or the image of being a professor. For them, there is no other option. But many of us want to *be philosophers* and *do philosophy*--and that is compatible with a range of academic jobs, or indeed professions. Blind review helps ensure work is judged on its merits, so research can be done anywhere, by anyone, and part-time teaching usually can be picked up without difficulty.


I would like to know more about why "there's no jobs" and "it's soul crushing" aren't helpful, especially the latter one. I think that's a great reason to quit the job market, and I'd have deeper problems in my life if my partner couldn't accept that as a reason. Hopefully that's not what's going on.

So maybe the OP doesn't find it helpful because it doesn't speak to their particular situation. Hopefully that's the case.

I'm no therapist, and anyway I don't have enough info to really have a strong sense of what's happening here, but there's a more general disconnect that's puzzling me. I'll ask a couple questions and then make an observation at the end.

When you, OP, say that your job is "actually quite good, all things considered", does that mean you're happy in it? Does it mean you like that job? Does it make you excited for the future and for all the other stuff in your life that it enables you to do--like, see family maybe, or work on passions on the side?

The reason I ask is because that particular description could very well be exactly what someone who's settling would say, in large part to convince *themselves* that they're doing the right thing. And your partner might recognize that.

If that's not the case, I think Marcus is broadly right, though I've noticed his framing is still, just semantically, negative: why this job *is not settling*. I'd probably recommend a more positive approach: say what it is about this job that you *like*, and how it helps you lead a life that *is* meaningful for you.

Your partner should appreciate those kinds of reasons if they care about you. Of course, they might still care about you but be unmoved, in which case I'd want to know why *they* still consider it settling. What does a TT position (or, more specifically, having a partner in a TT position) mean to *them*? What do they think that's like, why do they think it's worth pursuing? Or, slightly differently, what are they afraid will happen if it never comes to pass?

At the most general level, my sense is that you're kind of talking past each other (just based on what little info I've got here). On the one hand, you're talking about what's "actually quite good, all things considered", whereas your partner is talking about pursuing vs. giving up on "a dream". These two ways of talking don't really mesh in any natural way. One is rather comprehensive, calculative, and explicitly hedging against trade-offs; the other is aspirational, focused--for lack of a better word, Romantic.

Again, really working off of a paucity of data here, but it might help you get closer to how they're thinking about this choice by thinking in the sorts of terms my questions have been posed in--excitement, passions, meaning, etc. I hope that helps. If you reply with some more info, I'll read it and might have more concrete suggestions.


"And I ask this sincerely, so responses like 'there's no jobs' or 'its soul-crushing' are not especially helpful."

I don't really understand why it's not helpful... I spent 7 years on a PhD and many years after publishing articles. No luck with jobs though. When I wanted to quit everyone told me not to cause it was giving up. So, I continued to sacrifice my mental and physical health for years. I don't think the damage will ever be reversed completely. Sometimes you have to give up cause continuing is just too hard and not worth it. I don't see how this isn't helpful. It's just true. I told my partner that I couldn't handle it anymore and that it was killing me. She understood cause she loves me and doesn't want me to be miserable all the time.


If the reader's concern is how to convey to their partner that the job market is rough enough that striking out is not an indictment of a candidate's ability, I think the best thing to do would be to show them threads on here or the dailynous lamenting the state of the job market.

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