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phil sci

A number of people who work in philosophy of science did a first PhD in another field, typically a science. This is no impediment at all, for philosophy of science jobs. Rather, it is an asset. Indeed, I lost out on getting jobs because the chosen candidate had a PhD in science as well as a PhD in philosophy. So it really depends what your other degree is in. Further, certainly in Europe, philosophy of science is taught in various institutions, or centres that are not philosophy departments. So opportunities are there.

Champollion Fragende

First of all, I would say the question needs to be more specific. We would need to know if the "confused student" holds an MA in, let's say, theatre, comp lit, or anthropology, or in something more substantial.

Disengaging from fantasy and heading right to reality, there are certainly examples of crossover philosophers. There's a young scholar at Harvard with a PhD from the Government department who's now, 10 years later, an assistant professor in the Philosophy department. In the meantime, he was in the Poli Sci department at MIT.
His coauthor on the politics of energy is now teaching public policy. Certain issues lend themselves to interdisciplinary research and placements. Others, not so much.

There are also numerous examples of scholars holding joint appointments later in their careers.

Confused MA Student

@Champollion Fragende: Thank you for your clarification. I had originally decided not to give too much specifics of my case since it might make me a little more identifiable, given that I had applied to a significant number of universities (especially in -- though not reserved to -- this application cycle). That I have failed to secure a spot to read philosophy at the PhD level in multiple cycles was one of the major reasons for my reaching out within this forum to get a sense of my chances or things that I could possibly do to improve my chances.

My doctorate is in mathematics (mathematical logic, in particular). I have a master's degree in philosophy specialising in logic and philosophy of mathematics, and after my first failed attempt at securing a PhD position, I had enrolled in another master's degree programme in philosophy (which I am currently pursuing). While the area of my interest in philosophy circles around logic, I'm also interested in practical philosophy (ethics and political philosophy in particular) and had applied to programmes with a strong background in both ethics and political philosophy.

While I do know of many philosophers who have transitioned to holding joint appointments in both philosophy and some other discipline, I'm wondering if this is really a thing of the past since based on some of my conversations (with some individuals who had reviewed my actual PhD application and ultimately didn't offer me a place in their programme) one of the reasons that seemingly led to my rejection was that I hold a doctoral degree (and that I might be more suitable for, say, a post-doc instead). Hence, the question I had raised, since I worry that a post-doc, if I were to be offered one, would back me up into a deeper corner and might make it harder for me to reach my "end goal" so-to-speak.


Dear Confused MA student: I will say that, based on my experience when we searched a few years ago for a logic position, the area is extremely competitive. There aren't (as you probably know) very many jobs in philosophy departments looking for logicians (as opposed to people who work in some other area but can teach undergraduate logic). My sense - for better or worse - is that many areas of logic have drifted closer to computer science or math than philosophy - compared to many years ago. So I think departments can afford to be picky and it would be hard for someone with just a PhD in math to get a job in a philosophy department - unless their work was particularly philosophical or they also had a lot of philosophy background and experience teaching in philosophy.

Now, as far as getting into a PhD program in philosophy, I don't think there is necessarily a bias against applicants who already have a PhD in another discipline (though for all I know there could be), but, we do receive applicants who sometimes have a PhD in another discipline (e.g., computer science) but without much philosophy background. For our graduate program (again, because we get so many applications we can be picky), what hurts these applicants isn't that they have a PhD in some other field so much as they lack sufficient background in philosophy.

Now - for some graduate programs - maybe they don't worry about that. An HPS or LPS program might even prefer students with more formal background and less philosophy, I don't know.

But in one case where I know someone who got a PhD in biology and then switched to become a professional philosopher, they actually went back and got another BA in philosophy before pursuing PhD #2 in philosophy. But that's a long road and there's no guarantee (to put it mildly) of finding employment as a professional philosopher at the end.

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