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Assoc Prof

Given the time required for a philosophy PhD, I wonder if the inquirer could instead find a way to work philosophy into their scholarship as a historian — by studying intellectual history, maybe, or the theoretical foundations of the field.

A similar tactic could apply for philosophers, too. If someone is interested in doing work in a related discipline, it is sometimes be possible to do this in the form of interdisciplinary research.

anon grad student

Disclaimer: I'm just a graduate student. If there is a good philosophy department near Claire, it might be worth seeing if she/they can sit in on some classes. My department at least seems pretty chill about that sort of thing. That seems like a good way to start making connections and getting to know potential letter writers.

Another Grad Student

Seconding the post by "Assoc Prof", Claire should first look into whether she can channel her philosophical interests to her work as a historian.

If she does find it necessary to pursue philosophy as such, I would suggest she double-check whether academic philosophy, as it is practiced in the Anglophone world, aligns closely with the sort of "philosophical" topics or interests that sparkle her interest. After all, much of the forms of inquiry that can be labeled as philosophy isn't given much attention by today's academic philosophers (meaning of life, broad reflection on human history, etc.) I suspect this is one of the reasons that so many philosophers are cynical toward beginners who declare broad passions for the discipline. So Claire would be well-advised to take a few courses in philosophy first in some collegiate form.

Lastly, if Claire does eventually decide to pursue philosophy full-time, she may benefit from one of the terminal MA programs. They should be helpful in helping her cultivate a respectable background in philosophy and help her figure out her research interests (hopefully in a way that her previous background, esp. PhD in history, can come in as an asset). Re her concerns over cost and loan, most of such programs (contrasting MA programs offered by PhD-granting departments) offer tuition scholarships, and quite a few of them provide stipend/living cost assistance/TA-ship, etc. See https://www.philosophicalgourmet.com/m-a-programs-in-philosophy for more.


OP here. Thank you, everyone, for your advice. Unfortunately, I live a 3-hour drive away from the nearest MA or PhD program, otherwise taking some graduate classes in one would be ideal. I've been looking for online MA programs that would help me transition to philosophy, but have found nothing in the US other than seminaries and evangelical colleges. There are online one-year masters' based in the UK, but with the exchange rate and overseas student rates, they are prohibitively expensive (in addition to being narrower in focus). Harvard extension has an online graduate certificate of 4 courses - the best solution I've found in the US, other than doing another BA. There do seem to be some decent online BA programs in philosophy. It's a shame that the trend hasn't continued into graduate programs (as far as I can tell - please let me know if there's a good one I've missed!)

But at least there are some funded in-person MA's, as Another Grad Student mentioned. Perhaps I will go down that route pre-PhD, depending on how many times I can convince my husband to move.

In any case, I am definitely starting to think of ways to join my previous doctoral work and potential teaching more explicitly with philosophy (sadly, the lack of colleges around here mostly limits the latter).

Thanks again to you all for the helpful suggestions!

anon grad student

(I'm the first anon grad student.) Another quick thought that's related to Assoc Prof's suggestion --- and that may even be what they had in mind --- is to try to collaborate with a philosopher. For example, there are ethicists who write things that are (I think) historically influenced: I'm thinking, e.g., of Kwame Anthony Appiah's The Honor Code.

I'm guessing that the 3-hr-drive thing will make that hard, but perhaps you could find people online. Also, personally, I would try to sit in on a real philosophy class --- and preferably at an institution that's either in the Leiter top 50 or that sends its undergrads to top 50 schools --- before applying to an MA. I would personally do this, because I think it's helpful to get some sense for the culture and sociological norms of professional philosophy before deciding whether to invest even an MA's worth of time into it. (Also I'm guessing getting letters from reputable people would help with getting into good, funded MAs, though I don't know how necessary this is.)

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