Our books

Become a Fan

« How to list affiliation in a non-university job? | Main | Getting well-known people to read drafts? »



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


That jibes with my perception and experience, too. The flow is one-way. This also seems true in aesthetics, where philosophers sometimes get jobs in fine arts, art history, or literature departments, but the reverse basically never seems to happen. (To be clear, it's pretty rare for a philosopher to cross over there, jobs-wise; it just seems more prevalent than in the other direction.)

I expect it's got a lot to do with gatekeeping. Michèle Lamont, the Harvard sociologist, observed that philosophers are the black sheep of interdisciplinary granting committees because we don't play well with others. In particular, she found that we don't recognize anyone else's ability to judge the quality of philosophy proposals. I think that's a widespread tendency, and I'm not surprised that it spills over into interdisciplinary hiring practices, too. There are plenty of people on either side who cross over where their research is concerned, but the flow of jobs seems much more uni-directional.

That said, it also seems kind of correct to me (to a large extent, anyway). I think that a typical art historian or literature scholar--even one specializing in 'theory'--would struggle to teach philosophy courses on the subject (let alone outside the AOS), or to publish in philosophy journals. This is especially true to the extent that 'theory' tends to be focused on particular figures, whereas aesthetics--especially in the analytic tradition--is issues-based (but even on the continental side, the overlap in figures is not huge, and the emphases differ). The depth of engagement required in these different disciplines is different, and I think it's harder for art historians and literary scholars to make up for it than it is for philosophers. Not least because the aestheticians tend to have a much better background in art history (or literature) than the art historians and literary scholars have in philosophy, and it's a lot of work to bone up all on your own.

I'm less familiar with political philosophy and theory, but I get a similar vibe from them. The kinds of things a philosophy department wants from their hire are perhaps harder to compensate for than the kinds of things a polisci department wants from their theory hire (unless they want someone who's going to do a lot of quant teaching, in which case I'd expect political philosophers are entirely out of the running).

But philosophy may well have distorted my perception!


Addendum: to be clear, I, personally, would *not* be a good candidate to teach in some other discipline, because my background in those disciplines is not good enough. But I know quite a few aestheticians who are (and, indeed, several who do, in fact, work in other departments).

I should perhaps also add that, on the hiring side, we've received a lot of applications from people in business and law (for a generalist position with a lot of ethics teaching). They were dismissed almost entirely out of hand, for pretty much the same reasons articulated above.


Lucas Stanczyk, now assistant professor in the philosophy department at Harvard, took his PhD from the government department at Harvard, which is the name at Harvard for what would be called Political Science elsewhere.

Daniel Weltman

I have nothing to add beyond what Michel already said, which seems quite right to me. When I was choosing which grad school to go to it came down to a political science program vs. a philosophy program and one of the many reasons I chose the latter was to be more employable.

As for hiring, if I were in a large department and the person would only have to teach political philosophy, I'd have no problem hiring someone with a political science PhD. If I were in a small department and it would be expected they'd end up teaching some other philosophy too, I'd probably want to see some evidence they could handle this before hiring them. But I don't think this is a universal opinion - lots of philosophers are not as sanguine about the way that much political theory is done and so they'd probably have higher standards, like for instance wanting to see that someone can publish in philosophy journals. That at least is my guess.

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