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losing passion

I also suffer from my loss of passion. I guess my case is in line with the realization that the profession is not something I expected to be or at least it has become much less attractive (especially compared to non-academic jobs). The fact that I can't choose where I want as long as I stay in this profession makes me feel really vulnerable and insecure these days. (I am an Asian woman and the number of hate crimes against Asians is alarming in some areas in the U.S.) I don't know what I should do. I am losing my passion in philosophy and external factors tend to push me even farther from it...


I have myself dealt with episodes like these throughout my career. This surely has to do with the realities of being a professional philosopher in modern day academia: the way from grad student to tenured prof is a long and dreadful one, and I, like most of us, realized the full reality of this only after I had been on it for a while. Feelings of pressure (real or imagined) and insecurity (definitely real) were my constant companions for many years. Are there really people who never lose their intellectual passion under these circumstances? I doubt it, but if there are, please step forward and tell us your secrets!

What helped me, at least sometimes and to some extent, was the realization that I need not pathologize this. Sure, loss of intellectual passion might be a sign of a psychological condition like burnout or depression, and if it turns out it is, then yes, you should pathologize it (and start looking into therapy). But it might also be a philosophical or meta-philosophical problem. For me, my loss of passion was at least in part caused by a growing dissatisfaction with the kind of philosophy I was working in. I come from a strongly analytical background and for some time, I believed that this was the right method to answer the questions I had. Well, turns out, it wasn't.

Realizing this and allowing myself to broaden my interests helped my regain at least some of my earlier passion. I know that *career-wise* this might not be prudent. It doesn't really improve you chances when after working in philosophy of science for several years, you start writing on Nietzsche. It's not easy to walk the line between doing what you like and doing what gets you a job. But maybe there are more possibilities than you think.

So, the upshot is: maybe you're not the problem. Maybe philosophy is.

It's a Job not Captivity

It seems that either:

(1) You find a more interesting job. Academia shouldn't be thought of as some sort of indentured servitude, where you are obliged not to leave and be happy in some other profession.

(2) You accept that you won't enjoy what you are doing, but do it anyway. This is a lot more possible than many academics seems to think - most people I know have jobs of this sort. They aren't "passionate about cleaning air vents" or "in love with accountancy". They do these jobs for the standard of living that it affords them.

(3) You find ways of changing the job to be more enjoyable. For example, maybe there is a more interesting area than formal philosophy for you now? Maybe you want to spend more time on things like access education or outreach? Maybe you aren't giving yourself enough credit for the small but important things you achieve on a daily basis?

This is the same advice that I have heard for relationships that aren't working out: you either leave, tolerate, or work to attempt changing them. Your chances of succeeding with any of these depend in considerable part from choosing to commit to one of the strategies, and the extent to which you take responsibility for their implementation. Of course, if e.g. you sincerely try changing it and it doesn't work out, then you can change strategies.

It's a Job not Captivity

(Change the relationship, that is! Not your partner! That's a surefire way to change. I suppose the professional analogue is trying to change your colleagues: they may change, but never because you insist on them doing so.)


I relate to EuroProf's message. For a while, I also lost passion for my work because of my dissatisfaction with the field I was working in. I have worked in the public sector for a while and it was a really nice change of scenery.

Now I'm back at a Uni. I use some of the philosophical tools I have in a way that is interesting and *outside the unsatisfactory field*. I've also realized that there are other ways to be a valuable philosopher. I am not a native English speaker and I do not work in an English-speaking University. I want to translate some of the books I've most enjoyed, so that I can have disseminate these ideas in my community. I have also joined interdisciplinary initiatives where I work with sociologists and political scientists, and so far it's really refreshing.

But that's just how I've dealt with the problem. I hope you find a good way to make yourself professionnally happy again!

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