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« Norms for meetings and feedback with dissertation supervisors? | Main | Doing a PhD in philosophy of education? »

05/26/2023

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goforit

My gut feeling based on the description is that OP should pursue the alternative, *if* they see a good chance that they can make it and find the job deeply meaningful and enjoyable. (Like, compare the chances of both routes and the enjoyment levels.)

I am not in best position to give advice because academic is the only deeply meaningful and enjoyable job for me, where most of the work I do is for my own sake. But if you have an alternative that gives you the same or more fulfillment, I really think you should go for it.

anonymous grad student

I am also close to finishing my PhD and could finish in a year. My CV is decent and has potential to get me a job at an "okay" school. Right now, I don't have an alternate path opening up before me, but I do have a Plan B, (with no guarantee that this backup plan would itself pan out). I am also questioning whether I want to stay in academic philosophy, but for slightly different reasons. I'm sharing them in case they provide something to reflect on for the OP or for others.

I LOVE philosophy. But I hate teaching philosophy... under the conditions that it is taught in institutional settings. I love teaching philosophy in the form of one-on-one conversations, in small group settings where it's possible to form mentoring relationships, to students who don't treat it instrumentally, and to those who genuinely are choosing to do the work rather than being coerced in some sense (by parents, by "society," by their degree requirements, by the need for a grade, etc.). Unfortunately, the way higher ed is structured requires me to teach in precisely the ways I hate. I also do not appreciate the corporate ethos that is pervasive in higher ed teaching which frames my role as being one wherein I must be entertaining enough to sell philosophy to students. If they don't find the ideas themselves worth caring about, I don't want to convince them to care! Not caring about philosophy is legitimate; there are many good things to care about, and we don't all have to care about the same ones; students shouldn't pretend they care when they don't; likewise, I don't want to have to pretend to care about teaching those who don't care.

I do also LOVE research. I get burned out when I put in too-long hours, but setting that aside, I do generally love it.

Conundrum: getting a standard academic job seems to be the only way to fund one's ability to do research regularly (unless one is independently wealthy or makes enough at some part-time job, but even then there are drawbacks (those that pertain to being an independent scholar)).

So I am trying to figure out if it's worth it to pursue an academic job. It seems this will depend on how little *institutional* teaching I can get away with doing.

My question to the OP is just: which part of academic philosophy does it seem to be that is causing the dread? (I've heard from others who've finished PhDs that they simply needed to do hands-on, creative work *alongside* academic stuff.) Second question: do you have work experience outside of the academy? This might help you determine if it's a case of genuinely being over philosophy or a case of "grass is always greener," or something else.

Love the Sin, Hate the Sin Market

I have been moving from one temporary post to another over many years, moving countries, moving continents, and (not my preference) moving subject areas. The main piece of advice I have received over the years has been the comforting but unhelpful "I can't believe you don't have a TT job yet with your record! Keep trying!"

Through all of this instability and rejection, I have never stopped enjoying research, teaching, and academic life in general. I even enjoyed most academic admin jobs I've had, but that's definitely an idiosyncracy, plus some good luck in my service roles. Thanks to academic life, I haven't been bored for at least 10 years. I can't imagine what the past 4-8 years would have been like if I hadn't loved the intellectual side of it all, because the human side has not been good: greatly inhibiting chances relationships, friendships, and even hobbies. And I've been luckier than most people on the job market!

If I were in your position, I think I'd try writing a quick paper on a topic that is close to my thesis but different. I did this anyway straight after my PhD. I found that it really helped my thinking, and gave me a healthy emotional distance from my thesis's arguments and conclusions. If that didn't work, I would try something else, because I wouldn't be on the job market if I didn't love the 'job' side of it (I just wish that the 'market' was different). There are much better jobs for QoLs and pay out there, and most people I know who have left the job market are happy.

Bill Vanderburgh

The idea of sunk costs seems relevant here. Just because you have invested a lot in an academic career so far does not mean that you should invest more. If you have a "sure thing" outside academia that would be fulfilling and remunerative, I think you should take it. If you pursue the academic path, you are likely in for a year or three of further suffering and low pay, and then still will only have moderate chances of winning the golden ticket, a prize you aren't really sure you want anyway.

Assistant Professor

Just a quick remark on the following passage:

"I have absolutely dreaded the very thought of writing, and even just talking about philosophy, whether with professor, friends, or students, feels painful at times. I know this is a common reaction to finishing up a dissertation - none of my friends have liked their work by the end of it - and so this could just be the result of burnout"

The first sentence speaks of talking about philosophy, while the second speaks of a student's own work. I'm unsure which of these the poster meant to say they are sick of, but I think this is an important distinction for diagnosing the issue. Loads of late-stage PhD students are sick to death of their particular area of research. And even those who aren't might completely dread talking about it or writing. But while both were true for me, I never got sick of philosophy, and never have. I think if the poster still likes chatting and maybe even a little reading about other kinds of philosophy they should put more weight on staying in the profession than if they're sick of all of it.

Chris

For what it's worth, I got so sick of philosophy by *3rd year undergrad* that I spent a year taking only English lit courses and having a virtual allergy to philosophical discussions, never enjoying reading the stuff, etc. - 14 years later, I am five years into my first faculty position in Philosophy, loving it, and can see myself extremely happily and gratefully doing this for the next 30 years. So it's at least possible that it's just burnout. (A meditation practice and lots of deliberate attention to work-life balance etc. have helped tremendously in getting to this point.)

postdoc

Few years ago I was in an extremely similar situation to OP. I decided to go for academia, and now I pretty much literally hate both the subject and the system. What is likely to happen to OP is this: you will be overworked and extremely stressed, the social atmosphere in the profession will make you depressed and paranoid, and temporary positions are a nightmare. As a result your burnout will get much worse, and in consequence you will become sick of philosophy itself. You have a good opportunity to get out - finish the PhD and take another path. Hopefully in that way you might be able to look fondly at the time of your studies.

VAP

This thread may have gone stale, but I wanted to share my response. I would quit were I in the OP's situation.

Becoming a tenured philosophy professor had been my dream job for over ten years. But after four years on the job market searching for a TT position, I no longer regard it as such. The realities of job market have left me feeling completely powerless over my future, so long as I stay in the profession. And I've become disillusioned with other aspects of the job. While I enjoy doing research, it is disheartening that even a publication in a top philosophy journal is likely to have zero readership after going through peer review. Teaching can be enjoyable, but most students have no interest in intellectual discussion, so I struggle to find the experience rewarding. Other issues with the profession I only learned of recently include stagnant salaries that do not keep pace with inflation, and hostile administrators at many universities who seemingly have no interest in helping faculty provide students with a quality education. Philosophy has several benefits, but it has its costs, too, just like any other career. I'm starting to believe the costs outweigh the benefits.

If I knew of an alternative career that I would find meaningful and enjoyable, I would quit philosophy now and change course. I am searching for that alternative and haven't found it yet. While, like OP, I feel deeply conflicted about leaving, I think my prospects for living a happy life are much higher outside of academia than within it.

Finally, I have spoken with several people who left, and none regrets their choice. In contrast, I know some philosophy professors who suspect they would be better off doing something else, but can't, for various reasons. The grass seems greener only from one side of the fence.

Valentina Leandri

Ok, I am not a philosopher but I always loved philosophy. I like to think of myself as a logical and structured problem-solver. That being said, here's my approach to the matter. I see the matter as "there are two main reasons that may explain what you are experiencing and we need to logically try to understand which one is correct. Here there are the two possibilities.

1) You are experiencing a burnout and so your thoughts and dislike is temporarily due to that.
2) You have fallen out of love and need to do something different.

To understand which one is the case, you need to do quite some introspective work. When I read your post, it sounds to me like the description of a burned-out person. To exclude/confirm that, I would seriously suggest you to get a long, nice, and relaxing holiday (travel somewhere and discover places). I have had a burnout myself and one cannot think clearly in that state of mind. So, I would advise you to refrain from taking any life decision in such a mental place. So, take a step back away from the problem, and enjoy yourself for a month or so (maybe you need more time, this depends on you and on how serious is the burnout if that is the case). After that, do the following things:

1) See how you feel about going back to what you were doing before. If now you are fine, then it was a burnout. Still, try to understand why you got burned out and what can you do in the future to prevent that from happening again.
2) Ask yourself what made you fall in love with philosophy and if those things are the things that you still value, in the same way, today.
3) What are the things that you think this other job/career could give you? Are those things missing in philosophy? Could you incorporate them into your philosophical career path? We all grow and change over time, maybe your growth has led you to value more "practical" things now or, anyway, other things/aspects of life. Try to find out what those things are.

Hope this can help and good luck!

Disgruntled

I am considering leaving. Here's a list of my reasons. Some of them may apply to OP or others reading them. I figure that listing them may help others think through these matters. E.g. "you know, that puts a finger on something that's been bugging me."

(1) I don't like teaching very much.

(2) My main area of research is losing popularity, and I dislike the new trends in that area anyway.

(3) I don't feel like I get the recognition that I deserve research-wise. It's not that I think I'm the smartest philosopher on the block: I don't. But I think I deserve more than what I'm getting -- in fact, I think that is true for many people, not just me.

(4) Related to (3), probably, but I dislike the culture of academia. It feels like the elite are gatekeepers, and only the elite are allowed to set new trends and define new philosophical paradigms. Sometimes people within the elite manage to shift the field when they don't even have good arguments (no, I won't give examples for fear of giving myself away).

(5) Because of (3) and (4), I don't enjoy research as much as I once did.

(6) I've realized that where I live and my salary are as important to my happiness as the work I do.

(7) I think I can find work that I'll enjoy outside the academy. Maybe not as much as discovering new philosophical ideas, but well enough.

This doesn't answer the question of "Is it time to leave?" on its own, but I can say I'm putting almost as much time in my outside options as I am in academia these days.

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