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TT at R1

Publishing in philosophy of religion is fine, and I'll echo Marcus's comment that at some institutions this will be looked upon more favorably. But if I were in the OP's shoes, I'd probably try to develop a separate publication record in some other area of philosophy where there is more demand among R1s, if that's where the OP is trying to get a job. There's no need to see such a strategy as a compromise or cowardice, it's just table stakes for being competitive in this market (just ask people who work on aesthetics). It's also not cowardice to save some projects for after you have a TT position (contrary to OP's prof, I think waiting until after tenure is an exaggeration). With luck, the OP will have a long career, and most of their best work will happen after they've gotten a job. There's no philosophical cost to leaving some projects for the future.
More generally, there's no need to frame this sort of question as a test of one's intellectual courage. Surviving the job market and landing and R1 job is not about courage, it's about patience, adaptability, and luck.


I can confirm (as a religious philosopher who dearly loves phil religion) that I unanimously received the same advice as OP from mentors--including those themselves in philosophy of religion. It was almost always framed in pragmatic terms: Do the publishing work you have to now so you can do the publishing work you want to later. My own strategy has been to move increasingly into History of Philosophy. You can't swing a cat in any non-modern period of philosophy without hitting an interesting phil religion question.

My two cents

I agree with both commenters above. (1) My advisor explicitly told me that writing in anything like PoR would be career suicide; she advised me to pursue history of philosophy, which I did and still satisfied my PoR interests. (2) The reason my advisor advised against PoR was pragmatic---very few, if any, jobs hire exclusively philosophers of religion, especially at R1s. If an add is looking for a philosopher of religion, it is usually coupled with metaphysics, epistemology, etc. [Important aside, there are also very few jobs in these areas!]


I want to chime in with some slightly different advice, actually. I don't work in phil religion but I do M&E more generally, and some of my closest friends are folks that many think of as phil religion specialists (either correctly or incorrectly).

Here is my take from being quite close with some of these folks: if you are "good enough" to get an R1 job, doing phil religion is not a detractor. Being "good enough" of course involves a variety of factors, including (1) interestingness of overall research programme and (2) prestige OF COURSE. This is also partially because anyone who is good enough to get an R1 job and does phil religion doesn't really think of themselves as specializing in phil religion. Instead they primarily think of themselves as an epistemologist, or a metaphysician, or whatever.

That's a piece of optimistic advice. If you really are "good enough" or -- maybe here is a better way to put it -- in a fortunate enough position where it is somewhat realistic to get an R1 job, I think the advice to avoid publishing in phil religion is actually outdated. Just look at many junior folks coming out of Princeton/Rutgers/Michigan etc. who are unashamedly religious and have several publications in "phil religion" topics before landing R1 or R2 positions.

With that in mind, can I also offer a piece of critical advice? This is highly speculative, but I think the very fact that the OP is asking about phil religion considered as such indicates that an R1 is a red flag. *Every single person* I know at an R1 or even R2 who can remotely be considered to work in phil religion has the following view: phil religion *just is* epistemology, applied to characterize religion-adjacent epistemic states like faith or hope. Or phil religion *just is* metaphysics, applied to religion-adjacent issues like understanding if there can be a best of all possible worlds, or characterizing compatibilism in new and interesting ways.

I'm serious about this. The fact that the OP is asking about phil religion qua phil religion is a serious red flag. The attitude that I've mentioned above -- "phil religion *just is* epistemology" -- is NOT a new one. This was and is Plantinga's attitude, and Alston's before him, and so on. It is thanks to predecessors like Plantinga and Alston that (to go back to my first comment) I think it is legitimately false that there is any real anti-religious discrimination in philosophy nowadays.

But the fact that the OP still talks as if there is, and moreover speaks of phil religion as if it is some separate area that is isolated from M&E more generally, indicates to me that they have a lot more to be worried about than whether they should or should not publish in phil religion. First of all, it is a red flag because it indicates to me that the OP is isolated from actual quality work in phil religion coming out of R1-type places. If so, then it is merely wishful thinking that the OP would be a viable candidate for a position at such a place. Second, I encourage the OP to rethink their view on what even constitutes philosophy of religion and why you desire to pursue it. Is it because of some confessional or apologetics-type goal? That, for sure, is unwelcome. But if it is just because there is interesting and worthwhile philosophy to be done that happens to be on religion-relevant issues, like the epistemology of faith or the value of creating only one of many possible worlds, then that's just good philosophy. And again, I don't think anybody will complain about someone who is just doing good philosophy.


@TT I disagree with this analysis. How philosophers of religion understand their own work (e.g. as M&E applied to questions of religion) has little bearing on how those *outside* the field think of it. A publication on a CV titled, "The Ontological Argument Proves with Certainty that God Exists" is not going to be interpreted as standard metaphysics by someone outside the field. (Anecdotally, I was in a job committee for M&E where it was discussed and decided that phil religion was importantly different from M&E to be within the AOS.) What matters to OP's question is how phil religion is viewed by the majority of philosophers on job and tenure committees. The majority may be wrong in their view, but OP still has to figure out how to navigate that professionally. I think the request for advice is completely legitimate.

Further, I think it is very unfair to imply, on the basis of this short post, that OP is not really competent in phil religion and has "a lot more to be worried about" because you you think the question assumes a view about phil religion you disagree with. In fact, given that OP has published in phil religion, this insinuation is patronizing.

Finally, TT writes: "I encourage the OP to rethink their view on what even constitutes philosophy of religion and why you desire to pursue it. Is it because of some confessional or apologetics-type goal? That, for sure, is unwelcome." This motivation demand is evidence that you *do* view phil religion differently than M&E. Who cares whether OP has confessional motivations? Who cares what writers' motivations ever are? In my experience philosophical vegans are incredibly outspoken in their beliefs and do not pretend to come from a position of neutrality; they believe urgent action is needed. And that's completely fine! Whether that counts as 'vegan apologetics' is irrelevant to our considerations because their motivations are not ours to judge. Yet, when it comes to philosophy of religion, certain motivations are "obviously unwelcome." As that standard is not applied anywhere else in philosophy, I take it OP is justified in their concern.


As someone who works at an R2 which is religious I can't comment on how R1s work. But there are many decent religious schools (I'm thinking of the moderate ones like Catholic schools etc.) where there are good-sized philosophy departments. These jobs can be quite good and I would think that working in philosophy of religion (I say working, not as one's specialty necessarily) wouldn't matter to us. What matters is whether one is a good scholar in one's AOS. Fitting into the religious character of the school otherwise would be fine for us I think.

interested in phil religion

My suspicion (for which I have no proof at all) is that there is in fact no discrimination against philosophers of religion (except positive discrimination at religious schools). However, there is discrimination against certain features that are perceived to be correlated with philosophy of religion.

In particular, I think the following observations should not apply to you, and you should make sure to avoid the impression that they apply to you:

* Some philosophers of religion have a very narrow focus. For example, if all your work is in Thomistic studies, you will look like someone who can't really speak to other things and won't be an engaging discussion partner on matters not relating to Thomas Aquinas. What helps here, I think, is relating one's research to "hot topics" (in a way that seems natural, of course).

* Some strands of philosophy of religion are "stuck". While there were more engaging discussions about the ontological argument in the 80s, those discussions seem to not be moving forward anymore. Ideally, your work should look fresh, new and exciting to avoid this impression.

* Some philosophers of religion only deal with authors from their own tradition. Many scholars only discuss works from the Judeo-Christian tradition. This may be alright if you present your work as history of philosophy, but if you want to pursue something systematically, you should be able to relate your work to other traditions. (It's really worth looking at this, in my personal opinion!)

* Some (many?) philosophers of religion adopt arguments based on whether they like the conclusion. This does not only apply to philosophy of religion (as pointed out above), and it may not actually be a problem, as long as our academic system features enough contrary views and facilitates dialogue with them. But regardless, I think it may help to not seem uncritical of arguments that favor your view. (Think: Aquinas rejecting the Ontological Argument.)

* Some philosophers of religion are intolerant. A few years back, there was this (mini) scandal about Swinburne, and it reflects poorly on people who are unwilling to distance themselves from it. If there is reason to assume that you would express discriminatory views or act on them on the job, this would be a big problem. DEI statements might actually be a good opportunity to address this. (And if you actually hold such views, I don't think you would have a right to complain about discrimination against you...)

Just don't

I'm sure OP doesn't want to hear this but the simple solution is: don't publish in phil religion. There's a bias against phil religion. The simplest and straightforward way to avoid this bias is: don't publish in phil religion. (And if you've already started, then stop now.)

OP might try to roll the dice and leverage other biases. For instance, if OP is from a top-5 prestigious department, that might offset a phil religion bias. If OP is from an underrepresented group , that might offset a phil religion bias. But those factors are probably outside of OP's control at this point. OP could try to publish in other fields, as at least one other person has suggested. But that hasn't helped in my case--I have more publications outside of phil religion than in and they are more impressive. But I still struggle with getting interviews. (Though, again, N = 1)

More constructively, OP might leverage their interest in phil religion into their courses. Material in phil religion can be successfully integrated into a wide range of contemporary and historical courses. That might help scratch an intellectual itch without publishing.


Write what your daimon gives you to write.

Will random internet commenters or jaded old committee members be there with you when you cross the Lethe? Nope, but your daimon will.

Confused in Europe

I commented similarly on a related post a little while ago, but thought I'd ask again here as didn't see any detailed response there.

So, I'm coming from a European perspective. Work in Europe, studied in Europe, never worked/studied in the US. I work in topics in Metaphysics/Mind/Language, so 'core' 'traditional' areas. Phil of Religion over here is far less represented in Europe than in the US in my impression. Many departments here might have one/two people that can research/teach the topic, but it is rare to have more than that (at least in philosophy departments as opposed to theology ones), and rare to see adverts for AOS in Phil of Religion.

In contrast, looking at the CVs of people whose work I read that are based in the US, EVERYONE seems to have a AOS/AOC in Phil of Religion alongside their specialism in Mind/Metaphysics/Language/Epistemology. Those working in core 'traditional' topics in the US just seem FAR more likely to have that as part of their background, and to have published some stuff on phil of religion topics.

This all leads to my core question: What evidence is there that being religious or working on phil of religion is discriminated against? This is a distinct thing from not getting jobs because someone does not speak well to DEI concerns and not speaking well to those concerns correlates with being religious. From over this side of the Atlantic, it seems far from being discriminated against, having an AOS/AOC in phil of religion massively HELPS in the US. What else would explain why so many more people who are successful/have R1/R2 jobs have an AOS/AOC in it?

Of course, it might be that things are changing. It might be that it is a slightly older generation of metaphysicians all seem to have AOS/AOC in phil of religion. But, even if this change is happening, that again is not by itself evidence of *discrimination*. It is evidence that fashions in philosophy change, and people are less interested in phil of religion now. (Similar case: phil of language is less sought after than it used to be. We don't hear philosophers of language saying they are being *discriminated* against. I was told by my supervisor not to pitch myself as a philosopher of language for this reason. I don't think I was discriminated against).


This is OP. Thank you all for your helpful advice!

I now think my question needs clarification. By "philosophy of religion," I mean philosophy with explicitly religious content. Attempts to answer the following questions would count, in my view:

(1) Can God be in determinate mental states despite being disembodied?
(2) Must we know what God would likely do in order to have evidence for theism?
(3) How should religious believers respond when canonical religious texts (seem to) endorse fallacious arguments?
(4) Is origins essentialism compatible with belief in an afterlife?

(1) and (4) are metaphysical questions, and (2) and (3) are epistemological questions. So, I don't consider philosophy of religion to be a distinct subject-area from metaphysics or epistemology (or ethics, etc.). But most philosophers seem to care about the distinction between philosophy with religious content and philosophy with non-religious content (whether or not this distinction is gerrymandered).

That said, my question, more precisely, is this: will it hurt my job prospects if I publish *even just a few* papers explicitly addressing questions like (1)-(4) as a graduate student? I don't think papers like this would constitute the majority of my writing, even if my choice of topics was guided purely by my own preferences. (Most of my publications at present address mainstream topics and lack religious content.) But the professor referenced in the OP thinks -- again, based on his own experience and the experiences of some of his advisees -- that having *even one* such paper would come with serious disadvantages.

So, my question is not about whether developing or advertising an AOS in philosophy of religion is advisable. As Confused-in-Europe pointed out, this might be a bad move simply because very few universities need to hire philosophers of religion. My question, rather, is whether publishing in philosophy of religion *occasionally* will bias hiring committees *against me personally* (for example, by leading them to falsely assume that I am racist or otherwise bigoted).

For what it is worth, my sincere hope is that my professor is wrong about this and that my colleagues will care much more about the quality of my work than about my personal views. But the testimony of faculty to whom I have spoken seems to be converging in the opposite direction.

Grad Student

Only a grad student here. I don't wish to sound blunt or arrogant, but I do think it will be useful for the OP to know that if I served on a committee, an applicant would find these 4 questions as examples of good philosophical questions, it would raise a red flag for me. Not so much because I have a problem with philosophy of religion per se (although I hardly consider it a topic I very much want to study more about), but mainly because for this question to have any value, or for us to have any means to answer them, it seems to me that we must make some highly dubious assumption we're very doubtfully entitled to make (e.g., that God exists, that canonical religious texts has any special metaphysical or epistemic status, etc.). These assumptions can be the subject of a philosophical paper, of course, but simply assuming them and asking these more advanced questions seems to me to be part of theology and no longer part of philosophy. If I review such a candidate I would like to see that the candidate has something interesting to say about the value of philosophy that starts with such assumptions.


Forgive me if I’ve missed something, but I don’t see how any of those questions depend on dubious assumptions. The answer to (1) might be “no”; the answer to (2) might be “yes”; the answer to (3) might be “reject the canonicity of the texts”; and the answer to (4) might be “no.” An atheist or agnostic could give any or all of these answers.

Frankly, your reservations sound to me like evidence that you *do* have a problem with philosophy of religion. (Which is, I suppose, a kind of answer to my question, so I guess I have no grounds to complain.)

the ghost of Rudolf

I do not want to walk into this, but it seems OP is missing a point about the questions they are asking (1-4 above). I cannot imagine an atheist asking Q1: Can God be in determinate mental states despite being disembodied? It might be useful to employ Carnap's distinction between internal and external questions. An internal question is asked from within a conceptual framework - within a framework that countenances the existence of God then Q1 is a reasonable question. But in other frameworks it makes no sense. External questions, says Carnap, are questions about what frameworks we should employ, and this is essentially a pragmatic question. Is it useful to talk about atoms and molecules - if so, then adopt that framework. Is it useful to talk of God and canonical texts - if so, then adopt that framework. The point is many people find many framework not pragmatically useful.


Here's my hot take, fwiw.

I think that for many people, considering questions related to God is silly. Even giving an argument for atheism is a waste. You might as well give an argument that the Boogeyman isn't real.

You're suspicious for even entertaining philosophical thoughts about God. It's not something worthy of thought. The only thought you should have ever had is "well, that's obviously stupid" and moved on.

Is that right? Speaking as an atheist, given that so many people are religious, I guess I think there's practical reasons to put forward arguments for atheism. But in a world where atheism was the norm, I wouldn't think God questions more worthy of considering than Boogeyman questions.

Grad Student

Dear OP,
Without getting into the philosophical details (e.g., how we treat names that don't refer, etc.), in order to understand my state of mind (and others, probably), you should understand that your first three questions sound to me like their following modifications.

(1) Can the Spaghetti Monster be in determinate mental states despite being disembodied?
(2) Must we know what the Spaghetti Monster would likely do in order to have evidence for Pastafarianism?
(3) How should Pastafarian believers respond when canonical Pastafarian texts (seem to) endorse fallacious arguments?

If you find these questions silly (as I do), or at least not proper questions to discuss in a philosophy paper (though perhaps proper for a Pastafarian theology paper), then for people like me to take your papers seriously, you must show how your questions are distinctively valuable relative to mine. I don't say you can't make the case but as a hypothetical committee member, I would like to see that you do.

The following two responses would not convince me:
1. Starting the paper with "under the assumption that God exists,..." - You can make the same move about the Spaghetti Monster.
2. "Given that so many people believe that God exists, let's discuss the following questions that might interest them..." - The same can be said about astrology and conspiracy theories. It pushes the paper toward to domain of sociology or anthropology, which are perfectly legitimate domains to research, but not what I as a hypothetical committee member will look for as the main AOS in a candidate (it wouldn't at all make me rule out a candidate solely because a candidate is an expert to these domains, but it wouldn't count as distinctively philosophical skill).

I believe my state of mind is quite common. You can like it or dislike it, but my advice is that you give a lot of attention in arguing for why atheists like mine should still see your work as philosophically valuable (as it might well be. I don't rule it out in advance before reading the papers!).

Just some guy

As someone who has been TT at an R1, I will simply add some data to what seems to be a trend already in these comments:

First, yes, many at R1s (and throughout academic philosophy) are biased against philosophy of religion. Probably much more than the average level of bias against any other given subfield.

Second, some are not biased. But note that even among those, not being biased doesn't mean they will think the questions are interesting. Remember that at any stage of the application process to an R1--moreso as you advance in the process--one of your main tasks will be convincing a department that your work is interesting. And while my personal opinion is that these people could really use a philosopher of religion around, I don't they they agree--again, even assuming they aren't biased against it (which they probably are).

As to what OP should do...well that's complicated. It depends on what your alternatives are, which depends on how much time you have and what you have so far, etc. etc. etc. If you were choosing between a great idea in epistemology and a great idea in PoR, and you have time to develop exactly one, obviously go for the former. But that's probably not the situation you're in. If you are choosing between starting from scratch on epistemology or developing a baller paper on PoR, obviously go for the latter. But again, that may very well not be your situation. One piece of advice that is more general: take good PoR ideas and see if they can be pitched more broadly. Or--maybe better?--see if they can be cast as a PROBLEM for theists. (Remember that writing a paper on a big problem for X doesn't mean you don't believe X.)

Lastly, I'll just say: your questions sound great to me. I'd have a blast listening to or reading something on this. But then again, I think we share some commitments.

Ok, now REALLY lastly (and even though you didn't ask): as someone who left an R1 for a VERY teaching-centric school (for family reasons), don't let anyone tell you that you won't have tons of time for R1-type stuff at a teaching school. You can do a lot of research if you want to.


Grad Student,

Your responses unfortunately betray an understanding of religion that is much more like Richard Dawkins's (a lightweight philosophically) than, say, Hume's.

Recommend you read and engage top theists more - Augustine, Aquinas, Plantinga, Van Inwagen, Bob and Marilyn Adams, Lane Craig, Lennox, Zimmerman, others. (It's not that people merely "like" or "dislike" your views, but religious people find them weak in terms of their backing in evidence and reason relative to alternative views.)

Your "quite common" view is indeed such; but to the religious analytic philosopher, it sounds far more like flat-earthism than like evidence-focused Newton (who was deeply religious, believing in God like over 50% of scientists today).

- Anon Prof

also better write this anon

I think this may not be an uncommon example of how debates between religious and nonreligious philosophers go wrong. Grad Student said: you (the philosopher of religion trying to get hired at a non-religious R1) should be able to to explain how God questions are more interesting to atheists than Spaghetti Monster questions.

Anon Prof responded: you didn't show me that they should be equally interesting. Moreover, you should read all the things that I like, then you'll understand (or you are a philosophical lightweight).

I do think Grad Student has a point: OP should have a response that is more substantial and less condescending than that.

(As a side note, perhaps someone like Schleiermacher would also say that most of these questions are uninteresting, and I wouldn't consider him a lightweight.)


I think the thing to ask is whether a stance like Grad Student's can be squared with a principled pluralism. Would the principle be something like, "For all questions Y related to X, if I don't believe X or think X has good reasons for it, then Y is without philosophical value." But it's hard to see how this doesn't rule out as valuable a whole host of topics, not just Phil religion. e.g.
"Can solipsists be altruists?"
"If the self is an illusion, is moral responsibility possible?"
"The implications of Platonic Forms for a liberal democracy."

I, and many others, reject solipsism, no-self views, and Platonic Forms. In fact, I think they're not just false, but have very little at all going for them, perhaps in just the way Grad Student evaluates belief in God. Yet, I still think the above questions are worthwhile, 'real' philosophy. I just don't see how we could have a pluralistic field if we ruled out as legitimate topics which start with premises I don't share.


"Moreover, you should read all the things that I like, then you'll understand (or you are a philosophical lightweight)."

Thanks for the thoughts, but it's important (trying not to nitpick here) to distinguish appeals to objectively best literature vs merely literatures someone likes, true/good or not.

Grad Student

Probably too late to revive this discussion, but for people who will somehow encounter it in years to come, I just want to note that when Anon Prof is stating that over 50% of scientists today believe in God, it is expected that Anon provides a source for this claim. This is a purely empirical claim, and I would very much like to see the methodology of the survey. In my experience, working at a science institute (not in the US), barely anyone around me believed in God, and even fewer were religious in any way, or taking the canonical texts as epistemically privileged. The data I'm familiar with indicate that scientists are much less religious than the general public in almost any place in the world (and I do recall that in the US people in general as well as scientists are more religious. But I highly doubt the over 50% claim).

Also, I don't see why scientists should have authority in this question, and I fail to see why people who lived 300-400 years ago like Hume and Newton, smart as they were, should have any authority here. They lived before we knew anything about evolution, genetics, the big bang, etc. and these seem relevant to the question of the existence of God, aren't they?

Also, calling names like "lightweight" and "flat-earther" is not a very powerful philosophical method. It functions mainly as another indication for me not to take Anon's response too seriously. While I admittedly still haven't had the opportunity to read the work in philosophy of religion of the philosophers you mentioned, I do know some very talented philosophers who had the opportunity and still hold views similar to mine. Name-dropping doesn't help. Arguments do.


Grad student,

Thank you.

The idea is that there are MANY strong philosophers who believe in God -- just see any conference or journal put out by The Society of Christian Philosophers, American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly, and so on.

But scientists???
Why *they*--who are so empirically astute and rigorous--couldn't possibly rationally believe!

Or could they?

It's not clear that Anon Prof is "expected" to provide a source on a blog discussion. But sure, it's good to do so. Try the below PEW poll, with over 50% belief in the supernatural (1/3 "God" and 1/7 "spirit/higher power"):

" According to the poll, just over half of scientists (51%) believe in some form of deity or higher power; specifically, 33% of scientists say they believe in God, while 18% believe in a universal spirit or higher power. "

For my part, I doubt that natural scientists can do much more than provide helpful empirics to inform a view on God in relation to the physical universe. Theologians, historians (even Lewis's Lord-Liar-Lunatic argument about Jesus), and philosophers must do the heavy lifting.

God loves all, and it takes a heart-driven inquiry to better understand why.

Grad Student

Dear Prof-for-God,

In the link you provided, even if we completely accept the methodology of the survey and forget that it is a survey of Americans, you still see that while 95% of the general public believes in God (83%) or a higher power (12%), only 51% of the scientists believe in God (33%) or a higher power (18%). This seems to imply that a belief in God or a higher power prevents people from becoming professional scientists or that practising science causes people to lose their faith (and in quite substantive numbers). Do you have an alternative explanation of the data?

Also, when you say something like:
"But scientists???
Why *they*--who are so empirically astute and rigorous--couldn't possibly rationally believe!"
it makes me form the suspicion that you did not spend a lot of time around scientists. In general, I don't think the rhetoric in your message helps you make your point.


So, to summarize:

- The objectively best literature on the topic of religion comes exclusively from Christian (mostly Catholic) authors.
- In 2006, 1/3 of scientists believed in God. (This is in fact less than 50%...)
- There seems to be some frustration here, and we've moved pretty far from the original question.

Follow Christ, anyone?

I appreciate your concern for the truth.

To re-summarize earlier comments, in a way that does not straw-man:

1. No one said "the objectively best literature comes exclusively from Christian (esp. Catholic) authors" - though this may well be true.

The original statement, quoted below, lists mostly non-Catholic authors. It implies only that they are AMONG the top theist authors (who obviously also include Muslim, Buddhist, and other authors):

"Recommend you read and engage top theists more - Augustine, Aquinas, Plantinga, Van Inwagen, Bob and Marilyn Adams, Lane Craig, Lennox, Zimmerman, others."

2. Yes 1/3 of scientists believe in God, but over 50% believe in either God or a "universal spirit or higher power."

This, of course, is news to many.

You might also consider the numerous miracle reports from medical doctors.

Not that this alone will convince anyone of theism . . BUT let your heart guide your mind; and be open to theism, as I once very much was to atheism, but never again.

What peace and worldview-coherence this last change was brought!

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