Tuesday, August 30, 2011

What is a "Behavioral Philosophy Lab Manager"?

The folks at Schreiner University of Kerrville, Texas are advertising for one. Responsibilities include helping set up lab in new facilities; managing large amounts of data; analyzing this data; creating web pages; creating experiments on web-based testing platforms; attending weekly lab meetings; and may include mentoring undergraduate students and teaching classes. Qualifications include "at least a BA or BS degree," and "preference will be given to those in philosophy, psychology, or other behavioral sciences." I don't think they know what philosophy is. Or else the whole thing is a typo.

--Mr. Zero

29 comments:

Samuel J. Howard said...

I'm not sure why this is confusing. Looks like Adam Feltz is doing experimental philosophy and has set up a lab to do that.

Or are you just saying that experimental philosophy isn't philosophy?

Anonymous said...

something to do with experimental "philosophy", maybe?

Anonymous said...

oh my god. aren't we done with the experimental-philosophy-isn't-philosophy meme?

CTS said...

My spouse met a young woman 'pursuing the doctorate in philosophy.' After he had listed every period and area he could think of- none of which she recognized- she told him her degree was in the 'philosophy of leadership' and noted that things had changed a lot since he was in grad school.

Anonymous said...

It's presumably for Adam Feltz's x-phi lab.

Mr. Zero said...

are you just saying that experimental philosophy isn't philosophy?

and

oh my god. aren't we done with the experimental-philosophy-isn't-philosophy meme?

I don't have a bone to pick with x-phi. I say, philosophize and let philosophize. I'm a lover (of wisdom), not a fighter.

But come on. Having a BA in philosophy doesn't qualify you to set up a lab, manage large amounts of data, analyze the data, or create web-based experiments. If you're looking for someone to set up your lab, run it, and design and conduct your experiments, even if it's a philosophy lab and the experiments are philosophy experiments, you're not looking for a philosophy BA. At least, not if you want someone who has been trained in how to do those things.

Anonymous said...

I say, philosophize and let philosophize.

Okay, then why "I don't think they know what philosophy is. Or else the whole thing is a typo." This job would be perfect for someone who did some x-phi stuff as an undergrad. Say, someone who was a philosophy major and took some psych and stats courses.

Having a BA in philosophy doesn't qualify you to set up a lab, manage large amounts of data, analyze the data, or create web-based experiments.

Lab managers don't set up a lab. They run (the day-to-day stuff of) a lab that's already been set up and running. The ad doesn't say you qualify in virtue of a philosophy BA. The ad says they prefer someone from philosophy, amongst other disciplines. What qualifies you, as the ad clearly states, is: "The lab manager must be computer literate (including programming and web design), familiar with statistics, and familiar with experimental design (or have a willingness to learn these things)."

See the word "philosophy" in that quote? Neither do I.

Mr. Zero said...

Okay, then why "I don't think they know what philosophy is. Or else the whole thing is a typo." This job would be perfect for someone who did some x-phi stuff as an undergrad.

Then they should say, "looking for someone with a background in experimental philosophy."

Maybe there's a subtext there that I missed. Maybe the ad's target audience knows that Schreiner University in Kerrville, Texas is the hotbed of experimental philosophy and that's where they're setting up the new lab. I had never heard of Schreiner University of Kerrville, Texas, but that doesn't really mean anything. There are lots of things I should know but don't.

But to the uninitiated, the ad reads in a way that strongly suggests that the Schreiner people think any old philosophy BA is going to know how to do that stuff, the way pretty much anyone with a BS in the behavioral sciences (actually) would. It suggests this because it mentions the philosophy BA in the same breath with the behavioral science BS in the first sentence of the qualifications paragraph.

And that's just not true. A philosophy BA, by itself, is not evidence of training in the things the position requires. And that's what I was making fun of.

See the word "philosophy" in that quote? Neither do I.

That's because you omitted the sentence before that one--the aforementioned first sentence of that "qualifications" paragraph--which says that the minimum qualifications are a BS or BA in, among other things, philosophy. Geez.

Anonymous said...

"Lab managers don't set up a lab."

The first duty listed under "responsibilities" is helping to set up the lab, genius.

Anonymous said...

FWIW, two of my relatively recent philosophy major undergrads both landed jobs in Ivy League labs immediately after graduating. Both were utterly computer literate,(one doubled in a science major) and were all-around awesome students. The qualifications for lab management--in my limited though first-hand experience, are very different than one might expect. The ad reads much more "normally" as an ad recruiting people with science degrees than it does for humanities. It's something we aren't used to seeing from where we're at. Because my students sought jobs in the sciences, they applied for lab management ads that were very similar to this one--and because they stood out as also having philosophy majors they landed very prestigious lab management positions.

Anonymous said...

I think Mr. Zero's instincts are right. But he won't make the ruder points that I will: it seems that a lot of those doing x-phi are trying to do science without the proper science training.

It am interested to see what the fate of x-phi will be. I don't rule out that it will become lasting philosophical methodology, but I have my doubts that it can address interesting philosophical questions

The finding that intuitions are subject to framing effects constitutes a good criticism of traditional philosophical research programs, but what x-phi can offer as a positive program seem much less promising

Anonymous said...

That's because you omitted the sentence before that one--the aforementioned first sentence of that "qualifications" paragraph--which says that the minimum qualifications are a BS or BA in, among other things, philosophy. Geez.

No it doesn't. Here's what the ad says: "Must have at least a BA or BS degree. Preference will be given to those in philosophy, psychology, or other behavioral sciences. The lab manager must be computer literate (including programming and web design), familiar with statistics, and familiar with experimental design (or have a willingness to learn these things)."

What you must have is a degree, and willingness to acquire computer literacy and familiarity with statistics and experimental design. What they prefer is that you have a philosophy BA (amongst others) and computer literacy and familiarity with statistics and experimental design. Last time I checked, prefer doesn't mean must or minimum requirement.

The first duty listed under "responsibilities" is helping to set up the lab, genius.

Yeah, and the TAs helping to run a course are exactly like the professor who is running the course. There's a difference between setting up a lab and helping to set up a lab, genius.

Anonymous said...

the ad reads in a way that strongly suggests that the Schreiner people think any old philosophy BA is going to know how to do that stuff

It really doesn't. What they want is someone who knows philosophy and knows how to do the experiment stuff.

Why don't they use the term "x-phi"? Because a double major in cog sci and philosophy who minored in psych might be just as good. Why limit the pool?

Mr. Zero said...

No it doesn't.

Here's what happened. You quoted a sentence describing the duties the person who gets this job will be expected to perform and pointed out that it doesn't use the word 'philosophy,' in order to demonstrate that, in your words, "The ad doesn't say you qualify in virtue of a philosophy BA."

I pointed out that the sentence before the one you quoted mentioned a BA in philosophy as one of a disjunctive set of qualifications for the job. It couldn't be more clear.

Last time I checked, prefer doesn't mean must or minimum requirement.

I didn't say it was a requirement; I said it was a qualification. And this is true; it is a qualification. The ad lists a disjunctive set of qualifications. A bachelor's degree is required. There is wiggle room concerning what discipline the bachelor's should be in. The discipline of philosophy is mentioned prominently. You have to parse that sentence pretty hard in order to come away thinking that a BA in philosophy isn't a qualification.

I guess I'm not sure what you think I did wrong anymore. At first I thought you were saying that I was wrong to think that this position was not well-suited to someone whose training was primarily in philosophy. That's what the point of the "x-phi is philosophy" stuff was.

But now you seem to be saying that I'm wrong in thinking they're looking for someone with philosophical training at all. This in spite of the fact that they clearly say they are looking for someone with at least a bachelor's degree, preferably in (ahem) philosophy, psychology, or a related behavioral science.

Yeah, and the TAs helping to run a course are exactly like the professor who is running the course.

Where I come from, TAs are assistants, not managers. Maybe TA duties are different where you went to graduate school. Where I went to graduate school, TAs do not help to set up the course. The lead instructor does that. Where I went to graduate school, TAs are not the managers of the course. The lead instructor does that, too. Where I went to graduate school, the TAs are not responsible for the day-to-day operations of the course. As before, that's the job of the lead instructor.

Anyways, that doesn't matter. Here's what you said: "Lab managers don't set up a lab. They run (the day-to-day stuff of) a lab that's already been set up and running." That makes it seem like you think that the person who gets this job will show up to a lab that's already set up and running, and then will be responsible for its day-to-day operations; and that this person will not be involved in setting up the lab. The anonymous commenter at 7:47 points out that this is not correct, and that the stated responsibilities of this job do, in fact, include helping to set up the lab.

...a double major in cog sci and philosophy who minored in psych might be just as good.

A person like that might well have the relevant expertise in data collection, management, and analysis, experimental design, and lab management. But this would be because of the science training, not the philosophy. Training in those areas is not characteristic of a philosophical education.

Anonymous said...

Wow. This is the best you can come up with for nit-picking a job ad? You are losing it, Zero.

Anonymous said...

Zero, Aug 31st: "I didn't say it was a requirement; I said it was a qualification."

Zero, Aug 30th: "A philosophy BA, by itself, is not evidence of training in the things the position requires."

[in Lil' Jon voice] Okaaaaaaay

I pointed out that the sentence before the one you quoted mentioned a BA in philosophy as one of a disjunctive set of qualifications for the job. It couldn't be more clear.

The sentence in question is "Preference will be given to those in philosophy, psychology, or other behavioral sciences."

I still don't understand in what sense preferring someone to have X entails that X is a qualification for that job. Compare: many schools might have the preference---and indeed, explicitly express it---for hiring a woman or a visible minority. That does not entail that being a woman or a visible minority is a qualification for the job. What qualifies someone is that they do philosophy damn well.

It's not that I don't think you can't come up with some wide sense of qualification that would make all preferences out to be qualifications. You're clever; you probably can. That just ain't the ordinary sense.

That makes it seem like you think that the person who gets this job will show up to a lab that's already set up and running, and then will be responsible for its day-to-day operations; and that this person will not be involved in setting up the lab.

Right, and here is where reality might provide a helpful context for the ad. See http://faculty.schreiner.edu/adfeltz/Lab/adam_feltz.html
http://faculty.schreiner.edu/adfeltz/Lab/index.html
Not only is the lab up and running already, it has produced several articles. It even has alumni!

No ad, in the short space, can give the complete picture. That's why our placement directors tell us to go to the department pages before writing cover letters. To assume that the ad exists without context is, as another commenter puts it, merely nit-picking.

Anonymous said...

Anon 8:10 Here again... there seems to be some confusion about the roles and qualifications for working in labs. It's really important to see that the role of a Lab Manager is *very different* from the PI (Principle Investigator). The PI is most certainly a Ph.D. and is the person who received the GRANT for the lab and proposed experiments. Everyone else in the lab answers to the PI who is directing the research. A lab manager does "set up experiments" insofar as he/she works closely with the PI on implementation. My former students, now lab managers, "set up experiments"--and what this means is that they do the coding. They did not have to have doctorates to do this--they had to be ace coders, smart-as-hell with data analysis, and able to "get" their PIs' research and assist furthering it.

Mr. Zero said...

Hi 8:57,

When I say, "I didn't say [a BA in philosophy] was a requirement; I said it was a qualification," I am not denying that the job has requirements. I am asserting that, as stated, the ad lists a BA in philosophy as a qualification. This is not a tough concept. The ad says that one qualifying condition for the position is a certain kind of degree in a certain discipline. It's not a requirement because it is not a necessary condition for suitability--you could also qualify by having a different degree in a different discipline. You could qualify for the job just was well without having a BA in philosophy if you had a BS in psychology.

When I say that "A philosophy BA, by itself, is not evidence of training in the things the position requires," I am obviously not contradicting this. The requirements I am here referring to are the things listed by the ad that the person will be expected to do, and include a bunch of things that are uncharacteristic of a philosophical education.

That's why a couple people pointed out that a double-major in philosophy and cognitive science, or a philosopher who otherwise had a background in science would be well-suited for a position like this (although I doubt they saw themselves as taking my side). Because the science background would be particularly helpful; the philosophy background by itself, unaccompanied by the science, would not.

I still don't understand in what sense preferring someone to have X entails that X is a qualification for that job.

For one thing, any explicit expression of a preference to hire a woman in a job ad would almost certainly be in violation of the Civil Rights Act. This is because it would be extremely easy to read such a statement of preference as a qualification, and it would not be easy at all to read it as a "mere" preference.

For another thing, really? You don't understand that when the a job ad that says "Must have at least a BA or BS," and that they prefer it to be in philosophy or the behavioral sciences, that the ad is stating the qualifications for the job?

I'm not saying all preferences are qualifications. I'm saying that ones about what degrees the candidate must have, and which disciplines are preferred, are qualifications.

Not only is the lab up and running already, it has produced several articles. It even has alumni!

Look. They ran an ad that says they need someone to help set up the lab. It is, of course, possible that an operating, article- and alumni-producing lab will need to be set up. Maybe they have outgrown their current facility and will be moving to nicer digs. I don't know.

But maybe that's not true. Maybe the lab is already running, isn't moving, and does not require anyone to help set it up. If that's the situation, take it up with them; they're the ones who wrote the misleading ad.

Anonymous said...

I'ts a JOB ADVERTISEMENT, people. Not an article in Analysis. It needs only to be precise and informative enough for someone to think "This sounds like a job I could probably do," and apply for it. It's written broadly, probably to encourage anyone with a sufficient skill set to apply.

It sounds like none of you people have have ever been on the hiring end of things.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like X-phi, right. Why is that confusing?

Anonymous said...

Mr. Zero, your beef with it seems to be based on the assumption that the degree listed in the ad is normally taken as a sufficient condition for being basically qualified for the job. That seems like a decent assumption in general, but this is an ad for a field that is new, shakes up existing disciplines, and doesn't have a specific degree at the undergraduate level. This seems like exactly the kind of situation where the assumption would fail - and whaddya know, it does fail.

Anonymous said...

They ran an ad that says they need someone to help set up the lab.

Just a note that "setting up" the lab in the new physical space and setting up a new lab (in some non-physical sense) are very different things. The ad is talking about the former.

Eric said...

I don't know if you saw the post on Experimental Philosophy, but any confusion about the lab and why philosophers would be considered might be resolved by it:

http://experimentalphilosophy.typepad.com/experimental_philosophy/2011/08/call-for-applications.html

Mr. Zero said...

I guess it isn't clear where I'm coming from or why I think this ad is funny. In what follows (looooong) I'm going to try to explain myself better.

I don't really have a "beef" with the ad. I just think it's kind of funny. It's for a job at a philosophy lab, which is kind of funny. It's looking for someone with a BA in philosophy to manage the lab, analyze the data, design the webpage, and set up the experiments. That's funny, too.

I realize that there is a recent methodological approach to philosophy whose practitioners apply the experimental methods of certain sciences to philosophical problems. I do not deny that this is a legitimate approach to philosophy. It's not something I follow closely, and I didn't know who Adam Feltz was, but I've seen some of Knobe's work and it seemed interesting and philosophical. And someone who had a background in this approach would be a good match for this job at a philosophy lab. As would someone with a background in both philosophy and also the relevant sciences. And if the ad had just said that, it wouldn't have been nearly as funny. "Wanted: Bachelor's degree with a background in x-phi, or a BA in philosophy with a background in science, or a science BS with a background in philosophy." Not funny at all.

But seriously. This is a funny ad. And you can think that even if you think there are philosophers who do this stuff and do it well. It's funny because philosophers as a group do not know how to do science, have never set foot in a functioning lab, cannot be expected to know how to do science competently, and can be expected to fuck up any attempts at science they might make. This is because science is hard, requires a lot of training, and does not come naturally even to very smart people.

For example, here are some philosophers trying to do science. Their "methodology" page reads, in part, "...we actually have gone to the trouble of thinking about what counts as an appropriate methodology. We are not formally trained in survey methods, and we did not earn our academic stripes by means of formal study in the social sciences. But a) with the humility that distinguishes the professional philosopher from people in other fields, we went into autodidact mode, read a bunch of stuff on survey methods, and decided afterwards that we knew more than enough to go forward." The results of these proceedings, obviously, are 200% terrible. (The passage also contains some funky doublethink re: humility. Maybe they were trying for humor.)

This is an egregious and unrepresentative example, obviously. Most philosophers know enough about science and their own limitations to avoid doing such stupid science. Most of us avoid this by not attempting science in the first place. Some people make use of a friend or co-author who has expertise in a scientific field. Some people go to the trouble of acquiring this expertise themselves. But when this happens and things go well, it is the proximity to scientific expertise that makes it not a disaster. Philosophical expertise doesn't seem to me to be particularly helpful or important for doing science well.

In closing, I saw the ad and thought it was kind of funny, so I made fun of it. I have no beef and no anti-x-phi views. I knew going in that this post would not be my best work.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Zero,

Don't doubt yourself. The ad is funny. And 'behavioral philosophy lab'? Sheesh...

wv: piles

James said...

I am unsure how funny the ad is, but the heated arguments on both sides in this thread are hilarious...

Actually, I think the ad's kinda funny. I'm now just overwhelmed by the hilarity of the fight over whether the ad was funny.

Troll said...

James, you asshole. How could you possibly find this sophomoric dispute over the ad funny? Your comment reveals a twisted sense of humor on your part, for which you should feel deep, deep shame. I hope you and your family die slowly and painfully and are all left to rot in a public square.

Anonymous said...

This really is the psychology of areas of traditional philosophical topics of inquiry. Isn't it? And, if so, why would they hire someone trained in philosophy to analyze data. I was originally trained to analyze stats and let me just say that a philosophy degree does not prepare you to do this. Statistical analysis is not something you just pick up along the way. It requires a significant amount of study. I find the idea of philosophers doing experiments and then interpreting the data a bit scary myself. First, the experiment itself must be vetted, i.e., it must be shown to be valid and reliable (and if you don't know what those terms mean, you should not be doing experiments). Second, there is the matter of interpreting the data statistically, which usually involves some pretty fancy analyses. Unless philosophers are simply hiring those trained in experimental methods and then reading their scientific results, just say "no" to experimental philosophy.

Anonymous said...

just say "no" to experimental philosophy.

LOL