... in a big way, and not just because of the way that it always kicks my ass. It's bad for the discipline. It's bad for philosophy.
I've been here for a few years now, and in that time I've seen a lot of undergraduate students come through our major program. I've had the opportunity to watch a number of them over their entire undergraduate careers: I see them in their first, introductory-level philosophy classes, and then their second or third, then in upper-division classes that are required for the major, and in department functions and extracurricular activities. I get to know them and their work. I see their ideas get more sophisticated. I see them develop an enthusiasm--a "passion," I guess, even though it sounds corny--for philosophy. Finally, they graduate, and sometimes they ask me to serve as an employment reference or write them a letter of recommendation for law school or something. Usually they let me know where they end up going, and sometimes we keep in touch after that. It's a nice thing to see, and it's one of my favorite parts of this job.
A lot of them are really sharp, clever people who really love philosophy. They tend to be good readers and writers. They tend to be clear-thinkers who have been well-served by the philosophical education they got here. Some of them would, at least potentially, make good philosophers. It's hard to say, obviously, how they'd handle grad school, or whether they'd finish the dissertation, or how they'd fare at writing for a professional audience rather than their professors. I can't see the future. But I've had at least two students whose grad-school recommendation letters would basically write themselves, and maybe two or three more who I could see being highly successful in the program I come from. I don't know if that's a "good number" or whatever; I'm really just thinking about the particular people, not the numbers. But it's about one a year, give or take.
But none of these students, however enthusiastic, have indicated to me a substantial interest in a philosophical career, and I don't try to talk them into it. Once in a while someone will express a casual, not intense, interest, and I give the same "don't do it if you can think of anything else" speech my undergraduate professors gave me, and it's always dissuasive. If we've sent anybody to philosophy grad school in the time I've been here, I didn't hear about it. They all go into other fields, which I can't imagine are remotely as interesting as philosophy.
The thing that bums me out is, I want to feel like that's a mistake. I want to feel like they've cheated themselves. I want to feel like they've blown the chance to pursue an incredibly interesting, and fulfilling, and fucking amazingly fun way to make a living, in exchange for a career that has no chance of being close to as good or rewarding or whatever. But that's not how I feel. I feel like not going into philosophy probably wasn't a bad idea. I feel like they're probably better off where they are.
This does not reflect how I feel about my own choices. I love my job and I can't believe I'm able to make a living this way. It's incredible to me that I can spend the day doing the things my job consists of and call it a solid day's work. I almost feel like I'm getting away with something.
But I don't feel like I can recommend this career to my students, even if I think they'd be good at it; even if I think they'd be deserving of success; even if I think that, if they found success, they'd be happier with this career than the thing I wrote them a recommendation for. I wish I could encourage them to continue their studies--to try to make a life out of doing philosophy. Like I did. And philosophy is missing out on their contributions. I wish that the prospects for a career in this discipline were such that I could recommend it in good conscience to my students. But they're not, and I can't. And that bums me out.