Saturday, March 30, 2013

The biggish picture

There's some interesting data here about employment for PhDs since 1991. The article is mostly about the job market bust for PhDs in the sciences, and the data is compiled by NSF, but it includes employment data for PhDs in the Humanities. To sum up, employment rates in the Humanities were pretty much flat, hovering in the high 50s percentage-wise, until 2006, when a steady decline began. Academic employment went down and, correspondingly, unemployment went up. Both figures are now in the 40s. That was before the economic meltdown of 2008, so we're obviously seeing more at work than that particular disaster. In the same timeframe, postdocs have inched up, which jibes with my intuition on postdocs in philosophy. Seems like a lot of the new hires on Leiter's thread this year are postdocs.

Meanwhile, for PhDs overall, the decline actually began at the turn of the century, suggesting things might be somewhat worse in other disciplines. (Although people in the sciences have more opportunities to work in industry, and the data shows they are well-compensated for that work -- much better than Humanties PhDs who end up in the private sector.)

So, I guess the bad news is that the downward trend is unlikely to get better, even if the economy picks up, unless something else changes. The good news is it's not actually a lot worse than it used to be?

~zombie


131 comments:

Anonymous said...

For an article with so much data..I found the following quote both absolutely typical and yet utterly maddening:

"A full 10 percent are out of the labor force or working part-time, though at least some in that group are likely women raising children."

No numbers...just a gut intuition about gender roles. As if things weren't already bad enough with the actual data.

Anonymous said...

If it is becoming the case that to get a "real job" you have to have a postdoc, then this is terrible news, because how many postdoc positions are there in philosophy? How many of them are properly advertised? For how many of them is there genuine consideration of candidates? In how many of them is the selection grandfathered?

If to get a real job you have to have a postdoc then this means it's going to get even worse, much worse for philosophers. In psychology, in fact, it is almost unusual to get a tenure-track job without a postdoc, but in psychology there are so many postdoc positions available and they are properly advertised. That is simply not the case in philosophy.

In general, there is only one thing that can start getting things better for young phd's. That is a big retire-off of scholars over 60 with a conscience. They've lived the great life of an academic for decades and now it is time to let the younger generations have their share. Of course, that is not going to happen, because very few scholars have that kind of conscience while most of them are lazy and greedy and, thanx to their tenure, they can keep being lazy and greedy. Tough shit young phd's...

Anonymous said...

A question: 2.27 AM mentions that many postdoc positions are not properly advertised and the selection process is 'grandfathered'. I'm wondering what is meant by this (in particular, by the second thing)? What is the reason to think that postdoc selections are less fair than selection of tenure track hires?

Anonymous said...

I don't think there's any reason to think that it is true, for philosophers, that one must have a postdoc in order to get a tenure-track appointment. The fact that the number of postdocs is on the rise and even that many of those being hired this year have held postdocs does not show that holding a postdocs is a necessary condition (or even a particularly helpful condition, causally speaking) for getting a TT job. At most, it shows that there are more postdocs available and that candidates are using them to "stay alive" academically (that is, remain employed and engaged in academic work while they job hunt). If the number of postdocs for philosophers were to dry up, there's no reason to think this (alone) would make it difficult for philosophers to get "real" jobs.

Anonymous said...

It's obvious that the increase in postdocs can't make it harder for people on average to get philosophy jobs. It doesn't decrease the number of jobs, and it doesn't increase the number of job-seekers.

Also: one of my colleagues is in his early sixties and has no particular plans for an early retirement. I can just imagine telling him, "If you have a conscience, you'll give up the career you love so that 2:27 AM can have your job." Awesome. Also, you have three great kids and I am unable to conceive, so as a matter of conscience you should now give me one of yours.

Anonymous said...

In general, there is only one thing that can start getting things better for young phd's. That is a big retire-off of scholars over 60 with a conscience. They've lived the great life of an academic for decades and now it is time to let the younger generations have their share. Of course, that is not going to happen, because very few scholars have that kind of conscience while most of them are lazy and greedy and, thanx to their tenure, they can keep being lazy and greedy.

Something like this suggestion gets made far too often, and demonstrates a regrettable failure to understand the current job climate.

What most people mistakenly believe happens when someone retires/leaves a position in the philosophy department: the philosophy is granted a new hire.

What now happens with alarming regularity: the Dean informs the philosophy department that the resources associated with tenure-track have been strategically re-prioritized out of philosophy. (Pick your favorite bullshit terminology.)

Sitting around pissing and moaning about senior philosophers moral duty to retire is a quick and easy way to make young philosophers look self-centered and naive.

Anonymous said...

Aside from separating out postdocs, the article doesn't distinguish between different types of jobs. In particular, it doesn't distinguish tenure-track jobs from visiting jobs. I wonder how much the numbers are buoyed by those, and how the percentages of short-term jobs have changed over the past 20 years.

zombie said...

Clearly, if having a postdoc in philosophy was a requirement of getting a TT job (I assume that's what you mean by "real" job), then there would be a tremendous shortage of candidates for TT jobs. There is not.

Are postdocs "properly advertised"? I don't know what that means. Are they advertised in the same places that advertise TT jobs? Yes. What's grandfathering, in this case? Do you mean when, say, a Stanford PhD gets a Stanford postdoc? If you look at the postdoc hires on the Leiter thread, you'll see that's not what happens.

In the sciences, postdocs are very common, and just about a prerequisite for getting a TT job. In philosophy, having a postdoc can help. I know mine sure helped me, by giving me time to get published, and more experience as a scholar, both of which, IMO, made a huge difference for my job prospects. I know others who found postdocs equally valuable. But we are nowhere near a point where there are enough postdocs out there to feed the TT vacancies. Especially if all those no-conscience, lazy, greedy "scholars over 60" suddenly decided to quit.

Some of my best professors were well over 60. They were great teachers, and not one of them was lazy, so far as I could tell. I doubt they were greedy either. Because if you were really greedy, you wouldn't want to spend 30 years working up to a 90K salary.

Anonymous said...

I find it utterly disgusting that when a person with a phd in philosophy wants a tenure track job he/she is called "self-centered and naive." What exactly is so self-centered about being angry when perhaps a decade of hard work, publications and a phd do not give back a tenure track job? Sorry young phd's, you can't be angry that you're unemployed and can't look after your family, and wanting a tenure track job is self-centered and naive of you. What a despicable business this all is! You're just there for the enjoyment tenured people and SC's get when they pick on you for spending a decade of your life for nothing...

Anonymous said...

12:25, it's not self-centered and naive to want a TT job, especially after having spent years working toward that goal. Obviously. It's self-centered and naive to write vicious posts blaming "most" over-60 philosophers for letting their laziness and greed get in your way of getting a TT job.

Anonymous said...

What exactly is so self-centered about being angry when perhaps a decade of hard work, publications and a phd do not give back a tenure track job? Sorry young phd's, you can't be angry that you're unemployed and can't look after your family, and wanting a tenure track job is self-centered and naive of you.

There's nothing self-centered or naive about being angry. There's also nothing self-centered or naive about wanting to get a job.

Not getting a job sucks. I fully support complaining about it.

There *is* something self-centered and naive about blaming people who aren't responsible.

Anonymous said...

I find it utterly disgusting that when a person with a phd in philosophy wants a tenure track job he/she is called "self-centered and naive."

I'm pretty sure that's not the reason 10:06 called 2:07 self-centered and naive. It's not (OBVIOUSLY) the fact that 2:07 wants a job.
Self-centered: thinking that the 65 year old at Nice State U. has some kind of duty of conscience to end his career so that 2:07 can have a job.
Naive: thinking that if that guy retires, the position will be right their waiting for some other deserving philosopher.

(Apologies to 10:06 if that's not what you meant.)

Anonymous said...

I find it utterly disgusting that when a person with a phd in philosophy wants a tenure track job he/she is called "self-centered and naive."

Seriously? So by this reasoning, anyone who wants a tenure-track job must also want faculty over 60 to retire. C'mon. The suggestion that some commenters sound "self-centered and naive" was clearly in reference to the absurd idea that older faculty ought to give up their jobs to make room for newly-minted PhD's. No one was suggesting that wanting a job was, by itself, self-centered and naive. Sweet Jesus, can we please not have this inane conversation again?

Anonymous said...

"That is a big retire-off of scholars over 60 with a conscience. They've lived the great life of an academic for decades and now it is time to let the younger generations have their share"

The above comment is so silly it isn't even funny. This person does NOT understand how a university works.

We had a faculty member die. No replacement. We had a faculty member move into administration. No replacement. We had one take another job. No replacement. We are down to four philosophers from seven!

We argued that we needed to replace these two people b/c our general education classes are full and students need those classes. And we need to support the major.

We were told that was a fine argument, BUT that other departments like history and sociology are overstaffed and have classes that aren't filling. So those students who would have taken philosophy will now just fulfill the general education classes in history or sociology or some other humanities class rather than philosophy. Faculty positions have really become a zero sum game in colleges. It's hard to get a replacement.

What senior faculty need to do is NOT retire, but fight and defend the discipline. The problem is that the discipline isn't very good at defending itself. And so it is going to slowly take a beating until there isn't much left of it expect for those schools who think it is valuable.

Stop telling people to retire. It's rude and short sighted. How would you like it if we said to you. "You should have gone to a better graduate program!" Rutgers students are doing okay on the job market.

That would sting like a bitch wouldn't it, and it wouldn't be fair to you.

Anonymous said...

2:11 and 3:02 pretty much said it all. Grad students who have never taught outside of their PhD granting institution often don't have a clue about how these things work.

Anonymous said...

Everyone's attacking the unemployed and rightfully angry young phd. This is only natural because his/her mere existence is disturbing to the people who have secured jobs. The hundreds of unemployed phd's may be seen as a constant embarrassment to "the field" perhaps this is why some are talking about defending the "field." What about defending the unemployed phd's? What about them?

No one seems to care, instead they worry about the prestige of "the field." You go on rambling about "defending the field" while blaiming the unemployed for being rightfully frustrated and tell them it's their fault! You keep telling them they did not write a "good cover letter" or they used the wrong school name, or they did not publish enough. If they did publish, you tell them their teaching is not good. If their teaching is good, you tell them they don't have enough publications. If their teaching is good and they have many pubs, you tell them they did not go to Princeton or Pittsburgh. This is what you want to defend? What a miserable farce!

Wait, it's not a farce, in fact it is called "blaiming the victim" in the literature. What exactly do you want to defend? The only way to defend the field is to defend the unemployed phd's. But if you want to defend the field so that "it" can continue exploiting these people as cheap teaching labor and vehicles to get publications for your professors and then throw them away like yesterday's coffee, well go on defending and enjoy today's coffee... But don't tell me you are "defending the field" because you are in reality ruining it when you defend the status quo...

Anonymous said...

Wow. I'm the 2:11PM poster. It's kind of gratifying, but at the same time disconcerting, to see how many other people wanted to say exactly what I said.

Anonymous said...

The tenured philosopher pulling down a living wage is not standing between you and a decent job. If anyone is, it is the PhD teaching 10 courses for peanuts and no benefits. (not that that person is blameworthy for doing so)

Anonymous said...

"That is a big retire-off of scholars over 60 with a conscience."

You mean to say "pension."

Anonymous said...

I disagree with most of what 4:12 said.

"Everyone's attacking the unemployed and rightfully angry young phd. This is only natural because his/her mere existence is disturbing to the people who have secured jobs. The hundreds of unemployed phd's may be seen as a constant embarrassment to "the field" perhaps this is why some are talking about defending the "field.""

I reject the victim narrative that structures this view. I'm a grad student in philosophy; it's brutal out here for most of us. But while there are forces in our discipline making it tough to get a job, I don't think the story 4:12's telling is very illuminating when it comes to addressing any actual problem. And the tone of the comment comes across, to this reader, as a whinge-fit.

4:12 continues:

"What about defending the unemployed phd's? What about them? No one seems to care, instead they worry about the prestige of "the field." You go on rambling about "defending the field" while blaiming the unemployed for being rightfully frustrated and tell them it's their fault! You keep telling them they did not write a "good cover letter" or they used the wrong school name, or they did not publish enough. If they did publish, you tell them their teaching is not good. If their teaching is good, you tell them they don't have enough publications. If their teaching is good and they have many pubs, you tell them they did not go to Princeton or Pittsburgh. This is what you want to defend? What a miserable farce!"

Gear down poncho! This is so colored by its author's ideological bent that it does nothing for engaging with folks not already inclined toward that brand of dogfood.

"Wait, it's not a farce, in fact it is called "blaiming the victim" in the literature."

Ah yes, victim-blaming, that tried and true snipe. I hope I'm not the only one who thinks that talk of someone as a 'victim' here is almost obscene. At the very least, I hope 4:12 appreciates how sharply this makes one come off as having a sense of entitlement. And that is, to some people, rather repulsive. It's certainly not the attitude of someone I'd like to have a professional career with. Do you think that's the sort of vibe that might be given off in an interview?

Anonymous said...

4:12 continues

"What exactly do you want to defend? The only way to defend the field is to defend the unemployed phd's. But if you want to defend the field so that "it" can continue exploiting these people as cheap teaching labor and vehicles to get publications for your professors and then throw them away like yesterday's coffee, well go on defending and enjoy today's coffee... But don't tell me you are "defending the field" because you are in reality ruining it when you defend the status quo..."

Philosophy is a really tough thing to do, and there are a lot of people who are 1) really good at it, whether because of education, latent skill, or what have you, and are 2) willing to work awfully hard to succeed at it. There are also lots of little injustices in the way people get jobs. But talk of folks in the profession as though they were 'defending' a system guilty of all the sins 4:12 heaps on it just doesn't cut much ice with those of us who think most of us ought to be by and large held responsible for the situations we find ourselves in. No one is forcing us to trade our labor for the peanuts we make as philosophers. And while there may be systemic failures or injustices in the system as it's currently set up, the recognition of these problems as systemic problems ought not force us into a squinty-eyed strawmanning of own pet bugaboos.

The end at which we surely all are, and in any case must take one another in good faith to be intending, is that of a better condition of vitality for we and our descendants. To deny this charity to an interlocutor is to cast them outside the purview of reasoned discourse; they are the Great Bad Thing, set up as an oppressor with we as a victim. What poison for a community! We ought to spit it from our mouths the moment in wells up within us.

If someone has something productive to say about the state of the profession today and how it might be, in practice, changed for the better, why not just bring that up directly?

Anonymous said...

(First time posting on this thread - I'm not the earlier poster.)

How about a compromise. If you are in a tenured philosophy job and if you are not working hard for the whole working week, teaching and/or doing research, and if other hard-working academics and/or students and/or the discipline will benefit thereby then you should retire/resign *whatever your age*. To do otherwise is selfish.

Lazy Greedy (and Fat) Bastard said...

3/31 2:07 & 4:12 --

You're a day early.

Anonymous said...

What's the problem? Here's how I see it:

1. Funding dries up, and programs get smaller. There are fewer jobs, and there will continue to be fewer jobs.

2. Most young philosophers are not in a position to change this once they hit the tenure track. They are actively encouraged to avoid any kind of commitment to general education, community outreach, or popular press publications. Philosophers are bred, trained, and encouraged to actively avoid doing anything that might actually increase the number of undergrads who want to study philosophy. The more we turn inwards, the more we try to ignore the rest of the academic and non-academic worlds in our quest for insularity and minutiae, the easier we make it for administrators to continue to cut our programs.

3. Those of us who do such work are regularly taunted by our peers for not being "rigorous" and lambasted by graduate students for "selling out." "Popular Philosophy" has become a joke in our field, and one we never seem to tire of laughing at.

The sad thing is, administrators *love* when Philosophy faculty reach out to other fields and to the community. They reward faculty for this work. They like to see enrollments rise, they like to see the name of the university in newspapers, popular magazines, etc. Love. But other philosophers hate it, complain about it, and call out such people as lightweights, as not serious, and demand they retire to make room for "real philosophers."

You know what? It's everyone's fault. All of us. And the very second you enroll in a PhD program and decide then and there that you will participate in this farce? Then you are part of the problem, too.

You want to change the field? Stop caring what gets printed in the pages of "Philosophical Review" or "Nous" and start wondering what you can do to make philosophy more important in the lives of your neighbors, your community, etc. Because if all you have to offer is your ability to publish on obscure topics of interest to an ever-decreasing number of people, then you're one of the reasons why the field is dying, and there's no reason why you should replace the elder scholar who is similarly useless.

Anonymous said...

there is only one thing that can start getting things better for young phd's. That is a big retire-off of scholars over 60 with a conscience.

There are countries (and professions) with mandatory retirement ages. There is nothing disrespectful about the suggestion. It's also not crazy to believe that older generations have such obligations. Whether mass retirement would really help is another question.

They've lived the great life of an academic for decades and now it is time to let the younger generations have their share.

Again, there is a lot of truth to this.

Anonymous said...

7:09

The "community" is already poisoned and is going to die a terrible death. Pretending that is not the case is bad for you, bad for me, bad for all of us, and most importantly bad for "the field."

Anonymous said...

The only thing I find unrealistic here is a failure on our part as job seekers to put ourselves in the context of the rest of the world. Plenty of people do not get jobs in their chosen fields. Why should we be any different?

YFNA

3:29 said...

@ 7: 22

Does committee work count for nothing? What about supervision of undergraduate projects? Being known for being the reasonable one during department meetings? Designing half of the courses in the major? Treating staff with courtesy? Community service? Getting along well with administration?

I've been an adjunct at a CC and SLAC, and--at least at the places where I taught--stuff like the above was way more important than publications. Teaching was important, but anybody who isn't an idiot would have satisfied them.

I think part of what is coming out in this discussion is that it is way easier to keep a job than to get a job. And if you look at what things were like 30 years ago, maybe it was way easier to get a job then. None of that is the fault of older philosophers.

Anonymous said...

@8:29

nice easter sermon

Anonymous said...

7:09 here.

I'm sorry for those convinced otherwise, but I just don't see that the community is "poisoned" or that it's going to "die a terrible death." What would it be for the profession to come to such an end anyway? With a claim like this we enter that gray area where rhetorical fourish shades into category mistake. If there's something in particular you think is wrong, or some bit of the bulwark you think's soon to collapse, why not talk about that?

Honestly, the whole frame strikes me as more emotional bluster than anything else. When it comes to substantive discussion and suggestions for change, advocates of the view don't seem to offer much more than hand-wringing, baroque socio-historical twaddle, and the imperatival proclivities of a country-dumb schoolmarm. Eh, that's not quite fair. The view's not totally worthless. But then, I confess to finding the political ideology almost malicious in its capacity to cultivate conceitedness, so I'm not much disposed to be receptive to the view's appeal to emotion. I strikes me as something rather filthy.

There are all sorts of dysfunction in today's institutions. Anyone with the wits god gave a gopher knows that. Philosophy's no better off than most of them. But talk of "dying a terrible death" is at best an effort in prophecy, at worst a bare appeal to emotion. And it does NOTHING for encouraging better social participation among those who are not already inclined to share that emotion.

I wish the mealy-mouthed whinging in our discipline was a bit more mature and intelligent (in Dewey's sense) than it sometimes is.

Part of the problem, of course, is that in some circles one is placed under suspicion simply for not having expressed the right sentiment at the right time. It's rather cultish, but you see it on the right no less than the left (give me the politburo or Rand's inner circle, it makes no difference; a cult is a cult is a cult). I suspect these movements characterize a stage of adolescence for different sorts of people; too bad some don't grow out of (or into) them in a better way.

And for what it's worth, I enjoyed 8:29's Easter sermon; that's the sort of thing we ought to be talking about. I'm also of the mind that there might be a case to be heard over whether older members of a profession have some duty (in some contexts? which?) to cede the way to a younger generation. But, as others above pointed out, any effort to get a case heard ought to try to be a bit better informed about how the profession actually works.

Anonymous said...

"The only thing I find unrealistic here is a failure on our part as job seekers to put ourselves in the context of the rest of the world. Plenty of people do not get jobs in their chosen fields. Why should we be any different?"

Because grad students have been told throughout their careers that they are deserving of jobs, they have had faculty assuring them of their future success, and they have willfully ignored the dire circumstances of the market and refused to plan for anything other than a faculty position.

Anonymous said...

9:02 does continental philosophy.

Anonymous said...

Actually, 9:02 works in metaphysics and the philosophy of language. I just happen to think somebody like Dewey was basically right 75% of the time.

Anonymous said...

(1) Grad students have been told throughout their careers that they are deserving of jobs
(2) They have had faculty assuring them of their future success
(3) They have willfully ignored the dire circumstances of the market and refused to plan for anything other than a faculty position

(1) is not true of all grad students just the good ones, so let's add "or they are either autistic or pathological narcissistic." Ditto for (2). On (3), you can hardly blame someone doing a PhD for not also spending time doing their MBA too, right? Also, the bottom didn't drop out until 2008, so really, this applies only to those who started after that time.

About (1) and (2): the profession could do us a favor by hardening their lines with those who are just not up to snuff, and we could better learn how to take hints as students.

YFNA

Anonymous said...

Does 9:02 not realize that there is continental phil of language and metaphysics? Has s/he never read Heidegger? :)

YFNA

William James said...

Dewey was a pragmatist. Does non-analytic = continental? I thought analytics liked rigor in their distinctions...

Anonymous said...

Bill,

Dewey was not a Continental philosopher, but people who study Continental philosophers tend to like him more than do people who study analytic philosophy.

(Although like 10:39, I'm an analytic who happens to like Dewey. 75% seems a bit high.)

Anonymous said...

I originally made the snarky comment about continental philosophy, but it had nothing to do with Dewey. Instead, I was trying to imply that most of that post was gibberish.

I should apologize, though, because I didn't see that that post was in response to other stuff that had been mentioned.

Anonymous said...

Ah yes, continental philosophy as conceptual muddle. Good jorb! Keep up the good work, people!11!

Anonymous said...

Here's something I wish someone would explain to me. Given that we know that implicit bias is a real phenomenon, and given that philosophers are human beings and subject to the same psychological laws that govern other people, why don't we as a profession try to avoid these biases, say by implementing blind review for job applications?

Yes, I know this would mean a lot of reading but (I say this as someone who has served on a search committee) we do that anyway. In any case there are ways to alleviate the amount of reading we do. For example, some of the reading we do whilst making hiring decisions consists of trudging through reference letters, which only serve to strengthen implicit bias effects. If we were to refuse to read these (overinflated & useless) letters, we would have more time to read. And if we were to demand abstracts for each writing sample, that would help even more.

I mean, surely we want the best person for the job, right? Then why not follow the model of blind reviewing? If we reject this method, we should at least be honest and admit that we in fact prefer prestige, certain genders or races (...add here all those aspects of a person's dossier that produce or further implicit bias effects).

And you know, if we were just more honest, grad students would not enter lower-ranked programs at such an alarming rate, because they would know that no amount of demonstration of "quality" would help them. As in fact it doesn't. How many times do we hear the lament, "but I had publications!" Well, nobody cares about your publications.

Contrariwise, if we do indeed mean what we say when we claim that we just want the best person for the job, we need to implement blind job application review, asap.

Anonymous said...

I've already learned to accept the fact that my graduate in education in philosophy was a complete failure pragmatically speaking. I believe that I will never get a job in academia other than perhaps adjunct-slavery. And I will die penniless, and alone, having eked out my last years in bankruptcy living on government-assistance. Like Anon 8:30 says, it doesn't matter that I published in a top 5 or 6 journal (according to Leiter). All that matters is that I went to an unranked State school. I am less than worthless scum in the eyes of my would-be colleagues in academic philosophy.

I am still on the job market only because sometime people do win the lottery. But when I get no calls in the fall, I will be looking for a minimum wage service industry job to pay the rent while I wait to die in squalor.

Anonymous said...

8:30 AM

Ah, fantasy. I'm sure you know this will never work.

I'm at a top 20 dept. we talk with our friends and colleagues at other top departments. We often know who is coming out and who is good well in advance of ever receiving a dossier. The only way things could be truly blind is if there were no interaction with other philosophers.

Anonymous said...

Thought, after a year on the market and two years watching it closely:

Data on hires are mostly useless, not only because there are in effect multiple job markets (based on school-type, AOS, etc.), but because a very high percentage (not 100% dummies, prolly not 60%) of hiring departments are totally and brutally incompetent regarding hiring *anything close to* the best candidate (I'd wager they are incompetent in finding the best candidate both in some objective sense, and in finding whatever is best for their department's/student's needs).

No use defending this, just a thought I think is confirmed by seeing who gets hired where and so on.

Anonymous said...

Employment rates will pick up when, and in proportion to, the barriers to hiring and firing are lowered. That is, when tenure goes away once and for all.

Anonymous said...

8:30,

How do you perform a blind review on a CV?

Anonymous said...

@ Anon 10:28

When tenure goes away once and for all, hiring decisions will no longer need to be made by faculty peers. They'll be made on the basis of student evaluations. Physically attractive, outgoing, people will be re-hired year after year, without regard for their competency or impact on students; the rest of us will languish. Grade inflation will be totally off the charts. There will be no job security and no freedom of academic discourse. And since the pool of prospective employees is huge, I suspect professors will be forced to take massive pay cuts (or hit the road), not to mention the hit that would be taken by the unions. I cannot imagine a worse scenario for anyone in the philosophy job market than the extinction of tenure.

Anonymous said...

1021

Maybe you don't really understand what the 'best candidate' means especially if dozens (hundreds) of search committee keep disagreeing with you?

Anonymous said...

"Employment rates will pick up when, and in proportion to, the barriers to hiring and firing are lowered. That is, when tenure goes away once and for all."

For people who want tenure track jobs (ie. the majority), eliminating the tenure track is not an effective way to provide more tenure track jobs.

Anonymous said...

9:44 says:

"We often know who is coming out and who is good well in advance of ever receiving a dossier. The only way things could be truly blind is if there were no interaction with other philosophers."

Yes, this is of course true. But one could say precisely the same thing about submitting papers to journals. Quite often, if you google parts of the submission, you'll find out who the author is, because they're presented it at a conference, or have put it up on their website, etc. However, the key point is: You shouldn't do this. It is your professional responsibility to be as impartial as you can be, even if you can guess who the author might be.

Your argument with regard to hiring seems to be: Well, we can't make it "truly blind" so we shouldn't even try, because it "will never work". Your argument presupposes that things are quite binary: Either "truly blind" or "to hell with it". But nobody is asking for perfection here. Just that we make an effort, like we do during peer review. And if we refuse to make that effort, we should ask ourselves why we don't.

It's actually easier to achieve impartiality by the method I suggested above (I'm 8:30) with job hires than with journal submissions, simply because ABDs and recent PhDs have less of a professional presence on the web. It is hardly likely that you've come into contact with an ABD's work, and are familiar enough with it to be able to readily identify it when reading it blind.

So, the situation is this: We try to overcome implicit bias during peer review. It would be easier to overcome implicit bias during hiring than during peer review. But we don't do it because.. why exactly?

Anonymous said...

10:21

you really think you are in the epistemic position to evaluate which candidates are "objectively" best and what a department's needs are from your couch looking at the Leiter thread? What an ass. Let me guess...you are the best candidate and we didn't pick you. More likely: we looked at you and determined you suck.

Anonymous said...

10:28

you have no idea what you are talking about. I think it would be better if you left the profession rather than advocate destroying it from within

Anonymous said...

Yes, you can't blind review CVs. However, in my experience at least, the writing sample and ref letters are far and away the most important documents in the dossier. Why not look at CVs only at later stages, say when you have your top 20 or so figured out?

Anonymous said...

10:28,

Tenure *is* disappearing. You may know it as "replacing tenure-track faculty with part-time adjuncts."

Anonymous said...

While I am all for blind review when it comes to the initial review of applications...how would this realistically work once a SC is at the interviewing stage? Isn't an important part of the process the interview, the job talk, the teaching demo, etc? It could be that even if implicit biases don't play a role at narrowing the field at the earliest stages when dossiers are prepared for blind review, they will at the later stages once candidates are met via Skype or face to face.
If so--how does this effectively eliminate any problem?

Anonymous said...

12:30 PM

That's right. we should make the entire process blind. Lets include campus visits. the speakers can wear a sheet and disguise their voices. Then we can make all job interviews throughout the world blind. maybe we should just wear sheets wherever we go no matter what we are doing.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, we can't possibly eliminate all bias in hiring. It deductively follows that it is so absurd as to be worthy of mockery that we try to eliminate any bias at all in hiring.

Anonymous said...

Well, naturally nobody is suggesting that we blind-review interviews, just that the winnowing be blind. That is, when we get from the 400 (or whatever) applications to the 10-20 or so we are actually serious about, *that* process should be blind. This would not alleviate *all* problems, obviously, but would improve things.

I have heard the form of argument "it won't be perfect so let's not even try" many times. But that's so obviously a bad argument. And I wonder why so many people are drawn to that particular false dichotomy. For example, 6:01 says, "That's right. we should make the entire process blind". But who ever suggested that?

Anonymous said...

You guys want to read 400 completely blinded writing samples, without CVs or letters of reference in a couple of weeks? Knock yourselves out. Obviously none of you have any idea of the realities of doing a job search. It is very easy to make recommendations from a position of complete and utter ignorance. Just bear in mind that the usefulness of your recommendations is directly proportional to your experience; i.e., zero.

Dan said...

Universities could ask for letters of CVs and letters of references which are suitable for blind review. Thus the person’s name is replaced with a number, he is replaced with he/she etc. It would not require a lot of extra work – doubtless someone could come up with software to do it. If it became commonplace then people would not think twice about it.

BTW Implicit bias tends to have much more effect when one has less information and experience of the individual to go on. Once one has read the work of, and met, the brilliant black woman it is much harder to be implicitly biased against her.

Thus the most important thing is to do the winnowing blind. Once you move on to interviews and campus visits implicit bias is less of a problem (though I don't claim it is no problem, and doubtless how much of a problem it is varies from person to person).

sc member said...

I don't think anonymizing letters will work. The problem is that often you don't know what the significance of the letter is until you know who wrote it. Some instances of "I confidently predict that this young human will be among the very best philosophers of geography over the next six decades" can be discounted, and some make you sit up and take notice.

Anonymizing writing samples is an excellent idea, though. I'm going to suggest it.

Anonymous said...

@6:01PM
That's right. we should make the entire process blind. Lets include campus visits. the speakers can wear a sheet and disguise their voices. Then we can make all job interviews throughout the world blind. maybe we should just wear sheets wherever we go no matter what we are doing.

LOL. We'll all wear burkas to appease our capitalist masters, like fundamentalist Afghan women do for men.
--
The theories about "tenured deadwood should retire" isn't going to solve the problem. The core of the problem is that supply exceeds demand. More philosophy professors are created each year than the market to employ philosophy professors can absorb.
We all have to acknowledge that we're part of the economic system, and the laws of supply and demand are not human "laws", they are descriptions of processes that occur when humans engage in activities. We can all revert to a Marxist "Philosophers of the World, Unite!" stance, or find comfort in Rousseau's "Man is born free; yet everywhere he is in chains."
But whatever theory you adopt to appease your bruised ego, the labor market is the way to understand the lack of opportunities for PhDs in philosophy.

Anonymous said...

7:59
Well, naturally nobody is suggesting that we blind-review interviews, just that the winnowing be blind. That is, when we get from the 400 (or whatever) applications to the 10-20 or so we are actually serious about, *that* process should be blind. This would not alleviate *all* problems, obviously, but would improve things.

Making hiring "blind" is the same theory as making undergraduate admissions "blind" through the use of SAT. If you want to understand the problems associated with eliminating bias by "blinding" a selection process, there is 50 years of data to study with the undergraduate & graduate testing processes (including MCAT, LSAT, etc).

Anonymous said...

8:45 said:
"You guys want to read 400 completely blinded writing samples, without CVs or letters of reference in a couple of weeks? Knock yourselves out. Obviously none of you have any idea of the realities of doing a job search."

I think you are too quick to dismiss the blinding suggestions. First, many job searches don't receive 400 applications. I know of an elite private institution in the United States that received fewer than 100 applications for a tenure-track job last year.

Moreover, there are ways to make a search feasible even in the cases in which you receive 400 applications.

1. Cut the applicants with PhDs in areas other than philosophy. Cut applicants who don't fit the desired AOS. Let's be honest. This cuts your applicant pool by 150 people. So you now have 250 applicants.

2. You don't need to an applicant's entire writing sample. Read the first few pages of the writing sample and the applicant's research statement. If the person's work is uninteresting or lacks rigor, it almost always shows in the first few pages of these documents. So instead of reading 250 writing samples of 20 pages in length, you only need to read 250 writing samples of three pages (at most). That's 750 pages if done by one person.

3. Distribute applications among at least four people. That makes at most 190 pages of reading. I've read 200 pages in a day and a half; typically, you have at least two months to review applications.

4. Now go back and read CVs and letters of reference. If the person is obviously not close to finishing the PhD, cut him or her. Similarly for evidence of lack of scholarly productivity (e.g., no publications or good presentations; evidence the writing sample is the only good thing the person has written). Now you've got a manageable crop of applications to read in depth.


Finally, job searches generally aren't conducted every year, and if the position is tenure-track, you are choosing a colleague who might be around for several decades. Isn't it worth a one-time investment to secure better philosophers through a fair process?

Anonymous said...

4:48,

Explain this to me please. Your first step includes:
"Cut applicants who don't fit the desired AOS."

Then, in step 4, you suggest:
"Now go back and read CVs and letter of reference."

How are we to determine the applicant's AOS if we are not reading the CVs or letters of reference first?

Anonymous said...

So let me get this straight. The winnowing should be done, at least initially, on writing sample alone. no cv, no publication list, no letters, no transcript.

And, most importantly, no talking to anyone about their students or programs! This last point is important. I currently know, more or less, who is great at many of the top programs and what they are doing. You know why? I have friends at most of these places and we talk. The process you are describing will not serve the less well connected. It will help those whose advisors and professors are well connected to the professors in the programs you want to get jobs at.

You have no idea how much we already know about you (that is, if you are someone we should know something about).

Anonymous said...

Why should we aim to hire *the best*? Why can't we just aim to hire someone *good enough*? The bar for good enough can be set higher and lower, with different criteria, depending on the institution. It seems to me futile to try to figure out the best, especially as a collective (the department) with members that have wildly different conceptions of the best.

Figure out the candidates that are good enough. Do a lottery. That at least eliminates bias in later stages. If you want to sell it to the university administration, tell them the candidates will have little to no leverage to negotiate.

Anonymous said...

"surely we want the best person for the job, right?"

Not in the job searches in which I've been involved. We want an excellent person for the job. We want an interesting person for the job. But no one is looking for the best person, as if there's some sort of relevant and objective ordinal ranking of candidates. The information in applications underdetermines anything like a useful ranking.

Fairness to applicants is important, of course. But one should not confuse being fair to applicants with trying to devise some objective blind ranking of the quality of writing samples (or CVs). When we're faced with a pile of applications, we are not looking to develop an ordinal ranking of the pool. We're looking for interesting people who will be good to work with, most (well, many) of whom meet the minimum criteria (areas of work, teaching competence), as far as we can tell.

Anonymizing might reduce implicit biases. But most departments (I think) are under pressures to increase diversity. It's certainly a conscious decision, for many of us, when reading dossiers, many of which are really equivalent in terms of relevant factors, to add some weight toward persons of under-represented groups. If we were really to blind applications, that kind of factor would have to play a more explicit, more contentious role.

In the end, you can't anonymize the interviews, so the relevant factors will mainly be on display at the point of hiring. But I suspect that our short lists would have been less diverse (for the worse) had we really enforced a blind review process. I'm pretty certain of that claim for at least one search.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, I think this (10:28) is just confused.
If you mean to say that there is literally no such thing as better or worse, then I guess you really could choose randomly. If there is such a thing, then obviously you do have an ordering, or at least a pre-order, which amounts to the same thing for all practical purposes. Then of course you could choose the best (or there might be a set of maximal elements -- you could choose among the best), and why wouldn't you??

Sprinkling the paragraph with the word ‘objective’ is just distracting. Whether the ranking is objective, whatever that’s supposed to mean, is a completely different question.

Anonymous said...

I think 11:27 must be one of my students because s/ he needs to read more carefully.

Anonymous said...

"How are we to determine the applicant's AOS if we are not reading the CVs or letters of reference first?"

Be charitable to previous posters please. Consider the following analogous question. How do journals, with blinded review processes, make sure not to ask referees to review a paper if there is a conflict of interest? By your same reasoning, one would need to know the identity of the author to prevent conflicts of interest.

The above procedure wasn't flawlessly described, but you can do a bit of problem-solving to fix it.

6:58 said:
"You have no idea how much we already know about you (that is, if you are someone we should know something about)."

This type of arrogance is striking. If you haven't heard of me, then I'm not worth knowing (even on a professional basis)? Believe it or not, you don't know everyone in philosophy who is smart and has good ideas. I work in a small field in which I think I know many of the people who do good work. However, I have attended dozens of conferences, and every few months or so, I find someone new who is smart and has an interesting project. Good philosophy departments are looking for researchers in any field of philosophy. To think that you know every philosopher who "should" be known, regardless of AOS, is more than a bit pretentious. More importantly though, you're just wrong.

Anonymous said...

...s/ he needs to read more carefully.

Yeah, good job, don't say what the reading mistake was, just intimate that there was one.

The gist of 11:27 looks right to me, though I wouldn't have put it the same way.

Anonymous said...

6:58 is not alone in his/her ridiculous arrogance. Way to go philosophers.

Anonymous said...

2:01,

Do you really believe that journals follow blind review? Wow. I'm sure that some journals do, sometimes. But assuming that it's the norm shows a striking naivete about the publishing world.

Anonymous said...

6:58's last comment was certainly uncalled for, but he/she was not entirely wrong.

I attend multiple conferences every year, I work with journals and a press, and I have many friends at many universities. I serve as an outside reader for dissertations being completed at other universities. As a result, I have known something about several applicants for our last few searches. I've been in attendance at conference presentations, have worked with them in a variety of other capacities, etc.

I'm not going to say that I know all the worthwhile young scholars working in my AOS, but I do know many of them, having read their dissertations, or chaired panels they have presented on, or met them through a number of other professional means. And this is, I think, a net good for the field. Access to senior scholars is of much value to young scholars.

While I sympathise with the desire to try and eliminate bias, I just don't see how blind review of applications is possible. In order to provide true blindness should my department hire someone in my AOS, I'd have tor recuse myself from that SC; otherwise, chances are pretty high that I will kno some of the applicants based solely on the writing sample I am supposed to read blind. However, recusing myself from the SC is a bad idea; as someone working in that AOS, I am in a better position than some others to judge the merits of the work being considered as part of the application.

Anonymous said...

The arrogance that 6:58 displays really does seem to be widespread amongst philosophers. Here's the strange thing, though. I work regularly with scientists, and although of course science has its share of arrogant jackasses, it is nowhere near what I see in philosophy. My theory: The arrogance is caused by a deep sense of intellectual inferiority (towards science). Philosophers, especially analytic philosophers really seem to admire science but science almost completely ignores philosophy (and many scientists after a few drinks will admit that they think philosophy is complete BS).

zombie said...

According to Kiplinger, Philosophy is the 4th worst major for your career (in terms of "return on investment"), with a 10.8% unemployment rate, and twice the likelihood of working in retail:

http://www.kiplinger.com/slideshow/college/T012-S001-worst-college-majors-for-your-career/index.html?cid=32

We still beat out Anthropology, Fine Arts, and Film/Photography.

Of course, if your career is philosophy, it ain't half bad.

My Plan A was an undergraduate degree in one of the top 3 worst majors, so going to grad school in Philosophy was an improvement in my case.

Jeremy Fantl said...

Hi Zombie,

That's odd about the Kiplinger study. The Wall Street Journal published this data (http://online.wsj.com/public/resources/documents/info-Degrees_that_Pay_you_Back-sort.html) resulting from a study of 1.2 million people with only a bachelor's degree. The Philosophy BA resulted in a relatively low starting median salary, but the mid-career median salary of Philosophy BAs beat out that of Marketing, Chemistry, IT, Business Management, Accounting, and Communications.

-Jeremy

Anonymous said...

And the WSJ data doesn't rank philosophy and religious studies together like the Kiplinger story. One thing philosophy has to start advocating for is separating our data out from religious studies.

I work in a mixed phil/rs department. We are so different that it is bad for both sides to be lumped together.

Anonymous said...

Ummm...there is something odd about saying that departments should aim for only good enough and not the best. This would require the possibility of hiring someone despite the fact that you would have preferred another of the candidates. Isn't the one you pick, by definition, the best candidate by your own lights? I smell a Moorean paradox coming on here.

YFNA

Anonymous said...

"This would require the possibility of hiring someone despite the fact that you would have preferred another of the candidates."

This is what happens at a very many small, non-prestigious schools. When was the last time Directional State Branch College - Redneck Campus was able to hire the best applicant in the pool?

Anonymous said...

@YNFA

Not really. It just requires some epistemic humility---namely, the person who you think is best is probably not actually the best. Then, you realize it's pointless to try to figure out who is the best. Then, you act on the desire of not doing pointless things.

There is no paradox once you realize the person who is made an offer to, conceptually at the very least, need not be the best candidate... by anyone's lights.

Anonymous said...

YFNA: It's merely the difference between satisficing and maximizing. There's some data to show that the former has better outcomes (without thereby counting as maximizing).

Anonymous said...

I meant your preference for which particular candidate, ideally, not the one actually hired or offered the position.

YFNA

Anonymous said...

Oh and it's YFNA (Your Friendly Neighborhood Asshole). Cheers!

Anonymous said...

It's not "Your Neighborhood-Friendly Asshole"? My bad.

Anonymous said...

Now it looks like getting a VAP job is nearly as difficult as getting a TT job. WTF?

Anonymous said...

Yep.

Anonymous said...

10:24,

Are you surprised? Hell, getting an *adjunct* job is even getting harder. With more applicants every year, and with the quality of those applicants getting better, it's only going to get harder to get a job.

Anonymous said...

10:24,

could you elaborate?

Anonymous said...

7:22,

OK. Tenure track jobs are harder to come by. There are fewer now than in the (relatively recent) past, and all signs point to this trend continuing. However, there are more people applying for those jobs. The production of newly-minted PhDs has increased over the past decade, and all signs suggest that will continue to be the case in the coming years.

More applicants for fewer jobs.

Also, those applicants are generally much more qualified (on paper at least) than was true in the past. I only just received tenure, and even when I was on the market (not that long ago), there was not the expectation that one need to publish in order to get looked at. Go back a few years. My undergrad advisor never once published a book. Ever. And he was full professor at an elite liberal arts college. The competition is getting tougher with each generation.

More well-qualified applicants for fewer jobs.

My department was looking to hire an adjunct recently. We wanted a one-year sabbatical replacement, and administration denied us a VAP (they claimed funding difficulties). So we hired an adjunct. Within 2 days, we realized that even if we cut all the applicants who didn't have a PhD, we would still have to wade through over 100 applications. For a pretty shit job, teaching 3 sections of Intro for poverty wages with no benefits and no hope of a permanent position.

I can't even imagine how it must have felt to be one of those applicants, holding a PhD from a ranked university and having published in decent journals, having presented at national conferences, and having good letters of recommendation from respected scholars. And still being told, "no, you didn't get this shitty adjunct gig."

10:24

Anonymous said...

10:24 here,

The following is a PFO from a recent VAP job search:

I am writing to you on behalf of the philosophy department at XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX. We have completed our search for a visiting assistant professor for the coming year, and regrettably, I am writing to inform you that our search is complete and we will not be reviewing your candidacy any further.

Our call for applications was met with an enormous number of responses, and we made every effort to review each one with care. We are all too aware of the difficulty of finding a job in the current market, and the disappointment that comes with not being interviewed or hired. It struck us in reviewing these files that each one of them represents years of work in a noble pursuit, and we strove to review each one with care and respect in light of this. The needs of our department narrowed our choices considerably, and ruled out a great many excellent philosophers we would have welcomed as colleagues under other circumstances. We thank you for sharing your work with us, and we wish you the best of luck in the future.

Anonymous said...

The claim about adjunct jobs is surprising. Assuming that nobody is willing to move across the country for an adjunct job (ever hear of McDonalds?), I'd think it would depend on where you live. For example, one of the schools where I work was desperate for adjuncts a year ago and hired two new people for this year.

Anonymous said...

10:24,

7:22 here. thanks for that.

also: holy fuck.


Anonymous said...

People talk about how the anemic TT job market is going to have long-term negative effects on philosophy as a discipline, which is no doubt true. But my greatest worry is that if the VAP and adjunct job market gets thin, this bodes even worse for the discipline. Many candidates are willing to tough out a few years, hope to get good pubs and more teaching experience, in order to get further shots at the TT game. But if even these temporary fixes are drying up, many highly qualified and talented people will be forced to leave academia right out of the gate. And that is fucking tragic!

Anonymous said...

To all those over-55 tenured professors of philosophy: how is the view of your younger colleagues from your toasty warm office? Are you enjoying this? Go ahead and keep doing the same thing that you've been doing for the last two or more decades while young phd's have to work at McDonald's! I bet you catch a lot of peaceful z's in your offices after lunch... Sweet dreams...

Anonymous said...

9:28 here.

(I seem to have given the wrong time stamp before. I made the comment at 5:17, and again at 9:28. That is, I am not 10:24. Sorry if that confused anyone.)

We - as a field - have a serious problem, in that we are producing more PhDs than we have academic posts for. This has been true in the recent past, but is getting worse with each passing year. As I see it, we have a few options:

1. Stop turning out so many PhDs. This would mean that programs with terrible placement rates should just close up shop and focus on undergraduate education. (I know of a program that hasn't placed a PhD into a tenure track job or a post-doc in 4 years. Not one. How they manage to sell their product I don't know, but perhaps they need to shut down. They are not doing their graduates any favors.)

This would also mean that the successful programs should admit fewer students. And be much more honest with those they do admit. Make clear to students that an academic job is highly unlikely. Impress upon them the reality - not the likelihood, but the reality - that they won't find full-time academic employment. Some of them surely might, and that's good for them. The vast majority, however, will not. And they need to know this up front.

2. The field could do a much better job about preparing graduates for non-academic jobs. Philosophy PhDs work in a variety of fields, and their skills are transferable. Any program not inviting these people to come speak to their graduate students is missing out on a fantastic resource. And because university faculty are notoriously terrible about understanding the private sector, these non-academic successes should be viewed as necessary consultants. When your business is failing, you bring in an expert. Every CEO knows this.

Of course, none of this will happen. No department will close down its PhD program. No dean, provost, or president will ever allow it to happen. Too embarrassing. To costly to replace the cheap labor graduate student provide (particularly graduate students who do not have a full tuition release and living-wage stipend). Nor will departments ever consider training in, coaching for, or even acknowledging the existence of non-academic career options. That has always and forever been viewed as a sign of failure, even when those very faculty bemoan the fact that so many non-academics have given up caring about philosophy. For some reason, they fail to appreciate the fact that when you turn your back on the masses, the masses easily forget you. Every philosophy program in the country could disappear tomorrow, and most people wouldn't know, and wouldn't care. And so few professionals in the field seem to think that's worth bothering about.

So we have one last action: we can discourage the pursuit of PhDs in philosophy. I used to tell my students that if the education was enough, and if they could afford to live for some time in poverty pursuing their studies, and were content knowing they would likely never find full-time work teaching...then they should go on for the PhD. But I can't even say that anymore.

Our profession is slowly dying, and I cannot in good faith keep feeding this dying beast.

Anonymous said...

There is another way. Every philosophy professor over 50 retires now. I'm serious. With so many retirees, the colleges will have to hire new people for at least a small proportion of those positions and that may be sufficient help to get the field going for a few more decades, perhaps...

Anonymous said...

Yes, great idea 2:00!
Or, wait, better yet: 1/4 of the new PhDs in philosophy just kill themselves! That would solve everything!

Susan said...

The number one problem in our field was hit on by someone above, but I can't find the number again now: we have to stop turning inward and insisting on narrow boundaries confining "real" philosophy. Philosophers who try to make their work relevant and interesting to a broader audience, or find connections with other disciplines, are often scorned by purists in the field. That attitude is precisely why tenure-track lines dry up and are moved elsewhere. We have to be able to tell clear stories about why what we do is valuable, not just to a small set of narrow specialists, but to undergrad majors and nonmajors alike, and to the wider community. Since philosophy is valuable, we can do this, but many of us turn up our noses at the effort. So we'll continue to be seen as insular and outdated, and philosophy will be seen as only useful for some basic general education skills in reasoning or ethics. This means fewer jobs for everyone.

The other factor was also mentioned a few times above: stop admitting so many new grad students. It's not fair to them or anyone else. Shrink the supply to better match the demand.

Anonymous said...

Why just philosophy professors? Retire *everyone* at 50. There are lots of people, in lots of fields, without jobs.

If we force everyone over 50 out of work, there will be lots of jobs that need to be filled. They can be filled with the new crop of younglings.

Unemployment = solved.

You're welcome.

Anonymous said...

Disclosure: I'm someone who has been at non-TT posts for a few years and got a TT job recently.

"We - as a field - have a serious problem, in that we are producing more PhDs than we have academic posts for."

This would only be a serious problem if there were some a priori assumption that all or most PhDs should get a job. I don't see why we should think that.

The closest thing to the academic job market, in my view, is the professional sports job market.

Do you think there is some kind of injustice in the fact that most NCAA basketball players don't make it to the NBA? Some superstars are destined, many barely make it as bench players, and even more -- the vast majority -- are playing in developmental and foreign leagues just hoping for a shot. Basketball skills are no more transferable than philosophy skills.

Sure, this situation may be a problem for the many players that don't make it to the NBA. However, I doubt that it's a problem for the NBA, or the field of basketball. Indeed, this seems to ensure that there is always a sufficient supply of talent such that people must produce (or perish).

FWIW, this is the way I've thought about it ever since I was an undergrad. So, at least anecdotally, I don't see the wide-eyed-perception problem either.

In fact, if there's a problem with the philosophy job market, it's that philosophy search committees seem less good at identifying real talents than NBA scouts. I'm not even sure that's true, but I can see the complaint there better.

Anonymous said...

"The closest thing to the academic job market, in my view, is the professional sports job market."

I agree, with one significant difference, though: the reward is much higher in professional sports than in academia. The chances of success may be roughly the same, but with eight years or more in graduate school, the starting salaries are certainly much lower than in professional sports.

Anonymous said...

@ 4/16 9:27 said

2. The field could do a much better job about preparing graduates for non-academic jobs. Philosophy PhDs work in a variety of fields, and their skills are transferable. Any program not inviting these people to come speak to their graduate students is missing out on a fantastic resource. And because university faculty are notoriously terrible about understanding the private sector, these non-academic successes should be viewed as necessary consultants. When your business is failing, you bring in an expert. Every CEO knows this.

What "transferable skills" do philosophy phDs have that make them so in-demand in the non-academic market.

Anonymous said...

"This would only be a serious problem if there were some a priori assumption that all or most PhDs should get a job. I don't see why we should think that."

The reason why we think that is because that's how grad programs operate. Personally, I *don't* think all PhDs should get a job. But an academic job is the reason why people go to grad school in Philosophy. Grad directors and grad faculty feed the lie that their students can, should, and will get jobs. And when recent PhDs don't get jobs, the complain about how the field is corrupt, or those with jobs don't deserve them and should get out of their way, or bemoan their inability to find non-academic work. And they feel outraged precisely because, at every step of the way, the system encouraged them in the belief that they will find work, that they should find work, that they are owed an academic job.

And the sad thing is, Philosophy grad students will never learn what most everyone else already knows: you are not owed a job.

But maybe you are right; it's not a serious problem. I mean, you got a job, so the system must work.

"In fact, if there's a problem with the philosophy job market, it's that philosophy search committees seem less good at identifying real talents than NBA scouts."

I'm sure the search committee that hired you was pleased to find that out.

Glaucon said...

Again with the retirement trope?

In the end, all Smoker threads merge into one. And a river of bullshit runs through it.

Anonymous said...

I think seeing TT professors committing the fallacy of false analogy is quite telling about the sorry state-of-the-art in philosophy. Basketball and philosophy? Seriously? What a big mistake...

Anonymous said...

There is no "fallacy of false analogy". That's a bullshit "Critical Thinking" trope.

Anonymous said...

@ 5:57 / 2:00

I don't think whether I've gotten a job or not proves anything. There's a huge amount of luck involved. I got lucky. Some of my friends and colleagues who I think are more deserving in some ways did not. I put the disclosure there for context -- lest anyone thinks I'm an old fogey who "ought to retire" -- but I guess you can ad hominem anything.

I'm not why you think the analogy is problematic. Descriptively, it seems true. Perhaps you mean that normatively it ought not, but I'd like to understand why. Also, I was just wanting to understand an empirical phenomenon.

"The reason why we think that is because that's how grad programs operate. Personally, I *don't* think all PhDs should get a job. But an academic job is the reason why people go to grad school in Philosophy."

Yes. PhD is a prerequisite for a job. That's why people go get PhDs. I don't see how that implies that PhD is a guarantee for a job. I also don't think there is the systematic deception you allege, but if there is, it seems that the problem is with the deception and not supply and demand.

Have at it! :)

Anonymous said...

Glaucon,

I wonder how many of these people, should they land jobs, will voluntarily walk away at 50. Duty to the profession, you know.

Anonymous said...

If the people here really think that there is no genuine difference between basketball and philosophy, then I weep not for "philosophers" but for philosophy! Of course, it is a false analogy and yes, there is such a thing as false analogy! Sadly there are too many instances of it in and out of philosophy even if some "philosophers" here cannot see it... Now, there is another real reason to quake for poor philosophy having fallen hostage to incompetent people while the real smart people are now leaving the field as there are no jobs for them... What misfortune for philosophy...

Anonymous said...

10:28 shows *exactly* why "fallacy of false analogy" is a bullshit trope. Notice that 10:28's comment says literally nothing about what is wrong with the analogy as 4:58AM (who is not me) gave. Nothing at all. No argument, no articulated objection, just labeled it "false analogy".

Now we get this:

If the people here really think that there is no genuine difference between basketball and philosophy, then I weep not for "philosophers" but for philosophy!

It's so obvious that I feel silly saying it, but "people here" do not think, and have not said, that there is no genuine difference between basketball and philosophy. Only someone lost in "Critical Thinking" would accuse the commenters here of something like that.

Now stop committing the Fallacy of Stupid Commentary.

Anonymous said...

Priority number 1, 2 and 3 for the APA and like bodies should be to promote philosophy as a subject taught in schools. Schools will soak up PhD's without producing new ones (the heart of the problem).

Then we can train people for jobs that exist, improve our public image, connect philosophy to the real world, etc.

Anonymous said...

no one is saying that philosophy and basketball are the same. the claim, which I didn't make but like, is that the "market" involved in coming to be a pro b-ball player is analogous in many important respects to the market involved in coming to be a TT professor (the claim isn't restricted to philosophy).

of course there are differences. that's why it is an analogy and not an identity. but no one has pointed out why any of those differences would make the analogy inapt.

all we have here is people whining that it is wrong without even attempting to say why.


Also, philosophy is doing just fine. we've got plenty of smart people doing amazing things. It would be nice if all of you could be able to participate. unfortunately, many of you won't. And it is not unjust that this is so.

Anonymous said...

"If the people here really think that there is no genuine difference between basketball and philosophy,"

Who said that? Making an analogy isn't the same as saying there is no genuine difference. This error too seems worthy of weeping.

Anonymous said...

@10:28

Not sure if you're just trolling, but obviously the analogy is not between basketball and philosophy, but between the field of professional basketball and the field of professional philosophy.

Anonymous said...

Critchley saga is interesting -- any other tales of grad student exploitation to share?

Anonymous said...

A "false analogy." Lewis is rolling over in his grave!

YFNA

Anonymous said...

"It would be nice if all of you could be able to participate. unfortunately, many of you won't. And it is not unjust that this is so."

This sounds an awful lot like a desperate attempt to absolve him/herself for not feeling any regret for unemployed philosophers. Of course, it's nothing more than simple denial...

Anonymous said...

10:28 here.

Here is why it is a false analogy. In fact, I think it is embarassing that I have to spell this out for people here.

Professional philosophy is an academic discipline with its own methods that deals with real problems the solutions of which have real consequences for the real world beyond academic philosophy. Professional basketball is mere entertainment, nothing more!

The training for philosophy is not nearly as simple and mindless nor dependent on individual talent as basketball. The training for philosophy takes much more intelligence, sacrifice, and seriousness than the training for basketball!

The work of at least some philosophers can be seriously beneficial for society as a whole. What did society lose during lockouts? Nothing!!!! They just watch football or baseball or reality TV.

For the above and other reasons you all know damn well, you CANNOT compare people who play basketball and people who have taken 5+ years of their most productive years to get a phd in philosophy. This is why, not all those people who play basketball can be pros but all those people with phd's with a philosophy deserve a job in philosophy. Because, if they don't, we all lose seriously trained people who can help society deal with at least some of its real problems.

How can you compare people who play basketball and people who got phd's in philosophy? This is the real and tragic stupidity!

Anonymous said...

9:04, did you read the original analogy? Because you haven't said anything (I mean, literally nothing) that addresses it.

Anonymous said...

9:04, I agree that the analogy is a bad one, but not for the reasons you just spelled out.

It's a bad analogy because though kids playing high school/college hoops can hope to play in the NBA, high school and college hoops are not structured specifically to prepare people for the NBA. PhD programs in philosophy are specifically structured to train professional philosophers.

A college basketball player who doesn't make it to the NBA may be disappointed, but he was not recruited by the college in order that they might place him with an NBA team (though they may hope to do this with some of their players). Some players are brought on to strengthen the bench, to provide a backup for the star player, etc. PhD programs don't admit students for similar reasons--the idea is (or is presented as being) that everyone who enters and does well will end up teaching philosophy. At least that's the way I took things to be, and not because I was willingly ignoring evidence to the contrary.

Anonymous said...

If we assume that everything is similar to everything else in some respect, the idea of a completely false analogy, is a non-starter.
Better or worse for certain ends or purposes, sure, but not false ;)

Anonymous said...

"The training for philosophy is not nearly as simple and mindless nor dependent on individual talent as basketball. The training for philosophy takes much more intelligence, sacrifice, and seriousness than the training for basketball!"

Sounds like someone doesn't know much about basketball.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure what those who are saying that there is some sort of duty for those 50 and older to retire are saying. Are you saying that Timothy Williamson, Christine Korsgaard, Ernie Sosa, and Martha Nussbaum have some sort of duty to retire? Or is it only the ones who aren't famous?

Anonymous said...

Again, you just don't understand what is being said. No one is comparing basketball and philosophy in the way you suggest. But here are some true claims that hold for both fields and the "markets" involved in coming to be a pro in them. Lots of people want to be pros. There is a small number of available positions. It takes years of dedicated training to make it. That training, if it does not result in success, is largely not transferable. At many stages, recruiters will give you a rosier picture of your prospects than is warranted. If you fail, you are still probably pretty good.

Are you entitled to be a pro? No! Do you deserve to be a pro? Perhaps. But not everyone deserves to, even if you are very good. Is it a tragedy if everyone doesn't make it? No. Is any of this unjust? No! (With the possible exception of the recruiting but; but really, are you that naive?)

Anonymous said...

"For the above and other reasons you all know damn well, you CANNOT compare people who play basketball and people who have taken 5+ years of their most productive years to get a phd in philosophy. This is why, not all those people who play basketball can be pros but all those people with phd's with a philosophy deserve a job in philosophy. Because, if they don't, we all lose seriously trained people who can help society deal with at least some of its real problems."

Hold on. People who spend years training for Job A are *not* deserving of a job in that field, but people who spend years training for Job B are? You may value philosophy more than basketball, but that doesn't mean that everyone who trains for a job in the field deserves one. (I might agree that those people are *qualified* for a job in philosophy, but that's not the same thing.)

Also, many basketball players spend time using their fame and fortune helping solve "real problems":
http://thegoodinsports.com/athlete-foundations-and-charities/basketball-player-foundations-and-charities/
Show me the similar list for major philosophers.

And since when are philosophers in any way rewarded for addressing "real problems"? Which "real problems" are being solved in the most recent issue of "The Philosophical Review" or "Nous"?

If it makes you feel better to denigrate athletes, suggesting that their work is neither as strenuous nor as useful as the work you do, fine. Whatever helps you sleep at night. But me? I'll sit back and enjoy the NBA playoffs.

Anonymous said...

"Are you saying that Timothy Williamson, Christine Korsgaard, Ernie Sosa, and Martha Nussbaum have some sort of duty to retire? Or is it only the ones who aren't famous?"

Perhaps it's the famous ones who should retire *first*; you know, because those are the best jobs.

Actually, I have a better idea. When an advisor signs off on a successful dissertation defense, that advisor must then also step down. Every PhD is thus guaranteed a TT job.

Problem = solved.

You're welcome.

Anonymous said...

Hmmm--PFO:

"Thank you for your application for the visiting position in the philosophy department at XXXXX. We had over 100 applications from excellent candidates. At this point we have extended offers, and I'm sorry to say you are not among that group. We were looking for candidates with evidence of excellent teaching in our areas of teaching need—Introduction to Philosophy, Ethics, Logic, Aesthetics, Professional Ethics-- whose research areas complemented those of the department, and who seemed likely to be able to transition from XXXX and it's 4-4 teaching load into a tenure-track position elsewhere."

But I do research in aesthetics, professional ethics, and ethics--and have taught a shitload of courses in all of the areas they mention. Is it possible that they don't think I can "transition [...] into a tenure-track position elsewhere"?

Oh--and 100 applicants to a VAP listing aesthetics as an AOS/AOC? We're all fucking doomed!

Anonymous said...

I'd like to end the dispute once and for all about whether the NBA and professional philosophy are similar.

Differences:
1. The general public cares about the NBA.
2. There are black people in the NBA.
3. White people are team players in the NBA.
4. NBA players can feed their families.


Similarities:
1. Both the philosophy and the NBA have an Aristotle (in the latter case, it's Shaq).
2. There are no women in the NBA.
3. If you're Kobe, it doesn't matter how many women you assault; you get to keep your job.
4. Team play is irrelevant.

Anonymous said...

Just going to take a wild guess... Grand Valley State U?

Anonymous said...

I'll translate that poorly-worded PFO:

"The heavy teaching load for this position will leave you no time for research. You should be trying for a TT job or you should leave the profession. We can sleep at night only if we hire someone we expect to move on."