An anonymous Smoker writes:
Imagine a philosophy PhD student - call her Phillis - who is about half way through her well-ranked program. Phillis is a bright student whose adviser thinks highly of her. She wouldn't fit a description like "best student this adviser has had in the last five years" but nevertheless she's a promising scholar in her mid to late-20s working in an area of philosophy that is high in demand, to the extent that jobs in philosophy are highly demanded.
Further imagine that Phillis finds herself in the following circumstances with the following psychological profile: She has friends and family on both the west and east coast and would prefer to live near one group of them to not living near either group somewhere in the middle of the country. She doesn't currently want to own a house, nor does she want to start a family right now, but she wants to keep those options open in the not-too-distant future. She finds joy in the arts, professional sports, fine dining, the outdoors, etc. She finds philosophy intrinsically rewarding but she's not a true-believer, as she can imagine finding fulfillment doing other things, too. She has little work experience outside philosophy, however, and is worried that she is, to some extent, stuck on the philosophy-trajectory because of this. She also expects that if she were to leave philosophy she would regret not fulfilling her goal, but she doesn't expect that the regret would be debilitating. She is also mildly frustrated living on a graduate student wage and has come to find the solitariness of philosophical work a bit exhausting. Again, though, she not infrequently finds satisfaction in doing philosophy.
Question: Does it make sense for Phillis to continue pursuing philosophy professionally, given the awful state of the job market? Why or why not?
Go ahead and substitute for 'make sense' whatever normative terminology you find most useful (e.g. 'rational', 'the thing to do', etc).
Surely some philosopher (you perhaps) has fit Phillis' description at some point in their lives. And if not, surely some philosopher who is paid to try and sort out how people ought to live would have some insight to share.
I don't really know what Phillis should do, and I don't really feel qualified to comment. But that's never stopped me before, so here's what I sort of think. To me, it seems like Phillis might be better off if she bailed on philosophy. Tenure line jobs are hard to come by, and it's even tougher if one is picky about being on the coast. If she can find a tenure-line job at all, she's probably going to wind up in Evansville or Des Moines or someplace. And if she wouldn't mind it too much, and wouldn't have a crushing sense of failure and regret that she didn't stick with it, and if there are other things about philosophy she finds unsatisfying or frustrating, and she can find something else on one of the coasts, maybe she ought to bail.
But look. I don't know. I would say that my experience on the job market has been a real struggle, but I would not say that I regret my decision to pursue this career. And I don't think I'll end up regretting it, even if I end up giving up on it. Not that this really means anything. Your mileage may vary.
On the other hand (back to the first hand?), I sometimes think about my friends and family who still live in and around the city we grew up in, and I am nearly overcome with insane jealousy. I guess my mileage may vary, too.