Thursday, December 31, 2009

Six-packs of Bud Light Cost Less Than Ten Dollars

Sorry about the less-than-regular blogging schedule lateley. I blame family obligations, traveling, and jacked-up midtown wifi rates. Whatever.

Anyways, anon 12:38 says it well:
$10 Bud Light at the second night's smoker. Ten mother fucking dollars for a bottle of bud fucking light?! $12 for a glass of wine?! $6 for a bottle of water or a glass of soda?!

Dear APA - did you AGREE to those prices? Were they prearranged? If so - fuck you. We're poor and not getting any richer and obligated to attend the smoker and then have to make the choice of spending $10 on one bottle of piss poor beer or going without.
I mean, it's cool that the beers at the first smoker are free, and I get that a lot of people want the conference to be in Midtown New York. But come on. We're un- or underemployed philosophers forced to spend our own money to fly to New York two days after Christmas for job interviews. The APA should be doing everything it possibly can to make it affordable.

Next time, lets have the conference at the Plaza. Nicer views.

--Mr. Zero

Monday, December 28, 2009

Eastern APA

Those who said it was a terrible idea to hold the Eastern APA in Times Square during one of the busiest times of the year and that it would be a huge clusterfuck were sorely mistaken.

Just kidding. They were right.

Anyways, aside from the obvious pot-shots to take, a few things to note:
There did seem to be a low number of interviewers in one of the big reception rooms (as a commenter has noted), but not low enough as to lower the difficulty of trying to hear someone sitting right next to you.

These high-tech, super-fast elevators are making me dizzy.

With a mediocre interview under my belt and having to wade through gobs of philosophers and tourists to use said elevators, the Church of Scientology's ads promising me a more stress-free life that are prominently displayed out my window are looking mighty appealing now.

I went to a talk today that was sparsely attended and tried to stay awake after only being able to sleep in 40 minute bursts last night (nerves); I'm assuming that's par for the course.
Finally, for those souls with us in NYC, keep your eyes open and ears to the ground. I hear that someone (me) is scattering Sunday Comics styled 'Hello, My Name is PHIL' name tags around the hotel; I want pictures of you wearing them.

Time for coffee.

-- Jaded Dissertator

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Sunday Comics

Yeah, yeah, it's a repeat from the old venture, but I'm en route to the APA and couldn't find time to draw something new over the past week. Besides, it's inspirational. Lord knows we could all use a little bit of inspiration these days.

-- Jaded Dissertator

Friday, December 25, 2009


Something pleasant in the midst of all the job-market crappola.

Every year I listen to this album pretty much constantly during December, and then in January I put it away for the rest of the year. As I get older, I find that behaviors repeated on an annual basis mean more to me. I guess I'm becoming a fuddy-duddy.

Of course, job market shit is becoming an annual behavior, and I don't like it any more than I did three years ago. So maybe I'm still a regular duddy after all.

--Mr. Zero

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Eve Number Crunching

Before I had a chance to get a post up about it, I saw some fellow Smokers in the comments over that-a-way engaging in some job market accounting. I need a quick break from syllabi planning, so I'll join:
588 applicants to the Open/Open job at Boise State. 588. That's 238 more than the number of applications to the Open/Open job at Coastal Carolina, which I already thought was sort of staggering.

That makes the over 750 applicants to Duke's Writing Program from across the Humanities actually seem quite small. Given that the MLA has predicted a 35% drop in the English job market last year (putting the decline at 51% over two years), you might think the applicant pool would be larger to these and similar positions.

Maybe us philosophers aren't applying en masse to the positions and that's keeping the numbers down. But, when there was only about 250-300 positions advertised in the JFP this year, including Humanities/Teaching Fellowships, we should be applying to anywhere that would consider giving us money.

You know, money we could use to recoup some of our ridiculous job market expenses. Really? $148 per night? And travel expenses? Say, on average $250. And, the amount spent on 46 apps sent (for me) via Interfolio on a conservative estimate of about $10 per app? Shit, son.
Right. Back to work. Happy Christmas Eve and see you in New York:

--Jaded Dissertator

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

An Exercise in Self-Deception

Well, I can't declare my first job market season to be an unmitigated disaster and I'm not complaining about that fact because that would just be dickish: I'm happy to have what I have. That said, I'm holding out hope for a more positive/lifepath-and-project-affirming response from those Postdoc/Humanities/Teaching fellowships that won't be interviewing at the APA and we'll be hearing from sometime in January.

Still, I'm not sure why I'm holding out hope. One can only assume that one's apps will fare even worse once the field is widened to include every other humanistic discipline out there. But, then again, maybe I'm wrong.

I'm holding on to that 'maybe'.

-- Jaded Dissertator

Update: PFO received from a Postdoc/Humanities/Teaching fellowships no more than an hour or so after this post:
We received over 750 applications for our positions this year. This meant that we were faced with the difficult task of deciding whom among a large selection of very fine candidates we would choose to interview for a small number of Fellowships. I am sorry to inform you that we were unable to list you among our finalists.
Irony doesn't seem like the right word in this situation: Gutpunch? Reality check? Hi-larious? The latter, I think.

/laughs to keep from crying

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Friday, December 18, 2009

Public Service Announcement

From PhilUpdates (I nice listserv you should subscribe to):
Hi All,

We're having a party to celebrate the Whiskey & Philosophy launch-as well as
the Philosophy for Everyone series-at the Eastern Division APA meeting in
NYC. Details attached or here:

It's December 29 @ 700p, just before the start of the APA's second
reception. We'll have great stuff to drink as well. All we don't know at
this stage is the room number, but I'll either announce it here or else feel
free to stop by the Wiley-Blackwell table and ask Jeff. Or send an email to and Marcus will let you know.

For those of you traveling to New York, travel safely; hope to see you
there. And happy holidays to all!



Fritz Allhoff

Assistant Professor &

Director of Graduate Studies

Department of Philosophy

Western Michigan University

All I have to say is: Thank you.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Speaking of Class-Based Discrimination

There was a discussion a few days ago on Leiter Reports about why there isn't a central clearinghouse for philosophy grad school applications the way there is for law school. The comments quickly turned away from that issue and on to the issue of whining about how bad it is for you when a lot of people apply to your graduate program. "How can we solve the problem of having a lot of graduate school applications to go through?!?!?!" Several people suggested that the solution was to keep the cost of applications high, or to use the proposed clearinghouse to artificially raise these costs, by increasing application fees when you increase the number of schools you apply to. A lot of people seemed to like the idea, while only a few pointed out that this would unfairly burden the non-wealthy.

Also, what the fuck is up with people complaining about all the students wanting to study philosophy with them at their school? Isn't that why you get into this business?

--Mr. Zero

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

What Do You Ask Your Interviewers?

By popular demand: Standard Operating Procedure for ending an interview is for the interviewer to say, "do you have any questions for us?" The correct answer is, "yes." But then what?

--Mr. Zero

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Sunday Comics

I know that it's probably too early to despair, but still. I'm beginning to attain a whole new level of respect for those of you who have done this more than once.

Keep your ears to the ground, friends (while avoiding the wiki); hopefully, things start to happen for those of us it hasn't happened for already.

-- Jaded Dissertator

Saturday, December 12, 2009

For-Profit Journals.

There was a thread at Leiter Reports the other day about the ethics of refereeing for journals that operate on a for-profit business model. The Original Poster (Warren Goldfarb, not Leiter) thinks that it is wrong for the journal to make money from his donated labor, and proposes a referee boycott of all for-profit journals. This would include all Springer journals, and some others.

Several commentators pointed out that even if you accept the premise that these journals are exploiting their referees, this exploitation is small potatoes in comparison to the way they exploit the authors. It is a lot more work to write an article than it is to referee one, and access to the articles is the actual product our institutions purchase for us. And a referee boycott is much more likely to hurt the authors, and will hurt them in a more direct way, than it is to hurt Springer. These points seem 100% right to me.

It was also pointed out in comments that referee exploitation is not the real problem. The real problem is that for-profit journals are often prohibitively expensive to libraries, which can lead to libraries not carrying various journals, which is bad for scholars like us who need access to journals.

But again, no referee boycott is going to be effective, especially if the boycott is limited to referees in our discipline. According to Springer's website, they publish in the neighborhood of 2,000 journals. So I strongly doubt that a philosophy author boycott would do anything, either. It seems to me that if there were a professional association for college librarians, it might be better positioned to effectively protest this situation.

So one possible course of action would be to contact the ACRL and the head librarians at our own institutions and encouraging them to take action.

Another possibility is that journal editors might be in a better position than referees to do something about this. How much influence does the editor of a journal have over who publishes the journal? Could Stewart Cohen, for example, take Philosophical Studies to a not-for-profit publisher? Maybe we should start working on people like him.

--Mr. Zero

Friday, December 11, 2009


I guess a discussion of what to wear to your interviews is a little overdue. I am incompetent to discuss women's clothing, so I'll just invite people who know what they're talking about to leave advice in the comment thread. Also, here's an old post from P.G.O.A.T. One thing I will say is that it seems to me that women have more options than men. But that's not obviously a good thing for women.

For the dudes: you should wear either a suit or a jacket/tie/nice pants combination. There are always the objections about how paying attention to how people dress is superficial and stupid and not at all important. To those people I say, adults display their respect for their interviewers and their interest in the job by dressing up for interviews. Adults who don't dress up for interviews display a lack of interest and respect. Aristotle says we are political animals. Be political.

You can, of course, spend as much as you want on a suit. Macy's is a good bet for expensive suits. Men's Wearhouse is cheaper, but I find that their suits look exactly like they came from Men's Wearhouse. Nevertheless, my suit is from Men's Wearhouse. Make sure it fits you.

Finally, a tip. Wear your interview outfit as much as possible between now and the APA. Practice. I always see guys around the hotel who are obviously extraordinarily uncomfortable in their weird, unfamiliar clothes. The key to being comfortable in a suit is being accustomed to wearing it, and the only way to do that is to wear it. So wear it. Now.

--Mr. Zero

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Publishing While in Graduate School

It's a little late for this year, but Gualtiero Piccinini has a nice discussion of the ins & outs of publishing in advance of the job market.

h/t Leiter.

--Mr. Zero

Smoker "Do"s

Spiros at Philosophers Anonymous is running a "Smoker Don'ts" thread. It has been suggested that we run a thread devoted to Smoker "do"s. I have very little experience with this thing, but my understanding of the "do"s is as follows:

1. Do go and visit every school you interviewed with.

2. Do be sober during the entire thing.

3. Do follow up on any interesting research questions that came up during your interview.

4. Do be nice, pleasant, personable, and not an asshole.

But this is just the tip of the iceberg. What else?

--Mr. Zero

P.S. I am deeply sympathetic with Spiros's anonymous commenter at 1:00, who says "I cannot believe that this "smoker" business occurs! It seems totally unfair, and borderline illegal to expect people to travel to a conference for an "informal interview" that is actually mandatory."

Sunday, December 6, 2009

The APA Hotel Fiasco

As everyone now knows, the APA did not book an overflow hotel for the Eastern Division Meeting in New York. Some people seem very angry with the APA, claiming that they irresponsibly screwed over possibly hundreds of people. Some people are not angry, and seem inclined to blame anyone who didn't book a hotel room as soon as they were reserved. After all, you can always cancel it at the last minute if you don't get any interviews.

I don't understand this reasoning at all. The hotel room problem is fundamentally quantitative, not temporal. The APA did not reserve enough rooms, and they didn't tell anyone what they were doing. It wouldn't have made a difference if everyone who is complaining had booked a room earlier. Although those specific people would probably now have a room, the same number of people would still have been shut out. Because the APA didn't reserve enough rooms. And that's a huge fuckup.

--Mr. Zero

Friday, December 4, 2009

Post-Defense Dissertation Questions

For how long after your defense can you expect questions directly about your dissertation? Is there a certain amount of elapsed time after which you won't be asked about it anymore? Do the questions merely decrease in frequency or intensity over time? Or do they hang on at a pretty much constant rate as long as you're still looking for your first tenure-track job? What gives?

--Mr. Zero

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Re-rehash: Interview Questions

It's that time again: time to start thinking about what questions interviewers will be asking at the APA, should you be so fortunate.

Here's the list from two years ago, with some additions:

Course content

1. What kind of intro do you teach and why? As Anon. 1:58 puts it, "What do you cover in Intro and why? Do you give a historical or problems course? Do you emphasize methods or content? Primary sources or textbook?"

2. Inside the Philosophy Factory's got a broader take on the same idea. She asks, what's your "vision for 'normal' philosophy courses and your methods for teaching logic? Here you'll want to explain the kinds of exercises you'll do to keep students engaged. You'll also want to explain your assessment methods for those courses."

Interdisciplinary and cross-department teaching

3. What would you teach if you got to design your own course integrating material from other disciplines?

4. From Sisyphus, "How would you teach our cross-listed courses with gen ed./the Core Curriculum/some other department/the writing program?"

Engaging students

5. How would you engage students that are required to take philosophy courses but who otherwise would not have?

6. Here's a variation from Anon. 1:58: "How would you get students at our school interested in your class X? Why would our students want to take it?"

7. John Turri's talking engagement too, but he's going a different direction: "What techniques would you use to engage students, in the same class, of very different levels of ability and interest?"


8. Back to Sisyphus: "How would you work with our students as opposed to the ones at your current institution" (i.e., differences in diversity, age, college prep, money, types of feeder schools, a religious mission, they are all huge b-ball fans, etc.)"

9. Here's Inside the Philosophy Factory: What are "your methods for adjusting to different preparation levels in the classroom? Here is where you'll have to explain how you'll deal with the kid who can't read and the kid who had to come home from Princeton sitting next to one another in your freshman Ethics course."

Teaching practices

10. How does your research inform your teaching?

11. From Anon. 1:58: "What is your strength/weakness as a teacher? What is special about your classes? What do you feel you need to work on?"

12. John T again: "What incentives do you build into the course to encourage your students to actually do the reading?"

13. What technology do you use in teaching? Besides chalk, I guess.

14. From Inside the Philosophy Factory: How would you "deal with a few students who are doing badly in the class -- and how you would deal with a significant portion of the class that is doing badly? She recommends, "The key with the student is to offer more help and to understand what resources are available to help students who need more assistance. With the class who is doing badly, discuss how you'd do some review to reinforce some important concepts AND to do classroom assessment techniques like asking about the 'muddiest point' etc."


15. From Sisyphus, "what sorts of limitations do you see yourself working around in your research here (i.e., how will you deal with our heavy teaching load and research requirements at the same time?)?"

16. And Michael Cholbi underlines the point: "Be ready to talk about how you'd teach large courses (50+) on your own."

Michael C. also recommends having a handful of memorable points to make about your teaching. Now, nothing makes a talking point go down smooth like a charming little anecdote. . . .

Regarding Faculty Interaction (from "Use"; in comments last year)

17. How do you plan to deal/how have you dealt in the past with disagreements with other faculty members?

18. How do you think you would fit in with our current faculty?

19. If you were on a search committee within our department, what would the three most important qualities of a candidate be?

20. What is the most exciting prospect about working with our current faculty?


21. From Anon. 1:58: "What was your worst/best moment as a philosophy teacher and why? How did you react/respond?"

22. Sisyphus again: "Describe a time you had to deal with a problem student."

23. And back to Inside the Philosophy Factory: Describe "your most challenging teaching situation and your most rewarding experience. Here is where you tell the story about little Jimmy who was sure he couldn't do logic -- who had talked himself out of being able to pass the class and who finally ended up passing the class"

24. Anon. 1:58: "From a religious school: How would you get along with our students?"

25. Inside the Philosophy Factory Again: Talk about "your professional development. Here is where you'll want to talk about the teaching seminars you're attending via your grad university, how you are a member of APT etc... This is not where you give details about conference papers, publications etc -- unless there is a research element to your position. Then you make it about 50/50."

26. "Suppose someone (perhaps a community member, and not necessarily a student) came to you and asked how to resolve moral problem X. What would you tell them to do?"

27. "Which do you see as you primary focus--teaching or research?"


28. What is philosophy? (from R. Kevin Hill, in comments last year)

You might also want to read the comments on this post, this post, this post, and also this and this.

Any additions? Any resources I've overlooked?

--Mr. Zero

Update: In comments, anon 1:53 points us to this article in IHE.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

An Adaptation of Kurt Vonnegut's Rules for Writing.

Kurt Vonnegut is one of my favorite writers. In Bagombo Snuff Box, he gives some advice about writing, in the form of eight rules. Although he intends the rules to apply to fiction writers, I find that much of it is relevant, with some modification, to philosophical writing. I find this sort of thing helpful, anyways, and maybe you will, too.
1. Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.
This applies to us in a straightforward manner, with one caveat: philosophers are entitled to assume that the stranger is a total nerd with bizarre views about what would count as a waste of time.
2. Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.
Give the reader at least one view he or she can identify with. Then explain why he or she should reject that view and adopt yours.
3. Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.
I don't know how this would apply to what we do.
4. Every sentence must do one of two things—reveal character or advance the action.
Here I substitute "explain the view or advance the argument."
5. Start as close to the end as possible.
This carries over without modification.
6. Be a Sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them—in order that the reader may see what they are made of.
No matter how plausible and obvious your view, subject it to brutal attack—in order that the reader may see what it is made of.
7. Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.
Hmm. He paints a picture, doesn't he?
8. Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To hell with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.
I find this one very helpful. I have a tendency to try to build suspense and reader interest by not showing my cards until the very end of the paper. As a result, nobody can tell what I'm up to and everybody gets confused. It works better to be entirely up front about what you're doing. You can save the details for later, but the reader should know right away that this is your preferred view or solution to the problem. The rest of the paper should be devoted to explaining why you like it, not building up to a big reveal at the end.

--Mr. Zero

Thursday, November 26, 2009

All Hail The Turkey King!!!

Happy Thanksgiving, everybody!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Fitting in Fitness

As the holiday season approaches, I am reminded of one area of my now year-old life as a visiting assistant professor of philosophy in which I have entirely failed: exercise. In the olden days, when my teaching duties included one class or less, I was a somewhat avid cyclist. Nowadays my bicycle has been repurposed as wall art: I think of it as a sculpture entitled, "A Constant Reminder of How Out of Shape You Are." If I'm not teaching, I feel like I should be doing something that will help me snag a tenure-track position, such as physically applying for jobs or writing kick-ass philosophy papers. And if I'm not doing that, I feel like I ought to be doing something to keep me from becoming divorced. I never, ever feel as though I have time for exercise. As a result, I hardly ever exercise. As a result, what little exercise I manage to fit in is extremely unpleasant. As a result, I get around to it less and less often. As a result, my sculpture gets more and more meaningful. It's a vicious regress.

--Mr. Zero

Thursday, November 19, 2009

APA Adopts New Anti-Discrimination Policy

The APA has adopted the following anti-discrimination policy.

The American Philosophical Association rejects as unethical all forms of discrimination based on race, color, religion, political convictions, national origin, sex, disability, sexual orientation, gender identification or age, whether in graduate admissions, appointments, retention, promotion and tenure, manuscript evaluation, salary determination, or other professional activities in which APA members characteristically participate. This includes both discrimination on the basis of status and discrimination on the basis of conduct integrally connected to that status, where "integrally connected" means (a) the conduct is a normal and predictable expression of the status (e.g., sexual conduct expressive of a sexual orientation), or (b) the conduct is something that only a person with that status could engage in (e.g., pregnancy), or (c) the proscription of that conduct is historically and routinely connected with invidious discrimination against the status (e.g., interracial marriage). At the same time, the APA recognizes the special commitments and roles of institutions with a religious affiliation; and it is not inconsistent with the APA's position against discrimination to adopt religious affiliation as a criterion in graduate admissions or employment policies when this is directly related to the school's religious affiliation or purpose, so long as these policies are made known to members of the philosophical community and so long as the criteria for such religious affiliation do not discriminate against persons according to the other attributes listed in this statement. Advertisers in Jobs for Philosophers are expected to comply with this fundamental commitment of the APA, which is not to be taken to preclude explicitly stated affirmative action initiatives.

Details here. Thanks to Charles Hermes for drafting the petition, and to Alastair Norcross for presenting the petition to the APA this spring. And to the APA for doing the right thing.

--Mr. Zero

What's the Point of Conference Comments?

Like a lot of people, I periodically comment on the work of others at conferences. At a recent conference, I noticed an odd pattern. At a typical conference, the talks consist of four main parts: A) the main presenter presents her work; B) the commenter presents some comments, criticisms, or suggestions; C) the main presenter responds to the comments; D) the audience members discuss the paper with the main presenter.

The odd pattern was that part (D) often proceeds as if parts (B) and (C) never happened. Nobody asks the commenter any questions. Nobody mentions anything the commenter said in questions addressed to the main presenter.* If somebody confides that he's nervous about giving comments, I tell him not to worry because nobody pays any attention to the comments. This seems weird, since standard operating procedure is to employ commentators, and almost every conference does it. I started to wonder, though, what the point was. Would we lose anything if we got rid of comments at conferences altogether?

As it happens, I recently attended a conference that did not make use of prepared commentary--that did away with parts (B) and (C) of the standard formula. It seemed to me that the quality of the discussions were not harmed by this fact; the absence of commentators seemed to make no difference in the overall discussion whatsoever. What did seem to be affected was the number of people at the conference. It had the feel of a really small, 1-day conference, even though it was a multi-day several-concurrent-sessions kind of a deal. Maybe that's not bad: there's something to be said for intimacy. But usually you want a lot of people at your session if you're a main presenter. So one nice thing about having commentators is that it doubles the amount of people who attend the conference without doubling the amount of sessions.

--Mr. Zero

*There are exceptions. This typically indicates a problem with the main paper. I've seen this occur only in cases in which the main presenter was responding in a specific and narrow way to some other paper, the author of the other paper served as commentator, and the commentator's paper was way better or more interesting than the main presenter's paper.

This was an exaggeration, but was not hyperbole.

Having poster sessions is also an efficient way of increasing attendance. And I suspect that posters, though less efficient, are better than commentary, since posters are intrinsically more interesting. When I did a poster, I had lots of good discussions about it outside of the poster session itself; I've never really had a discussion about some commentary I was giving.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Positive Interview Stories

A long while back, Plato Potatoes wrote in to ask for a post on interviews that went well.
It would be interesting to read some short narrative stories of job interviews that went great. The specifics would be appreciated. Say, how X answered the question about Y with a reference to Z, in a manner so impressive that the interviewers simultaneously fell off their chairs. It would be interesting to hear, too, what the successful interviewees themselves thought was particularly fetching about their own answers; the time they "clicked" with the committee and so on.
I don't have much experience with successful APA interviews. My best interview was over the phone, and was for the job I have now. The interviewer called me and wanted to interview right then, but I was on the highway driving home from a weekend out of town. She asked if it was a good time; I asked if she could call me back in a couple of hours. (I don't know why I said a couple of hours--I was way more than two hours from home.) I found a coffee shop with WiFi in order to look up the job ad and did the interview in the car in the parking lot.

One thing that helped me with that interview was that it was not my first interview. I'd had some practice answering interview questions in an actual interview setting. Another thing that I strongly suspect was helpful was that I didn't have my materials handy. On the phone, where they can't see you, there is a tendency to make excessive use of your notes. I couldn't make use of my notes at all in this one. I suspect that, as a result, I came off as more natural.

A final thing that helped, and I suspect that this is the most important, is that we saw eye-to-eye on how to teach intro. I have a sort of philosophy of philosophy that I picked up from my teachers at college and grad school, and this philosophy meshes well with the culture of my department. I am a pretty good fit here. You try to represent yourself in the best possible light, but at a certain point, you just have to say, take it or leave it. Also, it was getting pretty late in the VAP hiring season, and I think they were a little desperate.

How about you guys?

--Mr. Zero

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Rocking the passive voice I

With due deference to the old venture, we begin this year's round of rejections.

From Filosofer PhD, the story of their first PFO:
I am excited to report that I have received my first official rejection letter of the season. (From a summer ad, not a fall ad.) Kudos to this institution for informing me promptly that I'm not on their shortlist, but shame on them for the passive voice:

While you were not placed on the shortlist it was our experience that a good number of the applicants were clearly academics with the training and ability to satisfy the professional requirements we had for the position.

What I really like here is the phrase "a good number of the applicants were clearly academics." Well, that's good, I guess! Of course, they didn't tell me whether I myself was among those who are clearly academics, but I'm going to console myself with the thought that I probably was.
In this spirit, my first PFO (which didn't even mention whether I am an academic or not; should I be concerned?!?!):
I am very sorry to have to tell you that your application has been unsuccessful. We received an overwhelming response to the advertisement with 160 applications received; an incredibly high number were exceptional applications and the selection process has not been easy.

I should like to take this opportunity to thank you for your interest in this vacancy and to wish you well in the future
Well, at least they're equal opportunity with the use of their passive voice [Update: As pointed out, I'm wrong about the passive voice being used in my PFO; oops. Still...only inanimate objects seem responsible.] . Almost makes me think no applicants or selection committees had any role at all in this process: just applications and ghostly selection processes.

Though, I'll take those well-wishes any day. I need them.

-- Jaded Dissertator

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Whatever Happened With that Nondiscrimination Petition?

Earlier this year, you might recall, we made a big fuss about how the APA refuses to honor its non-discrimination policy, which clearly bans the use of sexual orientation in decisions concerning hiring and retention, among other things. There was a motion presented at the Pacific Division business meeting to ask the Board of Officers and National Office to enforce its policy as it currently stands or revise its policy to reflect its actual refusal to protect gay and lesbian philosophers from discriminatory hiring practices.

Looking at the minutes of the APA's most recent national board meeting, though, I don't see this issue mentioned anywhere. Anybody know what the status of this thing is? Should we be planning to present another motion at the E-APA in December?

--Mr. Zero

Interfolio Can Do Letters of Recommendation

Frank from Interfolio wrote to me today and asked me to let you know that Interfolio can do letters of recommendation now. He says,

We've also observed that an increasing number of search committees are asking applicants to submit recommendations to a web site (often managed by the HR Dept). I'm writing to let you know that Interfolio can now accommodate web upload requests of specific letters.

This is a new capability and we're trying to get the word out as quickly as possible since we're right in the middle of the application season. There has been a fair amount of frustration this year with the new HR systems and online applications, and both applicants and search committees have reported being overburdened and confused about the right way to submit letters to the web site. The new Interfolio feature streamlines their process significantly, and costs applicants about the same as a regular delivery (starting at $4).

I don't vouch for interfolio, and I don't know how well this will work. Also, it seems pretty pricey. But whatever. I thought I'd pass the message along.

--Mr. Zero

Monday, November 9, 2009

The New Wiki Versus the Old Wiki

We've been seeing some complaints about the new wiki in comments. Anon 6:00 presents a fairly comprehensive list of problems:

1. There is no stored history. If someone reports information, and someone else removes the information, there is no record of the report. I’ve reported application acknowledgements that have been removed, for no good reason (as far as I can tell). Someone else I know reported an interview request that was also removed.

2. There is no way to report requests for further information. A lot of schools do a first cut, and then request further information from the survivors. I’m sure many of us would like to know which schools have done this. I’m aware of two such requests, but I’m unable to post either.

3. There is no way to guess how many interviews a school has scheduled, nor whether they are scheduling all of their interviews at once or not. On other wikis, it is sometimes possible to work this out on the basis of the number of interview requests reported, and the dates.

4. There is none of the extra information that helps to determine how reliable a report is. For example: multiple reports of the same piece of information from different ip addresses, reports by ip addresses that have provided reliable/unreliable information in the past, et cetera.

There are four possible solutions: a) the administrators of the new wiki could modify it in a way that resolves the problems; b) someone could restart the old wiki; c) (a) and (b); d) neither (a) nor (b). I am actually somewhat sympathetic to the suggestion that these wikis are a net evil and should be abolished. However, it is clear that not everyone agrees (or is willing to stop torturing themselves with wikis), so I say, let a thousand wikis bloom.

--Mr. Zero

Update: Another new wiki has materialized at

Thursday, November 5, 2009

The November JFP is Online

It is.

131 listings total. Last year's November issue had 188.

--Mr. Zero

Update: There are also some web ads up, which you can view by applying the secret algorithm to the October web ad page. This brings the total up to 203.

Late Update: This is pretty terrible.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Thom Brooks's Publishing Advice

I missed this when it first happened, but Thom Brooks has posted a revised edition if his excellent essay on publishing advice. Scope it out.

--Mr. Zero

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

T-Minus 3 Days

The November JFP comes out on Friday. There are, as I understand it, two main predictions about its quality: 1. it will be substantially better than the October issue (but not as good as a normal November issue), because a lot of deans have approved job ads but not in time for them to run in October; and 2. that it will be just as bad as or worse than the October issue, because the economy is still super fucked up. Spiros is pessimistic. I am cautiously optimistic, by which I mean that I am pessimistic but I wish I was optimistic.

In any case, I'll be sitting here on Thursday trying not to think about it while simultaneously refreshing the anticipated URL in an obsessive manner. I'll let you know what happens.

--Mr. Zero

Monday, November 2, 2009

eBook Readers for Scholars

There's been a bunch of discussion about some forthcoming ebook readers on Wide Scope, here, here, and here. I would like to get one of these things; sometimes I worry that I might miss the actual books and stuff, but then I think about how much I don't miss the shelves full of CDs that were replaced by my ipod, and how much I don't miss carrying CDs around, and how nice it is not to have to plan ahead and anticipate what my listening desires will be (particularly if I am traveling), and I realize that this will not be a problem.

But (apart from being broke) the dealbreaker for me is the apparent inability to support annotations for scholarly content. The capability to make annotations and marginal notes is critical. I'd say about 60% of the value of reading something is that I create a record of having read it which I can then store in my archives for future reference. Subsequent read-throughs are guided and informed by this record, and my thinking about the issues takes off from this starting point--the thinking I have already done. Until there is an ereader that allows me to write in the e-margins of my e-journal articles, I will be forced to keep printing them out and doing it the old-fashioned way.

--Mr. Zero.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Sunday Comics

(Click the pic to make it groooooow.)

Choose carefully. And remember to use the weapons you earn wisely, though don't discount the standard phi gun.

-- JD

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

In Which I Grow Increasingly Frustrated With My Online Applications

About half the schools I'm applying to have online applications this year. Most schools that accept online applications use the same crappy online application web interface. Here are my gripes.

1. It takes a long time. I'm spending 10 minutes or more on some of them, typing in all these little details that are on my CV. Unless the application is by email (the few of those I had went smoothly), it would take less time to stuff an envelope and snailmail this shit.

2. You attach something, and then it says, "confirm attachment," but it doesn't tell you the filename of the document your confirming. I mean, how can I confirm that this is indeed the right document if I can't see what document it is?

3. You gotta confirm a lot of stuff twice without seeing it either time.

4. The interface often doesn't permit flexibility with respect to application materials. So, for example, if you have a syllabus for each AOC listed in the ad, you won't be able to upload them all and maybe you won't be able to upload any of them.

5. Seriously. I am retyping my CV over and over again. Why not just, you know, use my actual CV, which I have carefully and meticulously prepared for just this sort of occasion?


7. And if everyone's going to use the same lame software, why can't there just be a central website where you upload all your materials and tell them where to send the electrons?

8. Ok, I've come across a school that makes use of a clearinghouse website. But it's really involved, so it's a lot more of a pain in the ass than the one-time websites. Its built-in PDF maker ignores font sizes, making them larger, but honors page breaks, which doubles the page count on every document. And since only one school I'm applying to uses it, it's not worth it. At all.

9. It took me around three hours to do my online applications last night. I wrote most of this in real time, then polished it for the printer this morning. I believe in online applications, but this system is stupid. We can do better than this. We can take men we've put on the moon and safely bring them back from the moon.

--Mr. Zero

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

3 4 is the magic number

In comments, Applicantus asks:
How many 'projects' should one list there? 2, 4, 6? How many are too many? How many are too few? If I list and explain 2, would the SC think I'm serious, and truly have 2 I will actually embark on right away -- or that I don't have a clear program of research? If I list and explain 5, will I be perceived as creative, or unrealistic? etc etc. Any insight welcome!
This is a tough one. So, taking the usual approach people take when they have no actual answers to a tough question, I'll appeal to personal experience. On my statement, I list two areas of broad research interests corresponding to different parts of my AOS. And underneath each one of those, I list two different projects. If I'm counting right, that's four different projects right there. That might be a bit unrealistic or come off as slightly ambitious to search committees. I mean, I probably can't write four whole papers in a year, but I probably can over two years, and that's what they're looking for, right?

But, setting aside issues of what is realistic and what isn't, here's the thing. I think that I do a pretty good job of making clear that there is a guiding thread that is common to all these projects. Articulating this clearly before listing and explaining my four projects, at least makes it conceivable that when working on one of the projects, I'm setting myself up nicely for, or at least kinda/sorta working on the other projects. So, I think being able to articulate clearly the guiding thread of your research, rather than the number of papers/projects you list, demonstrates that you have your shit together and aren't just pulling projects out of your ass.

That said, if you need an arbitrary number, don't list more than four, cause that's what I'm doing.

-- Jaded Dissertator

Update: Seems in the past that similar issues about broadness/ narrowness of research statements were addressed by Mr. Z here.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Okay; Here's the Situation...

So far, including web ads, I am applying for somewhere in the neighborhood of thirty jobs. This is about half what I applied for last year, though I have no idea how many of those were ultimately canceled. (Because, why would I go through and find out how many canceled searches I applied to when I could just slit my wrists instead?)

I am also applying to several jobs for which I am probably a "poser applicant." Although Spiros's correspondent might get pissed off and send me a nasty email, that's a chance I'm comfortable taking. Even in good economic times, it makes sense to apply as widely as possible. Furthermore, given the obvious influence of deans and other administration officials over the text of job ads, it seems pretty rational to take everything in the ad with a grain of salt. If the dean wants someone who specializes in X, and the department just needs somebody who can cover courses in X, the department might well wait to have that fight until they've got a particular candidate to fight for--I've seen it more than once. And anyways, if I got a nasty email from a search committee chair about how I was a poser applicant and how annoyed he was about having to consider my application even though I'm not exactly what he was looking for, I guess I'd just be grateful that I didn't have to take that job. Because, you'd have to be a real dickhead to do that.

--Mr. Zero

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Sunday Comics

(Click the pic to... Ah, whatevs. It doesn't matter.)

--Jaded Dissertator

Thursday, October 22, 2009


I generally have to come up with around four or five paper ideas before I hit upon one that can be developed/is worth developing into an actual paper. Is that normal?

Marist College isn't advertising ten adjunct positions. Small victories.

I was recently offered the opportunity to buy a poster of the cover of a journal who published a paper I wrote. It would cost almost $70. Do people buy these things?

--Mr. Zero

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

A Lot of Discussion About Women in Philosophy Lately

There has been a bunch of discussion about the dearth of women in philosophy on the blogs the last few weeks. This piece at The Philosophers' Magazine appears to have started us off, followed up by the NY Times and Leiter. Regan Penaluna, writing at the Chronicle, kept us going. She argues that the problem is the lack of feminine role models in the canon, coupled with clear sexism and misogyny from canoncial dudes such as Aristotle and Rousseau. Leiter follows up here. There are a few must-read posts at Feminist Philosophers here, here, here and here.

I have two main thoughts to add. The first regards Penaluna's point that women are not attracted to philosophy because of its dominance by men and the misogyny in the canon. I see how that might explain, to some extent, the fact that we don't have many women. But I don't see how it explains the fact that we lag behind other disciplines in the humanities and sciences with which we are most continuous (I'm thinking of literature and psychology, though I realize this claim is contentious). I am more impressed by the suggestion that a large part of the problem is that we haven't made much of an effort to attract women, but off the top of my head I can't think of ways to attract women that wouldn't seem ham-fisted and condescending. I am open to suggestion.

Second, Leiter and Jender suggest that the APA ought to do a study like the one the Australian Association of Philosophy did. Leiter says, "Surely the American Philosophical Association could manage something similar."

I completely disagree. The APA obviously could never manage anything remotely like that.

--Mr. Zero

Friday, October 16, 2009

Sample Syllabi for Courses You Ain't Taught

Anon 10:05 asks,
I assume that it is OK just to make shit up in the case that one has not actually taught the courses that one wants to indicate readiness for, right?
The advice I have received is, you totally ought to include sample syllabi for courses you haven't taught but are prepared to teach. Two caveats: 1. The syllabus should not make the false suggestion that you have taught the course. It shouldn't have the semester, room number, meeting times, and stuff. 2. The syllabus should be detailed--possibly more detailed than would be normal for an actual class. You don't want to give the impression that you just cracked open the standard book for that topic and decided to go through it at the rate of a chapter a week, for example. You want it to look like you put a lot of thought into how the course will be structured and what material you will cover. You probably shouldn't just make shit up. You should probably try to make sure that they are good, too. Unless you're applying for jobs I'm applying for. Then, make shit up that sucks.

--Mr. Zero

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Three Letters: At Least 3, or Only 3?

This issue came up in a side conversation in a previous thread, but I thought it warranted its own discussion. Anon 12:55 asks,
Letters of recommendation: they ask for 3. Sending 4 instead: always a bad idea, always a good idea, something in between? Elaboration appreciated.
And I said,
I always thought that the rule for letters is "as many as possible." I did a little research, and I don't think I know anybody who sends just 3. I was told that getting more and better letters, particularly from people who are not directly invested in your success, was one of the best things a candidate can do to improve her chances of nailing a job.
But anon 3:28 says,
I also heard the opposite advice -- they ask for 2, they want the strongest 2, and anything further would be diluting. that said, I always send (what I assume to be) the strongest x (2 or 3 have been small numbers I encountered recently) plus a teaching letter which I note in my cover letter is sent with that intent.
But I've never heard of that. Plus, I don't have any idea how to rank my letters from strongest to weakest. I've never read my letters. Plus, I'm not the one who sends them out. Plus, I don't even think there is even any provision in my Ph.D.-granting program's placement procedures for this sort of thing. And as if that wasn't enough, it would make the department secretary whose job it is to put these files together that much more involved. So I say, as many letters as possible is the right strategy.

--Mr. Zero

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Diff'rent Strokes for Diff'rent Folks?

Popkin asks:
different schools request different materials from applicants. For instance, I notice that Northwestern only asks you to send them a "complete CV along with list of references." In such cases, will the committee be annoyed if you send them more than they've requested? Is it a bad idea to send your letters or your teaching portfolio or whatever to a department that hasn't specifically requested those materials?
My first year out I sent everything to everyone with little in the way of results. Last year I sent each department only what they specifically asked for, but didn't do any better. So I don't really know.

--Mr. Zero

Monday, October 12, 2009

Miscellaneous Gripes about Job Ads

What's the deal with ads that say "AOC: open," and then immediately list a bunch of areas in which the successful candidates will be expected to teach courses on a regular basis? Maybe I don't know what an AOC is supposed to be, but that seems like it.

What's the deal with ads where you have to create an account on the school's "jobs" website in order to see the AOS? Why not just put that information in the first sentence of the ad, where it belongs?

What's the deal with ads that don't mention the courseload? Fuck that.

I know I've complained about this before, but there has got to be a way to ensure that each ad gets identified by just one ad number, even though it might be duplicated in later editions of the JFP. We can put a man on the moon.

--Mr. Zero

Saturday, October 10, 2009

VAPping versus the tenure track

In comments, anon 2:51 asks an interesting question:
I've got a very good VAP in a good city. I get to teach a variety of courses, largely of my own choosing. I have lots of good students. And I could likely extend the VAP for several more years if I keep up the good work, etc. . . . (Others will likely find themselves in such a situation. I figure that there will be many more semi-permanent or long term VAPs in the coming years. . . .)

The thing is that there are several TT jobs in places where I'm not sure I could live. The trade off--job security for terrible city--doesn't seem worth it. In fact, a job for life in some of these places sounds like a life sentence in an ultra-minimal security prison.

I'm trying to figure out what risks one runs in staying in a VAP and not taking a TT job. (Put aside the fact that I likely won't face this choice this year.) If VAPing was like any other kind of job, one where you don't get laid off every year, then I don't think it would be so bad given the alternatives. . . .
On the one hand, you might end up with a TT job in a place you hate. On the other hand, you might not end up with a TT job at all. I guess, without really knowing the details, I'd take the TT job in the unappealing location. You might end up liking it, and you can always go back on the market when you're up for tenure or something. (by the way, are there any statistics on going on the market when you're up for tenure?)

--Mr. Zero

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Once More Unto the Breach

It's up! 140 ads.

[edited to remove link - I think we assumed you'd have to log in to access it]


For Reference, last year the number was just shy of 270 (before cancellations)

-- SS

Update: When you look at the web-onlies, there are 256 ads total.

Later Update: last year there were 507 ads published on October 10th. Fuck.

Even More Later Update: Seriously, APA, what's with the same ad appearing with different ad numbers all over the place?

-- Mr. Zero

Latest Update: I realize the naïveté is at work when I found it strangely exciting to look at the JFP seriously for the first time.

I wait for the panic. The above comparisons are making it creep slowly. Full on anxiety attacks to happen soon. For now, I'll stick to taking deep breaths and marking down the numbers to the jobs that have earned the privilege of second looks and applications from yours truly...and everyone else. Fuck indeed.

Latest of the late updates: Anon. 4:00 p.m. has already called dibs on the Wisconsin job. Damn it. We should have gone to an auction for this year's job draft format, not a dibs system.

-- Jaded Dissertator

Everything's Cool

Whew... ok.. ok.. We're cool.. Everyone can just calm down.. the APA's making sure that we can all get the JFP online tomorrow.

Try to save some freak-out energy for then.

Thanks APA!

-- Second Suitor

APA Don't Transition the Website until AFTER the JFP comes out!

Anyone else get an automatically generated e-mail talking about how the APA website may be down for a few days as it transitions to a new hosting facility?

Ok, practical jokers...ha ha...that was funny.

They're not seriously going to have the website go down the weekend the JFP comes out...right?

-- Second Suitor

Update: Spiros, in all his usual correctness, has this to say:
As if it were not already utterly plain to anyone who's not an idiot, this goes to show that the APA does not give a shit about jobseekers. This is ridiculous. Stop paying your dues.
-- JD

Bring on the major leagues

Waiting to get officially baptized into what will be my first full foray onto the job market. Most assuredly it won't be my last given all the doom-y prognostications. 120; really? For how many candidates? Let's get an over/under on this shits in the comments.

Nonetheless, I'm feeling a bit manic. I'm ready to blow this motherfucker's windows out with my sheer attractiveness as a talented philosopher.

I mean, at least I *think* I am ready and talented. I'm not just kidding myself, right?.


Who am I kidding? I'm not ready.

-- Jaded Dissertator

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

New Philosophy Jobs Wiki

Via PFS, we learn of, a new philosophy jobs wiki.

Gird your loins. T-minus 2 days. Shit.

--Mr. Zero

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Financial Crisis and the Decay of Public Universities

Bob Herbert has a nice (if that's a word that can appropriately be applied given the subject matter) op-ed column in Saturday's New York Time about the effect the economy is having on UC Berkeley. And, of course, the same things are happening in schools all over the country, public and private.

I understand that state governments are getting hammered. Most of them are constitutionally prohibited from running a deficit, unlike the federal government. I'm in a much better position to see this now that I'm a faculty member, although I have no real administrative responsibilities. But, obviously, it is of absolutely vital importance to keep public universities flourishing, and they're the most vulnerable.

The ironic thing is that there appears to be an inverse relationship between the general quality of state governance and the degree to which the financial crisis is causing problems for the states in general and public universities in particular. States who collect a lot of taxes, spend a lot of money, and do a lot for their residents are being hit hardest; states who don't do much are having an easier time skating by. (Ross Douthat wrote an op-ed column about this a few weeks ago, and, of course, drew the exactly wrong conclusion.) Bummer, dude.

--Mr. Zero

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Moral intuitions and cultural relativism

When I teach introduction to ethics I spend some time on cultural relativism. I present several objections to the view, mostly based on counterintuitive consequences involving certain moral behaviors, such as criticizing one's own society's moral code. I've noticed that in the context of discussions of cultural relativism, students become hesitant to trust their own moral intuitions. "Who are we to say," they say.

But this hesitation completely disappears the next day when we move on to discussion of utilitarianism. I present standard criticisms of this view, most of which are based on the idea that it misclassifies certain actions--it classifies certain wrong actions as right or obligatory. Now the students are unhesitating. "Yeah, you absolutely can't perform the organ harvest. No way," they say.

Although I realize this is not scientific, I guess I think it's pretty weird. Maybe contemplating cultural relativism gets people in a more tolerant mood. But the harms contained in the counterexamples to utilitarianism (organ harvesting; free-riding; etc.) pale in comparison to the harms we discuss in connection with relativism (Jim Crow; slavery; the holocaust; etc.). Maybe just introducing the prospect of relativism primes them to regard morality as relative. Does this happen to other people?

--Mr. Zero

Monday, September 28, 2009

You gotta spend money to make money

So, I'm looking at some grandiose humanities post docs. Might as well start big before we all try to figure out what to do in the spring. Thing is, a few of these post docs have an application fee. I understand there's probably big time administrative costs (and clearly a market of people willing to spend who are looking for work next year) but come on. I want to work for you! At $30 a pop these things are really going to run up my tab.

Ballpark, how much do ya'll usually spend on apps?

-- Second Suitor

p.s. T-minus 2 weekish for the 'no-jobs-sky-is-falling' edition of the Smoker.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Getting the train back on the rails

Amidst all the discussion about fucking and fatties here, Asstro has a comment up defending interviews that should be responded to and that I don't want to get lost (I snipped quite a bit so be sure to go back to the original comment here, for a nice and encouraging personal anecdote from Asstro):
[...] Being a professional philosopher takes an extraordinary set of skills, including: ability to give impressive talks to other philosophers, ability to think on one's feet, ability to convey an idea succinctly, ability to teach, ability to engage others, ability to generate new ideas, and so on. My list isn't exhaustive [...]

The interview offers a way of testing these factors, up close and personal. It offers a way to get a multidimensional picture of a candidate and to get a sense of how that candidate will fare in a range of real-world professional scenarios. When we're considering a job candidate, we really do talk about how a candidate answered the questions, about whether the approach in the talk was innovative, about the breadth of a candidate's research, about prospects for future research, and so on. Sometimes we may discount some aspect of an interview -- maybe a flopped response to a particular question -- because there are other things that happened during the interview that we really liked. Sometimes, yes, we talk about nervous ticks; but we usually try to weigh these against other more relevant candidate attributes [...]
Asstro may be on to something with the list of what makes a good philosopher and that some of those factors might only be testable in person. However, the question is how good the information provided by interviews is regarding certain elements of the list, which leaves me with a few questions.

Is it really enough to determine if one has these qualities, testable only in person, through two interviews? Do we really think that just because we're philosophers with awesome reasoning skills and years of training in thinking that we can overcome the biases that are in effect in interviewing? Is being aware of interview effects enough to counteract them?

I would provide answers, but I need to change the tagline of the Smoker to "No Fatties".

-- Jaded Dissertator

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

A nice article about interviews

Antony Eagle has written a nice article about interviews. He provides a more detailed survey of the relevant empirical data than I'd seen before (though it is admittedly incomplete), and makes a fairly detailed set of practical suggestions, in light of the fact that it seems to be psychologically impossible not to do at least some kind of interview. (See, for example, Asstro's comment here; I don't mean to distance myself from this attitude. I share it.)

Although this essay is written from the point of view of the interviewer, it seems to me that it's important for job candidates to be up on this stuff. It's a very "noisy" process, and the judgments being made in this deeply imperfect environment are about us. Our asses are on the line. You want to be able to do what you can to diminish the noise, or at least get it to work in your favor, or at least minimize the degree to which it works against you.

Thanks to Dr. Eagle for permission to post.

--Mr. Zero

Monday, September 21, 2009

One of these days i'm going to get organezized

You know we're getting EVEN MORE anxious about the job market what with all the talk as of late about CV organization (see Ben's comment here which directs us to his site, here, and which references the ever lovely Spiros, here, and was promoted by fellow Smoker, JS, via e-mail). In particular, Ben wonders,
Do people prefer to put all publications (i.e. journal articles, book chapters, book reviews, conference proceedings, etc) in one bigger list, with peer-reviewed stuff somehow highlighted? Or is it better to have lots of separate lists - and, if so, how many?
and for JS, he
find[s] it rather unclear what categories for publications are worth including. I currently divide them into books, journal articles, and book chapters. But, journal articles can be divided in various ways and I'm not quite clear how to understand the typical suggestion that you distinguished between peer-reviewed and non-peer-reviewed.
I'm not sure there's a standard answer here and those of us without such problems probably shouldn't weigh in about the separation of publication*s* issue (though it certainly seems like a nice problem to have), but those of you who have opinions should weigh in.

In any case, that's just one facet of the issue at hand. There's also the question of how to divide up talks (does it just fall into: 'Peer-reviewed Conferences' and 'Other Talks'?) and which ones not to include (graduate conferences? probably not; [good/prestigious] summer school presentations? maybe), whether or not to include a 2-4 sentence dissertation blurb on the first page (I say that it works well for, and probably only for, the newly minted Ph.D), and what should appear first after Education, AOS, AOC (probably publications if you have them, but teaching experience before talks? that doesn't seem right to me).

Additionally, for those of us just going on the market, we should remember to not use the CV's of the well-established as the end-all, be-all templates. They may be worth looking at, but they ain't trying to get jobs.

That said, have at it.

-- Jaded Dissertator

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Frederick C. Bumfizzle Society

I had a question from a fellow Smoker, Three Sickles Short, that was e-mailed to me a blue moon ago and I've been meaning to throw my two cents in on, but I was sick as a dog (maybe a pig?) as of late. In any case, here's the question:
Is there any point to joining professional organizations? I see the point to the APA in that they're the source of job postings, but what about things like the International [Plato/Kant/Wittgenstein/Whoever] Society? Does anybody care whether you're a member of such things, or are they just so much C.V. filler? If your dissertation is on Frederick C. Bumfizzle, had you better shell out the 20 bucks a year to join the Frederick C. Bumfizzle Society and prove your devotion to the profession, or is that 20 bucks better spent on alcohol to dull the pain of a crappy job market? Thoughts?
I can think of a few reasons that you'd want to join a professional society. Perhaps your dues pay for a journal that puts out good research and you get a subscription by being a member. Or, you need to join the society in order to present at their conference, which is a good one where every one who is anyone in your field will be in attendance. Or (as Three Sickles Short notes) it's the only way to get a poorly organized listing of jobs every once in a while that is sometimes published after the conferences at which interviews could be, and once were, but not anymore, conducted.

But, besides that, I think your money might be better spent on alcohol. I presume being a member of a professional organization that you pay to be a member of (think Who's Who?) doesn't pad your CV in anyway or make you anymore of an attractive candidate, even if the practical reasons noted above make it advisable to join the organization.

Of course, I could be wrong. And people should tell me if I am. After all, I do harbor some deep-seated resentment for one organization in particular (figure it out!). I mean, if you pay dues for a whole year, you should get a whole year of membership in return from the date you paid and you shouldn't have to renew mid-year and pay for a whole 'nother year just so you can submit a paper to a conference you probably won't get in to, but you worked your ass off for regardless. Right?

-- Jaded Dissertator

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

APA Eastern Meeting Group Rate S.N.A.F.U.

An anonymous smoker writes,
WTF is up with the APA not reserving rooms at the group rate for the 26th of December? The meeting is from the 27th to the 30th. Those lucky enough to have interviews on the 27th should probably arrive on the night of the 26th. Of course, there is no special rate (student or otherwise) for that night. If a candidate wants to avoid traveling to NY the morning of their interview, they will have to pay an extra $300+ dollars for the privledge.

Seriously: WTF was the APA thinking? Can we have a post about this? Who do I complain to?
-- Mr. Zero

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Are Interviews Worth It?

At Leiter, Richard Holton of MIT wonders if the recent backlash against interviews isn't overblown. (This issue was discussed at PEA Soup and the Old Job Market Blog, but I couldn't find where.) He cites someone who researches interviews, Allen Huffcutt, who told him:
Some may argue that academic positions are unique so the results of research do not apply to them. I would argue against that. The process of the interview is to identify key characteristics needed for a position, and then ask questions to assess those characteristics. The research out there has been applied to a vast range of job types, a number of which have very similar key characteristics to faculty positions.
I guess I would agree with this. I suspect that there is nothing especially special about philosophy interviews that would make them immune to the larger body of research surrounding interviews. (I don't know who's been saying there is.) I also think it's an absolutely terrific idea to consult the research in a deep way, correspond with people who study this sort of thing, and try to get to the bottom of things. Huffcutt goes on:
What I might suggest is a carefully thought out approach to hiring philosophy faculty. In the job talk, looks for key elements related to presentation. E.g., are they well organized? Do they find ways to make the material interesting and relevant to the students? Do they deliberately bring people into the presentation (e.g., ask them questions) or just stand there and lecture the whole time? Do they handle questions well?
Interesting thing about several of these key elements: they are not normally elements of a philosophy job talk. (I distinguish the job talk from the teaching demonstration.) I've seen some successful job talks that would have been incomprehensible to students. While I don't recommend deliberately disengaging from your audience, it would be weird to pause in the middle of a job talk to ask them a question.

And suppose the candidate was disengaged, over the heads of the undergraduates, and handled the questions poorly during her job talk. What would that prove? Maybe she had a bad day. Maybe she doesn't handle high-pressure, whole-future-is-riding-on-the-outcome interview situations that well. None of that is evidence that she's a bad philosopher or that she'd make a bad colleague. None of it would outweigh the evidence in her dossier that she would be a good philosopher.

Gilbert Harman makes a point in the PEA Soup thread that bears repeating. Suppose you are told that your candidate has really effed up her interview at some other school but did okay at yours. It wouldn't affect your opinion of her--you'd ignore it. But if she effed up yours but did okay at some other school, you'd never hire her. This makes no sense, and illustrates why these sorts of interviews have been called vivid noise. They introduce unreliable, distracting information that seems to be neither unreliable nor distracting.

More Huffcutt:
During the interview, look for key elements pertaining to social interactions. For instance, using the behavior description format, you could ask them to describe a time when they had to handle a difficult student, a time when they went out of their way to help a student, etc. Same for their interaction with other faculty.
This is maybe a little better. I think it's worth it to try to find out what kinds of questions will elicit useful information. But I still don't see how this addresses the Harman point. Suppose the person fumbles the "difficult student" question, but you've got a bunch of evidence from her dossier that she's a dedicated and talented teacher. What does that tell you? How would you react if you learned that she fumbled somebody else's "difficult student" question but aced yours? How would you react if she aced yours but fumbled somebody else's?

Holton ties it together:
discussing someone's paper, which is what many APA interviews and on-campus talks consist in, is rather like a mix of a behavioral descriptive interview and a situational interview; you spend much of it finding out how the candidate responded to various philosophical problems (BDI), and then you find out how they would respond if someone said something like what you then say (SI).
While I appreciate the effort and admire the empirical approach to what is clearly an empirical question, I guess I just don't see why I should think that this sort of thing is likely to yield useful knowledge. What is the useful Behavioral Descriptive Information supposed to be? And how is it useful to know how the candidate would respond if someone said something like what you then say? And what distinguishes the BDI from the SI in this situation? Maybe I'm dense, but I just don't see how that would result in helpful information about the candidate that would be more reliable that what's already in the her dossier.

--Mr. Zero

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Woe is us roundup

Hopefully everyone's got everything in order to hit the ground running. For people who like to wallow, here's a little not-philosophy-job-market-sucks-too roundup:
  • Planet money mentions this study that finds the unemployed are "a shaken, traumatized people." Sound familiar?
Just sayin', it's not all that rosy outside the discipline either...

-- Second Suitor

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Graduate programs that teach you to be a teacher

As promised, here is your thread about teaching-oriented graduate programs. I'll get us started: my grad school was pretty good about emphasizing good teaching. Of course, I can't tell you which program it was, or even what, specifically they did, without badly damaging my pseudonymity. Sorry.

Anyways, it would be nice if people could be as specific as possible about what good teaching programs do, and include tips I can take into the classroom. Thanks.

--Mr. Zero

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

I am a sinner who does not expect forgiveness, but I am not a government official

Quick story:

It's long been established that when I work I coffee shop hop. After 2-3 hours I got to move, and that usually corresponds pretty well to a cup of coffee and a refill. And I'm friendly.. I chat with my neighbors, one of whom is a fellow academic (professor, not philosopher). They know I'm a grad student finishing up. Because of the timing I usually run into one of them when I leave my place and we exchange pleasantries where I usually mention that I'm off to work.

S0 I walk outside and run into my neighbor. She asks me which coffee shop I work at. I go into my little spiel about the strengths and weaknesses of the various coffee shops about (cheaper coffee, limited internet, etc..) and this look of comprehension comes across her face. Somehow it hadn't occurred to me that: "I work at a coffee shop" would translate to.. I work at a coffee shop.

Who knows? If things don't work out maybe next year..

-- Second Suitor

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Some further thoughts on pedigree

1. The smokers love to talk pedigree. By a lot, our two most prolific threads are pedigree-related.

2. I think that in Marinoff's case, the "pedigree" charges are clearly warranted. It's not like he used it as a tie-breaker for APA interview invitations; he used it as a first-round weed-out criterion. It's the first consideration he mentions. That's pretty heavy.

3. In the first Marinoff post, I was inclined to be forgiving of the use of pedigree. In light of the discussion that followed, I am no longer so inclined. Whether fancy places really are better at producing productive philosophers is an empirical question; I'm not aware of any correspondingly empirical investigation.

4. And even if pedigree is good evidence of future productivity, there are enough exceptions in both directions--fancy people who aren't productive; non-fancy people who are--that it makes sense to look deeper. And Doug Portmore's suggestion that fanciness is related to productivity due to self-fulfilling prophecy ought not be ignored, neither.

5. I endorse Clayton Littlejohn's point here, about fairness. An advertisement is a request for applications. They're saying, please send us your dossiers. If you comply with the request, they have an obligation to give you a fair shake. Roundfiling your application because your Ph.D. is from a proletarian university does not satisfy that obligation.

6. There's no such thing as the Harvard of the proletariat. If your thing is a Harvard, it's not of the proletariat.

7. Grad-schools-that-train-you-to-be-a-teacher thread coming up.

--Mr. Zero

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

A search committee chair speaks out

Lou Marinoff, chair of last year's search committee at blah City College of the City University of New York has written an article for Inside Higher Ed about his experiences. You should totally read it.

I'm sure I'm not revealing too much about myself when I say I applied for that job. I thought Marinoff ran one of the best search committees to have ever ignored me (and they have almost all ignored me). He sent out several email status updates--I always knew where I stood (on the outside looking in), and I was grateful.

One thing that stood out was Marinoff's attitude about the whole thing. He clearly saw chairing the committee as an opportunity to give back to help his department. I like this attitude. I think it's worth having.

A couple of issues came up in the comments at IHE: Marinoff used "pedigree" as a weed-out criterion, which some people took issue with. I take issue with it. But I'm inclined to be forgiving when I read that they had over 600 applications. At a certain point, you just don't have time to find that lovable mutt. Beware of hip dysplasia, though.

Several people complain that Marinoff doesn't seem to have employed diversity as a criterion--it is suggested but not entailed by Marinoff's account that no attempt was been made to diversify the faculty. This strikes me as a legitimate concern, though It's hard to know how diverse the pool was at each stage of the process. Maybe their attempt to diversify just didn't work out. Maybe they really didn't try. Seems like these possibilities warrant different attitudes.

H/T anon 1:48.

--Mr. Zero

Monday, August 31, 2009

Advice for first years

I generally have two bits of advice that I try to give to all the first years who come through the program. It's obvious stuff really, but I still think it's worth saying.

1. Make a good faith effort to complete assignments on time, but don't be scared to ask for extensions. Don't drag assignments out longer than they need to be. When the next semester starts, it's time to start on the next semester. That said, if a week or two will really make the difference as to whether your paper's worth reading, most professors would rather read something worthwhile later instead of crap by the deadline. Grad school's not undergrad. You shouldn't just try to get by. Note: in every department there are exceptions to the rule, ask your fellow grad students to find out who the exceptions are. Which leads me to..

2. During the first semester of graduate school, I really think it's important to take time to socialize, particularly with the people in your class and the class above you. You're going to be dealing with these people for 6ish years of your life, and we've got to live a little to in grad school.. right? Investing a little time up front to build relationships helps to make the whole experience better. Plus, if I'm right you've got the perfect excuse to hit up happy hour after seminars.

Any other sage words of wisdom for the newcomers?

-- Second Suitor

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Time-wasting bullshit is the price you pay

I am on one of the lower rungs of the seniority ladder in my department. It makes perfect sense--I'm not on the tenure track, after all. One negative consequence of this situation is that I have little to no control over the direction of the department and how it operates. (Not that my colleagues are dicks about it, or that there's anything I'm especially upset about; it's just that there are lots of decisions I'm not involved in.) The upside is that I don't have to go to any faculty meetings. But although I've complained about meetings before, the fact is that they're a necessary evil. If you want to influence the department you work in, you have to go to meetings.

I'm starting my second year here this year, and I guess they like me okay, because the honchos are letting me make some decisions about our speaker program. (I realize that this is probably just because they don't want to bother. Whatever.) In any case, I've been surprised at how gratifying it's been. Just being in on a couple of relatively minor decisions has made me much more like a member of the department, and less like some guy who just teaches a bunch of intro classes.

Although the extra workload has been pretty light, and although this is probably one of the more fun aspects of running a philosophy department, and although department politics and heavy-duty stuff is pretty much absent from this job, I can't help but suspect that the eventual glut of time-wasting bullshit will maybe possibly be worth it. Depending on the details, of course.

--Mr. Zero

Thursday, August 27, 2009

A comment worth a post

Yesterday Mickey Wolfmann made a comment that was so dead on it deserves it's own post.
One thing I have learned from last year is to ignore the wiki, discussion boards, and most profession-oriented blogs (even this one once November hits, and I really do enjoy this blog [SS note: we don't mind if you keep reading us!]). Why? They make the situation worse. I somehow go from thinking about market-oriented stuff every 7 seconds to thinking about it every 2 seconds. In addition, none of the news is good, and some of the information should be re-classified as misinformation. Finally, after obsessing over the market so long and having that obsession exaggerated by watching the wiki, blogs, and discussion boards, it becomes very tempting to think that there is some kind of formula for getting THE job. There is not a formula. Teaching experience? Matters at some places to some people who may or may not be on the search committee. Same goes for publishing. Same goes for journal ranking. Same goes for pedigree. The truth is that applicants simply have to put themselves out there into the void and keep plugging along. There is no magic formula that works for the desirable jobs or for just any job.
A wise person told me last year: you don't just need a good writing sample or good letters, you need everything to be good.. and for the hiring committee to like it.

-- Second Suitor

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Second time 'round

For any young 'uns out there who are gearing up for their first market season we know things aren't going to be good. Hell good markets aren't that good. I just wanted to say staring at your second market it less scary. You really do have a better idea of how everything works and it's nice to start out with a decent material ready to go. This is a multi-year process. As someone mentioned in comments the other day, the stiff competition isn't other ABDs or fresh PhDs. The most serious candidates are those that have been out 2-3 years who have much more extensive teaching experience and publications. I mean, go look at the leiter list of hires. It's both comforting (oh, I didn't really have a chance at getting that job) and frustrating (oh, I didn't really have a chance at getting that job). What you're doing now isn't just for this market, or the next. It's for the next few years. That's not to say you shouldn't work hard now, but, at least for me right now, taking a longer view on the whole processes makes the day-to-day steps easier.

-- Second Suitor

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Word count

Suppose I'm submitting an article to a journal, and the journal has a word-count requirement. Suppose they want a word count on the title page, so I know they're serious. Does the word count include footnotes? Does it include the bibliography? I mean, it doesn't include the bibliography, right?

--Mr. Zero

Monday, August 24, 2009

Son of how bad will things be in the fall?

Back in April, we speculated wildly about how bad things would be in the fall. Now that it's late August, I thought we could speculate again, but hopefully a little less wildly. It is my understanding that the recent economic news has been better, if not good. The economy shrank by just 1% during the second quarter; the Dow is up over 9,000, which is better than it's been anytime since Lehman Brothers. Of course, it's not as good as it was before Lehman Brothers. Thanks a lot, Lehman Brothers.

So, what does this mean? In the earlier thread, somebody said something about how endowments work and how even great economic news wouldn't lead to a recovery in the job market until next year. I'd like that to not be true. Also, I'm unsure of how this endowment stuff relates to public schools. Don't public schools derive most of their funding from taxes, and relatively little from endowments? And could it happen that even if the October JFP is a disaster, things could pick up in time for the November issue to go to press?

So, does anyone have a sense for what kind of job market we're going to see?

--Mr. Zero

Wednesday, August 19, 2009


I went to an orientation for new instructors recently. The purpose of the orientation was to acquaint us new instructors with the various policies, regulations, technological innovations, FAQs, BS, etc. The weird thing about this new instructor orientation is that I have had this job for a full year.

Among the things I learned was that "clickers" are so awesome that our bookstore sold a huge, ungodly number of them last spring alone. I did not learn what clickers are, what they do, or why I should consider adding them to my classroom repertoire. Luckily, my chair is a big fan of technology, and so I already knew quite a lot about clickers.

I also learned that my school is very proud of its association with Blackboard. I did not learn what Blackboard does, why it is better than a regular class webpage, or why I should use it. Luckily I am an online teaching veteran, and so I know a lot about Blackboard, how it is used, and how it is incredibly unreliable and super shitty.

I also learned that I should call one of two people named "Jennifer" in the event of any discrimination or harassment. Who would be harassing whom? What constitutes harassment? Should I be worried? I don't know.

I also learned that I should be engaged in student-centered teaching. What is student-centered teaching? I don't know. However, I was asked to free write about my feelings concerning student-centered teaching before any attempt was made to explain what student-centered teaching is supposed to be. Wonderful.

Now, I know that in the grand scheme of things, this is small potatoes. I know that if I ever get a tenure-track job, I will be in so many bullshit meetings that time will cease to exist and I will long for death. I know that in 5 billion years the sun will explode and vaporize all life before swallowing the earth in a ball of fire. I know this. But come on, orientation people. If you're going to get me out of bed for some stupid meeting, the least you can do is do it less than a year after I was hired and manage to convey any information whatsoever.

--Mr. Zero