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