Friday, December 31, 2010

Skype Versus The Eastern APA

There's a funny thread going on at Leiter the past few days about the prospect of Skype interviews replacing in-person interviews at the APA. The advantages of Skype are obvious and obviously decisive: they are less costly; do not require candidates or interviewers to travel across state lines; do not require people to cram all 12 interviews into a two-day period; are better for the environment; provide for greater flexibility in holiday travel plans; reduce the likelihood that you will be stranded by a blizzard or that you will be involved in a hotel fire; et cetera.

The advantages of interviewing at the Eastern APA meeting are more difficult to state in a precise and fair manner. There's no substitute for meeting face-to-face, and we've been doing it this way for as long as anyone can remember. One guy seems to think that we should keep doing the APA thing because when his wife tried to find a job in the "private sector," it was costly and stressful--she had to buy new clothes, print out and mail application materials, stuff like that. Another guy seems to think that the proponents of Skype interviews don't like the E-APA because they are too chicken to attend philosophy conferences at all. Another guy says he doesn't see what the big deal is because our line of work is flexible and so you can see your family lots of times of year besides the holidays. (Maybe some of these are the same guy. Too lazy to look it up.)

These are, of course, really stupid reasons. I think the analogy with "private sector" jobs is instructive, actually. Suppose you live in Omaha and you're applying for a job with a firm in Salt Lake City. Suppose the holidays are coming up, and you were hoping to take your spouse and your offspring to spend a holiday traditionally and typically regarded by Americans as extremely important with your parents in Charlotte. Suppose the Salt Lake City people call you up and say that they want to interview you, but they want you and the other candidates to spend your own money to fly to Boston, stay at the Marriott in Copley Square where they've reserved a block of rooms, and that they're interviewing only on the 28th, 29th, and 30th of December so they hope you didn't make any firm holiday plans. Suppose they say, other firms will be holding interviews in Boston, too, so maybe, if you're lucky, you'll be flying to Boston for more than just this one interview. Suppose that they also say that although they realize that Boston is one of the oldest and most historic cities in America, they want you to keep your evenings free because a crucial and mandatory part of the interview process is a reception they're holding in a weird crowded bar where Bud Lights cost $11 and where you will be required to wander around, waiting for an opportunity to sit down with them and maybe some of your competitors to schmooze and bullshit for a while.

I think this arrangement sounds fucking crazy. I think that when I tell non-philosophers about how the job market works, they think it sounds fucking crazy. And that's because it is fucking crazy. It is fucking crazy. I realize that the APA interview has been the standard thing, but we live in the future and we have video phones like in the Jetsons.

Obviously, Skype is not perfect. Things can go wrong. But come on. Things can go wrong with anything--even flying to Boston in the dead of fucking winter. And are you really so worried about the technical difficulties involved with Skype that you'd rather avoid them by spending your own money to fly to Boston the day after Christmas so you can meet the Salt Lake City people face-to-face in a crowded ballroom in the Marriott Hotel in Copley Square? No, you're not.

--Mr. Zero

P.S. Happy New Year!

Seen at the APA book fair


-- Jaded Dissertator

p.s. The APA is over. That's good. Happy New Year.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Man Who Wasn't There

I mentioned that I've been fortunate enough to have had a couple of nibbles this job market season. However, and I'm not sure whether this is unfortunate or fortunate, none of the nibbles required me to go to Boston. So I did not go to Boston. So I am not in Boston.

Once I realized that my presence in Boston would not be required, it occurred to me that it might be more pleasant to take an actual vacation with Mrs. Zero, and not spend any time thinking about how fucked up the situation in Boston is. Or writing about it. So that's what I did. It was fun.

But anyway. If you were going to Boston, I hope you got there safely and that your interviews have gone well. And if you tried to go to Boston but didn't make it, I hope you're still safe, that your interviewing departments do the right thing and make arrangements to interview you via Skype or phone or something, and that the APA does the right thing and refunds your registration fee. And if you weren't going to Boston at all, like me, I hope you're enjoying the break and not feeling too bad about the fact that your presence was not required in Boston. At least you avoided the Boxing Day Blizzard APA Clusterfuck of 2010.

--Mr. Zero

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Kudos, APA updates, etc.

Quickly, because preparation calls.

Again, Spiros is right; or, at least the spirit of his post. There's no denying that Professor Leiter's recent posts have been invaluable for many job seekers, search committees, and the philosophical community at large. In the end, despite any differences of opinion the Reports and the Smoker may have, they can sometimes obfuscate our mutual desire to try to do good by the profession. Kudos.

On another note: Boston is cold, windy, and slushy. I should've brought some getting around shoes and/or boots. My feet are cold. I was miserable this morning, but, my spirits have been lifted by my friends' reports of successful interviews (and beers).

I'm a veritable ray of sunshine now; or, at least will be for another 2 hours. Then, the smoker. Yay. I just hope this impending sickness strikes after tomorrow, rather than tonight.

This isn't to say that things don't still seem fucked up, but, I'm here, so, whatevs. We'll save the complaining for the post-mortem.

Best to all.

-- Jaded Dissertator

Sunday, December 26, 2010


I'm coming out of hibernation because as one of the lucky few - and sitting across from another - who has a real reason to go to Boston, I think it's a bit odd - to put it mildly - that search committees haven't e-mailed me or anyone that I know of and that the APA can't even be bothered to wake somebody up, mildly inconvenience them - and I do understand it would be an inconvenience and I also realize how much this sounds like a student bitching about how it took me three days to get back to them - and have them put up a note at least saying:
'Hey, bros. Sorry, but the APA is still on. We have encouraged search committees to set up Skype or telephone interviews to accommodate those who will be unable to travel safely to Boston, e.g., everyone who doesn't live in or isn't already in Boston.

We also hope that you won't hold it against us that we have yet to reconsider this whole having the APA in a cold weather city on the East Coast after a major holiday. We're working on it, but even the first few Super Bowls were played in cold weather cities - and some still are - so, we weren't the only organization to completely punt the ball on the biggest event of our profession repeatedly. We hope our weather control machine prototype will be out of R&D next year for the next APA and we won't run into these issues again.

So, we're still cool, right, dawgs? See you at the smoker; let's get fucked up on free beer again this year (just try to not throw up all over your interviewers! HAHAHAHA, j/k; but you were wasted, bro!)!


The Eastern APA

p.s. Sorry about putting the conference in Times Square last year. I thought it would be sweeter than it was.'
Barring this note being put up, I think Spiros is right.

--Jaded Dissertator

Monday, December 20, 2010

Even When It's Good It's Bad

I've been having a pretty decent year on the market for the first time this year (my fourth year on the market). I've got a couple of nibbles, one of which I'm extremely excited about and the other of which is very close to my Platonic ideal. I'm really happy about these developments and I would love--LOVE--to have either one of these jobs.

But in spite of that, my overall experience over the last month or so has been decidedly negative. Part of that is that there is a moment where the elation that comes from having snagged an interview turns to dread that I will now have to convince these people to hire me. Another is that for every interview I've been granted, there are at least 15 I've missed. Getting one or two interviews and then seeing 15 or 30 jobs go down the drain has a way of taking the wind out of my sails. And then I start to think about how an interview isn't a job, it's a 1 in 4 chance of getting a campus visit. And a campus visit isn't a job, it's a 1 in 3 chance of getting an offer. And then I think, fuck.

To be clear, I am not trying to complain about my interviews. I am making an observation complaining about my own fucked up emotions. Even when I'm doing well, I can't make myself feel good about it. I'm stressed about my interviews, stressed about getting campus visits, and stressed about how I don't have more interviews.

Gotta love the job market.

--Mr. Zero

Thursday, December 16, 2010

What Are Interviews Like?

In comments, Fulci asks,

I had a mock interview today that was like my dissertation defense but vastly more aggressive. I was shocked and responded VERY badly. Is this what interviews are really like? As soon as it started my thought was: I wouldn't want to work with jerks like this anyway. Are liberal arts interviews like this? If they are, I'm canceling mine. I'm terrified now...

I've had just a few interviews, but I've never had a real one that was close to as aggressive as the mock interview I was given before I went on the market for the first time. My mock interviewers told me that they would be far more aggressive than any real interview situation I was likely to encounter, so that I'd find my actual interviews relatively tame. (Also, my interviewers said this ahead of time, so I knew it was coming.)

It has been my experience that the less "research" oriented a department, the less aggressive the questioning. I had an interview with a highly teaching oriented department that did not touch on my research at all, although I think that's pretty unusual.

What say you, Smokers?

--Mr. Zero

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

the call..

It's a number not in my phone book. What's that area code.. can't recognize it. Ok good. take a deep breath. be cool, be cool..


"Hi, I'm calling to ask if you're willing to donate to help ki.."


Come on man, don't play me like that.

-- Second Suitor

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

How To Tell Someone to Please Fuck Off

I've received a handful of competent PFOs over the years. Here are a couple of examples. The first is from Pitt:

Dear [Mr. Zero],

I am sorry to inform you that the Junior Appointments Committee has decided not to pursue your candidacy further at this point. We received nearly two hundred responses to our advertisement, including a great many from highly talented and accomplished applicants. Obviously there are many different considerations on which our decisions are based, and I hope you will appreciate that I cannot go into specifics about individual cases. We will keep your dossier on file until next year, when we shall probably be advertising a junior position again.

Thank you for giving us the opportunity to consider your credentials, and let me wish you the best of luck in your job search.

Sincerely yours,
John McDowell

Or this one, from UChicago, which I received in the spring of '08:

Thank you very much for your application to our advertised position. After a long and careful process, I regret to say that we are not furthering your candidacy. I wish you the very best in your further endeavors, and look forward to many years as colleagues in our common profession.

"Yours very warmly, ...

In comments here, Zombie mentions another, from UDelaware, that isn't bad:

Dear applicant,

Thank you very much for applying for the position of assistant professor of philosophy at the University of Delaware. I am sorry to have to tell you that we are only able to interview twelve of the four hundred candidates who applied and you were not among those selected.

I hope you will excuse the impersonal nature of this email and accept our best wishes for success in your search of a suitable position.
Search Committee Chair

--Mr. Zero

Monday, December 13, 2010

A Job I Won't Be Applying For

From Higher Ed Jobs comes this doozy at Harper College of Palatine, IL:

Job Description: Teach 30 contact hours of introductory foundational philosophy courses each academic year.

Duties of Position: Teach 30 contact hours each academic year according to the full-time faculty contract in a student-centered environment. Hold 10 office hours each week. Serve on departmental, divisional, and college committees and pursue professional development in discipline-related field.

I've never heard the expression 'contact hour' before, but it has to be synonymous with the more standard "credit hour." I checked, and they're on the semester system and their standard philosophy course is three credits. So, what we're dealing with is a non-tenure-track [edit: the job is tenure track] job with a 5-5 load, mandatory 10 office hours a week, extensive administrative committee assignments, and pursuit of professional development (is that admin code for publishing?). Fuck that. [edit: discussion in comments has led me to soften my view about this job. I still don't think I'm going to apply for it, but it doesn't seem to be the monster I initially thought].

--Mr. Zero

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Rocking the Passive Voice II

I just got a nice PFO, which reads:

Dear applicant,

The [...] search committee has narrowed down the finalists. We received over one hundred applications for this position. The selection process was very competitive. Unfortunately, your application was not among them.

We wish you the best in your academic endeavors,


[some guy]

This is truly wonderful. My application was not among them. What was it not among? The competitive selection process? That doesn't make sense. The one hundred applications? No, it was; otherwise I wouldn't be receiving this PFO. The finalists. Yes. So you have to go three sentences back to find the antecedent for this pronoun. Nice writing.

And, naturally, this situation is something that has just happened to us. They didn't do anything, or anything. They were just sitting around, looking at the piles, and they noticed that my application was not among the finalists. And this is something they regard as unfortunate. That's good, at least.

--Mr. Zero

Friday, December 10, 2010

Progress on the Wiki

It seems that listings on the wiki are turning yellow at a furious pace now. I did a quick count about an hour ago, and 60 entries had turned yellow or orange, and 127 were still green. So there's a long way to go. But I'm having a pretty brutal day.

--Mr. Zero

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Funniest Thing To Have Come Out of the Job Market Wiki So Far This Year

From the job listing at University of Houston-Victoria (TX) (Asst. Prof.). Someone changed the status to "Offer Made" on December 6 at 13:56 GMT. This exchange followed in comments.

Posted on 6 Dec 2010 at 2:03 pm from IP x



Posted on 6 Dec 2010 at 3:30 pm from IP y

People messing with the wiki

I changed this back, since whoever posted this also posted that the Siena search was canceled. Someone is obviously messing with the wiki.

[This last is untrue. The IP of the person who posted the UHV news was different from that of the person who (falsely) posted that the Sienna search was canceled. That IP reported that first-round interviews had been scheduled the minute before it reported the cancellation. Probably an accident.]

Posted on 6 Dec 2010 at 6:33 pm from IP [=the one that changed the UHV status]

Fine, don't believe me

I don't know who canceled the Siena posting (it wasn't me), but I did get the job offered to me. They had phone interviews a few weeks ago and on-campus interviews last week. This job is moving super fast. They want an answer within days.

The best part is the way the person says, "Fine, don't believe me." I love that. When someone doesn't believe you, say "fine." I'm going to start doing that in class.

But in all seriousness, what do you think about this hiring strategy? It's clearly designed to prevent the candidate to whom they offered the job from considering other offers. I'm not saying this is deeply immoral or something, but it makes me a little uneasy. In such a depressed market, of course, the strategy is unlikely to have any genuine negative effect on the candidate; how likely is it, after all, for even the best candidate to get two offers this year? And I guess a person could accept the one offer and back out if a better one were to materialize (although the morality of that strategy is questionable, too). But still.

--Mr. Zero

Monday, December 6, 2010

Interview Rehash3

I'm moving this to the front from 11/19, in honor of "if we're lucky we'll get interviews this week" week.

I thought we could do this a little earlier than usual this year, since there seems to be a not-insignificant number of search committees scheduling first-round interviews already. So let's start thinking about what questions interviewers will be asking at the APA, should you be so fortunate.

Here's the list from three years ago, with some additions from comment threads from last year and the year before:

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 2 years ago.)

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. As far as research questions go, be prepared to discuss the most basic, foundational issues related to your work. You have probably spent 90% of your recent efforts defending what to those outside of your specialty may look like very minor points. Be prepared to engage in the big picture stuff. (From anon 12:46 in comments last year.)


29 What is philosophy? (from R. Kevin Hill, in comments 2 years ago)

30 Prepare for questions about grants and other outside funding. It's not something that philosophers usually consider, but it is becoming an important factor at some institutions. (from anon 2:20, in comments last year.)

31 “In these financially challenging times what skills or talents can contribute to the university as a whole?” (from anon 2:02, in comments last year.)

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

Any additions? Any resources I've overlooked?

--Mr. Zero

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Mental Health Break

As the weeks in which most departments will be contacting candidates for APA interviews approach, it is especially important to take a few moments to calm down, take a few deep breaths, and watch a video of a kitten riding on a small tortoise while Henry Mancini's "Baby Elephant Walk" plays.

You're welcome.

--Mr. Zero

Friday, December 3, 2010

Thom Brooks's Advice for Referees

The Smokers are probably familiar with the guide to publishing that Thom Brooks wrote a few years ago and revised last year. (If not, here it is.) What you might not know is that he has recently written a guide to refereeing papers for journals. (Or maybe you do, if you read his blog or Leiter.) It contains a brief overview of the academic publishing industry, a guide to selecting the right standard for acceptance, and a guide to writing your report. It's good, and it's here. Thanks to Professor Brooks for putting it together.

--Mr. Zero

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

One Of Us Has Missed The Point

In a recent thread at Leiter, in which Thom Brooks posed some questions about referee guidelines, an anonymous graduate student comments:

All the comments so far seem to forget that blind review goes in two directions. A senior faculty member in my department likes to point out that she very often knows who wrote the articles she reviews, but the important thing is that the authors don't know she's the one reviewing them -- which means she can be fully honest in her assessments of their work.

That said, given what we know about unconscious bias, it is important for reviewers at least to be self-reflective about this. Which I understand some are not very inclined to do.

It seems to me that this faculty member has it all wrong. (I'm not sure exactly how much of this the anonymous commenter believes, and how much s/he is merely attributing to the faculty member.) Blind review goes in two directions, and this means that the referee is not supposed to know whose paper it is. Because, as the anonymous commenter notes, there are loads of unconscious biases, and blind review is supposed to control for them. But it is not enough to be "self-reflective" about this. If the biases are unconscious, it is literally not possible to correct them via self-reflection. The way to correct them is to eliminate the bits of knowledge they operate on. And so the effective way to be self-reflective about latent biases is to acknowledge that they are there, and to realize that blind review procedures are the only way to protect against them, and to observe those procedures.

Or am I missing something?

--Mr. Zero

P.S. The faculty member is right about how the author shouldn't know who the referee is.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Voicemail OCD

This time of year, I check my voicemail all the time. Obsessively. Even when I've been sitting next to my phone, without moving, for hours. It's times like these that I realize how fucking sick I am of being on the job market.

--Mr. Zero

Thursday, November 25, 2010

The Turkey King Lives!!!

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

--Mr. Zero

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Job Market Wiki

It seems that people are using the Phylo Wiki again this year. Is there anything else going on? I thought that it was a pretty good wiki last year. I like the RSS feeds, although they take some of the fun out of obsessively hitting the refresh button every 30 seconds.

--Mr. Zero

Thursday, November 11, 2010

What's the Best Journal for Junior Philosophers?

I've been thinking about which is the best journal that makes sense for ABDs, visiting faculty, and the untenured to submit to. It seems to me that many of the very best journals, such as Mind, Phil Review, and Phil Quarterly, are nevertheless terrible for who are just starting out, because they can take years to get back to you with a decision. (Although if you've got a really great paper, and a couple of years to go before you apply for tenure, it might make sense to submit to one of these journals. Only if.)

There are probably other journals that it makes no sense for junior people to submit to, and there are probably other reasons. (I guess I don't consider the low probability of acceptance by itself to be a reason not to submit.) But I am inclined to suspect that the best journal it makes sense for junior people to submit to is Noûs. Then maybe PPR and some others. I take it that the winner is going to be a "general" journal, because even the best specialist journals, like, say, Ethics, don't rise to the level the best general ones.

What say you, Smokers?

--Mr. Zero

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

New Web-Only Ads Are Not Being Dated

Dear APA,

Although you are updating the November web-only ads, you are not dating the updates. It's better when they are dated, APA. The dates help me know whether there's been an update without memorizing what the last ad was. It also helps me make year-to-year comparisons--how many ads were there at this time in 2009 or 2008, as compared to now? It's hard to tell if the updates are undated. And if you're not going to date the updates, you could at least change the date in the the "last updated on" announcement that appears in the upper-left corner of the page in big red letters. That would help a little.

Yours most sincerely,
Mr. Zero

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Embedded videos? Watch out now..

Sure it's about english, so it doesn't apply to us at all...

--Second Suitor

p.s. I picked it up from here: (I figure if I'm bitching at my students about citing sources...)

Saturday, November 6, 2010

What I Just Told My Wife

Me: So you see all that (pointing at the Interfolio entries in our online finances)? Each one is a chance for me to get $50,000.

Wife: *Shrugs*

Me: It's like winning the lottery.

--Second Suitor

Friday, November 5, 2010

On being foreign and attending the APA

A pressing question from fellow Smoker, H:
I am a European postdoctoral philosopher, just returned from a conference in the United States. Given the dismal state of the job market in Europe (hardly any tenure-track positions), I am now trying to expand my line of vision to see if I can't get a position in the US. One of the attendees of the conference, an associate professor at an American university, encouraged me to attend the APA Eastern division meeting this winter. He said it was called the 'meat market', and that one could get into contact with people who were looking to hire, and that one could even learn about jobs that were not advertised in the APA jobs for philosophers. I am now applying to TT positions advertised in the jobs for philosophers, but I am wondering whether I would gain anything by attending the APA conference anyway, even if I did not get any invitations for interviews.

Also, the same associate professor mentioned that as a European, I would be in a somewhat disadvantaged position when applying to the US market.

Any thoughts?

My thoughts are: no interviews, no APA. The pickings will be few and far between for the jobs looking to schedule interviews at the conference. I might be wrong. About if being European places you at a disadvantage: I'm not sure about that. Surely departments would have to jump through a bit more hoops to hire you, but I don't think it would be a deal breaker were you already at the top of the list. Or, so I hope it wouldn't.

Anyone else want to weigh in and disagree, speak up in the comments.

-- Jaded Dissertator

How's This For an Idea

As you know, there are always a lot of annoying duplicate ads in the web-onlies and the November print edition of the JFP. Why not mark the new ads as new, instead of (or in addition to, whatever) listing the other editions in which each ad has been included. For crying out loud.

--Mr. Zero

November JFP

Is up. It seems to me that it's a little better than last year, in terms of the number of jobs. I haven't read it carefully, but Spiros estimates 30 or 40 new assistant-rank tenure-line jobs.


--Mr. Zero

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Why We Should Care About Women and Philosophy

A request was made in comments when this topic last arose for a discussion of why we should care about the difficulties faced by women in philosophy when everyone has it so rough. If it's tough on everyone, why does it matter if it happens to be tough on these particular people? I thought about it for a while, and at first I was disinclined to take the bait. But then I thought, what the hell. Maybe it's not obvious, even though it sort of seems like it is.

The reason why we should particularly care about women and ethnic minorities when everyone has it rough is this: women and minorities have it rough in all the ways white men do, and then a bunch more ways piled on top. We did some back-of-the-envelope math a couple of years ago, with clear results: the percentage of job market candidates who are women is equal to the percentage of hires that are women. Being a woman seems to be neither a net advantage nor a net impediment to getting a job in philosophy--once you've made it through grad school. This last part bears emphasizing: women face an especially obstacle-laden path to the Ph.D, and then are subject to no special benefit once they finish and are on the job market. This suggests that the female philosophers are as good (if they weren't, they'd get hired less often) and have it as rough the men (on the job market--rougher in grad school); it's just that there are way, way less of them (because they go to grad school less often and drop out more often than do men).

It's hard to get a job in philosophy even if you're a woman, and then there are all these dickheads thoughtless people calling to mind in an especially vivid way how much happier you'd be in a less male-dominated field. Read any of the posts at What is it Like to be a Woman in Philosophy. Nothing remotely like that has ever happened to me, but it happens to women all the time. Every female philosopher I know has several stories where someone has treated her abominably in a way that directly relates to her gender. Although this sometimes happens to men, too, it is not widespread. And you should ask yourself how much of that kind of shit you'd be willing to take before you started shopping around for a new profession. If you care about justice--if you care about whether people are being treated the way they ought to be treated--you care about this.

But you should also care about this if you care about philosophy in itself; if you care about discovering philosophical truth; if you care about reading insightful philosophy papers; if you care about being made aware of novel philosophical ideas; if you care about solving philosophical puzzles. We should want as many smart people as possible working in philosophy. But a prominent group of people are being systematically edged out. This is bad for the people who are being edged out--it's a serious injustice that I don't mean to minimize--but it's also bad for us men. It is as bad for us as the Negro-League era was for Major League Baseball. Think of it: in 1945, Jackie Robinson tried out for the Boston Red Sox, and the Red Sox did not sign him. So in 1946, when the Red Sox were losing the World Series in 7 games to the Cardinals, Jackie Robinson was playing for the Montreal Royals. This situation was, obviously, extraordinarily bad for black people who wanted to be professional baseball players. It was bad for Cool Papa Bell; it was bad for Josh Gibson; it was bad for Buck O'Neil. These players were victims of a profound injustice. But it was also bad for Ted Williams and Bobby Doerr, who were, to a lesser extent, also victims of this injustice. Women and minorities have actual philosophical contributions to make. Many of these contributions are going unmade because the people who would make them are being edged out of the profession before they have a chance to do it. It's not fair to them, and it's not good for us. It's bad for everyone.

--Mr. Zero

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Second Annual "I Hate Online Job Applications" Post

Because people were not hostile to the idea, and some people seemed genuinely curious about why I hate online job applications, here is your second annual post about why I hate online job applications.

1. The applications seemed better this year than last. There was more variation in the template or whatever, and I spent less time typing my CV over and over into the same text-boxes and forms.

2. Nevertheless, I became irate several times during the process. "FUCK YOU, [school at which I desperately want to work]!!!!!," I shouted.

3. It took a really long time for me to complete them. It took just as long to do the online applications as it did to complete the snail-mail applications. But since I was doing a bunch of snail-mail applications anyway, it would have been quicker to just do them all that way.

4. So, part of it is that it's really annoying to have two completely different procedures. And it adds an unnecessary layer of complexity to my mail-merge documents.

5. It is also more work for my references. As I understand it, many schools who conduct online applications contact your references directly to ask them to upload their letters themselves. This seems to me to be unnecessarily annoying to the people who have agreed to write letters on my behalf.

6. As someone mentioned in comments somewhere (I am too lazy to find the reference in order to give due credit to the anonymous commenter who mentioned it. plus, the world series is about to start), it is annoying when there are arbitrary limits on the size of the files. I have a huge number of teaching evaluations. Although the file is large, it is not giant. Nevertheless, I had to spend some time resizing the file. Luckily for the search committee, this makes the document less readable.

7. As someone else mentioned in comments somewhere (again, too lazy), it is also annoying to stitch a bunch of files together so that this one search committee can.... Um.... I don't know what the point of that is. It seems like it would make things tougher on them, since it would be harder to tell where in my one or two PDFs my writing sample is. Or my teaching statement. Or whatever.

8. As I said last year, I believe in online applications. They are the future; snail mail is the past. But we can do better than this. There should be a central website, managed by some organization who plays roughly the role of the APA but which does it with competence, to which we would upload our documents. We would then specify which documents were to go where. This one-at-a-time bullshit is for the birds.

--Mr. Zero

The 2010 Job Market So Far

I'm having a hard time whipping up enthusiasm, either positive or negative, about the job market this year. One reason is that there aren't very many jobs I'm especially excited about. (Although I would be totally, completely stoked about any tenure-track job offer; there just isn't much in the way of "dream school" or "dream location" jobs this year. At least that I have a nonzero probability of getting.) Another, I think, is that there are so few jobs that it's hard to feel like I have a serious chance at getting anything. Looking at this JFP, it is simply not possible to send out a significant number of applications. Like last year. These facts seem to me to explain why I'm not feeling very positive. The other thing is, I feel like my file is much, much stronger than it has been in the past. I've had some significant professional accomplishments over the past year, and for the first time I feel like a legitimate contender for a tenure-line job (or, I would be if it weren't for the fact that there are no jobs and a billion people on the market who would normally have been hired in the last three years but weren't). So I don't feel particularly bad about things this year, either. I feel very medium.

The other thing is that I've blogged my way through the process before. Looking at the numbers, we've clearly got a lot of readers who weren't with us last year, but still. As a job market old-timer, I don't feel like I have a fresh perspective on this. It's sort of hard for me to believe that anyone is the least bit interested in reading what "Mr. Zero" thinks about anything; it's all the more difficult for me to believe that there is an audience for a second annual post about how much I hate the online-application process. On the other hand, maybe there is an audience for this, and maybe the whole point of being an anonymous blogger is that I get to write about whatever I want, whether anybody is interested in reading it or not. So maybe there's an "I hate online job applications, part II" coming up.

So anyways, that's kind of where I'm at right now, and that's kind of why I haven't been posting much, even though this is our big time of year, readership-wise.

--Mr. Zero

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Deep Thought

I miss the days when I would mail 75 applications on one day.

--Mr. Zero

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

It gets better(?)

You know the "It gets better" Project for gays in their teens? Any tenured faculty want to start up a similar project for us who haven't gotten there yet? Or, would that require you lying through your teeth?

If so, that's okay, we're used to it. Anything will help. Please. Lie away.

-- Jaded Dissertator

[N.B.: The following bracketed note contains strong language. {N.B.: The insensitivity of this post is defused by this bracketed note disclaiming any real comparisons between the plight of homosexual teens and the plight of non-tenured faculty, which also takes half the fun out of the expected comments from people accusing me of being an asshole who doesn't deserve a job anywhere and that any place that hires me better be prepared to deal with the asshole to end all assholes because they just hired a complete asshole who is made up of a bunch of smaller assholes and within those assholes are even tinier assholes composed of certain shapes, textures, and sizes the combination of which can be deemed powers of the medium-sized assholes to make me seem assholeish to those who interact with me, but without said interaction, the powers would lie dormant in the featureless asshole substratum, i.e., they would be assholes we know not what, which is obviously an absurdity. Thus, and Q.E.D., I am not an asshole, you are for believing in such a manifest repugnancy as an asshole without any assholeish qualities that exists outside of our perceiving its assholeishness. /Berkeleyed}]

Does Letter Quality Correlate with Pedigree?

As a weird coincidence, these two comments showed up overnight, making the same interesting point:

As someone who has chaired a number of SCs at a highly competitive SLAC, [snip] For all the righteous indignation about the role pedigree plays in hiring decisions, I will say that the letters from faculty at more highly ranked institutions are, as a whole, an order of magnitude better than those from less selective places. The level of detail, engagement with, and subtle assessment of an applicant's work and potential is--by and large--much more impressive when the letter writer is from a top place, and I think that plays far greater a role in hiring decisions than many people acknowledge. It's not just the aura of the Leiter rankings--it's also the quality of the letter that come from the more esteemed departments. This disparity in the nature of rec letters is likely unfair to those very smart people applying from programs lower down the food chain, but I think it's worth noting in the context of complaints about how pedigree exercises an undue influence in the application process: one additional advantage to being at a higher ranked program is the strength of the endorsement letter you receive from your recommenders.


This might be a tangential remark, but in the context of various complaints about the role that pedigree plays in the hiring process--an admittedly fractious issue--I wanted to note that there is a high correspondence between the rank of a department and the quality of the letters from an applicant's recommenders (I speak as someone who has chaired three searches in the last five years). It's not just the reputation of the institution an applicant comes from--it's also the level of detail about, engagement with, and subtle assessment of an applicant's work that comes from a highly ranked department's letter writers. Given the importance of recommendations in the application process, it's important, I think, to keep this in mind when raising complaints about the supposedly undue influence pedigree plays in hiring: it's not just the aura of the letter writers, but the informativeness of the letters themselves, that plays a key role in why applicants from better-ranked places do better on the job market than those from less prestigious places

Smokers with search committee experience, what do you think? Is that true?

--Mr. Zero

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Deep thought of the day

Cover letters take a lot of time...

-- Second Suitor

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Sunday Comics

Mid-week, no less! A few words about the comic. I drew it for the old venture probably over two years ago. Colleagues there felt that it was, um, incendiary. I ended up using the crude, racial caricatures in a different comic:Well, I kinda run a blog now, and thought that since the zombie lies have started their annual rising from the graves (BRRRRAAAAAIIIINNSSS!!!!) a bit early this year, I'd run it.

In any case, I know a lot of y'all have rapped at me. I'll try to get your words up-and-running soon. Stay tuned.


What's Wrong With Joking Around?

Sometimes nothing; sometimes a lot. In a long comment thread here, Elizabeth puts it so well that I didn't want it to get lost there:

You know, I'm still thinking about the discussion that emerged in this thread about whether it's OK to jokily remark to a female colleague and friend, among friends, that a man who talked to her about her research was really interested in something else.

I share the reaction of another female commenter that it would be demeaning and, for me, humiliating, and I want to try to explain why.

First, though, I have to say that I find odd the whole idea that this reaction on my part shows my humorlessness and is somehow an infringement on men's right to tell jokes. What we find funny is always personal and situational. Are there contexts that produce this reaction outside of jokes that call to mind, to oppressed people, their oppression?

Like, let's say my mom is seriously mentally ill and I don't appreciate friends joking about it. If you were my friend, would you think that was a frustrating limitation in my humor? Maybe, but... I kind of doubt it. So how come when oppressed people let us know that certain jokes make things hard for them, the immediate reaction is to discount them? Why couldn't the commentator who got this response think about how it shows his own calibration of how his humor might affect some of his female friends in philosophy might be off, instead of reacting in frustration to the woman who told him this?

That said, here's why this would hurt me if I were his friend. Every day that I do my intellectual work, I rely on the useful fiction that no one in that work sexualizes me. Realistically, from a position of remove, I'm sure that that's not the case, because that's just not how sex works. And from a remove, that's OK with me. (I have a sex drive and a fantasy life too!) But up close, it really isn't.

I don't think the men insisting in this thread that women lighten up and accept their sense of humor have any concept of this. When you have to genuinely wonder whether apparent interest in your ideas is really about your ideas, or instead is about you as a sexual object, it instantly removes every external basis you might have for feeling confident. You no longer have any ability to assess where your ideas stand. Every indication of intellectual worth you've received is suddenly in question. Think about that. Women have to deal with that in some way or other. I deal with it by obstinately blocking it out. The joke would hurt me because it would puncture a strategy I need in order to do my work.

By the way, to the commenter who asked about telling this joke to a male friend about a female questioner: If I overheard that I would be hurt in the same way. The person being demeaned wouldn't be your male friend; it would be the woman whose question was assumed to be unserious.

That implicit accusation -- that the person isn't an intellectual agent, just a sexual one -- just doesn't carry the same meaning when applied to a man most of the time as it does to a woman most of the time. (I imagine, though, that some men of color in philosophy might have something to say here.) Just like, return to my example, a "yo momma's crazy" joke means something different to someone whose mother is mentally ill. Why is this so obvious in so much of normal life, but so hard for some people to grasp when the issue is oppression?

--Mr. Zero

Monday, October 11, 2010

Miscellaneous Observations About the JFP

1. There are a bunch of instances of nonconsecutive ads for the same school, which I find maybe more annoying that I should. But that doesn't mean I shouldn't find it at all annoying.

2. The NYU campus at Abu Dhabi: still funny.

3. They responded to our demands that the numbering system be changed, and changed the numbering system. Unfortunately they changed it in a way that makes no sense. Now the "web-only" section of JFP #187 starts over at 1, rather than continuing from the print version. Although this is different from before, it is different in a way that is not at all helpful. It would be much, much better if each ad were given a unique number, so that way you could know at a glance whether you'd already read this ad already. Instead, it seems to me that all of the first 50 and several ads randomly placed between #54 and #75 are duplicates.

I mean, you gotta wonder what the point of numbering the ads could possibly be if they're going to do it this way. There's nothing especially significant about the order of the ads. It's not a way to uniquely identify the ads, since the same ad can have different numbers and the same number can (now) be assigned to different ads (interpreting, as the APA does, the "web-onlies" as an extension of the print issue). And it's not a way to ascertain how many ads there are, because there are so many duplicates.

4. Didn't they used to alphabetize the ads by school name in the regional categories? Why did they stop?

5. I found a little over 30 jobs I will apply for. This is pretty similar to what was happening last year at this time. Which is very, very bad.

--Mr. Zero

Friday, October 8, 2010

The Green Light Flashes; The Flags Go Up

The October JFP is online. 157 ads in the print version; 119 ads in the web-onlies--they restart the numbering in a weird way; who knows how many duplicates.

Last year on JFP day, we had 140 in the print edition, 256 total (not adjusting for duplicates--a commenter in last year's thread says it was more like 220, total). In October of '08, we had 267 in the print version. In '07, we had 347.

--Mr. Zero

Monday, October 4, 2010

Mental Health Break

It's fall.

--Mr. Zero

Saturday, September 25, 2010

On Conducting Interviews in Bedrooms

Over at Leiter, there's been some interesting discussion about interviewing in bedrooms. Robert Allen says,

I should have thought that we philosophers were a little more relaxed in our dealings with each other than to fuss over interview settings (or even "stares and worse," i.e., boys being boys). Whatever happened to being of good cheer and leaving the professionalism to the attorneys and politicians?

It has been my experience that "boys will be boys" is shorthand for "men are assholes, and you should put up with it, because they're men and they like having fun at your expense." This is one of the things I hate about being a man.

And I hate this "good cheer" argument more than anything. Why does everyone else have to have good cheer in the face of what an asshole you are? What happened to "good cheer yourself, and don't be an asshole"? You can start by conducting your interviews sitting up, with shoes on like a civilized person, and not in a room dedicated to sleeping and/or fucking.

I see why you'd think philosophers shouldn't adopt the same standards for professionalism as lawyers. But that doesn't mean that just anything goes. You're interviewing someone for a potentially permanent job teaching at the college level. You are not having someone over to your studio apartment to sit on your murphy bed watch a football game.

And let's not forget that we applicants are required to wear (something like) a suit to these interviews. What would happen to an applicant who showed up to the interview without shoes on and in a tee shirt that says "Beards: they grow on you"? That person's failure to present himself in a professional manner would demonstrate a lack of seriousness that would rule him out as a candidate. Why shouldn't the interviewing department hold themselves to some (non-lawyerly) standard of professionalism?

Furthermore, the applicant a lot of money to attend the conference, too, but this money comes out of her own pockets, not her institution's yearly budget. That a search committee would demand that I make myself uncomfortable, in a way that may or may not be sexual in nature, in order to save them a few dollars, what with the high cost of conducting completely unnecessary interviews, makes me feel a range of emotions between incredulity, nausea, and blind rage.

Alex Taylor says,

Setting aside the question of whether it is sexist or heterosexist to suggest that women might feel more vulnerable in such a setting, I am puzzled to see that so few of you have realized that sexual harassment can happen in a suite just as easily as it can in a bedroom. If Dr. Creepy wants to harass a woman interviewee he can do so with or without a bed. If this is a naive view - if sexism and harassment are so prevalent - I would suggest that there is a much deeper problem in the discipline, one that should be addressed but cannot be overcome simply by throwing our money away on expensive suites.

For one thing, nobody says that sexual harassment can happen only in bedrooms. Jesus fuck. The point is they are more likely to happen in a bedroom. Even genuinely innocuous behaviors are much more likely to be seen as nocuous in a room whose dominant feature is a piece of furniture you use for sleeping and fucking on.

For another thing, Mark Lance says he did some empirical research. He asked 100 women who were on or had recently been on the market about bedroom interviews. The splits were not favorable to Taylor's view: it was 98 to 2 against. He says, "the majority regaled me with stories of terrible experiences." Now, this is unscientific and should not be regarded as "proof." But it creates a presumption in favor of the view that bedroom interviews are bad that must be rebutted by actual evidence, not a priori musings which assumptions are sexist or whatever.

Of course, Taylor's is a naive view, and there totally is a deeper problem in the profession. And it cannot be overcome simply by holding interviews in rooms other than bedrooms. But come on. No single thing is going to be sufficient to solve this deep problem with the profession. It's going to take a lot of little things and also some big things. But the "x is one little thing that won't solve the problem by itself; therefore we should not do x" argument is going to rule out every one of those little things, when in fact we should be combating the highly embarrassing lack of a feminine presence in our discipline with every weapon at our disposal. We should not be saying, "Why don't you ladies just have a better attitude about what a bunch of assholes we all are?".

--Mr. Zero

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Reluctantly Crouched at the Starting Line

Job Market Season is about to begin, and I am ready:

  • Cover letters; customized across several dimensions. ✓
  • Writing sample. ✓
  • Updated CV. ✓
  • Updated research statement. ✓
  • Updated teaching statement. ✓
  • Sample syllabi, updated. ✓
  • Teaching evaluations, current. ✓
  • Updated letters of recommendation. ✓
  • APA membership, renewed. ✓
  • A vague memory of how I set up a mail-merge last year. ✓
  • Bowel-shaking earthquakes of doubt and remorse. ✓
  • 1.75L bottle of Bombay Sapphire; 750ml bottle vermouth; bucket of olives; ice. ✓

In addition, I took the time to rewrite my materials in LaTeX; I figured, there's no point in taking the time to learn it without without using to whatever advantage on the job market. Say what you want about the content, my shit looks awesome.

Another thing I spent some time worrying about is the role my dissertation should play in my application materials this time around. Since I've been out for a while now, it seems to me that my dissertation should play a less central role. So now my dissertation is the starting point, but the focus is on what I've accomplished since then.

And although I'm not really excited about it, exactly, I wish the fucking JFP would drop already so I could get on with this fucking thing.

--Mr. Zero

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

I Think Brian Leiter is Mad at Us or Something

Over at Leiter Reports, he's got a thread going about backup plans and alternative options for Ph.D. students who are facing a very bad job market. I left a comment in which I mentioned our thread from a couple weeks ago on this topic, and mentioned some of the backup plans that came up a lot. I guess I thought that since we had such a fruitful discussion, and since way more people read his blog than this one, it would be helpful to let the Leiter Reporters know about it.

Anyways, I thought it was a little weird when he didn't publish the comment. I know he's a pretty serious comment moderator, but I don't think I was being impertinent.

Just thought I'd mention it. No further comment. Nothing more to say.

--Mr. Zero

Update: Professor Leiter sent me an email saying my comment was lost in a spam filter because of the embedded link, and that I should have just asked him what was up.

I guess I should mention that I don't think this is a huge deal. But I thought it was a little odd, so I wrote a quick post it. I'll have some semi-interesting things about the job market and writing philosophy papers soon.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The joys of tenure

Presented without comment:
it's nice not to be the only academic blogger who isn't afraid of his own shadow.
(Links added; not part of original post.)

-- Jaded Dissertator

Thursday, September 16, 2010

"Instructive" Mistakes

Sometimes, and I don't think I'm the only one who does this, I present what I regard as a clearly mistaken or otherwise flawed formulation of a doctrine or argument in order to demonstrate (or allow the students to demonstrate) what is wrong with it. There are a couple of reasons. For one thing, philosophers can be very persnickety about formulating doctrines and arguments in highly specific ways, and this helps to explain why: if you formulate the doctrine in a careless manner, your doctrine (as formulated) will be susceptible to trivial or insubstantial objections that show the particular sentence to be false without touching the heart of the theory. I often do this to justify a use of a (somewhat) inelegant formulation when there is a clear alternative that is more elegant but which has silly consequences.

It can also serve as an interesting lesson in the history of ideas. If the mistaken formulation is taken from a historical source, it can help the students to get a feel for the history of an idea, and to see how the idea has evolved and changed over time, (hopefully) becoming more sophisticated and awesome.

But I have started to worry that this technique is counterproductive, because some students, once exposed to a mistaken formulation, can never be convinced to let go of it. These students walk away from the discussion thinking that (I have taught them that) principle X or theory Y or argument Z is this garbled or self-contradictory piece of garbage, when the point was supposed to be "it's not that piece of garbage, its this piece of awesome, and here's why." And so the worry is that presenting instructive mistakes is unnecessarily confusing to (some) students, which seems to me to constitute a prima facie reason not to do it.

But it also seems to me that it is unlikely that careful and conscientious students will fall victim to this kind of confusion; and that such a student might well benefit from instructive mistakes; and that if that's true then this sort of thing might make a useful diagnostic tool; and that it is not possible to remove all potential sources of confusion from a philosophy class; and that I am probably overthinking this the way I overthink everything.

--Mr. Zero

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


In comments, anon 4:34 says that out of a 180-applicant pool for a search run in 2008, fewer than 20% had publications. As hank points out, this does not square with what I have been lead to believe are the facts on the ground. I have been lead to believe that almost all applicants who are ABD or in their first year out have at least one publication, and that in order to distinguish oneself (in a positive way) from the rest of the applicant pool, it is necessary to have multiple publications in excellent journals.

Can some more search committee members confirm or deny anon's data?

--Mr. Zero

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Since I get to post up top

Fuck back-up plans.

When the fuck did 'how to find a job' sessions all turn into 'and hey, that thing you've been working towards for 6 years, you shouldn't plan on that actually working out' sessions?

The fact that even successful grad students really need a back-up plan when going on the market is just completely and totally fucked.

-- Second Suitor

Friday, September 10, 2010

What's Your Back-Up Plan?

On this thread at Leiter, Anon. Grad Student writes,

I agree that "it behooves all job seekers to have back-up plans in place."

However, it would be nice to see a discussion thread devoted simply to this topic on this blog. I am in the middle of finishing my PhD at a strong school, but after watching many friends get ravaged on the job market, I have been forced in to thinking about my back-up plans. But it is tough. One natural back-up plan I always had in the back of my mind was law school. But my research suggests that the law market is pretty bad right now too, so I no longer know how good of a back-up that is. Coming out of my PhD program I won't have any debt, but I have read many horror stories of people coming out of law school, even good ones, with over $100k in debt that can't find a job in this market.

In any event, it would be nice to see a thread started where people could offer up thoughts on backup plans for those finishing up their PhDs, so that those of us in this position can get some fresh ideas for how to think about this tough issue.

I'll be honest with you. I don't have any sort of viable backup plan. I feel like I'm too old to start law school, plus I don't want to be a lawyer at all. You could try to tell me to be a law school professor, but you'd just be playing with my emotions at that point. I've got a few other ideas, but nothing that represents a significant improvement over this line of work.

What's your backup plan, Smokers?

--Mr. Zero

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Latex Questions

I have a couple of Latex-related questions. I could spend a few minutes googling, of course. But I can also post them here, wait go teach class, and find the answers waiting for me when I come back. Plus, maybe some other people are interested in this information. (I know, nobody is.)

1. Is Latex embedding fonts in my PDF file automatically, or is there something I have to do to make it embed them? If so, what?

2. How does one make a template containing various preamble data and formatting boilerplate? I'd like to be able to go to this little dropdown menu, select "philosophy paper" and get everything I've been copy-and-pasting from another document. How do I get this into my dropdown menu?

Thanks, Smokers!

--Mr. Zero

P.S. I'm using TexShop for Mac.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Will It Really Take Longer For Your Ph.D. to Go Stale Now?

The conventional wisdom appears to be that because the super shitty economy has been causing a below-average number of people to get jobs every year for the past several years, it is going to take longer for our Ph.D.s to go stale. That is, future search committees are going to see that we've had trouble getting jobs, but they're not going to hold it against us because they'll understand that we were caught up in the recession. It's not us, it's George Bush, they'll say.

I have found myself wondering (and worrying) whether this is really true. For one thing, it's not as though there are no new Ph.D.s being produced during this time. A lot of these newer Ph.D.s will have less teaching experience and fewer publications than I have, but they'll definitely seem fresher. Not jaded and worn out. Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. And someone who finishes her dissertation, doesn't defend it, and stays in grad school for a couple of extra years is going to have more time to devote to publishing than me.

And it's not as though nobody is getting jobs right now. There have been people getting hired the last couple of years, just not as many as usual. Maybe future search committees will think that the hot-shots got hired and whoever was left over must be some kind of a cold-shot. Now, a smart, diligent search committee might play moneyball and try to find a talented person who'd been overlooked by an inefficient job market; but a lazy search committee might not. And everyone I know hates being on search committees.

I don't know. This is more doomy-gloomy than I want to be right now. But I've been wondering and worrying about this for a while, and I wonder what the Smokers have to say.

--Mr. Zero

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Cleaning the inbox, 9/1, part 3

Round 3. Smoker MD writes in to ask if we'll start a thread on transferring programs akin to the one over at Leiter's blog - you can find it by directing your browsers towards his site and skipping over the restaurant reviews and the flaming of random non-philosophers who e-mail mean things to him.

In any case, MD:
I was wondering if someone might start a thread at the Smoker about the issue of transferring programs. It was a recent topic at Leiter's blog and there have been a few interesting replies, especially with regard to the acceptable reasons for doing so (faculty member A, who is the only person working in the AOS of the student, seems to be an acceptable reason...but not much consensus beyond that). I'm not necessarily suggesting piggybacking on the Leiter thread, but something on the perceptions of transferring students would be appreciated.
Emphasis added. So, Smokers, what do you think the perceptions of transfer students are?

-- Jaded Dissertator

Cleaning the inbox, 9/1, part 2

Round 2. JS writes in with the following question:
What would you and your readership think of 'open-source' style peer review (of the kind described in the attached article) for philosophy journals?

I'm curious what flaws/virtues younger philosophers would find with this kind of thing. Here's a link to the piece.
If you haven't read the piece and don't want to read it, here's the basic idea: Journals post submissions online, invite a selected group of experts to post comments on those submissions, and allow others to post comments once they have registered their names. In the process, the authors also seem to be able to respond to the comments.

Doesn't sound like too bad of an idea to me. And, that's the extent of my thoughts on the subject right now. I probably have more to say about it, but I need to schedule more blog posts, get shit out for the PAPA, etc, etc. Stay tuned for Round 3, the final round.

--Jaded Dissertator

Total Bull Shit

As Leiter Reports, the University of Southern Mississippi is firing 29 faculty members, 14 of whom have tenure. Some of them are full professors.

USM is also planning to cut 23 academic departments with an additional four slated for "consolidation."

It's hard out there for a college teacher.

--Mr. Zero

Cleaning the inbox, 9/1, part 1

Hey true believers/fellow smokers. I know it's been a long time since I rapped at y'all, but I've been moving and shaking and ultimately staying put. Long story.

Some questions have been burning a hole in my inbox. I'm going to stagger them out today and get a couple of threads going. Apologies to those who sent in requests a long time ago that I didn't get too. I think they'll still be pertinent sometime.

In any case, Smoker HC writes in and asks:
I have recently landed a 3-year research fellowship, following a grant competition, which allows plenty of research time, a generous benchfee and very limited teaching. I already have a good dossier of papers in peer-reviewed philosophical and cognitive science journals, and have several more in the pipeline. One concern I have is that I heard some people talk about a so-called 'sell by date' for postdocs. At what point (i.e., after how many years of postdoc or teaching assistantships) does the fact that you don't have a TT or faculty job begin to signal to potential employers that you are a less than desirable candidate? I already have 3 years of postdoc experience, and so far my applications for TT and faculty positions have been unsuccessful. I am wondering whether I should immediately begin to apply for those positions, or whether I could afford to wait until 2 years into my present position to further beef up my publication list.
Help out, y'all. Stay tuned for Round 2.

-- Jaded Dissertator

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Conducting Small-Group Discussions in a Large Room

Applicantus asks:

Fellow smokers, I need a bit of teaching advice or some help brainstorming. My class will be taking place in a very large classroom where the chairs are pinned to the floor. I was planning on quite a bit of small group discussion during class, but that would now be a challenge. Or will it? How realistic will it be to ask students to turn around in their chairs and discuss with those seated behind them? How many at a time? This is a medical ethics class, and so I was planning on many case studies. (The reason I only found it out now is that the classroom was being renovated and last year the chairs were not bolted to the floor in that particular room; it is now much fancier, though not very conducive for my purposes - and it's too late to change rooms, since I have 80 students).

Any thoughts?

--Mr. Zero

Monday, August 30, 2010

I Really Like My Job

I worry sometimes that this point gets lost in all the political kvetching and bitching about the workaday bullshit we professional philosophers endure: This is an awesome job. One thing I find especially gratifying is that several of our best undergraduate majors are products of my intro courses. Now, I don't teach many courses in the upper division, so I didn't have much to do with their subsequent growth. But it feels good anyway.

--Mr. Zero

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Couldn't Have Said It Better

In comments, anon 1:57 writes,



--Mr. Zero

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Atlas Shrugged versus Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Our recent discussion of Ayn Rand got me thinking about Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig. This is because although it is sometimes claimed that many students are influenced to become philosophy majors by reading Rand, I was never a Randian; I was first motivated to study philosophy in part because I read Zen when I was in high school. I'd never been exposed to the most important questions in epistemology and value theory before, and I thought the narrative was compelling in its own right. (So what? I was in high school.)

I wonder if Pirsig and his book make for an apt comparison case for Rand and her novels in the context of philosophy encyclopedia inclusion. The book is pretty popular (though not as popular as Rand's most popular works), and the views Pirsig articulates in it have a relatively large following, if the number of zany internet websites is a guide. Of course, Pirsig's actual views are sophomoric, deeply unsophisticated, and are therefore taken seriously by literally no one who has a Ph.D. in philosophy. (They're not, right?) And when I reread it between college and grad school, the book also seemed to me to be way, way off in its interpretations of various historical philosophers, such as Socrates and Kant--as a history of philosophy it seemed to me to be remarkably terrible. But Rand's views are unsophisticated and naive, and I read somewhere that she mangles Aristotle pretty bad. But I don't think anyone would argue that Pirsig or Zen... deserve articles in the SEP. Right? So, what gives? Maybe Pirsig's mistakes were more basic, and his followers less influential in the public policy sphere.

--Mr. Zero

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Ayn Rand & Derek Parfit

A funny thing happened over at Leiter yesterday. There was a discussion about the Stanford Encyclopedia: someone emailed Leiter complaining about the worthlessness of the subject matter of some of the most recent articles, e.g. Ayn Rand. Leiter's correspondent thinks that Ayn Rand (in particular) is unworthy of inclusion in the Stanford Encyclopedia, and wonders what the SEP is coming to.

So anyway, this person Tibor Machan chimes in to this discussion, and says,

I have been impressed and influenced by Rand and have done reasonably well in the discipline and find the effort to purge her disgusting--how many thinkers I might purge if I just went by me gut reactions, like that commentator appears to have done! (Habermas, Derrida, Lyotard (?), Parfit, and a whole bunch of funsterists/sophists posing as serious philosophers. Give me a break. Let a million flowers bloom and ignore the snooty bunch!

The funny thing is, I kind of agree with this, overall. I side with the commenters who think the SEP ought to cast its net widely, in case I ever need a quick, accurate overview of otherwise worthless "philosophical" set of ideas. But then there's this weird inclusion of Derek Parfit, whom I did not realize had much in common with Habermas, Derrida, or Lyotard. Hmmmm.

It didn't take long for an anonymous commentator to come to Parfit's defense:

Judging by his comment above, Tibor Machan appears to think that Ayn Rand is vastly superior to a number of other philosophers, including - of all people - Derek Parfit. At the very least, he suggests that the case for excluding Rand from the SEP is *on par* with the case for excluding the work of Parfit (!).

This is not the place to discuss the merits of Professor Parfit's writings. I will simply note that Machan's assessment of the relative merits of Parfit's work and Ayn Rand's work is surely the the most bizarre and preposterous claim that has ever been made on this blog.


So Tibor Machan replies:

So I read that "Machan's assessment of the relative merits of Parfit's work and Ayn Rand's work is surely the the most bizarre and preposterous claim that has ever been made on this blog." We are to take this on faith, I assume. Well, I have studied Parfit's work--Reasons and Persons, in particular--and it is pure funsterism, sophistry: Because something is logically not inconceivable (that, say, we are all nations or teams, not individuals), it becomes a serious philosophical thesis. Give me a break. Just because someone is clever it doesn't make him or her philosophically astute! (At least is looks match his style!)

I don't know about you, but I found this exchange to be extremely fun. Say what you want, Atlas Shrugged is not philosophically on a par with Reasons and Persons. And if the main, representative thesis you took away from R&P is that "Because something is logically not inconceivable..., it becomes a serious philosophical thesis," then you were not "studying" it (as Mark Silcox points out in a later comment). And luckily for us all, Ayn Rand and her writing style are extremely sexually attractive. Also, what is funsterism? I googled it, but Google thought I was spelling it wrong.

--Mr. Zero

Monday, August 16, 2010

Sometimes I think this cycle never ends

We're less than two months from the fall JFP. It seems to me that this year will be about the same as last year. I don't think things will be worse--the financial situation at my school has not deteriorated in the past year, at least. But although I've heard rumors that the recession is officially over, I don't think things have really improved or anything. From where I sit, things look no better now than they did a year ago. I am anticipating a very tough job-market season in which not many searches are cancelled, but in which not many searches are conducted.

Anyways, that's my prediction. What say you, Smokers?

--Mr. Zero

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Late Withdrawals

This has happened at least once a semester since I took this job. A student who has been underperforming all semester--turning in half-assed homework assignments, missing a lot of class, earning failing grades on exams--realizes suddenly that he or she is going to fail the class. But it's after the late withdrawal deadline, so there's no simple way to get out of it. So they write me an email or come to my office and ask me to give them permission to obtain a late withdrawal.

Now, it's really not in my power to simply grant the late withdrawal. It is in my power to let the dean know that, in my view, the student has a legitimate reason for the withdrawal, and unless I do this, the dean will not normally consider the student's request. But it's not as though the dean acts on my say-so. It's the dean's prerogative, and I can't imagine that my input would count for much.

I am nevertheless asked to grant late withdrawals all the time, and since it's university policy to grant late withdrawals only in cases of extreme extenuating circumstances (or it ought to be), I always ask what the extenuating circumstances are. In several cases, the extenuating circumstances have been, "I will fail the class unless you let me withdraw." These student thereby demonstrate incomprehension of the meaning of the expression 'extenuating circumstances.' One time the student told me that since the university has already taken her money, the F on her transcript would be a "double punishment." I mean, where to begin?

My guess is that most of this stems from a pervasive It Doesn't Hurt To Ask mindset. But in typical cases, the student is persistent--making several requests over the course of days or weeks. And I've had a couple of students send me borderline belligerent emails, or go over my head and complain to my chair about this. I like my job a lot, and although I have been compelled by these experiences to reflect upon the justification for assigning grades and holding students responsible for their academic performance, overall I find this aspect of it really, really annoying.

--Mr. Zero

Friday, July 30, 2010

Kenneth Howell Update

According to this article in IHE (H/T Leiter), Kenneth Howell has been rehired for the Fall semester, but with no assurance that he will continue after that. Also, the bizzaro arrangement whereby the Catholic Newman Center nominates and pays for the adjunct who teaches Intro to Catholicism has been dissolved. All future Intro Catholicism instructors will be hired by the department in the usual way and paid by the University in the usual way.

I am mostly satisfied with this outcome. As I said before, I do not think the email was hate speech, and I don't think Howell should have been fired over it. I was also very suspicious of the arrangement between UIUC (or is it UICU?) and the Newman Center, and am glad to see it dissolved. And if the email is representative of Howell's teaching, this gives the department a chance to hire a competent instructor for the Spring.

However, Howell's lawyers make it sound like they're pretty convinced that Howell was a victim of anti-Catholic bigotry, and are ready to sue of his contract isn't renewed for 2011. So if they're going to fire him again, they should probably try to do so in a way that sends a clear signal that that's not what's happening. One way would be to make a clear case for some other cause. Another would be to just hire a different Catholic. But if it is bigotry (which I doubt--what are the odds that a Religious Studies department is full of anti-Catholic bigots?), they really should just keep rehiring him, and also they should fuck off.

--Mr. Zero

Friday, July 23, 2010

Dawn of the LaTeX

As you might be aware, I decided to give the LaTeX typesetting system a try last month. After a brief trial, I wrote about how I wasn't sure about it, but the ensuing conversation made me think that it was worth giving it a serious try. So I'v been giving it a serious try. Since Anon 7:31 asks for an update, here's an update.

There are things I like about it. I like the way the resulting documents look. I really, really like the way it handles bibliographies. I like using BibDesk to manage my references--I had been using a spreadsheet before, and this is way better. I don't mind the text-editor feel of the text editor. I set the thing to display in the same typeface I set the completed documents in, so it doesn't look particularly ugly.

I have a number of teaching- and research-related projects going right now, and I'm finding that the process of converting an existing document to LaTeX affords a nice opportunity to rethink my way through the paper in a deep and comprehensive way. There is so much nuts-and-bolts-type stuff you have to do in terms of retyping quotation marks and hyphens and reemphasizing and italicizing text that every sentence requires at least a little scrutiny.

Another of my projects is a first draft. So far drafting in LaTeX is not that different from drafting in Word.

I still kind of don't like the footnotes. I find it hard to see where they end, since it's just a relatively small green curly bracket. Using percentage signs, as was suggested in the previous thread, to interrupt the text makes them stand out more, but at the cost of breaking up the paragraph, which should be thought of as a single continuous unit.

It's still slightly weird that you read one document but edit another. Noticing a typo in your reading copy means you must open up another document, edit it, and then convert it to pdf. Of course, you have to do that in order to make a pdf out of a word document, too. But since the TeX documents are laid out in very different ways--one of them has lots of commands and stuff while the other one sort of obeys those commands--finding the place in the TeX file that corresponds to the same place in the PDF can be hard to do.

I also miss one thing about MS Word, and that is the easy insertion of comments into word documents and the way that these comments can be anchored to the editable bits of text they are about. I can do this to PDFs because I have the full version of Adobe Acrobat, but last I checked, the free version of the reader does not support the creation or the reading of this kind of comment. And not everybody has access to the full versions of Adobe. I'm sure that there's some free PDF reader that works almost as well, but not everybody has that, too, neither.

But I guess the main reason I'm likely to stick with LaTeX is that it is not MS Word. I did not and will not buy the "new" '07 and '08 version of Word, and my obsolete and outdated version is becoming more so. But as we transition from "Yeah, the new version is expensive and has a counterintuitive user interface" to "Really? You're still using that????!!?" I'll probably need to stop using Word altogether, or using it only in a very limited capacity.

--Mr. Zero

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Monday, July 19, 2010

A Tale of Two Rejections

I had two papers come back with rejections last week. One had been under review for something like nine months; I submitted the other one the first week of July. One came back with two sets of relatively extensive comments; the other came back with literally no explanation whatsoever. It should come as no surprise that the fast decision was the explanation-free decision. This journal told me that they aim to make these decisions quickly, and that this makes it impossible for them to explain the reasons for the decision. But while I appreciate a swift decision as much as anybody, this is the third paper I've sent them in the last four years or so, and it's never taken them longer than eight days to come back with a rejection. That makes me wonder what editorial procedures they follow.

The other one was rejected for what I think are decent reasons. While I think (in my unbiased opinion) that an R&R might also have been appropriate given the stated reasons, it is clear that the paper should not be published in its present form. (Also, this wasn't surprising--there were several times during the wait that I found myself wishing for another an opportunity to revise the paper.) And I am grateful to this journal for a) putting me in a position to know that the reasons were good by sharing them with me; b) putting me in a position to change the paper in response to the criticisms by sharing them with me, and in so doing, to use this experience in a positive way.

I don't really have a larger point, other than that I wish it was more common to get helpful feedback with rejections, and that it was more common to get a decision in under six months (I really wish it were four, but let's not get carried away here).

--Mr. Zero

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

About This Kenneth Howell Thing

There's been some buzz on the intertubes about Kenneth Howell, an adjunct associate professor in the Religion Department at the University of Illinois at Champagne-Urbana (or is it Urbana-Champagne?). Professor Howell's services were not retained after an email he sent to the students of his Introduction to Catholicism class drew controversy over his explanation of why the natural law theory of ethics implies that homosexuality is wrong.

See the email, a newspaper article about it, and commentary, at Pharyngula, Leiter, and What's Wrong With the World.

The relevant paragraphs of the email seem to be these:

But the more significant problem has to do with the fact that the consent criterion is not related in any way to the NATURE of the act itself. This is where Natural Moral Law (NML) objects. NML says that Morality must be a response to REALITY. In other words, sexual acts are only appropriate for people who are complementary, not the same. How do we know this? By looking at REALITY. Men and women are complementary in their anatomy, physiology, and psychology. Men and women are not interchangeable. So, a moral sexual act has to be between persons that are fitted for that act. Consent is important but there is more than consent needed.

One example applicable to homosexual acts illustrates the problem. To the best of my knowledge, in a sexual relationship between two men, one of them tends to act as the "woman" while the other acts as the "man." In this scenario, homosexual men have been known to engage in certain types of actions for which their bodies are not fitted. I don't want to be too graphic so I won't go into details but a physician has told me that these acts are deleterious to the health of one or possibly both of the men. Yet, if the morality of the act is judged only by mutual consent, then there are clearly homosexual acts which are injurious to their health but which are consented to. Why are they injurious? Because they violate the meaning, structure, and (sometimes) health of the human body.

I don't see how the claim that this is hate speech could be supported. It's ignorant, offensive, and poorly thought-out, for sure. But not really hate speech, as far as I understand what the legal definition of hate speech is supposed to be.

But on the other hand, I would be very uncomfortable teaching the material Howell claims is the official position of the Catholic Church in the manner Howell presents it, out of a fear of being unfair to the Catholic Church. This line of "argument" is barely coherent, really stupid, factually incorrect about how homosexual relationships are often conducted, and relies crucially on basic logical mistakes.* The fact that there are "philosophers" who think this is a reasonable and fair statement of a cogent argument for a true ethical conclusion is disturbing.

If this email is representative of Howell's classroom behavior, it would be much easier to sustain a charge of incompetence than a charge of hate-speech. The second paragraph quoted above does not represent a single, unified line of thought. It's a mishmash of points about how homosexual relationships work, what "fits" with what, and some stuff about consent that goes unexplained. If I had written that paragraph and then showed it to someone, I'd be pretty embarrassed.

As another example, Howell's email raises this as the key problem for utilitarianism:

One [problem] is that to judge the best outcome can be very subjective [sic]. What may be judged good for the pregnant woman may not be good for the baby. What may be judged good for the about-to-cheat-husband may not good for his wife or his children.

Now, there is a clear sense in which the possibility of the inherent subjectivity of value is a problem for utilitarians. But all contemporary utilitarians know about this (though Bentham and Mill seem to be somewhat oblivious to it), and all contemporary utilitarians have adopted a set of value-theoretic assumptions that rule out such a simple-minded objection. The utilitarian acknowledges that (playing along with Howell's example) the mother may have an interest in obtaining an abortion, and that this may not be good for the baby. The idea that the utilitarian is now simply stuck is stunningly ignorant. It is a defining characteristic of utilitarianism is that there is a way to compare the interests of the various parties, and that the right thing is what would be best, with everyone's interests taken into account and where everyone counts as one and nobody counts as more than one. The mere fact that an action might be good for one person and not good for somebody else is not an objection to utilitarianism, and anyone who thinks it is should not be allowed in front of an ethics class.

And the News-Gazette article also contains this passage (slightly snipped), focusing on what he says about academic freedom:

"My responsibility on teaching a class on Catholicism is to teach what the Catholic Church teaches," Howell said. "I have always made it very, very clear to my students they are never required to believe what I'm teaching and they'll never be judged on that." ...

"I tell my students I am a practicing Catholic, so I believe the things I'm teaching," he said. "It's not a violation of academic freedom to advocate a position, if one does it as an appeal on rational grounds and it's pertinent to the subject."

There's some tension here. For one thing, it's a little hard to square his contention that he doesn't require his students to believe what he's teaching with the way he characterizes himself as an "advocate" for religious and ethical positions that he lets his students know he holds. When I teach controversial ethical or religious material, I specifically do not tell my students which side of the controversy I stand on. For one thing, my classes are not about me; my classes are about the views and the arguments. For another thing, if they don't know which side you're on, it's harder for them to accuse you of being unfair to the other side. Howell says he is merely trying to hold them responsible for knowing what Natural Moral Law says about the moral status of homosexual sex acts and why, and is specifically not trying to get them to see things his way—it won't affect their grades, anyway. But he simultaneously lets them know that he accepts NML, believes what it says about homosexual sex acts, endorses those arguments, and is serving as an advocate for that position. If you do that, you are guaranteed to have some confused students on your hands. Maybe he wasn't proselytizing, but he was skating a fine line that would be invisible to someone without a lot of intellectual sophistication.

Secondly, it is not obvious to me that academic freedom gives us the freedom to literally advocate controversial religious and/or ethical views in the classroom. Formulating the views is fine. Stating and explaining the arguments that proponents of those views give is unquestionably our job. Showing how someone would offer a counterargument is obviously part of the job, too. But I don't think of my job as involving the advocation of my own ethical or religious views.

--Mr. Zero

* For example, Howell writes, "NML says that Morality must be a response to REALITY. In other words, sexual acts are only appropriate for people who are complementary, not the same." In my own writing, I restrict the expression 'in other words' for situations in which the words that come after it are literally a restatement of the content that precedes it. In other words, I use that expression to indicate that I am clarifying, and that I am not adding on to, extrapolating, or inferring. That's not what Howell is doing here. Howell is drawing an inference, and this inference is valid only on the assumption that a bunch of controversial auxiliary premises are true.

Howell also writes that "Men and women are not interchangeable. So, a moral sexual act has to be between persons that are fitted for that act." This is a non sequitur. It is not a sequitur at all.