Top News, Articles, and Interviews in Philosophy

Philosophers Immortalized in . . . Comics?

flat,135x135,075,tIf you’ve ever wanted philosopher trading cards, now you have it (sort of). Dead Philosophers in Heaven creators Matt Russell and Nick Gibb are using their artistry to, ahem, “honor” philosophers (and teach us a little about them) by putting them in dialog and creating posters that summarize some of their important personality traits. For example, you’ll learn that:

  • Nietzsche dislikes socialism, 99.7% of western philosophy, and you
  • Marx’s ambition was to beat Engels at Beeropoly
  • Plato’s secret weapon was his terrible conversational skills
  • Wittgenstein liked boiled cabbage with a side of Saint Augustine

You can also listen to never-before revealed dialogue between dead philosophers about how governments should be structured and a personal interview with Albert Camus. Just a heads up that philosophers tend to be pretty foul-mouthed (something we all knew) but this glimpse into their secret lives will leave you wanting more.

Russell and Gibb have only a handful of posters on individual philosophers but I hope to see more in the future.

Enjoy!

http://www.dead-philosophers.com/

Graduate School in Philosophy in the US: Terminal MA Programs In Philosophy

pr_terminalma

We offer this analysis of placements from MA programs in philosophy in an effort to place some data behind the assertions made by various programs and to provide some guidance (and comfort) to students pursuing an MA.  Which MA programs are the best at getting students into good PhD programs?  Do most MA students go on to study philosophy?  What do students do after their MA if they do not go into academic philosophy? This is what we wanted to find out.

 

Other Reports

pr_phdThe Placement Report for Ph.D. Programs
pr_prestigeThe Placement Report Based on School Prestige
pr_contential[5]The Placement Report for Continental Philosophy

The Motivation: Why do this Study?

When making a decision to pursue a career in philosophy, I decided to pursue a terminal MA first (Northern Illinois University, 2012).  I had a great experience, and had I chosen to apply to PhD programs, I know I would have been well prepared.

MA graduate students often discussed in our TA office how our program compared with other MA programs. We discussed the collegial atmosphere in our program, which was very supportive and friendly, and compared it with what we had heard about the collegial atmospheres at other MA programs.  We noted further similarities and differences between our program and others regarding requirements and faculty expertise.  We also discussed placements from various programs, debating whose program truly was the best, and wondering where we would end up in academia.  As I began to consider not entering into academia, I wondered what I would be able to do in the private sector.  What skills did having an MA in philosophy give me?  What sorts of jobs or other academic pursuits would be a natural fit for me?

The Mark:  The Goals of an MA Program in Philosophy

There seem to be two broad goals of an MA program.  Programs emphasized these goals to varying degrees

1. An MA program in philosophy ought to prepare students for doctoral study in philosophy; it ought to prepare students to teach philosophy at the college or university level.

I entered my MA program with the goal of attending a PhD program afterwards.  As I did not have a BA in philosophy (I had discovered philosophy late in my undergraduate studies), my professors encouraged me to attend an MA program first in order to boost my chances of getting into a well-ranked PhD program.  My fellow students were of similar backgrounds; either they did not have a BA in philosophy, or they had come from a small and lesser-known school.  My fellow students are bright and capable and just needed a bit more background and more established credentials before applying to PhD programs. After completing the program, most of my fellow graduate students applied for doctoral study in philosophy and they are now at some of the best programs in the country. MA programs are great places to prepare for doctoral study in philosophy, particularly for students whose philosophical background is not yet impressive enough to attract the best schools, but will be after completing the program.  Furthermore, an MA gives a student the ability to teach at the college and university level, even if he or she does not pursue a PhD.  Whether as a full time faculty member at a community college or a part time lecturer at a university, the MA opens the door to teaching philosophy professionally.

2. An MA program ought to provide valuable skills to those who do NOT pursue academic philosophy; a student should graduate with strong writing, reasoning, and analytical skills that will be useful in other academic disciplines or in other career paths.

It is generally expected that those entering a PhD program in philosophy will continue on to professional philosophy in some way.  This, however, is not necessarily the case at the MA level. After completing the MA, students should be able to pursue philosophy for its own sake and for the sake of acquiring useful skills that can be applied in other disciplines.  I know that the writing, reasoning, and analytical skills I learned and honed at NIU have been very helpful to me in my work as a data scientist, programmer, and DBA.  Even though I did not go on to the PhD, I found that my MA program prepared me well for working outside the discipline.  As one of my former professors put it, "the intellectual training that one gets in a master's program in philosophy is rewarding and valuable no matter which career path one subsequently decides to take."  As an added bonus, the MA is only a two-year commitment, as opposed to a 5-7 year commitment at the PhD level.  As such, MA students can study philosophy at a high level without the pressure of a long-term commitment, and earn these valuable skills relatively quickly.

The MA program at Brandeis University sums up these two goals very well on its department website: "The Master's Degree Program in Philosophy has two main goals: (1) to offer students the opportunity to learn more about philosophy and (2) to enable students to apply to top-ranked doctoral programs in philosophy or in other fields.  The M.A. in Philosophy will enhance students' qualifications if they plan to pursue a doctoral program in philosophy; this can be especially useful if they seek to enter graduate school without first having obtained an undergraduate major in philosophy. An M.A. in Philosophy is also valuable for students seeking to pursue other career paths. A demonstrated capacity for rigor in reasoning and analysis, as well as enhanced communication and writing skills will strengthen the applications of those pursuing careers in fields such as business, economics, law, medicine, publishing, and divinity."

The MA program at Northern Illinois University also characterizes its mission in a similar way on its website: "Those who complete this program are extremely well prepared for advanced work in leading doctoral programs in philosophy or for teaching philosophy at the community college level. The Master of Arts degree also provides excellent preparation for further graduate study in fields other than philosophy."

How are MA programs doing in meeting these two goals?

The Method: How I Gathered and Analyzed the Data

I gathered all of the placement data from all of the MA programs listed here on The Leiter Report. Based on the wording and structure of the paragraph, I have assigned the following ranks to the MA programs for 2011 (understand that rankings like these are subject to some interpretation and I expect others may evaluate the data differently):

MA_Schools 2011_Leiter_Rank
Tufts University 1
Arizona State University 2
Brandeis University 2
Georgia State University 2
Northern Illinois University 2
University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee 2
Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University 2
San Francisco State University 8
University of Houston 8
University of Missouri, St. Louis 8
California State University, Los Angeles 11
Colorado State University 11
Ohio University 11
Texas A&M University (MA) 11
Texas Tech University 11
Western Michigan University 11

 

Using past Leiter Reports and averaging the rankings for each school across time since 2002, I found the average of rankings, along with the overall average ranking, for each school*.  Here are the full results:

*Notes:

Brandeis University has a very new MA program and has only been ranked since 2009.  As such, it does not yet have as extensive a placement record as other programs that have been around for much longer. Also, Arizona State University and Ohio University have only been ranked once (2011), even though their MA programs have been around since before 2000. Consequently, I have inferred a ranking (in comparison to the other MA schools) for both schools for each of the years that it had an MA program but was unranked.  Similarly, I have inferred rankings for California State University, Los Angeles prior to 2006, when it was first mentioned in the Leiter Report.

Tufts University - Their placement dataset does not contain anyone who did not apply for or who was not received into a PhD program. I had to infer the number of students for each year.  Very likely, some students are missing from this dataset that did not apply to PhD programs or who did not receive a PhD offer. If this is the case, Tufts' placement record will look much more favorable than it actually is. I will look for more data to determine if there are any students missing from the data set and update as soon as I can.

San Francisco State University - The placement dataset was not in a very usable format for my purposes. The schools that students had been accepted into were aggregated into a list, so it was impossible to tell how many students were enrolled in PhD programs, and where they were enrolled.  As such, it is not represented in the data, and I cannot make any comment on it's placement effectiveness.  I hope to gather data about this program soon.

University of Missouri, St. Louis - Only the dataset from 2010 through 2013 was included in the analysis.  Before 2010, the dataset was aggregated into lists, so it was impossible to tell how many students were enrolled in PhD programs, and where they were enrolled.  As such, I cannot comment on its placement effectiveness before 2010.  I hope to gather more data about this program soon.

Ohio University - Only the 2013 dataset was available.  I have no idea how this school placed students prior to 2013, so I cannot comment on its placement effectiveness before 2013. I hope to gather more data about this program soon.

Western Michigan University - The placement dataset was in a very confusing format.  I had to make a lot of inferences regarding where a student was enrolled in a PhD program, and there are probably students that attended that were not represented in the placement dataset.  What I have is my best effort to make sense of what was offered.  I will keep looking for better data.

Texas A&M University - This school has a PhD program in addition to its MA program.  I only used the MA placement records in evaluating the school's effectiveness in placement.

Finally, many programs included a list of schools for each year into which students had also been accepted.  This is often done for legitimate reasons (e.g., to maintain student anonymity, to avoid an unhealthy competitive atmosphere among students within a program).  I did not include these in any way into the rankings or analysis since I cannot tell which students are responsible for these schools (e.g., one student could be responsible for all of the well ranked acceptances, and as such, would be misrepresenting the school's overall placement).

I encountered other challenges which are noted here.

The Data

Gathering all of the placement data I could find from the previously mentioned schools, I created a dataset with the following columns:

Column

Description

Year The year a student graduated from the MA program
MA School The name of the school from which a student graduated
Thesis/Writing Sample The thesis or writing sample associated with the student.  If none was given, then a value of "Unknown" was assigned
Primary Area of Study A student's primary area of study, as given by the school, or as inferred from the thesis/writing sample title.  These values are "Aesthetics", "Continental Philosophy", "Epistemology", "Ethics", "History of Philosophy", "Metaphysics", "Philosophy of Language", "Philosophy of Logic", "Philosophy of Mathematics", "Philosophy of Mind", "Philosophy of Science", "Social and Political Philosophy", and "Unknown"
Applied to Philosophy PhD Programs Whether or not the student applied to philosophy PhD programs.  Values are "Yes", "No", and "Unknown"
Job or Schooling after MA The type of job or schooling a student pursued after receiving his or her MA in philosophy
Enrolled Philosophy PhD Program/First Listed Acceptance The PhD program (school) that a student was enrolled at.  When it was unclear which school a student enrolled at (or if he or she had enrolled at all), I selected the first school listed as an acceptance into the program.  Values are the school names
History and Philosophy of Science Some students enrolled in a History and Philosophy of Science (HPS) PhD.  I wanted to separate this out from other PhD philosophy programs.  Values are the school names
Law School Quite a few students attend law school after their MA, so I made this an additional column.  Values are the school names
Other Academic Programs Quite a few students enter into other academic (master's or doctoral) programs after their MA, so I made this an additional column.  Values are the school names
Type of Other Academic Program The type of institution a teacher is teaching at: high school, community college, four year college, and university
Teaching Many students go straight into teaching at the college or high school level, so this is an additional column.  Values are any information about the teaching position
Type of Teaching Institution The type of institution a teacher is teaching at: high school, community college, four year college, and university
Outside of Academia or Teaching Many students go outside of academia or teaching after their MA, so this is an additional column.  Values are any information about the professional pursuit outside of academia or teaching
Fully Funded Some schools explicitly noted whether an acceptance was fully funded or not.  I added this as an additional column.  Values include "NA" (for non academic positions), "No", "Yes", "Yes (Assumed)" (no information given about the funding, but in a PhD philosophy program), and "Unknown" (the status of the student cannot be inferred).  However, the data was not explicit and complete enough to do any useful analysis on this data
2011 Leiter Rank The inferred Leiter ranking of the MA program from 2011 (see above)
Overall Leiter Rank The inferred overall Leiter ranking for schools since 2002.  Found by averaging the rank of each school for each year it was evaluated and ranked

The Meat: Trends, Observations, and Conclusions

Since 2000, there have been over 1,000 students that have graduated from terminal MA programs in philosophy.  Here is my analysis column by column...

MA School

The distribution of records by MA school that I have gathered, post-2000.  Considering that several of the programs are new and/or are missing data, this should not be taken as showing the size of each school's student output compared to other schools over the past 13 years.  This merely shows the distribution of students in the data set, that is, in all of the data immediately and publicly available.

 

Primary Area Of Study

Most students submit as a writing sample or do a thesis related to ethics (15%), followed by metaphysics (11%), social and political philosophy (7%), epistemology (7%), and history of philosophy (7%) (Note: 36% of students have an "Unknown" primary area of study).

 

Has this changed over time?  It is difficult to say when each subfield is considered by itself, especially as the number of "Unknown" primary areas of study has increased over time.

When grouped together by similar subfields, each group seems to be decreasing, except for Science and Math subfields which appears to be steady, while the "Unknown" category increases.  If we compensate for this, then we can infer that Science and Math subfields are increasing while the other subfields are maintaining/decreasing slightly.

 

Applied to Philosophy PhD Programs

About 30% of students who receive an MA in philosophy from one of these programs DO NOT apply to a PhD program in philosophy; 66% do apply, and 6% are unknown.

 

Has this distribution changed over time? Slightly. The ratio of students that do apply for PhD programs seems to be increasing, while those that do not seems to be decreasing ("Unknowns" are very slightly increasing). So, overall, it seems that more and more students from MA programs are applying to PhD programs in philosophy as time goes on.

 

Breaking this down by schools, and ranking schools by the ratio of students that do apply for a PhD program in philosophy (i.e., "Yes"), we see that overall, the schools whose students on average most apply to PhD programs in philosophy since 2000 are (1) Tufts University (100%) (Note: see my disclaimer about Tufts up above), (2) Western Michigan University (97%), and (3) California State University, Los Angeles (79%).  Here is the full list:

 

Since 2011, the schools with the highest ratio of MA students that apply for PhD programs in philosophy have been (1) Tufts University (100%) (Note: see my disclaimer about Tufts up above), (2) Western Michigan University (100%), and (3) Texas A&M University (90%).  Here is the full list:

 

What does this mean?  For students that are very intent on studying philosophy at the PhD level, attending a school where the great majority of MA students apply to PhD programs (e.g., Tufts) may be the best environment for them to learn in.  However, for students that simply want to study philosophy and have no intention of pursuing a PhD in philosophy, a program where fewer students apply (e.g., University of Missouri, St. Louis) may provide the best learning environment for them. 

Job or Schooling after MA

What do students do after receiving their MA in philosophy? 

  • Over half of them do enroll in a PhD program in philosophy
  • 20% have no further information about their placement
  • Approximately 8% take on additional schooling in a different academic discipline
  • 6% leave academia and teaching
  • 5% go straight into teaching (at the high school, community college, college, and university levels)
  • 5% attend law school
  • 1% explicitly attend a History and Philosophy of Science program (note: this is probably higher than reported since many programs do not explicitly state the kind of program a student is going into)

Thus, at least 61% of graduating MA students remain involved in professional academic philosophy or teaching in some way.  At least 74% remain involved in academia in some way.  However, at least 24% of students do not go on to attend a PhD program in Philosophy or the History and Philosophy of Science.

 

 

Has this distribution changed over time?  It does not appear to have changed significantly.  When there is a sharp rise or fall in the data, it seems due to the number of "Unknown" placement rising and falling sharply, and thus, affecting the overall distribution.  So at least for now, it appears this distribution is fairly stable.

 

Enrolled Philosophy PhD Program/First Listed Acceptance

Now for the more controversial analyses.  First, which schools have accepted the most MA graduates? There are about 500 MA graduates from these schools that have enrolled in/been accepted into philosophy PhD programs since 2000. In order of ratio of most MA students accepted: (1) Ohio State University (3.5%), (2) University of California, San Diego (3.3%), and University of California, Riverside (2.7%). Here is the full list (of schools where the ratio is greater than or equal to 0.01):

Of those students who have applied, which schools have sent the most students to a PhD program in philosophy?  Without considering the prestige of the school, I provide three columns below.  The first contains a ratio of all students who enrolled in a program compared to all students who applied or whose application status was unknown.  Thus, these numbers will, for the most part, underestimate the enrollment rate of students that have applied.  The second only compares the number of students that enrolled with the number of students that I am sure applied (leaving the unknowns out of the count).  Thus, these numbers will, for the most part, overestimate the enrollment rate of students that have applied.  The third averages these two values, and is (I hope), closest to the true ratio of students who enrolled to students who applied. (Note: for programs that distinguished students that applied from students that did not, these ratios stay the same.)  In order of estimated rank, the schools with the highest enrollment/applied ratio are (1) Tufts University (100%) (Note: see my disclaimer about Tufts up above), (2) Texas Tech University (95%), and (3) University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee (91%).  Here are the full results below:

Averaging out the average ratios, we can determine that approximately 85% of MA graduates that apply for PhD programs in philosophy are accepted into one.

Which MA programs send students to the most highly ranked (Leiter Report ranking) schools?  That is, which MA program has the overall highest average placement rank as determined by PhD faculty ranking?  I found the average English world faculty rank for each PhD program since 2002 and matched it up with the school that each MA student attended.  Then, I found the weighted faculty rank of each MA program's placement by multiplying the average faculty rank of each PhD school by the ratio of MA students that went there for a particular MA program, which I then added for each MA program (e.g., if 50% of an MA program's students went to a number 10 school and 50% went to a number 15 school, then the MA program's faculty rank of PhD placement would be 0.5 * 10 + 0.5 *15 = 12.5).  (Note: when a school was unranked in the world category, I inferred rankings using its average mean since 2002.  When a school was unranked and had never been evaluated, I ranked it after all schools that had been evaluated and ranked at some point. There were 26 such unranked and unevaluated schools that students attended.)

In order of the average weighted English world faculty rank of a PhD program since 2002 that the MA programs place their students into: (1) Tufts University (23.4), (2) Brandeis University (41.5), and (3) Northern Illinois University (41.9).  In other words, the average MA student from Tufts that enrolls in a PhD program in philosophy attends a school with a English world ranking of 23; for Brandeis, 42; for NIU, 42.  Here are the full results:

History and Philosophy of Science

There are not enough data to do any useful analysis of History and Philosophy of Science placements.  However, the programs that students attended that were listed explicitly as being HPS programs were at Arizona State University, Cambridge University, Indiana University (Bloomington), and the University of Pittsburgh.  This is not an exhaustive list of all HPS programs in the country, and MA students probably are in attendance at HPS programs at other schools, though these other school placements were not explicitly mentioned as HPS programs.

Law School

Where do MA graduates go to law school? I counted 34 distinct schools that students attended, and the distribution was fairly evenly distributed.  However, the following schools had more than one MA graduate attend: Catholic University of America, Law school; New York University, Law School; University of California, Berkeley Law School; University of California, Hastings Law School; University of Colorado, Law School; University of Texas, Austin Law School; and University of Virginia, Law School.

Other Academic Programs

What other academic programs do MA graduates pursue? Here is a list of the various doctoral and master's programs that students attended following their MA in philosophy:

Alliance for Social, Political, Ethical, and Cultural Thought (ASPECT)
Anthropology
Architecture
Biology
Cell and Molecular Medicine
Classics
Cognitive Anthropology
Cognitive Psychology
Counseling Psychology
Diplomacy
Economics
Education
Educational Policy
Educational Psychology
English
Fine Arts
Health Care Ethics
History
International Relations
Library Science
Mathematics
Medicine
Modern Thought and Literature
Near Eastern Studies
Neuroscience
Pharmacy School
Physics
Planning Governance and Globalization
Political Science
Psychology
Public Administration
Public Policy
Religion
Rhetoric and Politics
History of Science & Technology
Science, Technology, and Society (STS)
Social Policy
Social Science
Social Work
Sociology
Storytelling
Theology
Urban Studies
Veterinary Medicine
Women's and Gender Studies

Thus, it appears that an MA in philosophy can be a prelude to virtually any other academic discipline.  However, students leaving academic philosophy tend more towards the social sciences than any other discipline. The most popular choice among these is Psychology (10%).  Here are some other top choices for academic disciplines following an MA in philosophy:

Teaching

At what type of institutions do MA graduates teach?

  • 35% of MA graduates that go into teaching end up at a university
  • 28% go to a community college
  • 26% teach high school
  • 11% teach at a four-year college

Most of the positions at the community college, four-year college, and university level appear to be temporary/lecturer/contract positions, although there are a few exceptions.

 

Outside of Academia or Teaching

What do MA graduates do who do not go into another academic program and who do not go into teaching?  Here is a list of some broad categories that I saw:

Account Management
Administrative Services
Advertising
Business
Clinical Psychology
Criminal Defense
Editing
Financial Aid Advising
Health Care Work
Human Resources
Human Rights Advocacy
Insurance
Judicial Clerk
Law Clerk
Law Practice
Library Specialist
Management
Military
Musician
Non Profit Research
Pharmaceutical Sales
Private Sector (Unspecified)
Public Sector (Unspecified)
Publishing
Securities
Software Consulting
Think Tank Research

Thus, MA graduates enter into a wide range of careers following their degree in philosophy.

Moving Forward: What Next?

Placement records are important, and increasingly so as the job market in academic philosophy becomes more and more competitive and students become more concerned about getting a job after they graduate.  Schools can offer better guidance to prospective students by keeping their placement records neat, complete, and organized in an easily-readable, understandable, and flexible format (see here for my recommendations).  If schools do this, then students can quickly and painlessly compare how different schools rank in their placement, further helping them to make the right decision for themselves as they consider a career in academic philosophy.  And if they choose not to go on into academic philosophy, placement records can still provide a valuable resource for students as they consider alternative academic and career paths.

Two final thoughts.  First, if you believe I have grossly misrepresented your school and would like me to correct it, please send me a .csv file, using the same columns and meanings that I have given up above, with all of the corrected information. I will update this article as often as necessary to keep the data current, correct, and fair. Second, if you know any students in or currently considering graduate school in philosophy, please send them a link to this article. I know I would have benefited greatly from an article like this when I was weighing my decision to continue pursuing academic philosophy, and I am sure they will too.

Andy Carson
swoosh_64x52Philosophy News

Beyond Logic: Why Do We Disagree?

Two people look at the same arguments. The arguments are valid, the evidence that supports the premises are available to both people, and they both have the requisite training and intellectual skill to understand the subtleties of the domain. Why do they disagree? Differences in how people position themselves relative to arguments affect not only academic discourse but challenge dialogue in much more pedestrian discussions as well. It might be handy if the irresistible force of logic was much more irresistible than it appears to be. But as anyone who ever has engaged in any kind of a disagreement knows, there is much more at play psychologically and epistemically in how arguments are conducted than yielding to the pure logic of an argument.

While focused mainly on religious disagreement, I thought a recent paper  by Helen de Cruz (really just a collection of her thoughts on the subject) gets at some ideas that are critical ideas that affect discourse academic and otherwise. Humans aren’t Turing machines. Background beliefs, intuition, emotion, even physiology all play a role in how we think about evidence and the dynamics of argumentation. Thankfully, she gives some taxonomic help too by providing terms one can use to categorize various responses to these dynamics

As someone who is interesting in finding some unification across epistemic theories, I’m pleased to see that some of her ideas align with the work Robert McKim is doing.

“There seems to be an easy escape: one common response, both by steadfasters and conciliationists has been that we need not revise our beliefs in complex messy cases if we have reason to believe that we have access to some sort of insight that our epistemic peer lacks.”

You can read the article here

Graduate School Philosophy Placement: Welcome

Welcome to the main page for Philosophy News'  Graduate School Philosophy Placement Report.  This homepage will provide a more ordered presentation of our work and easier navigation.

Articles:

PhD Level

The Placement Report for Analytic Ph.D. Programs

A report on job placement trends in philosophy since 2000 for Analytic PhD programs.  We also look at trends in areas of specialty and the gender of graduate students since 2000.

The Placement Report for Continental Ph.D. Programs

A report on job placement trends in philosophy since 2000 for Continental PhD programs.  We also look at trends in areas of specialty and the gender of graduate students since 2000. A comparison of the Analytic vs. Continental job markets is also included.

Graduate School Philosophy Placement: The Leiter Report

An analysis of how The Leiter Report’s faculty rankings correlate with tenure-track/permanent/tenured placement rankings for Analytic PhD programs.

The Placement Report Based on School Prestige

A report on “prestige” placement trends for Analytic PhD programs since 2000.  We use the Analytic MA and PhD program rankings from The Leiter Report, as well as the US News National University and Liberal Arts College rankings to rank Analytic PhD philosophy programs by the quality of placement their students have on average.

Trending Topics and Words in Philosophy Dissertations

A little analysis on common words in Analytic philosophy dissertations since 2000.  Which words are popular and unusual?  Find out here.


MA Level

The Placement Report for Terminal Analytic MA Programs

A report on job and program placement trends in philosophy since 2000 for terminal MA Analytic programs in philosophy.   Which MA programs are the best at getting students into good PhD programs?  Do most MA students go on to study philosophy?  What do students do after their MA if they do not go into academic philosophy?  Click here to find out.

 

Interviews:

Philosophy as a Career: Think Long and Hard About Thinking Long and Hard

Studying philosophy can train your mind, help you reason, and almost certainly enrich your life. But what can you do with a degree? Hear from three philosophy majors who now work in other fields on the value of their degree, the pitfalls in pursuing full-time work in philosophy, and some recommendations on how to navigate the often muddy career waters for philosophers.

A Conversation with Dr. Sandy Goldberg on Getting a Job In Philosophy

In this engaging and informative podcast, we talk with Dr. Sandy Goldberg, chairman of the philosophy department at Northwestern University. The catalyst for our conversation was the Philosophy News placement reports and in this interview, we talk with Dr. Goldberg about how his university prepares students for the job market. We also talk about where philosophy as a discipline might be headed, and what the job market may look like in the future.


Other:

How Were These Reports Made?

Click above to find out about how all of the data used in the above reports was and is being gathered.

Further Resources, Articles, and Files

Looking for more resources?  Want to see what other people have said about the above reports?  Want to send us an updated file of your school’s placement records?  Click above to find all of these and more.

Updates to the Report

Click here to find out what data has been recently updated and how the reports have changed since you last visited Philosophy News.


Author's Notes:

Given the immense amount of feedback and critique, please be patient with me as I work on updating this article.  My goal is to let the data speak for itself, without bias, prejudice, favoritism, or deception.  I aim to be transparent about all of my methods and where the data comes from.

My requests to you, the philosophical community:

If you have comments or feedback, please post them at the end of the article or send them to me directly.  And if you believe my data is mistaken or if your school's data has been significantly updated recently, please send me the appropriate and complete data for your school, so that I can update the data.

If your school is not listed in the Leiter Report, and you believe your placement record matches or exceeds those that are listed, please send me your data and I'll add you to the list.

Encourage those who control your school's placement data to post it fully, completely, and truthfully on the web in a form similar to what I have outlined here, for the sake of all current and future graduate philosophy students.


Thanks,

-Andy Carson

Philosophy News

Placement Report Highlighted in Top Higher Ed Web Mag

5586-WWUThe response to Andrew Carson’s placement report has been phenomenal. Philosophy News (and Andrew himself) has received feedback from around the country—most of it positive—about the project with many of the respondents thanking us for the data and encouraging us to continue to work on perfecting the report. The Chronicle of Higher Education picked up the buzz on the report and interviewed Andrew for their popular website and we couldn’t be more thrilled.

The source, which bills themselves as the “No. 1 source of news, information, and jobs for college and university faculty members and administrators” highlights the hard work Andrew did to collect, normalize, and analyze the data. Author Audrey Williams June writes, “In his spare time, [Andrew] began gathering placement data—copious amounts of it—from almost 60 graduate philosophy programs in the United States and Canada. It took him three or four months to comb through the Web pages of each of the programs to retrieve and format its publicly available data.” The result is a report that attempts to provide insight into how graduate students in philosophy from various schools are placed in jobs after they graduate.

Andrew is continually working on updating the report. If you’re associated with an institution as a faculty, student, administrator or alumnus, and would like to ensure that your institution is represented as accurately as possible, please work with your school and with us to get us the latest and most accurate numbers. You can write to me directly at paulp@philosophynews.com with any updated information. We especially encourage people from institutions in Europe and Australia to reach out with data so we can include information on your schools.

Andrew also is working on an new report that provides the same information for terminal MA programs around the country so stay tuned!

Paul Pardi
Publisher, Philosophy News

Man Gets Shot in Argument Over Kant’s Philosophy

Courtesy of Wikimedia CommonsThis story sounds like something The Onion would publish but apparently truth is indeed stranger than fiction. Two men in southern Russia apparently were arguing over Kant's philosophy when a fight broke out ending with one man shooting the other several times. It's not being reported which part of Kant's philosophy became the point of contention. For the shooter's sake, let's hope it wasn't the categorical imperative.

See details on this story here.

A ‘New’ Theory of Consciousness?

2596-Jenn-1x1-125pxPrinceton neuroscientist Michael Graziano has a take on the problem of consciousness he thinks may shed some new light on this puzzle. He calls his approach, the “attention schema theory” and sums it up as the idea, “consciousness is a schematic model of one’s state of attention.” Essentially, consciousness is the brain’s ability to create mental schemas of whatever the conscious entity is attending to, signal other parts of the brain to access the information, and create an output in the form of speech or writing that reports on the schema. He writes, “Consciousness isn’t a non-physical feeling that emerges. Instead, dedicated systems in the brain compute information. Cognitive machinery can access that information, formulate it as speech, and then report it. When a brain reports that it is conscious, it is reporting specific information computed within it. It can, after all, only report the information available to it.”

Readers of this blog will know that I’m a fan of John Searle’s Chinese Room Argument in which Searle argues that a system that can pass the Turing test (Graziano’s system?) is different than a conscious system. Computational models don’t map to conscious states because computation isn’t a sufficient condition for consciousness (one could have a computation system that functions exactly like a conscious being but isn’t conscious). Whether computation is necessary he leaves open. Searle’s argument has its critics but, in my view, his critics are missing the essence of the argument.

Thanks to Matt Snyder for the pointer.

Book Review of Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth

 
Note: This article originally appeared on billpen and is authored by Bill Pardi

Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of NazarethZealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth by Reza Aslan

four star

Zealot is the controversial new book by Reza Aslan. Controversy has come not only from the book’s content, but also from media reaction and even Aslan’s own background:

 

  • There is premise of the book: that Jesus was just a man, and spent his brief adult years trying to create a rebellion against Rome, not to preach peace and a future in heaven.
  • There was the outrageous (but entertaining) Fox News inquisition interview that went viral and put Zealot on top of the best seller list.
  • There is Aslan’s own religion — he’s a Muslim, but was formerly an Evangelical Christian – and he’s writing about Jesus.
  • There is Aslan’s credentials – he’s a self-described “scholar of religion” (he has 3 degrees in the subject), but is currently a Professor of Creative Writing at UC Riverside.

All of that sounded too good to pass up and I decided to give it a read.

Aslan is hardcore. By that I mean he takes a hardcore approach to looking at Jesus as an historical person. His starting assumption is similar to that of many historians writing about a larger than life figure: what was the historical context in which this person lived, and what was it about him or her that ultimately created the legend? The implication of course is that the actual person wasn’t in reality what he or his followers claimed or what history made him out to be. In that way Zealot is more Aslan’s quest for historical accuracy than philosophical truth.

Aslan’s work is in many ways a popular compendium of a number of academic sources on his subject. Even so, Aslan draws his own conclusions and has a distinct point of view. He not only assumes Jesus wasn’t a deity, but in fact claims that real Jesus didn’t even see himself that way. He spends a large portion of the book setting up the time period in which Jesus was born and raised. He describes the harsh oppression that the Jews lived under well before Jesus’ birth and into his adulthood. He describes the constant stream of would-be messiahs all with similar messages to the one Jesus adopted, but each with slightly unique points of emphasis. Some versions of the messianic rhetoric played better than others with the Jewish crowd, but most all ended in execution, either from a Roman sword or, if Rome suspected the worst, crucifixion. Most of the Jewish religious order, according to Aslan, colluded with the Roman government to keep the locals in line. To prove that they superseded the local authorities and demonstrate their bona-fides, travelling messiahs would use illusions and magic to show that they could channel the supernatural. These rebels, or lestai, would travel the region, preaching their message of deliverance from the Roman Empire and in many cases gathering rather large followings before being permanently stopped by the Roman authorities.

This is the world that Jesus, an uneducated peasant from a tiny, barely-functional town in Palestine was born into. Aslan outlines Jesus’ likely journey from subsistence farmer in Nazareth to sometime carpenter in bigger towns to regional Jewish messiah and rebel against Roman authority in Palestine.

As the narrative gets to the end of Jesus’ career Aslan goes into great detail about what got him crucified. At that point in Roman history crucifixion was the punishment of choice for sedition. Aslan paints Jesus not a peaceful messiah looking for a future heavenly kingdom, but as a zealot advocating a new earthly kingdom in his own lifetime with himself at its head. The author points out that at that time in Roman/Jewish relations a message of peaceful, spiritual rescue of mankind somewhere in the future would have been ignored by the authorities and not resulted in trial and execution. But Jesus got caught up in the ongoing rebellion of his day and emerged as a popular leader, at least in the outskirts of Palestine. Once he made his way into the bigger cities, his rebellion against the synagogue and messages about establishing a new kingdom would not be tolerated. He describes how Jesus’ public statements about him establishing a new kingdom and (sometimes violent) run-ins with the temple leaders resulted in his being brought before Pilot and ultimately executed.

Where the New Testament accounts of Jesus and his resulting movement conflict with Aslan’s historical data, he claims that the narrative in the canonical New Testament are simply representative of a lot of history of the era – some facts blended with some fiction. The writers of the New Testament, all writing at least 70 years after Jesus death were, according to Aslan, relaying the story and message of who they believed was a messiah, not simply capturing history. To make their story viable, they needed to embellish or change the historical facts that didn’t fit the narrative they were trying to tell, and that was not unexpected or viewed as deceptive. As an example, the story of how Pilot felt guilt over condemning Jesus and turning his fate over to the Jews as part of an annual custom of freeing one prisoner was probably mostly fiction. According to Aslan the historical Pilot was known as a ruthless governor who killed Jews as a matter of regular practice without any indication of remorse. The idea of him feeling guilt over yet another rebellious Jew simply doesn’t fit with the historical character. Add to that the question of how a Jewish writer decades later would know what occurred in Pilot’s inner chamber and have access to his emotional state. And outside the gospels there is no record of any custom of annual prisoner release ever taking place anywhere in Palestine. Even the gospels disagree on whether it was a Jewish or Roman custom. The gospel narrative, Aslan states, was likely included as a political move in the first century as more converts were coming from the Roman world than the Jewish world, and the church didn’t want to make a Roman governor responsible for the death of the messiah they were preaching to them about.

Some critics of Zealot accuse Aslan of cherry-picking his use of Biblical passages, citing some as history and some as myth. I agree, though I didn’t find it egregious. More often than not he explained why he felt something “probably happened” as written, and why other passages were “unlikely” and others “almost certainly made up.” He does a good job throughout providing the historical context for each event, and uses multiple source material to back up his claims. Having said that, there were several instances in the book where I did feel he glossed over certain passages, or selectively chose his material to provide better backing to his claim.

Overall though, Zealot is well written, well documented and has a direct point of view on the historical Jesus. But it’s not going to change anyone’s mind about Jesus’ deity, either for believers or non-believers, with the possible exception of those on the fence. Even so, I think Zealot is an important book for both camps. While the believer will dismiss Aslan’s basic premise and conclusions as the opinions of a non-Christian historian, there is enough detail about Jesus’ contemporary society to provide them greater insight into the world where he started the movement to which they now belong. The non-believer will get a rich view into the man around which a religion was born that has attracted millions and endured for more than two millennia.

Note: This article originally appeared on billpen and is authored by Bill Pardi

Robinson on ‘What is Philosophy?’

What differentiates philosophy from other disciplines that attempt to get at truth about being and existence? Is there a core idea, method, or behavior that sets it apart from the rest? Historically, the work of philosophers has evolved but there may be a core set of practices and concepts that can help us define what it is that philosophers do (or what each of us does when we philosophize). I took a stab at my own, brief definition in which I attempted to establish a starting point for such distinctions. Recently, however, I was listening to The Teaching Company’s excellent series by Oxford scholar Daniel N. Robinson titled, Great Ideas in Philosophy, 2nd Edition in which Robinson offers his own take on the subject. His description is more narrative in nature and he attempts to isolate the key features of philosophy in terms of its historical significance and looks at the ways in which it differs in comparison to fields in the near vicinity. He provides this description in the context of the question, “Did the Greeks invent philosophy?”

Below is the transcription from his lecture as I think it provides some unique insights into what makes philosophy what it is.

“What is the difference between a philosophical perspective, and, let's say, the perspective that Homer had in composing Iliad and Odyssey? Or the perspective the singers and writers of the Upanishads had, or that of the Hebrew prophets? In what sense did Pythagoras have the right to call himself for the first time "a philosopher" over and against, say, Moses or Isaiah? Why not begin the history of philosophy equally with say Buddha, Confucius, and Socrates instead of distinguishing the last of these from all earlier, non-Greek thinkers?

And what of the scientific and medical and engineering achievements of Egypt and the mathematical discoveries of India? Sharp lines can be drawn here only at peril. Indeed, the more developed thinking becomes, the more philosophical and scientific thinking tends to merge. So too with great literary works, with the poetic imagination, with the realized dreams of great architects and good kings, with the noble and proven teachings of saints and prophets. Just where personal genius and virtue in such figures rise to the level of impersonal and trans-historical significance, will always be a topic of joyful dispute among scholars.

But there is, nonetheless, a special feature of philosophy that really does mark it off from all the rest. Not in the sense of being better, or more advanced, or reserved to a privileged few. The philosophical perspective is one of criticism, and, yes, skepticism. I hope this won't be taken as indelicate, or worse, heretical, but if God were to declare a truth to the community of philosophers, at least the best of them would say (and one would hope, worshipfully), "But how can we be sure of that?"

The point, of course, is that philosophy carries its truths, earns its truths, the hard way--by working for it. What the scientist actually sees, through aided or unaided sight, what the poet dreams and the prophet has revealed to him, the philosopher must find through argument, analysis, doubt, and yes, disinterest. The operative word here is disinterest not uninterest. The blindfold that decorates the face of justice is intended to signify just that judicious disinterest that would have the chips fall where they may. The verdict will depend on evidence, not on the rhetorical skill of the advocate, the wealth of the defendant.

This, needless to say, is the judicial ideal and, we know, it is rarely achieved. But it is the recognized ideal. So too in philosophy. Let the successful arguments fall where they may. We are prepared to abandon one that was long favored, and accept one that we find personally odious. Philosophy takes a systematic and critical perspective on all the assumptions and claims that we in the other compartments of human endeavor accept.

It's not that the others have no epistemological or quasi-epistemological aims. The playwright, indeed, is attempting to get at a kind of truth, even a fundamental truth. Indeed, the great playwright reaches the deeper level of human sensibility and thought and presents the discovery in a memorable way. Are not the greatest "depth psychologies" served up by Euripides, Sophocles, Escalus. We reach levels of self-understanding by way of such dramatists and in a manner that would be almost impossible to approximate in any other way.

Still, philosophy is different. The bottom line in philosophy is not to solve practical problems; it's not to solidify the civic bonds among people; it's not to make us feel better--or worse. Rather it is to test the most fundamental beliefs, the most fundamental values and convictions we have, and to test them for the purpose of getting them right while at the same time realizing that basic questions as to what it could mean to "get it right" are, often, finally unanswerable.

So the central aspect of the philosophical perspective is a critical aspect. Criticality. Criticism. Self-criticism. This is what is at the very center of the philosophical project, the philosophical way of thought. It's at the very center of the philosophical enterprise. What is believed by way of the philosophical worldview is wisdom itself. Not wisdom-so-that, not wisdom-in-order-that, not to get more of this or more of that, not to be reassured, not for the good night's sleep, not for its consolations (with all due respect to Boethius). No, it's to get it right and where "getting it right" might indeed be, bad news also.

It is not inevitably good news. Sometimes it is not news at all: it’s a question that is answered with yet another question. And answered with yet another question. I sometimes say that profound philosophical insights should always be followed, not with exclamation points, but with semicolons. Because the long debate goes on. If it wasn't concluded by Plato or Aristotle, we can be sure that it will not be ended in the editorial pages of the New York Times.” (Daniel N. Robinson, Great Ideas in Philosophy, 2nd Edition, Lecture 2, “Philosophy: Did the Greeks Invent It?”

An Illustrated Book of Bad Arguments

bookHere is a clever little ebook that serves as a primer on logical fallacies. The descriptions are brief but well-stated and the illustrations are fun. The entire ebook is online (I had trouble with the flip book so I linked to the “page” view).

From the inside cover: “This book is aimed at newcomers to the field of logical reasoning, particularly those who, to borrow a phrase from Pascal, are so made that they understand best through visuals. I have selected a small set of common errors in reasoning and visualized them using memorable illustrations that are supplemented with lots of examples. The hope is that the reader will learn from these pages some of the most common pitfalls in arguments and be able to identify and avoid them in practice.”

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