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Beneficent Retirement and Academic Successorships

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In 'The Paradox of Beneficial Retirement', Saul Smilansky argues that "for a great many people, the best professional action that they can currently take is to leave their profession" (337) -- on grounds that they could reasonably expect to be replaced by someone better (!) -- and, moreover, that the personal costs they'd thereby incur (especially if eligible for a comfortable retirement) would be much smaller than the costs otherwise borne by the un- or under-employed.In the academic case, I suspect that a similar conclusion may follow without the need for invidious comparisons.  Even supposing that one is above average in philosophical mettle, productivity, and so forth, so long as one has already enjoyed a long career in the discipline, it's likely that in most cases (not all, of course!) one's most valuable contributions have already been made, and the discipline would benefit more from hearing new voices.  (This seems especially likely given the hyper-competitiveness of the job market in recent years: we all know that there's an immense amount of philosophical talent out there, struggling to secure stable academic employment.) Suppose that over a 100-year period, a single tenure line could either be filled by two individuals (for 50 years each), or three (for 33 years each).  In the vast majority of cases, the latter strikes me as very obviously the preferable arrangement, for both human welfare and the discipline of philosophy. (Exceptions for superstars like Derek Parfit: if only he could have been with us longer!)  But in fact this underestimates the gains from shorter careers: senior professors have much higher salaries, so greater generational turnover would save a lot of money and hence enable (e.g.) additional post-doctoral positions to be offered alongside the tenure line, at no additional cost to the university.Note that this is nothing to do with age per se: someone of advanced age may nonetheless be a newcomer to. . .

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