January 2, 2009

Times are hard... for philosophers...

"The scuttlebutt among APA's roughly 550 job-seekers was that more than 10 percent of 300-plus advertised positions may have been canceled. Morris, in his second year in the philosophy job market and handsomely outfitted in suit and ponytail, remained upbeat, even playful. 'I'm single, good-looking, athletic, 6-4, my phone number is....' he joked into a reporter's tape recorder. Asked where he'd be willing to go to teach philosophy, he replied, 'Anywhere on the planet. Anywhere at all. Whether or not I get paid. To tell you the truth,' he quickly added, 'the only thing that could push me out of philosophy is the student loans I've accrued.'"

Philosophers should be people who think especially well, but to have decided upon a career in philosophy marks you as irrational. How do you deal with that raging incoherence?

(Link via A&L Daily.)

AND: Glenn Reynolds wonders if I'm being fair: "You might rationally decide you want to be a philosopher even if the job prospects are poor. But if you do so decide, then it’s irrational to complain about a poor job market, I guess."

I agree that it may be rational for an individual to choose to go into philosophy, despite the poor economic prospects. In the comments, OSweet, noting Morris's "Whether or not I get paid...," scoffed: "Yeah, right." That made me say:
Actually, I think there are many people who would teach philosophy without getting paid. (Socrates did this.)

In fact, I think if the job of philosophy professor were put up for an auction, limited to people who could do it competently, that you could get people to pay for the privilege of teaching good students and a good college. I'll bet there are many people who continue teaching philosophy when they could retire and make more money collecting their pensions.
I still have to doubt that our best thinkers are choosing to become philosophers. I know that makes me like the kind of jerk who would say "If you're so smart, why aren't you rich?" And I really do think that people ought to do work that they are intrinsically interested in.

Also, I said "a career in philosophy marks you as irrational." You could be marked as irrational and yet not be irrational, since other people may look at you and think you've made an irrational choice. You may still have your reasons.

Still, you've got to doubt that the 550 job seekers referred to in the article are really the people that should be doing the work of philosophy if philosophy is going to matter very much. That said, I hope they find their jobs, and 550 applicants for 270 jobs isn't all that terrible. Close to 50-50 odds. So good luck. And remember, you can always go to law school, and philosophy makes a great background for law study.

77 comments:

Eli Blake said...

How do you deal with that raging incoherence?

Answer:

There is nothing so absurd that can be said, that some philosopher has not said it

-- Cicero

Of course, Cicero is the philosopher I've always most admired, a guy who never took himself (or his profession) too seriously, and a guy I think I would enjoy eating dinner with.

Skyler said...

Philosophy is about one of the most important topics for mankind, but for the past 150 years it has been dominated, not by great thinkers, but by petty people who think the "great debate" is the purpose of philosophy, not an accurate understanding of the universe. Reading Hegel, Kant, Goethe, Sartre leads one to think that they enjoy more constructing convoluted and impossible grammar than in explaining ideas. I remember finding a sentence in a piece by Sartre that was nearly two pages long.

Philosophers can no longer be regarded as serious people. They're the only ones who think themselves to be serious.

Kev said...

(the other kev)

What do you do if a Philosophy Major shows up at your door?

If he brought the pizza in less than thirty minutes, tip him extra.

EDH said...

Bob - What do you do?

Charlotte - Um... I'm not sure yet actually. I just graduated last Spring.

Bob - What did you study?

Charlotte - Philosophy.

Bob - Yeah, there's a good buck in that racket.

Charlotte - (laughs) Yeah. Well, so far it's pro bono.
(both laugh)

Bob - Well, I'm sure you'll figure out the angles.

Charlotte - Yeah, I hope your Porsche works out.

Eli Blake said...

Keep in mind, of course that the Ph.D. degree (in any field) is the "Doctor of Philosophy."

Eli Blake said...

To do is to be-- Aristarchus

To be is to do-- Nietzsche

Do be do be do-- Sinatra

Eli Blake said...

Skyler,

I did rather enjoy reading Faust, however.

reader_iam said...

Day-um, Althouse. Awesome, you are.

reader_iam said...

Your average person's concept of drive-by is Althouse's fuel for connection. And vice versa.

reader_iam said...

All that aside, and back to about the post at hand. There's this, for example. (I'd link to a vid if I could, trust me on that one, reader_iam that I am.)

, >})

And surely some will findthis to be 'of the amuse', n'est-ce pas?

Beth said...

Philosophy as a profession isn't restricted to teaching, nor to noodling about and navel gazing. Fields that involve questions of ethics (research, hospitals and hospices, robotics, etc.) hire philosophers. And whether current work in philosophy seems meaningful to you, you have to acknowledge the need for philosophy across the university curriculum. Students benefit from courses in reasoning, scientific logic, metaphysics, political philosophy, linguistics...

JAL said...

A guy in our church has a bachelor's degree in philosophy from the college our daughter is attending. I asked him one day what one (he) does with a bachelor's degree in philosohphy.?

He: "I develop alternative media for a text book company."

Me: "And your degree helps that how?"

He: "I use it every day."

Hope for those parents who might despair when confronted by a philosphy degree seeking undergraduate.

EDH said...

He: "I develop alternative media for a text book company."

Me: "And your degree helps that how?"

He: "I use it every day."


I take it specificity is not the philosopher's strong suit?

reader_iam said...

As always, Beth nails. More than that, she makes it worth holding close not just x, but also y, and and also z, not to mention xyz, and a cornucopia of And.

blake said...

How do you deal with that raging incoherence?

MAJIKTHISE:
Bloody ‘ell! That’s what I call thinking! Here Vroomfondel, why do we never think of things like that?

VROOMFONDEL:
Dunno. Think our minds must be too highly trained Majikthise.

Dennis said...

I have a friend who's working on his doctorate in Philosophy.

He lives off a trust fund and will never have to worry about earning an income for as long as he lives.

That's why he can work toward a doctorate in Philosophy.

AllenS said...

I have a BS in Philosophy. It's most noticeable after my sixth beer. My advantage over those who go to school to become a philosopher, is that I've already accomplished things in life to philosophize about. I become irrational after 12 beers.

"How do you deal with that raging incoherence?" Well, there's always tomorrow.

Michael_H said...

Oh great. Another post about gay marriage.

Skeptical said...

Well, Althouse, I imagine that the way that we philosophers would deal with it is to note that you haven't shown that there is any sort of incoherence to be dealt with. There is no inconsistency between being X and being marked by society as being not-X.

Michael_H said...

How do you deal with that raging incoherence?

Philosophically.

bearbee said...

Popeye

ponders

I Yam What I Yam

Original George said...

Finley, Existenz.

Life is a tooth in your shoulder. A wisdom tooth.

Jack in.

jayne_cobb said...

Times have always been tough for most professional bullshitters.

Pogo said...

Why do colleges and universities produce so many philosophy, history, and psychology majors who can never find a job in those fields?

Because it makes money; lots of it.

Why this scam persists I'll never know.

dbp said...

Some departments in a college can be hard to get into, but for the most part an undergraduate can get a degree in whatever they want.

I figure that life is long and your first degree should be in whatever subject interests you. There is plenty of time to pick-up further credentials in pursuit of a career.

I'll bet that Althouse never imagined, as she worked on her degree in fine art, that she would end up a law prof.

Kevin said...

Pogo said: Why this scam persists I'll never know.

I'm still waiting for the education bubble to burst. It's one of the last markets that's still irrationally high for the value it provides in many cases.

Lawgiver said...

Beth said,

Fields that involve questions of ethics (research, hospitals and hospices, robotics, etc.) hire philosophers.

I wonder how many philosophers Bill Gates has hired?

bearbee said...

We need more philosophers and poets and less investment bankers and lawyers.

Or at least we need them to occupy more influential roles.

Lawgiver said...

Kevin said,

I'm still waiting for the education bubble to burst. It's one of the last markets that's still irrationally high for the value it provides in many cases.

Don't hold your breath. It's one of the biggest scams going. Government subsidies, corporate money, power, greed, corruption, it's all there.

A while ago I went back to college for two years to get enough education courses for a state teaching certificate. It was a waste of time and money except for the student teaching where they pair you up with an experienced teacher. I found a text book and a system that worked for me and my students, they all passed their state mandated tests. The next year I wasn't allowed to use that system because the district had opted for a new textbook. Next, I got a job as an educational consultant. We sold services, software, hardware, and textbooks to school districts nation wide at outrageous prices. Our bonuses and commissions were eye-popping and the school districts rarely blinked when we gave them the bill. One year Los Angeles USD spent around 20 million for our crap. A few years later a new school board said, "We don't like your crap anymore, we want some new crap." 20 mill wasted. That's how it goes.

Tibore said...

Heh... this reminds me of a stand up comedian grousing about his son's choice of college majors:

"Oh, philosophy... There's lots of job openings there... now that Plato's dead..."

Michael_H said...

I'm still waiting for the education bubble to burst. It's one of the last markets that's still irrationally high for the value it provides in many cases.

The education bubble won't burst as long as students in liberal arts (and other majors, I suppose) continue to view university education as a four year party that delays entry into adulthood.

Student loans are viewed in the same manner as credit card balances: A bill to be paid at a later date for this weekend's beer bong party. With hot chicks.

EDH said...

AllenS said...

I have a BS in Philosophy.


Isn't that redundant?

KLDAVIS said...

Philosophy is a perfectly respectable undergraduate degree. Anyone who goes onto advanced study needs their head examined if they also count 'success' among their life goals.

While pursuing my B.A. I often joked that I would sit roadside with a 'Will Think for Food' sign, but later realized that would be truly applicable only if I'd been crazy enough to go for my M.A. or Ph.D.

William said...

I took a lot of philosophy classes. Their very impracticality and unworldliness was what attracted me to them. When you have spent your life dining off the cracked blue plate special, it is very pleasant to momentarily finger the Sevres porcelain. Most of my thinking life has involved thinking about money, sex, and sports. It was kind of fun to think about thinking for a while.

SteveR said...

I wonder how many philosophers Bill Gates has hired?

Based on my experience with Windows Vista, his hiring has been limited to torture experts.

TosaGuy said...

I actually directly use my liberal arts MA in a private sector job, but I am a rarity. My job title matches my major.

I completely agree with Beth in that liberal arts programs can be of great value. A well developed society needs more than just logical math and science types. LA when practiced at a high level expands the human mind, cultivates new ideas and expands our collective intellect.

However, liberal arts as taught in today's academia is a joke and is a waste of time and money for most of its students. The market simply is oversaturated with history, sociology, philosophy, english majors who have specialized in minutea. Also, many LA programs today seem openly hostile to the great ideas of Western Civilization as well as general society. You cannot teach people to take a dim view on general society and expect that society to value your skills and take you seriously.

Some other thoughts on oversaturation in the LA.

1) Universities have too many specializations within their liberal arts curriculum, which leads to overspecialization and pigeonholes the graduate in the eyes of the business world. Liberal arts should be about the expansive and inquisitive mind, but how expansive and inquisitive are you if you are only capable of contriving everything into your preconceived agenda.

2) Too many people get liberal arts degrees because they are easy. There has been tremendous degree inflation in the LA. In order to separate yourself from herd in the LA, you need to get an MA, which probably gives you the equivalent of a 1960 BA. The market says we only need X number of philosophy majors, so why mint Y number of philosophy majors. Make the standard higher and more respect for the degree will follow.

3) Universities do not tailor their LA programs to prepare students in for the working world. A well-educated liberal arts grad has some excellent skills to offer an employer such as writing, analysis and critical thinking. A nimble mind is a trainable mind and if you know your stuff then many employers will insert the needed information. However, with many LA programs simply being an exercise in mental masturbation and repositories of ridiculous, self-absorbed ideas like the professors in the last few posts, then private sector employers are less likely to take your LA degree seriously.

As tailored today, it is simply ridiculous to pile up student loans for a LA grad degree because you won't have the earning potential to pay off those loans. If you cannot get an assistantship that pays your way then you do not have the intellectual stuff to be in that program.

OSweet said...

"Whether or not I get paid..."

Yeah, right.

Ann Althouse said...

"Yeah, right."

Actually, I think there are many people who would teach philosophy without getting paid. (Socrates did this.)

In fact, I think if the job of philosophy professor were put up for an auction, limited to people who could do it competently, that you could get people to pay for the privilege of teaching good students and a good college. I'll bet there are many people who continue teaching philosophy when they could retire and make more money collecting their pensions.

TosaGuy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
OSweet said...

Re: "Yeah, right."

"the only thing that could push me out of philosophy is the student loans I've accrued."

I stand by my 'yeah, right,' in this particular case.

Granted, many (other) people would teach for free, or even pay for the privilege. But it's a safe bet that anyone who majored in philosophy wants a professorship with all the (unimportant things like) money and respect and hot chicks that come with it.

kynefski said...

I think if the job of philosophy professor were put up for an auction, limited to people who could do it competently, that you could get people to pay for the privilege of teaching good students and a good college.

That's very close to the business model for hiring adjuncts.

Ric Locke said...

For most of history, philosophers were the go-to guys for "why". They were often wrong and sometimes misguided, but they were right often enough to get credit for trying.

Gradually, among philosophers, there appeared a specialty, the "Natural Philosopher", who took as his task the explication of the objective Universe. Roughly three centuries ago the accumulated frustration of the Natural Philosophers led them to realize that, whether they had realized it before or no, much of what they had come up with was based on assumptions rooted in culture and preconception, and that such assumptions could and should be checked against the behavior(s) of Reality. They thus left Philosophy entirely, and became Scientists.

The remaining Philosophers either gradually accepted the rules of Experience, Evidence, and Experiment, and thus moved over to the "Science" column, or insisted that they had no preconceptions and thus could deduce Universe from first principles. Since no such first principles appear to exist, such having failed to be discovered in several millenia of Philosophy, they have fallen instead upon ever-finer distinctions of language and feuds with one another, which they express in polysyllabic pseudoprofundity sufficient to impress the rubes. Many of them have declared in their frustration that, since First Principles do not exist, all Principles are equivalent, and steadfastly oppose any attempt to check the principles they expound and explicate against the objective Universe. That would, after all, make them Scientists, and they would have to turn in their Philosopher's Pass.

"Real" philosophers do exist, and some of them take philosophy courses. A degree in philosophy does not create a philosopher, though. If the individual was a philosopher to begin with, it may provide him or her with useful tools and a map of where predecessors screwed up; but by the evidence before us, it is much more likely to create a futile wanker with a big vocabulary.

Regards,
Ric

Kevin said...

Hey could be worse -- you could be a PSYCHOLOGY major. If I see Philosophy on a resume, I assume the job-seeker thinks the world is nuts, and is trying to figure out why.

If I see Psychology on a resume, well then I assume the person himself is nuts, and is trying to figure out why...

kramsmarba said...

Our current economic debacle is due to a failure to take philosophy seriously. More specifically to answer the question as to why one thing is more valuable than another. Marx's (obviously wrong) answer leads to communism, poverty and death. Keynes never even asked the question, so his economics has a serious flaw and leads to bankruptcy (unless you take his advice and die first). Von Mises answer is the best. But because it doesn't lead to an all powerful state (unlike Marx or Keynes) it cannot be mentioned.

Ric Locke said...

It should be added that an important thread, perhaps the most important thread, of modern Philosophy consists of attempts to depose the Scientists from the pedestal they have achieved by their consistent success. According to this Philosophy, the Scientists are futile frauds -- they, too, suffer from preconceptions and cultural influences, which lead them to only discover things that suit their prejudices.

This is, in theory, a worthwhile and valuable insight, since explored (extensively but without rigor) by science fiction. A common trope in SF is the aliens landing, and chuckling at Stuff Newton Missed -- but of course it is inevitable that mere primates should fail to notice important things which are evident to telepathic octopoids. The correct approach, then, is a critical analysis of the work of the Scientist, designed to reveal the prejudices and preconceptions which led him astray, and to guide future investigators along paths which will lead to further (and better) discoveries.

Unfortunately, after a century or so of such "deconstruction", no such further and better discoveries have eventuated. The Sun continues to rise in the East and things continue to fall down, despite cosmology and physics being explained by Dead White Males; Principia is not a rape manual, and going from place to place requires energy whether the traveler is deserving or no. Many Philosophers have responded to that frustrating state of affairs by dropping the "con" and engaging in pure destruction, and it is those who have entered the public mind as emblematic of "Philosophy". The field thus gets less respect than it might. It is arguable whether it gets less respect than it deserves.

Regards,
Ric

kramsmarba said...

Our current economic debacle is due to a failure to take philosophy seriously. More specifically to answer the question as to why one thing is more valuable than another. Marx's (obviously wrong) answer leads to communism, poverty and death. Keynes never even asked the question, so his economics has a serious flaw and leads to bankruptcy (unless you take his advice and die first). Von Mises answer is the best. But because it doesn't lead to an all powerful state (unlike Marx or Keynes) it cannot be mentioned.

kramsmarba said...

Our current economic debacle is due to a failure to take philosophy seriously. More specifically to answer the question as to why one thing is more valuable than another. Marx's (obviously wrong) answer leads to communism, poverty and death. Keynes never even asked the question, so his economics has a serious flaw and leads to bankruptcy (unless you take his advice and die first). Von Mises answer is the best. But because it doesn't lead to an all powerful state (unlike Marx or Keynes) it cannot be mentioned.

ic said...

Eli Blake:

Cicero was a philosopher, but philosopher was not his profession. Cicero had a day job. He was the greatest advocate/lawyer of his time. He never believed he could make a living philosohpizing, i.e. expecting pay for lazying about bs-ing.

fboness said...

People are attracted to philosophy in college because they are promised "no math."

Byron said...

Ann wrote: "Actually, I think there are many people who would teach philosophy without getting paid. (Socrates did this.)"

Hmm. How, then, did Socrates support himself, his wife, and their three sons? He railed against the Sophists for being hired guns, but he was operating in essentially the same way. But they were teaching specific rhetorical skills, and I think Socrates was partly jealous of their ability to command a good income from rich clients.

Cato Renasci said...

While I do count a couple of professional philosophers among my friends, who are brilliant, not especially practical, and fortunate enough to have at least modest independent incomes, for the most part I have not been impressed with modern academic philosophy or its practitioners.

I suspect Goethe had it pretty much right in the prologue to Faust in which he complains that although he's thoroughly studied Philosophy, Law, Medicine and, unfortunately, Theology, with great diligence and yet, poor fool, he's no wiser than he was to begin with.

Liberal arts degrees, especially in the traditional majors such as history and philosophy can be among the easiest (well, not so easy as sociology, communications or political 'science') in the university, or among the hardest if one takes them very seriously and really applies oneself.

John Althouse Cohen said...

Many of them have declared in their frustration that, since First Principles do not exist, all Principles are equivalent

Could you give an example or two of which philosophers have taken the position that "all principles are equivalent"?

Ann Althouse said...

"Hmm. How, then, did Socrates support himself, his wife, and their three sons"

He just copped out and killed himself.

Byron said...

ANN: "He just copped out and killed himself."

Aha! In fact, Xanthippe is described as a difficult woman to say the very least. Now, being married to Socrates might just do that to a person. In any case, we have perhaps discovered why Socrates didn't put up a better defense at trial...

Eric Rasmusen said...

See

http://rasmusen1.blogspot.com/2008/12/gre-scores-in-various-disciplines.html

for the remarkably high GRE test scores of philosophers. They do seem to be smart people.

blake said...

Actually, not all philosophers became scientists.

Some became exercise gurus.

comatus said...

I earned degrees in Philosophy and English. I wasn't studying as a job qualification, because my family owned a business and I saw few options but to take it over. I got a civil service job while a full-time student, and found through insider information that the agency was about to become involved in a higly technical new pursuit. After I earned my degrees I stayed with that agency. After many field assignments, I worked in the GIS field, and made myself valuable by helping engineers "ask the questions" in developing data applications, an area in which they were (by training) clueless. I was applying my field experience, plus what I had learned in the family business and other study, but without my background in philosophy would not have been able to analyze the problems. My employer did not appreciate my occasional input on information-ethics issues, but it did pay off for them when those issues blew up later. I retired at age 50 with full benefits.

Did I philosophize for a living? Only in the most general sense. Did I profit from my training? Every goddamn day.

Only at the PhD. level (and, usually, not there either) does one develop 'new' philosophical thinking. Except at some very presumptuous 'modern' establishments, philosophy students are not encouraged to bullshit. As a journeyman, you learn the history and methodology of philosophy--the science of argumentation. As for the "no math" angle, the second prerequisite course I took was symbolic logic, and later found myself teaching the basics of it to computer engineers, who had not been prepared by their curriculum to deal with raging incoherence.

I never attended an APA convention, but philosophy has been very, very good to me.

Donald Sensing said...

I majored in philosophy, graduated in 1977 and immediately took a commission into the Army, where I spent my first career blowing things up.

When I wasn't blowing things up or commanding others who blew things up, I worked on staffs up to and including the level of the Pentagon.

Training in philosophy gave me a finely-tuned Bravo Sierra alert system, and believe me, when you work in Washington, that puts you well ahead of the rest.

Also, it gave me the ability to connect dots and see relationships that other could not see. The result was that I was routinely assigned duties that by right should have gone to officers one or even two ranks higher.

KLDAVIS said...

Althouse said... "Also, I said 'a career in philosophy marks you as irrational.' You could be marked as irrational and yet be irrational, since other people may look at you and think you've made an irrational choice. You may still have your reasons."

Don't you mean, "You could be marked as irrational and yet not be irrational, since other people may look at you and think you've made an irrational choice."?

KLDAVIS said...

I agree with Comatus. While I don't 'Philosophize' for a living, my Philosophy degree has better prepared me for the work I do than just about any other I could think of.

Recently I realized that symbolic logic has certainly been one of the most worthwhile courses I took, as I spent a good part of the day trying to teach complex database queries to attorneys.

Ann Althouse said...

Oh, yeah. A "not" is needed. Fixed.

Joe M. said...

OSweet:
"... a professorship with all the (unimportant things like) money and respect and hot chicks."

Money? Certainly not much.

JAC:
"Could you give an example or two of which philosophers have taken the position that "all principles are equivalent"?"

Sartre, for one, seems to imply this. Not that I'm very familiar with his writing, but if we take "Existentialism is a Humanism" seriously.

Things That Come Between Us said...

Though perhaps a student of philosophy could here point out the dangers of perverting the disdain inspired by the contemporary academy into a general anti-intellectualism.

John Althouse Cohen said...

JAC:
"Could you give an example or two of which philosophers have taken the position that "all principles are equivalent"?"

Sartre, for one, seems to imply this. Not that I'm very familiar with his writing, but if we take "Existentialism is a Humanism" seriously.


I haven't read that essay, but from what I remember of reading Sartre years ago, that sounds like a pretty extravagant reading of him. Care to cite a specific passage from the essay? I mean, the first sentence states that he's going to defend his position against those who oppose it, which would suggest he doesn't believe that "all principles are equivalent."

Shannon said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
KLDAVIS said...

I can't say that I've ever encountered a 'great' (in reputation/circulation) philosopher who claimed "all principles are equivalent."

I would guess that one most would think of if you put that statement to them would be Nietzsche, but it would be more accurate to claim that he said all principles of certain types of people/minds are equivalent, or the value of your principles are inapposite.

traditionalguy said...

I always thought Philosophers were school teachers. Maybe someone sees their work as a good way to create a contextual world for a new marketing strategy? But why read all those Plato to John Stuart Mill works to become a marketing person? The sons and daughters of the rich and leisure classes have long since abandoned classical Philosophy for what C. Paglia calls Deconstruction that denies that there is a correct answer to anything.

David K said...

Philosophers have always been a natural target for jokes, especially those concerning income.
Even Thales, the first western philosopher, was no exception. After being told that his inquiries were useless, he reportedly bought all of the olive presses, thus cornering the market before harvest time.

As a philosophy Ph.D., I am not in it for the money. I'm in it to search for the truth. An acquaintance with the history of philosophy informs one that it is not a high paying gig. Even the great Kant did not receive a university salary until he was in his late forties.

Hopefully, we as a society are not at the point at which we can no longer turn out individuals whose primary aim in life is to search for the truth and advance civilization.

John S. Wilkins said...

At the age of 48, a year after I finished my 25 years part time studies in philosophy, I gained a postdoc, and I'm just about to start a second one. I am happier than I have ever been in my life. I am being paid to do what I struggled for a quarter century to do on my own dime. If happiness is the metric, it is entirely rational to become a philosopher if you are in that vocation anyway (vocatio = "to call"). I wouldn't recommend it for anyone who thinks the amount of money one earns is the metric of a good life, although a full professor can earn as much or more than a senior executive. But I will be happy just to research, write and teach for the remainder of my working life, as opposed to the largely useless and meaningless work that earned me more money.

Daniel said...

I've been teaching philosophy for 28 years, and still love every minute of it. True, it doesn't pay that well--though this year I made about $150K, which isn't bad for 6 hours a week in the classroom--but a friend who makes more than ten times as much envies *me* for the freedom I have to think about whatever I want to think about.

Recent students of mine are now at Harvard and Yale studying law. Philosophy is the best possible pre-law major. So, what I do isn't very different from what Professor Althouse does; I just do it mostly at the undergraduate level.

geoffrobinson said...

As an undergraduate philosophy major (as well as comp sci major), I highly recommend doing that major if you are interested in going to law school. The ability to cogently assess, build and tear down arguments is what it is all about.

I did my thesis on rights theories and jurisprudence. But alas, I didn't want to become a lawyer.

Some Schmuck said...

A philosophy degree has to be on par with degrees in Woman's or Ethnic Studies as far as job prospects go.

What they have in common is that they're all degrees for people who do not have to earn a living.

If you're poor and major in any of these field, expect to remain poor.

reader_iam said...

Blogger jayne_cobb said...
Times have always been tough for most professional bullshitters.


You might-maybe want to consider reading this book.

***

Now that I'm thinking about it, Althouse, you and/or a son or another might-maybe want to consider giving the book a glance.

Seerak said...

Philosophers should be people who think especially well, but to have decided upon a career in philosophy marks you as irrational. How do you deal with that raging incoherence?

By recognizing that the dominant schools of philosophy have long repudiated what you say "ought" to be true.

What *is* true is that what passes for philosophers these days are very, very good at playing stupid mindfuck games. No more. Once they have you questioning whether you know anything at all, their show is over.

The widespread contempt for philosophy today is richly deserved, in light of the "product" they are selling. About the best that can be had from philosophy education is to do what Donald Sensing did -- figure out how to turn it on its head and use it to detect BS instead of generate it.

If you want the sort of philosophy that deals with, you know, life, the universe and everything... with rare exceptions, you won't likely find it in a philosophy department.

jayne_cobb said...

Perhaps I'll give it a try. You should definitely see this (if you already haven't).

Here's the relevant part of the movie for those haven't seen it yet.

Jay said...

Why isn't Professor Althouse a practicing trial lawyer, when she could be making so much more money than she does as a law professor? It's not because she is stupider than your average transactional or trial lawyer.

A person's success in earning money (and sex and power) is not a function of how smart he or she is. That's just one variable and others may well overwhelm it. A person deciding on grad school or law school may discount the money she would make in law by the hours she would have to work, the tediousness of answering interrogatories (the rog is overbroad, burdensome, blah blah blah, but to the extent you are entitled, here is your answer) or drafting contracts, the character of those with whom she would have to work, etc.

Smarts among philosophers falls into a distribution like it does among any field. My understanding is that compared to the other humanities and social sciences, the philosophy cohort fares pretty well.

Number Six said...

Pogo asked ''Why do colleges and universities produce so many philosophy, history, and psychology majors who can never find a job in those fields?''

- Because someone paid them to do it.

- Because someone let their children borrow lots of money to pay colleges to do it.

- Because some people will pay you to read to them from books they could have read on their own, if they had some more self discipline.

- Because a lot of people will pay six figures for a sheepskin that says you're well educated.