Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Philosophy Publications and Hiring Practices ( Pedigree?)

This is a questions sent to Lieter. Professionals comment on the state of the profession.

Two questions:
 1: Does philosophy, as a profession, have a route for philosophers to dig themselves out of their professional qualification? That is, if one did not go to a top 10 school, does philosophy, as a profession, have a way for exceptional philosophers to distinguish themselves?
 2. What do we do about this lack?

A. Promote blind review journals
B. Pay more attention to the published material of candidates instead of throwing out all job apps but those who attended 'top 10' universities.

 Read their publications and see if they are exceptional.... we are discipline dedicated to innovative writing and ideas, not just grades and pedigree.
 It should be apparent that we are missing something by the fact that many some of the great philosophers who we now read are those who did not come from a philosophical background.

Wittgenstein [mechanical engineering],
Nietzsche [philology},
Kuhn [physics]

Just to name a few.

I recommend seeing the full article and comments.

See question and full article.

So, here comes my complaint about our profession. It really isn't sour grapes: I am very happy with how I personally have done as far as the jobs I've had. But I've known many (& have known of even very many more) very talented philosophers who have been put in a situation that's very tough to dig themselves out of. We as a profession aren't very good at discerning which 22-year-olds graduating from college are likely to be the best philosophers, and not that much better at discerning this when it comes to 28-or-so-year-olds coming out of graduate school. But which graduate school one gets into and what job one initially lands tragically does very much to determine how well one is likely to do, long-term. It often happens for instance, that extremely talented philosophers who deserve to do as well as those landing the great jobs instead end up at some low-prestige job with a heavy teaching load. Every now and then, one of them quite heroically overcomes the odds of having to write while teaching so much and puts out a bunch of excellent papers in really good journals (which at least often they're able to do largely b/c the journals use blind review!). But, too often, they can't get the people with the power in the profession (& who know that the candidate works at a low-prestige place) to take their work seriously. They loose out to candidates (the "chosen ones") who, despite their very cushy teaching loads, publish little in good journals but who have something that all too often proves more valuable on a CV: a high-prestige institutional affiliation. In my view, this is a very bad thing.
We have lots of extremely talented, but highly underemployed members of our profession. It's important to provide some way by which they might possibly dig their way out of that hole. One important way is to have lots of good journals with blind review, and for all of us to resolve to take publication records very seriously. This doesn't mean to hire someone based only on the quality of the journals that have published their work. But I am thinking it does mean something like this: If someone develops a good publication record, as you can tell simply by looking at their CV in a hiring situation, or as you should notice if they're publishing in your particular field, take that as strong prima facie evidence that they are doing excellent work, and then take a good look at their work. I'd also suggest, in a comparative vein, to take a strong publication record as a stronger reason to take a close look than that some other philosopher in a high-prestige job, and therefore well-connected with high-prestige friends, gets a lot of good word-of-mouth

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