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Alright, so I'm a Master's student in a top-15 graduate program, and I am

Alright, so I'm a Master's student in a top-15 graduate program, and I am sending in my Ph.d. applications this fall. I definitely want to get into a good program, and I plan to devote at least 2 months to polishing my writing sample. I got recommendation letters from professors that gave me 'As' in their courses. I have two B+s, but other than that, seven As and one A-. Also, I have written a book on philosophy and skepticism that is being published. Unusual perhaps given my age and (lack of) education, but I was determined to contribute something to a debate that was important to me. Plus I'm hoping that that little extra credential will help my application stand out. All in all I'd say the strongest part of my application is going to be my writing sample. It is going to be outstanding. Only weakness, GREs, 6.0 on the Analytical Writing section, 780 on Verbal, but only 630 on Math. Talked to one admissions committee person, he said they don't look so much at transcripts, but that letters of...

Prof. Smith gave a detailed and honest answer to which I don't really have anything to add. But two things about your question struck me. First, your GRE scores seem to combine two different scales: the current scale on which Analytical Writing is scored out of 6 and the old scale on which Verbal and Math (Quantitative) were scored out of 800. Nowadays, Verbal and Quantitative are scored out of 170. Did you take the GRE on different occasions separated by some years? In any case, an Analytical Writing score of 6 is 99th percentile, as is a Verbal score of 780. Those scores should impress anyone who sees them. Second, I'm struck by your having published a book on philosophy and skepticism before even entering a doctoral program. I'd be surprised if any of your competitors have done that. If the book is good and the publisher is reputable, you'll certainly stand out from the crowd. My only concern in that case would be whether you think you still have much to learn about (say) skepticism from a doctoral program after having already published a book on it. If you have time to email me the title and publisher of your book (my email address is on my homepage, linked to at right), I'd be interested in knowing more about it. In any case, best wishes.

OK, so first a disclaimer: I teach at a place where we send off two or three students each year to highly ranked Ph.D. programs who will only have BA degrees when they begin. I understand that it has become much more common for students to get MAs first these days, but so far, our students seem to be doing fine without that intermediate step. So this is the basis for what I am going to say. I have served on graduate admissions committees at two places I worked before, but neither was ranked even near the top 15. So feel free to ignore what I will say, since I am not actually based at one of the places you are wanting to go. But I did want to say that everything that I have heard strongly indicates that what you were told about the paramount importance of writing sample and recommendations holds true. The most influence generally resulting from GRE s and such is that they might be brought in to decide between two candidates who otherwise look more or less equal on the basis of writing sample...

How does one go about becoming a philosopher?

How does one go about becoming a philosopher?

One becomes a philosopher in some sense simply by engaging in philosophical reflection. If you are visiting this website, you would already seem to be on your way to becoming a philosopher, if you are not already one. I will take your question more narrowly, therefore, to be about joining the ranks of professional philosophers. By "professional philosopher," I mean one who iss either engaged in teaching philosophy at some level (only rarely below the college or university level, I'm afraid), or advancing the field in published philosophical research, or both of these. For this level of engagement in the profession, what is needed is education and luck. The education necessary will nearly always include completion of some graduate degree in the subject of Philosophy (MA for teaching at the junior collegel level or below; Ph.D. for teaching at more advanced levels). The luck required is finding a job where someone will pay you to teach philosophy (and many highly qualified people who...

Is there any way to get published if you're not a professor in a university? For

Is there any way to get published if you're not a professor in a university? For example, let's say I just pick up a philosophy magazine out of interest and want to respond to the article. Will I even be read or do I have to have a degree? Since people seem to agree that on the basic philosophy questions everybody asks them and has their own answers, it's theoretically possible that some non-professional has got a good answer right? And perhaps s/he wants to publish it. How might someone like this proceed? Separately, is it possible to know where philosophy presently is without being educated formally? I feel like the books in bookstores are mostly classics from at least 50 or so years ago. But can you get aboard of what's going on now without entering a university? For example, how would I proceed if I want to know the present state of deliberation on the...philosophy of mind, say? Thanks!!

Nearly all of the philosophy journals practice "blind review" of submitted articles. What this means is that those making the decision to publish or not to publish the contributed piece have no idea who the author is, or what his professional status (or lack of it) might be. So yes, it is certainly possible for someone who is not a professional academic to publish philosophical work where professionals will read it.

Even so, I think it will be difficult for someone without specialized training to get published in this way--the rejection rate at most philosophy journals is very high even for those with graduate training and years of experience, so getting one's work published can be quite challenging, and usually requires that the piece to be published demonstrates mastery of the field and the most recent work in thsi field.

As for how someone might keep up with what is going on now, many publishers (I would recommend Oxford University Press, Cambridge University Press, and Blackwells, who all publish such works) have excellent collections of work, selected by an editor who is presumably an expert in the field, who chooses articles to include on the basis of their special impact and current relevance to study in that field. Purchasing (or borrowing from a good library) books of this sort and reading the articles included in them is an excellent way to "catch up" with what is really important in the field right now. Obviously, reading what appears in the most competitive journals (such as The Philosophical Review or the Journal of Philosophy) would also be very valuable. One who has read and understood well the works in such recent collections, and has also read and understood well the recent work in several of the main journals in the field, who thinks that he or she has a contribution to make to the literature could then reasonably submit a paper to one of the journals in the field and know that the referee(s) will not be prejudiced by the author's lack of professional status, because of blind review.

Nearly all of the philosophy journals practice "blind review" of submitted articles. What this means is that those making the decision to publish or not to publish the contributed piece have no idea who the author is, or what his professional status (or lack of it) might be. So yes, it is certainly possible for someone who is not a professional academic to publish philosophical work where professionals will read it. Even so, I think it will be difficult for someone without specialized training to get published in this way--the rejection rate at most philosophy journals is very high even for those with graduate training and years of experience, so getting one's work published can be quite challenging, and usually requires that the piece to be published demonstrates mastery of the field and the most recent work in thsi field. As for how someone might keep up with what is going on now, many publishers (I would recommend Oxford University Press, Cambridge University Press, and Blackwells, who...

Do you think philosophical counseling is a legitimate form of philosophizing?

Do you think philosophical counseling is a legitimate form of philosophizing? Are there indeed situations, cases or problems better addressed or answered by philosophers (rather than psychologists)?

I am not sure what an "illegitimate" form of philosophizing would be--though different forms can be of varying quality. I also see quite a bit of activity at this website that looks to me like philosophical counseling, and I do think that philosophers are better equipped than others to handle most (if not all) of the questions that get posted here. Plainly, there are issues that would be better suited for psychologists (or psychiatrists, or other physicians). But looking around this site should provide pretty good evidence that we are able to answer--or at least respond intelligently and with certain special skills--to some kinds of questions (namely, philosophical ones)!

I am not sure what an "illegitimate" form of philosophizing would be--though different forms can be of varying quality. I also see quite a bit of activity at this website that looks to me like philosophical counseling, and I do think that philosophers are better equipped than others to handle most (if not all) of the questions that get posted here. Plainly, there are issues that would be better suited for psychologists (or psychiatrists, or other physicians). But looking around this site should provide pretty good evidence that we are able to answer--or at least respond intelligently and with certain special skills--to some kinds of questions (namely, philosophical ones)!