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Once in a while I read a philosopher's curriculum vitae on the Internet.

Once in a while I read a philosopher's curriculum vitae on the Internet. Unfortunately, I usually don't find the philosopher's birth year, and most times not even the year of his or her first college degree. Don't you think curricula should have that information? Approximate age is so useful for readers to have "a picture" of the person they are interested in....

Interesting! I think you are probably right. Oddly, under the present circumstances, it is likely to be easier to discover the age of a philosopher after she or he has died than when they were alive and able to be on this panel!

Maybe one of the reasons why *living* philosophers are reluctant to put down their age is professional. In job searches, I believe -but I could be wrong- the person or institute doing the hiring is not allowed to ask for the age of a candidate --just as we are not allowed to inquire into marital status, sexual orientation, physical health. Nor, I think, are we allowed to NOT hire someone because of their age. At least we are not allowed to do so in a direct fashion; at our institution I think we did not hire a candidate who was probably 70 years old on the grounds that the credentials of others were better but also because we judged that the person was not as likely to provide long-term leadership. Age was not THE deciding factor, but I suspect that we did have an *unstated* interest in hiring someone closer in age to our students in order to avoid our department becoming geriatric --I think all of us in the dept were 50 something at the time. Still, maybe philosophers need to be less concerned about age being an impediment either in teaching or doing philosophy. Kant did not publish his first Critique until he was 57 years old, and if the 70 year old was like Kant he might have given us ten awesome years --Kant lived until he was 80.

There might be a related reason why philosophers are reluctant to put down their age or list other personal items: they believe that the validity and cogency of their positions should not be judged in light of their age. Perhaps some philosophers do not want you or I to have "a picture" of who they are, as they think this is irrelevant and distracting. Such philosophers might want you and I to be more interested in what they claim --write or express-- rather than our being interested in *them* as persons.

I wonder whether your judgment of what I have written --helpful? unhelpful? informative? off base?-- would be impacted if you knew my age *which is not on my CV, nor on any public website I know of. Going back to the first point, after I am dead my date of birth will probably be accessible. Most of us who are American philosophers get a short obituary in the American Philosophical Association proceedings. Because that is a rather depressing way to end this post, I end this instead with the following information: I was born on August 25, 1952 in New York City.

Interesting! I think you are probably right. Oddly, under the present circumstances, it is likely to be easier to discover the age of a philosopher after she or he has died than when they were alive and able to be on this panel! Maybe one of the reasons why *living* philosophers are reluctant to put down their age is professional. In job searches, I believe -but I could be wrong- the person or institute doing the hiring is not allowed to ask for the age of a candidate --just as we are not allowed to inquire into marital status, sexual orientation, physical health. Nor, I think, are we allowed to NOT hire someone because of their age. At least we are not allowed to do so in a direct fashion; at our institution I think we did not hire a candidate who was probably 70 years old on the grounds that the credentials of others were better but also because we judged that the person was not as likely to provide long-term leadership. Age was not THE deciding factor, but I suspect that we did have an *unstated*...

After you have achieved tenure, has the quality of your work increased or

After you have achieved tenure, has the quality of your work increased or decreased?

You have asked your question in a way that makes it extremely hard to reply to, for (at least in my case) I may not be the best qualified to indicate when my work has improved or decreased in quality. Tenure decisions are usually made on the basis of past accomplishments and future expectations in terms of the quality of one's teaching, scholarship, and service to one's college or university (and, in some cases, contributions to the wider community). In other words, if the quality of my work (and the work of all those tenured) has not increased, then (in my view) the decision to grant me tenure was a mistake. So, I certainly hope that in the case of tenured colleagues (as well as myself) there has been an increase in quality, but I want to pause to suggest that for some (and certainly not all or many) professors it is (in principle) possible that their best work was done earlier in their career, prior to tenure. At least by reputation, mathematicians seem to do their most brilliant work early on, and it may be the case that for some philosophers, their best work might be in their twenties or early thirties. For some of us, it may be that our doctoral dissertations could stand out as a high point insofar as our dissertations are probably more meticulously reviewed than any of our subsequent work. Sure, peer reviewed journals have very high, demanding standards and, in order to be published, our work is subject to vigorous challenges (plus one has to endure exacting, sometimes punishing reviews), but to get published and survive peer reviews is not always as spectacularly thorough as having success at not only writing a dissertation (through seemingly endless revisions under the guidance of three, sometimes maximally critical Ph.D.s) and then you have to defend it in public in front of your committee, a committee that is eager to locate any weaknesses in your arguments or the structure of your project. Still, putting that *possibility* aside, I have met very few (if any) professors of philosophy whose work decreased in quality after being tenured. (Joke: though IF my quality of work has decreased since tenure, I might be quite unreliable in making that judgment).

Important note: I should add that if one does find cases in which there is evidence of some decrease in the quality of work of a professor after she or he is tenured, it is another matter to determine whether that decrease was due to the person being tenured. There might be abundant, other causes, e.g. a harmful accident in the course of rescuing an administrator who appeared to be drowning that caused the professor severe disabilities in her future work, the tenured professor being assaulted by students who were upset that the professor did not give them higher grades or, after tenure, the professor is forced by her soul-destroying administration to serve on endless, pointless committees in which the tenured professor is so crushed and plagued that her teaching, scholarship, and service become a living nightmare (through absolutely no fault of her own) from which there appears to be no escape. And even when there is a case of when being tenured actually causes a professor to no longer function competently, we need to be careful about determining in what ways being tenured caused the decrease in quality of work (for example, imagine a professor is put through such stress during the tenure process that, when she is told she has received tenure, she has a heart attack).

You have asked your question in a way that makes it extremely hard to reply to, for (at least in my case) I may not be the best qualified to indicate when my work has improved or decreased in quality. Tenure decisions are usually made on the basis of past accomplishments and future expectations in terms of the quality of one's teaching, scholarship, and service to one's college or university (and, in some cases, contributions to the wider community). In other words, if the quality of my work (and the work of all those tenured) has not increased, then (in my view) the decision to grant me tenure was a mistake. So, I certainly hope that in the case of tenured colleagues (as well as myself) there has been an increase in quality, but I want to pause to suggest that for some (and certainly not all or many) professors it is (in principle) possible that their best work was done earlier in their career, prior to tenure. At least by reputation, mathematicians seem to do their most brilliant work early on, and...

As an academic philosopher what do you think are your biggest responsibilities

As an academic philosopher what do you think are your biggest responsibilities outside of teaching and research in terms of to the world and to the field in general? Why do you feel you even have those responsibilities at all?

Good questions! For myself and those in a similar position as a professor in the liberal arts each of the faculty is understood (and this is part of our job description) to have obligations in terms of teaching (or, putting this slightly differently, the obligation to be a professor in terms of engaging students in the practice of philosophy) and research, as well as the obligation to contribute to the life of the department (being available and assisting colleagues and majors), the life of the college as a whole (engaging in policy decisions, supporting students, staff, and colleagues in the general college community) AND to contribute to: the general profession of philosophy (whether this be only nationally or internationally) AND to contribute to the larger non-academic community. Contributions to the greater community might involve some kind of civil service (speaking on behalf of some group or articulating some neglected alternative at a town meeting) or promoting an international exchange (in class last fall I enabled my students here in the upper mid-west of the USA to exchange videos of philosophical reflections on the love of wisdom with Muslim students in Tehran, Iran).

I have answered your question in light of what is actually practiced in a formal, intentional way at a liberal arts college, but there will be lots of philosophers in different academic settings in which the above is not expected. Would the above expectations be proper for an adjunct instructor at a university in which she has an enormous teaching load and virtually no support from her colleagues or chair? That would seem excessive.

Taking up one other option: imagine an academic philosopher hired by a college or university to teach and do research with no formal, contractual obligations for the greater service that is expected at my college (St. Olaf College, though I believe that the practice here is similar to most liberal arts colleges). Under conditions when an academic philosopher is not over burdened with teaching and research and has no such additional contractual obligations, I suggest it would be odd if she felt no obligation at all to care about students and colleagues who are not part of her immediate professional responsibilities. Imagine a not over-burdened philosophy professor is invited to give a lecture to her university on one of her favorite philosophical topics or to serve on a tenure committee or to join with a group of faculty and students to informally discuss philosophy over Pizza and, while she is not given any financial incentive to do so, she refuses to do so on the grounds that "none of those activities are part of my job." Let's say she is right in that she was not hired to do those activities nor is she being paid to do them "above and beyond her job description." Still, to stick only within the boundaries of a narrow job description would (to me and, I believe to many) seem (at the very least) to show a lack of generosity or (sounding a bit more sentimental) to show a lack of love for the practice of philosophy itself and a lack of love for members of one's community.

Good questions! For myself and those in a similar position as a professor in the liberal arts each of the faculty is understood (and this is part of our job description) to have obligations in terms of teaching (or, putting this slightly differently, the obligation to be a professor in terms of engaging students in the practice of philosophy) and research, as well as the obligation to contribute to the life of the department (being available and assisting colleagues and majors), the life of the college as a whole (engaging in policy decisions, supporting students, staff, and colleagues in the general college community) AND to contribute to: the general profession of philosophy (whether this be only nationally or internationally) AND to contribute to the larger non-academic community. Contributions to the greater community might involve some kind of civil service (speaking on behalf of some group or articulating some neglected alternative at a town meeting) or promoting an international exchange ...

How convivial are modern day philosophers towards other philosophers who have

How convivial are modern day philosophers towards other philosophers who have differing views? Is academia totally free of ad hominem attacks and focused on debate?

Good question. At our best, there is conviviality between persons across different philosophical viewpoints. In fact, for many (but hardly all) of us we are invested positively in the welfare of those with whom we disagree. I myself oppose probably as much as 80% of what the philosopher Bernard Williams defended, but I felt genuine remorse over his death and I have spent much of my life re-reading his work, attending his seminars and lectures when he was at Oxford, and I feel strongly that he was an outstanding, brilliant, deeply admirable philosopher. Sadly, there is some vindictiveness among some philosophers, but I think this is clearly in a minority. For any philosopher you find who is patronizing and bullying, showing disdain for other philosophers (I am intentionally not giving any names here!) you can find at least twenty philosophers who are truly considerate and respectful (from John Rawls to Philippa Foot.....).

Good question. At our best, there is conviviality between persons across different philosophical viewpoints. In fact, for many (but hardly all) of us we are invested positively in the welfare of those with whom we disagree. I myself oppose probably as much as 80% of what the philosopher Bernard Williams defended, but I felt genuine remorse over his death and I have spent much of my life re-reading his work, attending his seminars and lectures when he was at Oxford, and I feel strongly that he was an outstanding, brilliant, deeply admirable philosopher. Sadly, there is some vindictiveness among some philosophers, but I think this is clearly in a minority. For any philosopher you find who is patronizing and bullying, showing disdain for other philosophers (I am intentionally not giving any names here!) you can find at least twenty philosophers who are truly considerate and respectful (from John Rawls to Philippa Foot.....).

So I’m a doctoral student trying to become a physicist. As a philosopher though,

So I’m a doctoral student trying to become a physicist. As a philosopher though, I’m just a dilettante amateur. I might however, some day, wish to professionally develop and publish a philosophical paper (the assumption being that before attempting this, I rigorously research on whatever I wish to publish). How do I (or any amateur for that matter) go about doing that, without switching departments? I imagine that I’d have to contact a professor at some department, and if given encouraging words, I’d then submit to some journal. What is this process like for amateur philosophers in general (if it exists)?

Great! Some journals do blind reviews and so your identity and thus your not being a professional philosopher in a department would not be know to those who are evaluating the work submitted. Though the initial review would be by the Editor in Chief or an assistant to her or him, and that would probably be transparent. To get started I highly recommend your reading a handful of journals in your area of choice, possibly reading the last 10 years of issues. So, if you are interested in ethics, there is the journal Ethics as well as Philosophy and Public Affairs, the Journal of Value Inquiry. If you are writing on philosophy of art, you might start reading both the British Journal of Aesthetics or the Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, and if philosophy of religion Faith and Philosophy, Religious Studies, the International Journal for Philosophy of Religion, Philosophia Christi, and Sophia. If you are seeking to do something on the philosophy of science there are a range of special journals that you can find either by doing a general search or go to the free online Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Some of the main journals publish from almost any sub-field of philosophy (Mind, Philosophical Quarterly, American Philosophical Quarterly, Philosophy (published by the Royal Institute of Philosophy in the UK, the Journal of Philosophy, the Canadian Journal of Philosophy, the Australasian Journal of Philosophy, Philosophical Review, the International Journal of Philosophy, the Review of Metaphysics, and more).

As for making a connection with a professor in a philosophy department, I think that would be great. I would get to know the philosophy doctoral students NOW as they will be your peers in terms of their careers and they will be the future professors of philosophy. So, having the advice and recommendations of a professional philosopher would be quite desirable, as is having a community of friends who have philosophical interests with whom you can share your work. If you are seeking a post at a university to teach physics, it would probably be quite easy to attend colloquia or go to guest lectures and talks, but usually (in my experience) professional philosophers are a welcoming sort, and if you are in the private sector or with NASA you would still be welcomed by the philosophers at the nearest university.

We tend to not use the term 'amateur philosopher,' though we should as amateurs are usually doing some practice for the sheer love of doing it, and not for the monthly paycheck! A term that is more often used by those who contribute to some area of scholarship who are not attached to a university or college is "independent scholar." I have met several independent scholars who are first-rate as philosophers and have a ball at philosophy conferences, as they have no investment in trying to get a job as a philosopher in an institute. You might also appreciate that some very famous philosophers did not hold university positions such as Spinoza and John Stuart Mill. Edmund Burke is another person who comes to mind who probably would not have warmed up to being called a philosopher, and yet he contributed to the philosophical field of aesthetics and political theory, the latter being picked up by professional philosophers like Michael Oakshott.

You were looking for "encouraging words" and I hope I provided a few! Good wishes to you and any other lovers of philosophy who are interested in contributing to the field as independent scholars.

Great! Some journals do blind reviews and so your identity and thus your not being a professional philosopher in a department would not be know to those who are evaluating the work submitted. Though the initial review would be by the Editor in Chief or an assistant to her or him, and that would probably be transparent. To get started I highly recommend your reading a handful of journals in your area of choice, possibly reading the last 10 years of issues. So, if you are interested in ethics, there is the journal Ethics as well as Philosophy and Public Affairs, the Journal of Value Inquiry. If you are writing on philosophy of art, you might start reading both the British Journal of Aesthetics or the Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, and if philosophy of religion Faith and Philosophy, Religious Studies, the International Journal for Philosophy of Religion, Philosophia Christi, and Sophia. If you are seeking to do something on the philosophy of science there are a range of special journals that...

I am a student thinking about career choice. My parents say that I should focus

I am a student thinking about career choice. My parents say that I should focus on getting a job that will make a lot of money but without too many hours. But other people have told me that doing something I really believe in is good and having pleasant co-workers are equally as important. My priest says I should do work that I believe glorifies God, but I don't really understand how that translates into a concrete job choice. What answers does philosophy offer for thinking about what kind of job is worthwhile to pursue?

We think philosophy can help in finding one's identity and values, as ap points out. We also think that you have identified a number of different values (money, satisfaction, good co-workers...). Some values are essential (you need enough money for food). We suggest identifying your fundamental values, and trying rank or bundle them to get the best overall combination of values available to you.

Good wishes from CT and TJH, a soon to be graduate who is wrestling with a similar question!

We think philosophy can help in finding one's identity and values, as ap points out. We also think that you have identified a number of different values (money, satisfaction, good co-workers...). Some values are essential (you need enough money for food). We suggest identifying your fundamental values, and trying rank or bundle them to get the best overall combination of values available to you. Good wishes from CT and TJH, a soon to be graduate who is wrestling with a similar question!

A recent while ago a person asked why their were so few religious persons in

A recent while ago a person asked why their were so few religious persons in Philosophy departments these days. One philosopher responded that there were many opportunities for abstract thinking in the religion department of universities. Most religion departments are centered around particular religions such as Christianity while historically philosophers have often been spiritual but not affiliated with a religion. So I guess you could still ask why are so few philosophers spiritual in orientation and what educational department could they possibly turn to?

Interesting! There are significant numbers of self-identified "religious persons" throughout the world in different philosophy departments. You may find mostly Muslim philosophers in countries where the culture is Islamic, but that is not always true, as can be seen in the UK and USA. My own school includes a Hindu professor who shares a position with the religion and philosophy and you can find a guide to the many Christian philosophers working in the English-speaking world by looking at the Society of Christian Philosophers website. As for philosophy and spirituality, there are a few secular philosophers who have sought to promote a kind of spirituality without any religious affiliation or theistic framework (this was a project of Robert Solomon, for example). For a fascinating essay by one of the greatest living philosophers on the desire for some kind of spirituality, you should check out Thomas Nagel's essay "Secular Philosophy and the Religious Temperament." I think this is on his NYU website, but it is also available in a book by that title published with Oxford University Press.

Interesting! There are significant numbers of self-identified "religious persons" throughout the world in different philosophy departments. You may find mostly Muslim philosophers in countries where the culture is Islamic, but that is not always true, as can be seen in the UK and USA. My own school includes a Hindu professor who shares a position with the religion and philosophy and you can find a guide to the many Christian philosophers working in the English-speaking world by looking at the Society of Christian Philosophers website. As for philosophy and spirituality, there are a few secular philosophers who have sought to promote a kind of spirituality without any religious affiliation or theistic framework (this was a project of Robert Solomon, for example). For a fascinating essay by one of the greatest living philosophers on the desire for some kind of spirituality, you should check out Thomas Nagel's essay "Secular Philosophy and the Religious Temperament." I think this is on his NYU ...

Would there be better philosophers if it was more lucrative? Do market forces

Would there be better philosophers if it was more lucrative? Do market forces determine the quality of philosophers?

What a wonderful question! It would be great to launch a social experiment in which this question was addressed, e.g. in certain parts of the world large sums could be made available for students to go on to do philosophy life-long and compare regions where there is less money in the offing. I suspect that if there was more money in philosophy, more people would practice the discipline and some people with native good philosophical skills who have chosen other fields due to monetary reasons might stick to philosophy. I believe Bertrand Russell observed that in his day many of the brightest, most promising philosophical students chose non-philosophy fields due to money and politics. More recently, John Searle remarked that the key to a movement in philosophy was youth and funding. That said, many of us in the field of philosophy are not in it for the money. I haven't met a philosopher (yet) who claimed they were in it for the money, but I don't think I have met many philosophers who would complain if they were paid more On a related point, I am not sure that lots of money can help some philosophies. Imagine there is good reason to think utilitarianism is not sound in moral theory. Offering lots of money in the way of grants might get lots of philosophers to try to work out a good defense of utilitarianism, but (given that belief is involuntary) the money alone will not suffice to get philosophers to believe in the adequacy of utilitarianism.

What a wonderful question! It would be great to launch a social experiment in which this question was addressed, e.g. in certain parts of the world large sums could be made available for students to go on to do philosophy life-long and compare regions where there is less money in the offing. I suspect that if there was more money in philosophy, more people would practice the discipline and some people with native good philosophical skills who have chosen other fields due to monetary reasons might stick to philosophy. I believe Bertrand Russell observed that in his day many of the brightest, most promising philosophical students chose non-philosophy fields due to money and politics. More recently, John Searle remarked that the key to a movement in philosophy was youth and funding. That said, many of us in the field of philosophy are not in it for the money. I haven't met a philosopher (yet) who claimed they were in it for the money, but I don't think I have met many philosophers who would complain if...

My question is about the ethics of working in applied vs. pure research.

My question is about the ethics of working in applied vs. pure research. I'm a student in a technical field. I am now trying to choose between a few subfields, some of which contribute more to practical technology than others. Say I'm a physics student with a choice between black-hole research, or designing a better solar cell. What, if any, are my ethical responsibilities in making this decision? Is it ethically wrong to devote my time to what amounts to a very expensive hobby, and at taxpayer or university expense? Is it better to use my education and skills to work for solutions to urgent problems? In short, what is the ethical difference between a career in pure and applied scientific research? Thank you for any response.

Great question! You are in a great position if you have the skills to do either pure or applied science. I am not sure about classifying black-hole research as "a very expensive hobby," but I think the answer to your question(s) depend on the urgency of the problems facing your community, family or nation. If you are in a political community that is facing urgent needs involving energy use, and there are few if any people as skilled as you in designing a badly needed solar cell, then I think you would have a prima facie obligation to pursue the relevant applied science. But assuming there are other well qualified scientists that can or are addressing urgent problems in technology, medicine, security and the like, then it seems that there is no such obligation. Besides some of what you might think of as "pure scientific research" may lead to some fruitful, important results in applied science.

Great question! You are in a great position if you have the skills to do either pure or applied science. I am not sure about classifying black-hole research as "a very expensive hobby," but I think the answer to your question(s) depend on the urgency of the problems facing your community, family or nation. If you are in a political community that is facing urgent needs involving energy use, and there are few if any people as skilled as you in designing a badly needed solar cell, then I think you would have a prima facie obligation to pursue the relevant applied science. But assuming there are other well qualified scientists that can or are addressing urgent problems in technology, medicine, security and the like, then it seems that there is no such obligation. Besides some of what you might think of as "pure scientific research" may lead to some fruitful, important results in applied science.

How should one best go about selecting a career that suites their personality,

How should one best go about selecting a career that suites their personality, values, current realities? Is it best to go with intuitive "gut" urges or try to do as much research as possible on certain careers? If the latter, how much research would be enough before simply diving into a career. I guess my question is this: a making a career choice matter of faith, methodical research and thinking, both, or something else? -T.R.S

Unfortunately or fortunately, there is no pat answer to your question from a philosophical point of view. There are, however, a few general points that might be of use:

Socrates admonished the people of Athens for spending their lives in the ambitious pursuit of wealth and power rather than seeking to cultivate the soul. There is a rich 'care of the soul' tradition from Socrates on up through the medievals in which we are called to use time wisely and reflectively. For an overview of this tradition, check out Richard Sorabji's Emotion and Peace of Mind: From Stoic Agitation to Christian Temptation (Oxford). Socrates is well known for highlighting the importance of reflection ("The unexamined life is not worth living") and so he would probably respond to your question by asking you to engage in careful examination of all options and the reasons behind each.

Values: Philosophers like Pascal and William James thought that our beliefs and practices should be shaped by the values that are in play. They would recommend that you consider matters of a career choice in light of values. For example, if you were deciding between law and medicine and you are living in a country where there are an abundance of doctors but almost no lawyers and there is a perceived need for your country to have more lawyers, that may count as an important factor for you to choose a career in law.

Integrity: Philophers like Kant would recommend you not to take up any career that is incompatible with treating other people with respect.

Beauty: Philosophers in the Platonic tradition, from Plato himself and Diotima on through the Renaissance and the Cambridge Platonists would probably recommend that you choose a career that would be both itself beautiful and contribute to the love of the beautiful (as well as the good and the true).

Reverence: Philosophical theologians also in the Platonic tradition but also reformed theologians like Luther and Calvin, along with Hindu philosophers, would recommend choosing a career that you can recognize as in some way sacred (worthy of reverence).

Luck: Philosophers like Boethius in the fifth century would also remind you that so much of worldly careers involve luck or fortune and this can make you quite vulnerable in life. Boethius would therefore probably recommend that you pursue an honorable career, but also keep in mind that there might be higher values (he wrote an important work on eternity) that call for attention and will be important in times of misfortune or that time when all our careers on earth will come to an end.

Unfortunately or fortunately, there is no pat answer to your question from a philosophical point of view. There are, however, a few general points that might be of use: Socrates admonished the people of Athens for spending their lives in the ambitious pursuit of wealth and power rather than seeking to cultivate the soul. There is a rich 'care of the soul' tradition from Socrates on up through the medievals in which we are called to use time wisely and reflectively. For an overview of this tradition, check out Richard Sorabji's Emotion and Peace of Mind: From Stoic Agitation to Christian Temptation (Oxford). Socrates is well known for highlighting the importance of reflection ("The unexamined life is not worth living") and so he would probably respond to your question by asking you to engage in careful examination of all options and the reasons behind each. Values: Philosophers like Pascal and William James thought that our beliefs and practices should be shaped by the values that are in play. ...

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