How convivial are modern day philosophers towards other philosophers who have
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.....).
Should philosophers be able to speak as well as they write? For most people,
In some fields, people make a distinction between "theory" and "philosophy" (e.g
The more theoretical and the more general a subject is, the closer it is to being considered "philosophy." I don't think that there is a definite point where theory leaves off and philosophy starts. So political theory and political philosophy blur together, as do theoretical biology and philosophy of biology, and theoretical physics and philosophy of physics. I think that we worry more about the distinction than we should for intellectual reasons, because we worry about departments and disciplinary categories.
Regarding Ph.d. applications, how important is the writing sample? I am in a top
Given that I do not teach doctoral students I can reply with complete confidence that I have no clue what "magic hat-trick" makes admission committees tick! You've done your best to present your case; innumerable factors are at play, many of which have little to do with you. So what to do? Perservere. That is it in a nutshell. The reality is that it is harder to complete a Ph.D. than to get into a doctoral program, so if you let a rejection discourage you, you may not manage to make it through...so keep trying! By now, I hope you have many acceptance letters coming your way! Bon Chance! -bjm
Alright, I have a small problem. I am applying to graduate schools for my ph.d.
I think I replied to an earlier question of yours on the topic of graduate school (14 September 2013). I strongly recommend against sending an unsolicited book to any graduate admissions committee, particularly if they've said they don't accept supplemental materials. At best you'll waste postage. At worst you'll annoy them by ignoring their rules and saddling them with extra materials to store and dispose of. No one on any admissions committee is likely to have time to read your book before admissions decisions are made; if they read any of your writing carefully, it's going to be your writing sample. By all means make prominent references to your book in your cover letter and curriculum vitae. If your publisher doesn't object, you might include in your cover letter a URL where members of the admissions committee can read an online draft of your book. If the publisher is already advertising your book, include a URL for the advertisement. I strongly doubt that seeing the physical book itself will make the favorable psychological impact you hope for; for one thing, the book isn't yet professionally typeset and bound. Indeed, as I said, it may well backfire. In any case, I'm interested in your book if you want to email me about it. Best of luck with your applications.
Alright, so I'm a Master's student in a top-15 graduate program, and I am
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.
Why is it important to have more women students and professors in philosophy? So
It is a matter of fairness. If women are put off philosophy, and do not on the whole flourish in the profession, then it is unfair if they are able and interested and unsuccessful. The same goes for education as a whole. There is no reason why we should expect the various disciplines to be equally shared despite gender, class, ethnicity and so on, since in the past this has not been the case. Yet if some people are unable to reach their potential solely because of cultural influences stemming from the past, then this is clearly morally questionable.
Do you think that more philosophy departments in the future will either continue
When it comes to what will happen, I'll have to plead lack of a crystal ball. I can't even say what might happen. I'm not sure what sort of administrative politics you have in mind, but at least at my institution, I haven't noticed that administrators have any special animus against philosophy. I suppose at some institutions, someone might argue (whether soundly or not is another matter) that studying philosophy leads to poor employment prospects, or that in general, philosophy is in some way or another "impractical"; more on that in a moment. As for philosophers being unpersuasive in their arguments, I gravely doubt that most administrators either have an opinion or are qualified to. (That's not a criticism of administrators. It's just the usual situation for people outside a discipline; they tend not to be familiar with its workings.)
Would it be a good thing to force philosophers to justify the existence of their field? Only if it would be an equally good thing for people in other disciplines to do the same, and only if the acceptable sorts of "justifications" didn't simply reduce to some notion of "practicality" or to financial bottom lines. To think that those sorts of justifications are the only good ones is to succumb to a horrid confusion that shows the need for philosophers rather than condemns their discipline.
What I sense (perhaps mistakenly) behind your question is that idea that philosophers never solve the problems they set themselves, and so their discipline is hopeless. That, however, strikes me as a philosophical confusion.
Let me offer an analogy. I think it would be a deep shame if literature departments disappeared. This is too short a post for a disquisition on the value of studying literature, but that value isn't a matter of practicality nor is it a matter of coming to definitive conclusions. There will never be a "definitive" interpretation of Hamlet or Middlemarch or any other work of literature. There will always be disagreements, and there will always be multiple perspectives that we can take on these works. Being aware of this makes our understanding richer, not poorer. And something similar goes for philosophy.
I'm not big on definitions of philosophy, but I have a soft spot for Wilfrid Sellars' idea that the aim of philosophy "is to understand how things in the broadest possible sense of the term hang together in the broadest possible sense of the term." Philosophy tries to make as much sense of the world as we can manage to make. There's more than one way to do that, there are different ways to think about what matters most, and as we learn more about the world form other sources, we'll need to keep revisiting the questions philosophy asks afresh. Woe betide the world if we end up with a University -- or a citizenry -- that doesn't think this is worth trying to do.
So I’m a doctoral student trying to become a physicist. As a philosopher though,
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.