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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.

This is more of a sociological question *about* philosophers than it is a

This is more of a sociological question *about* philosophers than it is a strictly philosophical question, but what is the general view, if there is one, among philosophers concerning political pundits, political television and radio shows, and what may more broadly be called media-politics? I am interested in knowing how big the gulf is between such "everyday" politics and the politics of academics. I, for one, notice an enormous gulf such that most of what I hear on television and radio shows has little to do with political theory--and rarely if ever even makes reference to it--and is much more focused on empty rhetoric and party-love and hate. Am I in good company?

I don't think there is a general philosophical point of view on "media politics" though historically and today philosophers have tended to oppose the kind of one-way rants that one hears in which no objections are considered or, if they are entertained, they are shouted down (this is based on my occasional listening to right wing radio in the USA, e.g. Jason Lewis, Rush...). Even Plato who, in the Republic, defended a modest form of censorship and has some very negative views on democracy, celebrates in all his dialogues (including the Republic) a dialogue in which objections are patiently entertained and positions re-thought. Ideally, one may describe democracy as a form of government in which change is brought about non-violently through argument. In this sense, all of Plato's dialogues support a democratic culture. Popular media in the USA does seem to me to involve some political theory (there appear to be full discussions of individual rights, accountability, the environment, entitlements, war and peace ethics, the ethics of law enforcement), though it does lack the in depth discourse and patience that one finds in the practice of philosophy historically and today.

What has happened to the practice of philosophy as opposed to the profession

What has happened to the practice of philosophy as opposed to the profession (teaching) of philosophy? Given the political, ethical, moral, and economic dilemmas facing the U.S. and the world, one would think philosophers would be as common in government as bureaucrats.

Thank you for this question! A minor point at the outset: I think a great deal of the best teaching of philosophy involves the practice of philosophy. There are perhaps some philosophy teachers who simply teach what Plato etc thought, and expect students to master certain texts with critical skills. But I think most do not stop there, but seek to engage students in thinking through the great themes of philosophy about values, moral obligations, virtues, political theory, the nature of the world, the limits of knowledge, the nature and value of human and nonhuman animal life, the possible existence of God, and so on. But getting to your broader question, more professional philosophers are applying themselves to issues such as global justice, practical ethical and political positions, medical ethics, economic fairness, and the like. Granted, these are sometimes in textbooks designed for university / college courses, but sometimes it is through education that political change arises. After all, it was from Wilson's study of Kant at Princeton that he first envisaged a league of nations which eventually laid the groundwork for the United Nations.

A slightly different point might be noted: a great many politicians today and historically may be thought of (in the broadest sense) as philosophers or at least as representative of certain philosophies. In the USA this is probably most clear in the founders when debating the Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and Bill of Rights. One might even conclude that the young American Republic was a virtual philosophy graduate school during the debate over federalism! Today, the tone of debate among politicians seems perhaps too entrenched and unreflective to be thought of as philosophical, but there are certainly hints of philosophical convictions (or convictions that are based on philosophies) in the speeches of all the main players on the American political stage today. In the spirit of your question, I would hope that there might be more philosophy today, more of a desire to be self-critical and more listening before responding to questions. In short, I wish we could replecate that grad school atmosphere of the late 18th century in the American Republic.

Philosophy is well known for its inquisitive, critical nature. Naturally, we as

Philosophy is well known for its inquisitive, critical nature. Naturally, we as philosophers strive to see clearly the basis of common beliefs, while rejecting prejudices and stereotypes that are without justifiable foundation. Now this all sounds fine, if we were diving into some debates or books. But, the common way of life outside is wrought with statements and beliefs that are at best grounded in some transient trends or local culture. Take, for example, when we engage in social interactions (perhaps in a college student's perspective). People are seen swayed by their emotions, possessed by gossips, some wearing extreme makeups and perfume, some drenched in alcohol, making horrid comments on someone the moment without his presence, blurting their prejudices and misconceptions, and so on. Of course, these are very narrow generalizations, yet I am convinced one cannot easily deny that these make up a big part of people's social lives today. As I study through various philosophers and their thoughts, I...

"If philosophy is really about exercising one's reason and becoming inquisitive and critical, can philosophers ever be in harmony with an active social lifestyle without making everyone their enemy?" Well, exercising one's reason and being inquisitive and critical is hardly the unique province of philosophers: just for a start, most fellow academics in other disciplines are critically exercising their reason too. But set that aside. Why on earth should being prone to exercise reason and be critical spoil your social life? Lots of college professors, for example, are convivial souls with perfectly normal lives outside the classroom!

There is a time and place for everything, and overdoing the critical reasoning on a heavy night out with your mates or when trying to get off with some attractive girl/boy (according to your inclinations), is no doubt quite inappropriate. But in some other parts of your social life -- the political discussions, trying to makes sense of the films and books that matter to you, and more general talk about the culture around you -- a bit of calm critical rationality in suitable measure can go down well, can't it? Done in the right spirit, it won't get in the way of relating well to other people.

And I'm baffled about why you think that taking philosophy seriously should incline you against 'superficial' social relations, let alone gossip and extreme make-up. Plenty of the greatest philosophers have delighted in gossip and the trivia of social life as a happy counterbalance to their more abstract pre-occupations (and some of my best students have had -- at the time -- spectacular taste in hair-style and make-up ...).

When you find yourself fixated on an idea in philosophy--a better definition of

When you find yourself fixated on an idea in philosophy--a better definition of justice, an error in Hume's logic, or the result of some paradigm shift between one philosophical era and another--do you become a moron? It would be pretentious to call myself a philosopher, but I spend quite a bit of time reading and trying to figure out whether or not my favorite philosophers made as much sense as they seem to at first glance; the more headway I make, the more often I stare blankly at the microwave trying to figure out what buttons to push to heat up my coffee. Do real philosophers go through this? Or do you function better in the world when you have been wrestling with brain puzzles?

Thanks for your good question! In answer to, "Do real philosophers go through this?", the answer is yes, definitely. Any intellectually challenging problem tends to make a person less able to get along practically. This has been observed as far back as in Ancient Greece with Aristophanes making fun of the philosophers in _The Clouds_. This is true of philosophy but I suspect it is equally true of other demanding fields like mathematics.

Just as cell phone users tend to be unsafe drivers, philosophers who are deeply engaged with a problem do well to refrain from things like operating heavy machinery, perform surgery, operate microwaves, make marriage proposals, and so on. Most of use who have been through graduate school in philosophy have stories to tell about our professors who violated this rule. One of mine left his car engine running for four hours while he was in his office. Luckily for him the thing just ran out of gas rather than overheating. Anyway, I suggest you make your meals (do your driving, surgery, marriage proposals, and so on) *before* you sit down to do serious philosophy!

Mitch Green

Why does it seem that everything that I read in philosophy always uses "she" or

Why does it seem that everything that I read in philosophy always uses "she" or "her" instead of "his" or "he"?

Hurray for singular "they". Apparently good writers have long used it--

This is not a new problem, or a new solution. 'A person can't helptheir birth', wrote Thackeray in Vanity Fair (1848), and evenShakespeare produced the line 'Every one to rest themselves betake' (inLucrece), which pedants would reject as logically ungrammatical.

Quote (and more on the subject) is here.

After researching on what it's like to be a budding PHD hopeful, I'm a little

After researching on what it's like to be a budding PHD hopeful, I'm a little scared at the thought of going for a PHD. Being in debt, along with the high drop rate, is a little intimidating. Combine that with the fact that I might be a nomad if I graduate. What I want is to be able to read cutting edge journals with some ease, and contribute to the discipline by writing in them too. I am aware that I'm able to do this without the paper, but how exactly would I know I'm not a crank? This is why I want the education. Would going for a master's give me the skills to read and write for journals? Is it much harder to read journals or write in journals with just a master's degree? Is that an area that is totally reserved for someone with a PHD (skill wise anyways)? As I've stated before, the road towards a PHD is very intimidating, and it seems there is a lot less to lose if i go for the MA.

You sound like you have a clear picture of the costs and benefits of getting a PhD in philosophy. You should continue to talk about it with your mentors in the field. You also sound like you might benefit from getting an MA (full disclosure: I teach at Georgia State in Atlanta, a terminal MA program). It would give you more background in philosophy and give you a better sense about whether you are interested in going on to get the PhD and whether you have the right skills, background, and demeanor to devote your life to professional philosophy. And if you do have those interests and abilities, an MA will enhance them and situate you to get into a better PhD program (the market is rough, so if you want a job where you have the time and encouragement to do research, you will be much better off going to a highly regarded PhD program). It will be difficult to be an active part of the field (publishing and presenting your work) without a PhD and an institutional affiliation. It can be done but you also risk being perceived as a "crank" even if you aren't one, and more importantly, you probably won't be able to devote the time and effort to the issues to be on top of the literature.

If you do decide to pursue an MA or PhD, I encourage you to do a lot of research about relevant programs, looking at their websites, their faculty member's research expertise, their placement record, and the perception of their quality (which is quantified on the Philosophical Gourmet Report, to be used as one source of information among many).

How can an amazing philosopher fall for something stupid like this?

How can an amazing philosopher fall for something stupid like this?

Well, your question suggestions a modus tollens argument:

If one is an amazing philosopher, then one could not fall for something so stupid. Since Levy did fall for it, he must not be an amazing philosopher.

That seems to be the conclusion drawn here. However, I know nothing about this philosopher (except that he's trying to take down Kant!), so I don't know if there is some explanation for this bizarre behavior that might salvage the 'amazing' label.

Consider the following scenario: I am very good at doing analytic philosophy

Consider the following scenario: I am very good at doing analytic philosophy (though I am not a genius by any means), specially analytic metaphysics, but not limited to that field. I am well acquainted with the literature on the subject, I have an excellent grasp of the arguments and am pretty good at suggesting objections or proposing new arguments (or variations of old ones). Also, I have a pretty good command of the relevant technical material, that is, classical logic, modal logic, mereology and set theory, etc. Suppose I am capable of original and rigorous work. Suppose I profoundly dislike being taught in a university but have a fine time debating with (competent) professors, visiting lecturers and students (outside of the lectures), who, if asked, will acknowledge my philosophical ability. However, since I am not fond of the academy (as a student), I do not have any degrees. Suppose I am still young so I haven't published anything but I have plenty of ideas which, with a little work, might make...

I think that Allen gives some good practical advice and that Eric discusses well some important bureaucratic/administrative challenges that you would face even if the strategy that Allen lays out went swimmingly. My answer, however, builds on a point that Oliver made.

First, I agree with Oliver that earning degrees in philosophy might be useful for reasons that your question does not address. Reflecting on--and growing from--one's experience as a student at various levels is extremely important for a successful academic career, and so your lack of that experience constitutes another significant challenge. This long process of education also serves to test your skills and passions (Are you really as good as philosophy as you think? Is your passion deep-seated and strong enough?) and to hone them -- I would think even a philosophical genius would grow significantly by working through high-quality degree programs.

Second, I have a practical suggestion. You describe yourself as young but located in a country where the philosophy degree programs do not fit your passion for analytic philosophy. Would it be possible for you to locate and enroll in high-quality analytic programs in another country? If so, this might be a way to pursue your dreams without having to fight all the challenges that my colleagues have discussed. Also, reflecting on to what extent you flourish or fail to flourish in these new academic communities would help you to know whether or not your description of yourself as "not fond of the academy" is a parochial one based on your experiences with local institutions.

Dear established philosophers,

Dear established philosophers, I would like to be an established, professional philosopher some day, by which I mean I want to teach philosophy in a university. I have studied history at degree level but realised in my last year that philosophy is for me. I have been accepted to study for an MA in History of Philosophy at King College London. I have heard that the road to being an academic philosopher can be a difficult one. This question may be unanswerable to any of you for any number of reasons, but what should my next step be? What should I being doing in the run up to, and during, my MA to improve my chances? Is a PhD the best, or only, thing to do after an MA? Any advice would be greatly appreciated!

It sounds as if you have relatively little background in philosophy. So I would suggest that, after doing an MA in the History of Philosophy, it would be wise to do another one in contemporary philosophy before doing a PhD, both for intellectual and for career purposes. Intellectually, because a lot of the best work in history of philosophy involves a kind of conversation between the Great Dead Philosophers and contemporary philosophy -- you need to appreciate both sides of the conversation. For career purposes, as many departments are not minded to appoint those they see as narrow specialists in the history of philosophy.