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Do you feel that philosophy suffers from a lack of respect from the public and

Do you feel that philosophy suffers from a lack of respect from the public and do you think any of that is deserved?

It's tough to get a handle on whether philosophy is respected by the public. First and foremost, my guess is that most people living today don't respect or disrespect philosophy. They simply have no attitude toward it whatsoever. In large measure, that's because most people are exposed to philosophy through university education, and only a small minority of people receive such educations.

It's also important to distinguish philosophy the practice from philosophy the academic discipline. One could respect the former and not the latter, and vice versa.

Finally, attitudes toward philosophy seem to vary from community to community (it seems more respected, in my observation, in Europe than in the U.S.).

So I'm reluctant to make any sweeping statements in response to your question. But here are some relevant (and contestable!) observations:

1. The world is thirsty for philosophy. I think that those who are exposed to philosophy see that it engages questions that impact themselves and their communities in a deep way. It's not a discipline that asks esoteric questions.
2. That said, philosophy as an academic discipline is very off putting to many. To some extent, this is because academic study of anything is off putting to many: It requires people to do things they are often disinclined to do, like reading carefully, grasping opposing positions, etc. But philosophy also requires a rare form of patience. Philosophers are suspicious of snap judgments, but many who encounter philosophy assume that philosophy is like religion, a dispenser of truths. Philosophy nurtures hard questions, not easy answers.
3. Because of point 2 above, philosophy is often 'dissed', even by people who should know better. (There have been several instances recently of prominent scientists declaring philosophy dead or irrelevant based on, well, shoddy philosophical thinking!)

Long story short-ish: I can't say whether philosophy is respected or not, but it would certainly behoove the discipline to be better known and better respected. And there's blame to go around. Many people don't understand the aims of philosophy, but the philosophy community has often not been particularly good at helping people see those aims and, as a result, has not earned the wider respect of the public.

Fortunately, things are changing on that front. Increasingly, academic philosophers are encouraged, even expected to engage with those outside their academic circles. 'Public impact' is now taken more seriously than it was in the past. As a result, 'public philosophy' has spread rapidly. Here's a list of recent op-ed winners to illustrate my point: http://www.apaonline.org/news/248593/Public-philosophy-op-ed-contest-win...

To escape all the dishonesty and inauthentic living in the world today, are you

To escape all the dishonesty and inauthentic living in the world today, are you aware of any so called philosophers' retreats where anyone online interested in the subject get together for several days or weeks at the countryside or maybe a lodge in the woods?

Not as such, though perhaps not quite for the reason you might think.

The discipline of philosophy isn't a cure for "inauthentic living." In my experience, at least, philosophers are no more and no less prone to being "inauthentic" than anyone else. Philosopher often have pretty good BS detectors, but being good at spotting BS and living "authentically" are probably only loosely correlated.

Philosophers who set their minds to it could no doubt offer up some subtle and interesting reflections on what counts as leading an authentic life. But being articulate about it and being good at doing it are very different skills. Compare: it's one thing to be a good art critic. It's another thing to be a good artist.

That said, some people who follow a particular "philosophy" may see the attempt to live authentically as closely tied to following that philosophy. This might be true, for example, of committed, thoughtful Buddhists (among others.) Such people may, on average, be more authentic than the average professional philosopher (who isn't, by the way, especially inauthentic, near as I can tell), but for all that, they aren't better philosophers, in my experience. It's entirely possible to lead an open, honest life while having no talent for philosophy. And it's entirely possible to be a talented philosopher while leading a mess of a life.

What are philosophy thesis defenses like? Does the quality of the questioning

What are philosophy thesis defenses like? Does the quality of the questioning surpass that of the best courtroom cross examinations?

It varies by country: in some traditions, doctoral exams are big public events; in others, small private affairs.

At my University, doctoral exams have a chair -- someone from outside the subject who observes, trying to ensure that the process is fair and the regulations followed. Because of this, I have experience of a huge number of doctoral exams, many outside philosophy (let's see, a few from botany, entomology, economics, forensic science, psychiatric nursing, biomechanical sports science, etc.). They are surprisingly similar in the pattern of questioning.

Whether they are superior to courtroom cross-examination, however, is moot. This is because the purposes of the two practices are different: a court wants to establish the truth of X (or at least the appearance of the truth of X); a doctoral exam is frankly not interested in the truth of the content of the thesis, but rather in the validity and professionalism of the research and thinking that went into it.

Other than subscribing to philosophy journals, what kind of funding do

Other than subscribing to philosophy journals, what kind of funding do philosophy departments need for their research and teaching? I would think that philosophy requires the least amount of funding in all of academia!

My daughter told me a relevant joke: A university's Dean of Research became frustrated during budget negotiations with the science faculty. "Why do you physicists always need such expensive labs? Why can't you be more like the mathematicians? All they need is paper and a waste basket."

After a moment he added: "Or like the philosophers? All they need is the paper."

Yes, philosophy is cheap in terms of material resources. It is worth adding that the journals and books tend to be cheaper also, compared to other subjects.

However, teaching philosophy is often an intensive, small-group experience -- so that costs. More importantly, like any other subject, the researching philosopher needs TIME. And time is comparatively expensive, with respect to material resources.

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.

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).

I need some constructive advice about my dissertation topic. I am literally just

I need some constructive advice about my dissertation topic. I am literally just starting out my research. Though I won't be starting for another year or so, it's an extensive topic and I could use some advice to make sure the basic idea and outline is sound. Thing is, the few professors in my department who work in this area don't want to be bothered, so I'm stuck. I'd like to email about, but I'm not sure if that's allowed on this site?

Thing is, the few professors in my department who work in this area don't want to be bothered, so I'm stuck.

I find it hard to believe that professors in your department who work in your area of research "don't want to be bothered" with questions about a research topic from someone within a year of starting his/her dissertation. If any of those professors are your advisors, it's their job to field such questions. If, after gently persisting, you can't get constructive advice about your dissertation topic from faculty in your own department, you should seriously consider transferring to a program where you can get such advice.

Why is so little phenomenology taught and researched in North American

Why is so little phenomenology taught and researched in North American philosophy departments? Because it studies the essence of consciousness is it too continental for your analytic minds? Why must philosophy be categorized so strictly?

I think the answer may be that phenomenology has produced so disappointingly little. In a non-philosophical sense phenomenology is defined as the preliminary classification of phenomena in an enquiry. So one might for example regard it as a piece of phenomenology in this non-philosophical sense to say that a white surface seen through a light blue filter looks stone-cold white, and not blue at all, as per the philosophical folklore. The question the analytic philosophers ask themselves, I suspect, or at least this one does, is whether there is something as solid and productive that can be gleaned from phenomenology in the philosophical sense, in addition to its methodological meanderings.

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.

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