JFP Analysis 2004-5

By now the APA interviews are in the books, so analysis of Jobs for Philosophers is a little out-of-date. But hopefully this is still of some historical interest going forward.

Analysis of jobs advertised in Jobs for Philosophers October and November 2004

The most striking thing to me was the paucity of jobs in logic. I don’t know if that’s compensated for by people using open area searches to hire logic people, or if departments are thinking that logic is not a pressing need, or it is simply random variation. Apart from that the numbers are pretty much as you might have expected.

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26 Replies to “JFP Analysis 2004-5”

  1. More striking than the paucity of jobs in logic, I think, is the paucity of candidates for jobs in logic — especially from American universities. We advertized a junior job in logic, got eighty applicants total, many of them mathematicians, without any background or interest in philosophy. Of those with some training and/or interest in philosophy, the largest number came from departments in various European countries.

    Seems to me that logic may be in serious danger of disappearing from the American philosophical scene.

    We’re one of the few remaining holdouts for a broad and deep program in logic.

  2. Ken,

    The job market seems to be explaining the problem. It makes little economic sense for many graduate students in philosophy to be expert logicians (at the cost of, say, business or medical ethics). I suspect that the few we find are very dedicated and committed to the subject…and exactly one of them will get a job at Stanford. Who knows what will happen to the rest. Sad….

  3. I am confused by the first two rows of the first table. The first row seems to say there were 371 jobs overall and the second row seems to say there were 371 jobs in philosophy departments. But the figures for the first and second rows otherwise diverge. Am I just missing something, or is something wrong here?

  4. Some of the breakdown-of-speciality listings are misleading. For example, it has always been true that philosophy of language is rarely listed in job ads. But the many philosophers of language in leading programs leads one to suspect that jobs that advertise in Metaphysics and Epistemology mean metaphysics and epistemology broadly construed, which includes philosophy of language and philosophy of mind.

  5. Michael—Those two cells are “Overall + Philosophy” and “Philosophy + Philosophy”—or, to put it geekily, the intersection of the Universal Set with the Philosophy Set and the intersection of the Philosophy Set with itself, which both equal the Philosophy Set. It doesn’t seem possible to read off how many overall jobs there are from the table.

    I can provide a little anecdotal support for what Barry says. When I was starting my dissertation research, my advisor told me that he had had an awful time placing logicians, and that I needed an AOS other than logic. So I wound up with one. A friend whose research was strictly logic went off to grad school in another discipline rather than test the logic job market (though I don’t know exactly what his reasoning was).

  6. Jason,

    I’m not sure that you can infer much about the job market from the presence of many philosophers of language at top departments, because one of the things these surveys have brought out is that the hiring demand from top departments is not indicative of the profession as a whole. This is probably something that grad students, who might think the kinds of the departments they are at in grad school are somewhat representative of the profession, should be thinking about.

    There aren’t that many jobs advertised in M&E as such. Most of the jobs are either more specific, i.e. explicitly in one or the other, or explicitly broader, in which case they usually included language. If the job looked like M&E broadly construed, I classed it in all four lemming areas, but from memory there weren’t many judgment calls to make here. Having said that, there were 13 jobs that were listed in M&E and not mind or language, so maybe I got some of them wrong. There were also 3 jobs I’ve got down in MM&E, but not language, and again maybe that was a misclassification.

    The bigger issue here is whether, as I think many suspect, language does disproportionately well in open searches. My guess is that’s true in top 50 schools, not so true across the profession, but this is something we need actual empirical data on.

  7. Matt — thanks — the head and chest cold I am laboring under must be having some effect.

  8. One thing I’ve found a bit puzzling for awhile is this. There is quite a lot of philosophical activity in the area of “agency theory”: free will, moral responsibility, practical reasoning, the will, weakness of will, intention, planning, etc. There is a lot of work, especially, on free will and moral responsibility. By this I mean lots of articles, anthologies, special issues of journals (woops—I don’t mean to start anything!!), monographs, conferences, and so forth. There are really great people, many of whom are relatively young, making real contributions in this area or set of areas. It must be one of the “hottest” areas in philosophy, measured in the above ways.

    But. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a job listing for someone doing “free will/moral responsibility,” agency theory, or anyting like this. Those of us who do this need to apply for either ethics jobs or M & E jobs. So we end up not quite fitting in either category. I recall once asking someone at a leading dept. whether I might apply for a certain ethics job, and he said, “You don’t do ethics—you do M & E. Later, when they had an M & E job, someone else told me, “You don’t do M & E, you do ethics”!!

    I suppose there is a certain inertia in our field, and we tend to divide up the categories in traditional ways when hiring. But this creates an odd lack of “fit” with at least some of what is going on in terms of vital, hot areas of research in the field.

    I am particularly concerned with trying to help graduate students and younger philosophers to find good jobs, and I was wondering whether anyone has any suggestions as to why this situation exists, and how it could be remedied.

  9. Wow. I’m not a philosopher (I’m in political theory, so a read a good deal of the same literature as some philosophers), but I’m rather surprised that an understanding of free-will, moral responsibility/agency stuff to be outside of the realm of ethics. That just seems inpossibly narrow. Which is a stereotype political theorists have of ethicists in philosophy departments, but I’ve never considered it a fair one, based on my own sampling of their work.

    I’m also surprised by the volume of open searches, especially among top-50 departments. Open searches are much, much rarer in political science, unless the search is for a chair or in a very, very small department (1-3 members) where generalists are needed. I have a hard time believing those open searches are actually as open as they’re advertised to be.

  10. DJW,
    Philosophy is more ‘open’ by nature. Talk of specialization (except in historical areas) is a bit silly in philosophy; ethical, metaphysical, logical, linguistic, representational, and epistemological issues are too intertwined for easy specialization to take hold. There are the philosophical questions, which we all work on basically, and then there are considerations from a number of sources (metaphysical, epistemological, logical, etc.) that bear on these questions. Most people work on a bunch philosophical questions during a career, which come from different ‘areas’.
    That’s why I think it’s silly for someone to do a search for a metaphysician and exclude philosophers of language or vice-versa…quiz: are David Lewis and Tim Williamson ‘philosophers of language’, ‘metaphysicians’, ‘philosophical logicians’ ‘epistemologists’ first and foremost? Obviously, they are all of the above, as any good Lemming should strive to be…(same holds for any of the younger generation of Lemmings, including the owner of this blog). Some of us know more or less linguistics, some of us know more or less psychology, some of us channel the absolute spirit a bit better than others (that would be the metaphysicans). But we all basically do similar things.

  11. Jason:

    I pretty much agree with you.

    The one thing is that I think logic, especially highly technical, mathematically rich logic is rapidly disappearing from the American philosophical scene. It also appears a little bit in danger of losing its organic connection to issues in language, mind, metaphysics, and epistemology. (There’s also not much of it on the pure mathematics scene, it appears..)

    Don’t get me wrong. I still think a decent number of “philosophical logicians” our there from earlier generations and a few more do get turned out regularly. It also appears that the that are being trained are highly qualified. Plus any good lemming worth his/her salt probably knows a least a bit and sometimes quite a bit of logic these days.

    Still, it’s hard not to notice how few logicians our graduate programs are turning out — at least if our current junior search is an indicator, which I suspect it is. I do wonder what’s going on with that.

    Also, if our applicant pool is representative then Europe is a relative hotbed of logic compared to the US.

  12. On John’s point, I always thought free will was part of ethics, but maybe that’s not right. There were very few jobs advertised in free will/agency theory as such, but I assume that people working on moral responsibility would have a place in ethics searches, particularly those leaning towards moral psychology. But I’d be interested to know what more people think.

    There were about 10 or so jobs advertised with continental AOS’s. Most of these got lumped into history (if they stressed 19th/20th century continental) or ethics (if they stressed continental social/political philosophy). The classificatory system broke down a little here I’m afraid.

    It isn’t impossible to check for these things because the PDF versions of the JFP that the APA produces are searchable, so if you go in to them and search for ‘metaphysics’ or ‘logic’ or ‘continental’ (or ‘free will’) you get a good sense of where the jobs are in particular areas.

  13. Brian and Ken,

    I don’t think there’s anything that unusual about this year’s logic market. I’ve seen years in the recent past where there was only one junior logic position in the fall JFPs. By that standard, this year was flush (with Stanford, ND and Wisconsin all offering jobs).

    Of course, this doesn’t effect the larger point about the decline of logic in the profession (indeed, it probably strengthens it). That, however, is probably a topic for a different thread.

  14. I guess I just don’t see the relatively small number of jobs seeking logic specialists as that surprising. Most departments outside the research I category have to hire on the basis of teaching needs. Most such departments have one (or possibly two) undergraduate logic courses, and no course devoted to philosophical issues in logic. For them, it makes sense for a non-specialist with an AOS in something else (epistemology, ethics, history, whatever) to teach their logic courses. Has there actually been a recent decline in positions advertising a logic AOS?

    (I might add that the paucity of applied ethics jobs at the top-50 is the flip side of this: They see themselves as having little need for a specialist in applied ethics and can cover whatever curricular needs they may have in applied ethics with non-specialists. )

  15. It also seemed to me that this is a pretty good year for logicians. In addition to Stanford, Notre Dame, and Wisconsin there are two logic jobs in New Zealand, and the Bristol job. There were no straight AOS: logic jobs last year, and neither Toronto nor LSE, who advertised jobs where logic was part of a disjunctive AOS, ended up hiring logicians. Some logicians did get hired at top-50 departments last year, e.g., Agustin Rayo at UCSD, Gabriel Uzquiano at Ohio State.

  16. Brian, A free will/moral responsibility specialist can certainly apply for ethics jobs and often will be taken seriously. But in the end one often hears that the department in question was really looking for more of a “straight” ethicist—someone doing metaethics or normative ethics, such as Kantian ethics, utilitarianism, and so forth. These days it is usually Kant’s ethics or Kantian ethics. If a department is interested in hiring in ethics, or moral philosophy, and frames its search by asking who the best people in ethics are, typcially people doing free will/moral responsibility would not be considered. Similalry if a department framed its M & E search by asking who the best people in M & E are.

    I think this sort of problem or issue must occur in other areas of philosophy, where a lively and intellectually central set of debates doesn’t quite fit centrally into the standard sub-fields, as definted by the job market.

    One way around this: to think in terms of people, or philosophers, rather than sub-fields. Of course, people need to be able to teach a variety of course that departments need to have taught. So, for example, we need to train our graduate students to teach a wide variety of ethics and/or M & E courses, some at advanced levels. But that would then open it up to a department to hire someone whose AOS was Free Will/Moral Responsibility—or even more than one person in Agency Theory. In my view, although I know reasonable people disagree, it is better, more fruitful and better in building a department in the longterm, to think in these terms, rather than be rigidly guided by a focus on sub-fields, especially the traditionally-defined ones. (That is of course not to deny that a department should seek some reasonable balance of fields.)

  17. Whether free will/moral responsibility is ethics or metaphysics depends (rather obviously) on the emphasis. Some folks focus on issues of causation. For instance, if you’re interested in agent-causal approaches, you need to make causation by a substance coherent, and show how that kind of causation preserves reasons-explanation and control. This is certainly metaphysics. If you’re interested in issues of responsibility, you’re more likely to be doing ethics. Hypothosis: libertarians are more likely to be doing metaphysics than compatibilists (compatibilists are satisfied that agent-causation is impossible and event-causation adds nothing, and instead focus on what kinds of freedom and responsibility we can have in a deterministic world; libertarians need to spend more time on causation). Certainly recent works by Clarke and O’Connor seem skewed toward the metaphysics end, whereas John’s 1998 is more ethics.

  18. I think AOSs are being asked to do double duty. First, they are supposed to tell people what graduate courses one can teach. (Or what undergraduate theses one can supervise.) Second, they are supposed to tell people where one’s research interests lie. These can be pretty different, especially for those who aren’t recent PhDs.

    Perhaps we need three categories: AOC (roughly, undergraduate teaching), AOS (roughly, graduate teaching), and Research Interests (the topics one will be publishing on). Some hiring departments with AOS philosophy of mind, say, are looking for someone who can handle graduate students who want to study Chalmers and the rest. Or, if there is no graduate program, they want someone who can handle undergraduate theses in the philosophy of mind. Such departments might be quite willing to hire someone for that job whose research interests were elsewhere, e.g., agency theory or even philosophy of biology. “Let’s get the smartest person we can, but they have to be able to handle all the usual undergraduate/MA stuff in mind.”

    When describing one’s research interests one can be quite specific; e.g., theories of content, identity over time, and the semantics/pragmatics issue. I mean: that’s the way one would put it on one’s CV.

    As a faculty member in a top-20 department it would be harder to have an AOS in an area without having a research interest (as defined by publication) in that area, because in order to supervise those graduate students one would have to be so in tune with the area that one would all but inevitably publish in it as well. But of course most of us aren’t in top-20 departments.

    By having three categories perhaps JFP ads would be more revealing. Anyone think that something along these lines would be helpful?

  19. Ken,
    I’m not yet really worried about logic disappearing in the way you describe. There rarely are many jobs listing logic. There are rarely many jobs listing phil language too. But the logicians that do pursue those organic connections of which you speak tend to end up being ultimately identified as central contributors to M&E, rather than ‘just’ contributing to mathematical logic (e.g. Kit Fine). Perhaps some people (though not most lemmings) are incorrectly mistrustful of technical work. As a result, those doing such work have to apply their technical skills to produce results recognizable outside of logic before they are widely accepted in philosophy departments. This may result in logicians taking longer to ‘float up’ through the profession (as perhaps happened with Tim Williamson). It also may discourage some people from so advertising themselves.

    But the reason I’m not so worried about logic disappearing from the American scene is that a good logic training will always be one very good way to arrive at new philosophical results. Logic has proven to be an excellent philosophical tool. Of course the foregoing places an unfair burden on logicians to prove that they do work that is philosophical (and it’s especially unfair because some philosophical problems are problems in logic). But philosophers of language have occasionally faced this kind of philistine attitude as well (albeit to a lesser degree), and have nevertheless perservered. Presumably, this is because a training in philosophy of language is just good general philosophy training. There are young logicians (e.g. the McGee students mentioned by Richard Zach) that are following just such a path — from work in logic to interesting applications to general M&E (many others come to mind, e.g. to varying degrees Bays, Fitelson, Gillies, Glanzberg, Graff, Rescorla, Zach, and of course there are pure mathematical logicians like Peter Koellner). So I see both young logicians being produced by departments, and being encouraged by the successes of previous generations, despite the lack of jobs explicitly for them. Maybe this year there are fewer, but I don’t think that’s a general trend.

  20. P.S.: The above is clearly another reason one ought to think, as Fisher suggests, of hiring philosophers rather than members of sub-fields.

  21. I was a bit surprised by Jason Stanley’s remarks about specialization, and would like to revisit them.

    Jason wrote: “Talk of specialization (except in historical areas) is a bit silly in philosophy; ethical, metaphysical, logical, linguistic, representational, and epistemological issues are too intertwined for easy specialization to take hold. There are the philosophical questions, which we all work on basically, and then there are considerations from a number of sources (metaphysical, epistemological, logical, etc.) that bear on these questions. Most people work on a bunch philosophical questions during a career, which come from different Ďareasí.”

    While it is certainly true that metaphysics, epistemology, philosophical logic, philosophy of language, and philosophy of mind intersect at multiple points (call this “the M&E cluster”)—which would account for Jason’s two main examples, David Lewis and Timothy Williamson—it really isn’t true that there is the same kind of overlap with normative ethics and political philosophy. Quine and Putnam and Kripke are major figures in the M&E cluster, but what contributions did they make to ethics and political philosophy? Rawls was the preeminent figure in our lifetime in the latter areas, yet what contributions did he make to the M&E cluster?
    There is still something to specialization, even at the highest levels of philosophical achievement. To be sure, the historical figures like Hume and Kant managed to range across the entire field—it’s one of the reason they’re the greats that we return to again and again—but who has pulled this off successfully in recent decades? I can think of only two or three philosophers who might qualify.

    Now when we go down a notch from the giants to the mere mortals of the profession, the importance of specialization increases. The technical literature in every subfield is now so huge that hardly anyone can keep abreast of it. And while it is true we still find metaphysics folks purporting to do ethics (less often the opposite), the results are, shall we say, not usually happy. For us mortals, it’s enough to master the specialty, and make a solid contribution there; and for most mortal departments, that’s what they’re after in hiring.

    By the way, it is surely worth noting that the vast majority of jobs advertised are not “open” as to area; it is only a handful of the very top PhD-granting programs that will sometimes do “open” searches, and even there it is common for them to list particular areas of interest (think of the typical Pittsburgh ad in recent years).

  22. In response to Bryan’s comment, I too have been toying with the idea of sub-dividing AOS/AOC into three categories, perhaps Research Specialization, Research Competence, and Teaching Competence. Doing so would ameliorate some of my categorization woes. My dissertation was written on the Realism/Anti-Realism debate in Metaphysics, so I list my AOS as Metaphysics (esp. Realism/Anti-Realism). About 100 pages of my dissertation discussed contemporary Philosophy of Science, so I feel that that field should be represented as well. However, I don’t feel confident calling Philosophy of Science an area of specialization, but merely calling it an AOC (if AOC is construed as teaching competence) does not seem to give myself enough credit. The same goes for Neo-Pragmatism. Half the week I feel confident calling Neo-Pragmatism my AOS, the other half I don’t. Adding the third category of Research Competence solves these problems. I can simply list Philosophy of Science and Neo-Pragmatism as areas of Research Competence. The category of Teaching Competence can then be reserved for areas in which I am competent to teach, but have little current interest or ability in pursuing novel research/analysis.

    Perhaps a split of this kind would remedy some of the problems John was discussing in regard to Free Will / Moral Responsibility. One who emphasizes the Metaphysics end of the debate could list Metaphysics (esp. Free Will or ?) as a Research Specialization, and Ethics (esp. Moral Responsibility or ?) as a Research Competence, or vice (or virtue?) versa.

  23. Neil, Thank you for your thoughtful post. Clearly, depending on one’s focus in Agency Theory, one could either apply for an ethics job or an M & E job. But. Really, when it comes down to it, a dept. looking for someone in M & E is probably thinking in terms of different issues than Agent-Causation, etc. And someone doing stuff on moral responsibility, reasons-responsiveness, and so forth can certainly apply for an ethics job. But, again, when it comes down to it, most departments who are advertising in ethics are thinking in terms of metaethics (moral realism/antirealism) and/or normative ethics (Kant, contemporary interpretations of Kant, Hume, Mill, utilitarianism, contemporary versions of consequentialism, etc.)

    Even more striking is the problem of a department looking to make a senior hire, where that department starts out by sending letters out to senior figures (say) in ethics asking who the top people in ethics are. Or, similarly, a department may send inquiries out to leading people in Philosophy of Mind or in Metaphysics or in Epistemology asking who the leading people in those fields are. Typically, someone doing free will/moral responsibility would NOT be on the radar screen at all.

    Of course, people working in Agency Theory do often get wonderful opportunities, and they often also work in other fields which fit more easily in the traditional “boxes”.

    Granting the kernel of truth in Brian Leiter’s remarks, I still think we do better, as a matter of emphasis rather than a rigid rule, to focus on people rather than sub-fields. Consider, for example, the success of such places as U of Arizona, Rutgers, and NYU. (Again, this is not to say that balance is not also important.)

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