Some Of Our Books

Categories

« 2nd Annual Rocky Mountain Ethics Congress (Call for Papers) | Main | Free Bud for students! »

January 08, 2009

Comments

Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Mark,

At least half of the philosophers I most admire, many of them here, would have had very little on their CVs to hint at their potential right out of grad school.

But why is this, though? Was it because they tried hard to publish in grad school but failed? Or was it because they didn't even try very hard if at all, knowing that pedigree and good letters would probably be sufficient for landing a decent job? If it's the latter, then I don't see how this speaks against a system where everyone will know that they must publish before they can expect to fare well on the job market. And don't you think that these philosophers that you admire so much would have been able to eventually publish good things even if they didn't land a cushy job right off the bat? So it's not as if the system that I'm advocating would entail that they would never get a good job. And if these philosophers tried to publish in graduate school but failed, then aren't they less deserving of a cushy job right off the bat than those who have already demonstrated the ability to publish in prestigious venues? There are, it seems to me, plenty of youngish philosophers these days (e.g., Ted Sider, David Sobel, and David Chalmers) who, in graduate school, demonstrated not only that they had extraordinary philosophical talent but also that they had the ability to translate their talent into publications (a skill that's distinct from philosophical talent). And, as these three examples illustrate, some of these people are people who perhaps didn't get as good a job as they should have out of graduate school. I think that the best jobs should go to people who have demonstrated both that they have extraordinary philosophical talent and that they have the ability to translate this talent into prestigious publications. Those who have demonstrated their philosophical talent only to their graduate teachers but have not yet demonstrate the ability to translate their talent into prestigious publications should I think not fare as well on the job market as those who have proven themselves by publishing. These philosophically talented but unproven entities should work in temporary positions until they prove themselves on the battlefield -- at least, they should in the current job market where there is an abundance of exceptional candidates with proven publication records.

Doug - well it's true that your statement "I wonder how big a role pedigree plays ... I honestly don't know" can be interpreted in a way consistent with your claim that you have "a fair bit of evidence that there is a pedigree bias." But each of those claims is all-too-easily misunderstood in the absence of the other. Even taking these two claims together, I am not sure now whether you claim to know there's a pedigree bias,but not to know how large it is, or whether you claim merely to have some (all things considered?) evidence that there's a pedigree bias and not actually know whether there is one.

I think the gender bias issue should be separated, since making dossiers largely gender blind only requires removing the cadidates' names from them. Moreover, it may well be the case, these days, that declaration of female gender in a dossier provides a small overall advantage in making it to the interview shortlist, since so many institutions have explicit or implicit affirmative action policies in place. So blinding could actually be counterproductive as far as gender bias goes. (Of course my suggestion about affirmative action providing an advantage at one stage, if true, does not rule out discriminatory gender bias at all the other stages of the process.)

You write that "An essential component of one’s job is to translate one’s talent into tangible results: i.e., publications." An important question, though, is whether this should also be an essential component of the philosophy graduate student's job. Compare: Professional philosophers must serve on departmental committees and teach in a way that successfully attracts large numbers of new undergraduate concentrators, ergo graduate students must do the same things. Obviously that's a non-sequitur; one reason it is is because there are other ways of assessing the future ability of someone to do something than having them actually do it. I have doubts about whether it would be a good thing for graduate students to be assessed mainly on their publication records, let me just note that by these criteria not only Mark Schroeder but also John Rawls would have been unsuccessful (it took 5 years after grad school for Rawls to get two publications out, but they were "Outlines of a decision procedure for Ethics" and "Two concepts of Rules"!)

John - I thought you were begging the question because if it was admitted that the person with the better blinded dossier "deserves" or "has earned" the interview, it would then be pretty obvious that search committees should consider only blinded dossiers.

Thanks, Simon. I don't think that one sufficient condition for earning something is obviously the only relevant consideration to take into account. There might be other sufficient conditions. And I say SCs will after an initial ranking view unblinded letters, which may properly affect their decisions.

I wanted to make a couple of points.

A few posts suggest that the focus is on graduate students whereas I would have thought that the focus should be broader, including at least all who are looking for tenure track positions. Maybe this is apostasy, but I don't think it's bad for graduate students to have to work as a VAP (or worse) until they can demonstrate the ability to do what grown up philosophers are supposed to do. If they are coming out of graduate school with no publications, there's not as much evidence that they have matured or ripened as there is that someone that has been on the market and has published has ripened. Pedigree is perhaps good evidence that the younger and less experienced candidate might someday turn into the experienced and accomplished candidate. But, possibility is a less good guide to actuality than actuality is.

I think I pretty much agree with what John said in response to Robert. (I always agree with what John says unless it's about reasons. Not that that's a good idea.)

Robert, I don't mean to be difficult but I don't quite get your response to my concerns about fairness. You wrote:

Why is it unfair for candidates from "better" pedigrees to get interviews over those with "lesser" pedigrees, even given publication and conference paper differences? Is there some metric of 'fairness' here? Are the latter are better bets for tenure? Is there evidence of this?

If the issue is fairness in hiring, I don't see what the tenure bit has to do with it. Suppose you think that women are no better bets for tenure than men are. We all agree that there's something unfair about a system that gives interviews only to men and is justified on the grounds that the women excluded are no better a bet for tenure than the men who get interviews. I think we all agree that the unfairness of such a system is the beginnings of a pretty good case against it. I suppose if someone doesn't think fairness is a relevant consideration, they can take above to be my objection to that position.

If someone thinks that fairness considerations don't play into the justification of a policy that would in effect exclude those without pedigree from serious consideration, they might ask for a "metric" of fairness. Here's a crude one: it's fair for jobs to go to the most talented and unfair for jobs to go to less talented candidates because of prestige.

Nothing in the fairness argument as such calls for the elimination of consideration of pedigree. As someone pointed out above, one thing you get with pedigree is that someone has been doing philosophy with many very talented people. (I might quibble with this specific rationale for taking pedigree into account. With more prestigious departments, you might get faculty with greater wattage. You might also get a less nurturing environment, more egos to contend with, and less face time with the people that can help you develop as a philosopher. In graduate school, I was able to participate in reading groups with faculty who would talk shop with me into the wee hours of the morning at least a couple nights a week. We had weekly graduate student presentations. There was no cut throat competition, we all seemed genuinely concerned with the development and success of others in the department. I don't know if this is found in more elite programs, but it might have more than made up for the opportunities lost by not going to a department with greater overall wattage.) But, I don't think it's crazy to think that a job ought to go to the most talented individual up for the position. A good publication record seems to be good evidence of talent and I think better evidence than pedigree.

Robert, I can't tell from your remarks whether you think it is consistent with fairness to exclude those without pedigree from consideration or whether it is acceptable to just exclude fairness considerations. I guess I'd object to both positions.

John,

You ask:

Just so I'm clear on this: is it your view that the various bits of evidence you mentioned, which can be ascertained in 10 minutes or less with a file, provide a more reliable way of initially sorting files than actually reading the writing sample and/or research summary? Or is it that that's as reliable as it's going to get, within the time limit people are willing to spend on a file?

I can't read a writing sample in 10 minutes. That's why I try to use other evidence to get things down to a managable number for which I do read the sample carefully. As to research summaries, not all are as well written as others and some come in the reference letters. And sometimes the identity of the letter writer really matters. If a prominent person in a body of literature talks about a project changing their mind about something, that makes their summary of the research more convincing. So I think my view is that of the evidence that is assessible in 10 minutes a good bit of it comes from the letters and a lot of it is useful because it isn't annonymous. Getting rid of it would make the process less reliable, which is not to say that the process won't miss talent.

I don't think you meant to disparage the efforts of search committees, but talking about the "willingness" to spend time with a file is misleading. I literally just did go through 200 files as did each other member of the search committee I'm on right now. If I had tried to spend more time with each file my ability to read them would have been impaired by lack of sleep, etc. We could have split the pile up for the first round, but given our different intellectual tastes and talents I myself prefer overlapping assessment. That's precisely because I don't want evidence that I think is probative of quality to be ignored.

Doug, you ask:

Was it because they tried hard to publish in grad school but failed? Or was it because they didn't even try very hard if at all, knowing that pedigree and good letters would probably be sufficient for landing a decent job?

Different people have different patterns. I did not follow up on a revise and resubmit when I was in grad school, working on my dissertation instead. But the first thing I did publish took several years beyond grad school to be accepted. Now I'm not stellar enough at philosophy that my slowness shows something wrong with putting lots of wieght on early publication. But we have heard others with much more talent on this and related Leiter threads mention that they tried to publish lots before hitting the sweet spot.

I guess I think no one kind of evidence is better than all others such that we can rely on it in the absence of the rest. I'm not saying that publishing in good places should be ignored. I am saying that not having done so yet as one comes out of graduate school is not evidence of lack of quality.

Upthread on the previous page (which I'm afraid to click over to to quote properly for fear of losing what I've written so far) someone says that it would be easy to anonymize letters. I disagree. Many of the most convincing letters make comparative judgements, as in "as good as David Hume, who went through this program some years back," or whatever. This happens even in letters for people from non-Leiter-rated programs. Writers compare with other people they know and of whom they expect the reader to have heard. The reason this stuff is convincing is that the claim is more precise and hence more easily falsifiable. The writer took a risk with her credibility in saying it.

And finally, it is also worth noting that one of the sorts of evidence that helps people at lower ranked programs is getting a letter from someone at a different, possibly higher-ranked program. Anonymizing the letters eliminates that information too.

John - I'm afraid I don't understand your reply. If it is true that the n candidates with the best looking blinding dossiers have met a sufficient condition to "deserve" or "have earned" the n interview slots, there's no space for taking into consideration other factors, except in the rare cases where ties need to be broken. So I can't see how your taking the antecedent as a premise is not begging the question.

Simon, I want to leave it open that the n best-looking blinded dossiers contain only n - m good-enough-looking dossiers. Letters might then be consulted.

And I probably should have said "prima facie" sufficient, because I think that the initial ranking may be adjusted (with due caution) after inspecting letters later.


Mark, I'm glad you didn't take me to be disparaging SCs, because nothing could have been further from my mind. I know there are limits to people's time, and I was sincerely asking about reasonable limits.

200 files is a lot of files. I salute you!

Simon,

well it's true that your statement "I wonder how big a role pedigree plays ... I honestly don't know" can be interpreted in a way consistent with your claim that you have "a fair bit of evidence that there is a pedigree bias." But each of those claims is all-too-easily misunderstood in the absence of the other.

When I wrote the post, I thought that pedigree may play some legitimate role in hiring decisions, as one's pedigree does seem to provide some evidence for how smart and well-trained some candidate is. And, in writing the post, I was wondering out loud how much of a role pedigree plays and whether it plays too big or too small of a role in proportion to the evidence that it actually provides. This is completely compatible with my thought that there is a pedigree bias: a tendency among some to give pedigree more than its appropriate weight in hiring decisions. That said, I now think that we should be less worried about how smart and talented someone (which pedigree provides some evidence for) is and more concerned with whether they can translate this talent into publications (which pedigree doesn't provide evidence for).

let me just note that by these criteria not only Mark Schroeder but also John Rawls would have been unsuccessful (it took 5 years after grad school for Rawls to get two publications out, but they were "Outlines of a decision procedure for Ethics" and "Two concepts of Rules"!)

It doesn't follow that they would have been unsuccessful. For one, if everyone knew that a good publication record would be essential to faring well on the job market, then these candidates and their graduate programs may have behaved differently than they in fact did. Rawls may have tried harder to publish sooner, and Princeton may have focused more on helping Schroeder develop the skills needed to successfully translate his excellent ideas into publications. For another, even if they still wouldn't have published in graduate school had they and their programs suitably adapted to the new system, it wouldn't follow that they wouldn't have eventually fared well. It only follows that they wouldn't have fared well until they demonstrated their ability to publish. Perhaps, that's how it should be.

Also, I think that we need to keep in mind that there could be some great philosophers who didn't come to light because of pedigree bias. I obviously can't point to them and say that here lies a potential Schroeder who languished away in temporary positions because he or she was unfairly disadvantaged relative to those with superior pedigrees but no better writing samples or publications records, but that doesn't mean that they're not there. So we need to keep in mind that it's easier for you to point to the obviously brilliant philosophers who would have had a harder time under the Turri Proposal. It's more difficult for me to point to the brilliant philosophers who would have demonstrated their brilliance if only Turri's proposal had been implemented.

Does anyone deny that Schroeder would have fared much worse on the job market if he had come out of an unranked program? Assume that in this possible world in which Schroeder comes of an unranked program he is still, intrinsically, the exact same Schroeder: his skills, knowledge, talents, and intellect would have been, we'll assume, exactly the same as they were when he came out of Princeton. Assume that his dossier in this possible world is also the same except that we substitute the names of the institutions and letter writers for those of less prestigious institutions and letter writers. Isn't it bad that how well someone with a certain dossier and with certain skills, talents, knowledge, and intellect fares depends on what department he or she comes out of. Other things being equal, shouldn't we seek to eliminate this bias? Of course, I'm open to the thought that others things are not equal and that the costs associated with eliminating the bias is worse than the bias itself. But I hope this makes clear what I think the bias is and why it is bad.

Doug,

Take any epistemically relevant factor, hold fixed all the rest of the relevant factors and the person's actual talents. Now vary that factor. The person would be likely to do less well than they actually did if that factor is varied in a negative way. That doesn't show that the factor we vary has introduced a bias. It just shows that doing well with respect to that factor influences people's prospects.

Everything that search committees look at for entry level jobs is a credential, by which I mean it is only evidence of ability. We don't directly inspect ability. We evaluate evidence of it. That suggests that for any bit of evidence it won't be perfectly correlated with actual ability across the range of cases we are going to see in the real world. This is part of why I think it is a false ideal of fairness to think that it requires that those who actually are the most able get the best jobs - though that's a further claim. (This is not to deny that departments have an interest in hiring the most able candidates or that those of us who enjoy philosophy have an interest in keeping able people in the profession and in good jobs.)

if everyone knew that a good publication record would be essential to faring well on the job market, then ... Rawls may have tried harder to publish sooner, and Princeton may have focused more on helping Schroeder develop the skills needed to successfully translate his excellent ideas into publications.

My department is not so much interested in hiring an early & frequent producer of publications as it is in hiring the best philosopher that it can. To use this extreme example: new Ph.D. Rawls with no publications, thinking and talking about the important ideas that he will publish in due time, seems like a better bet to me than a Ph.D. of equivalent vintage who has already published a good amount of lesser work.

If we considered two philosophers 10 years out from the Ph.D. - one with perfectly decent publications that began early and continued at a brisk pace, and another with really original and noteworthy work published a few years after graduate school and continuing thereafter at a more leisurely pace - I would be more pleased to have hired the latter philosopher over the former.

So when you suggest that today's Rawls can/should be urged to publish earlier, because it's "essential to faring well on the job market", I must confess that this would only make sense to me if you had already shown that no search committee could have a reasonable basis for a belief that really good things were going to come from a Rawls with no publications.

I have real sympathy for the claim that a very good philosopher coming from a lower-profile school will get less credit than she rightfully deserves. But I don't think that the correct response to this problem is to demand that everyone accept that publications are the "essential" element in hiring.

Mark,

Regarding your first paragraph, you're right: my example was flawed. The bias, if it exists, is that people give more evidential weight to pedigree than it in fact has.

Everything that search committees look at for entry level jobs is a credential, by which I mean it is only evidence of ability. We don't directly inspect ability.

One thing (the main thing, I would think, when it comes to research) that we're looking for is the ability to publish in good journals. I take it that a candidate's having published in good journals repeatedly is not just indirect evidence of his or her having this ability, but it's rather proof, and proof that we can directly inspect, of his or her having this ability. Now you'll reply that what we're looking for is not just the ability to have published in good journals but the ability to continue to do so. And, for this, you're right: we have only indirect evidence. I just happen to think that publication record is by far a better indicator of the ability to publish in the future than glowing letters from people with a vested interest in the candidate's success are when there isn't any publications to show that the candidate can indeed publish (and, yes, I know that the absence of evidence for p is not evidence for ~p). And I have I believe good evidence that there is a significant number of people that give pedigree more evidential weight than it has -- or, at least, more weight than I think it has. This is why I think that there is a bias. And if I'm right about there being this bias, I think that it could be, in large part, alleviated by adopting the Turri Proposal. And I haven't been convinced yet that the proposal's ill effects would be greater than its good effects. The main complaint that people seem to be giving is that people like you and Schroeder wouldn't have fared as well on the job market despite the fact that you both obviously deserve to have good jobs given your important accomplishments. (Of course, there's also been the complaint that the proposal will eliminate some relevant evidence, but there hasn't been any argument to the effect that this extra evidence ends up doing less harm than good.) But what about the other people who didn't fare well on the job market because someone from a Leiteriffic school got the cushy job instead of them even though they had superior publication records. Some of these people (I won't name names, but I do know of such people) failed to publish adequately enough to secure tenure at any institution despite having had the best of pedigrees and some very cushy job. This, I think, is a significant problem with the current system. People with good pedigrees can land good jobs without proving that they can publish at all while people who have demonstrated that they can publish in good venues consistently year after year still have a very hard time landing a good job.

I know that this is starting to sound like sour grapes. But I think that it's not my own case that I'm sour about. I'm fairly happy with how things went along my career path and think that I probably got what I deserved when I deserved it. But there are people with far superior publication records such Josh Glasgow (and the CV that's currently available online isn't at all current) that have had a much harder time landing a suitable job. And I suspect that pedigree has played a role here.

I'm getting tired now. But let me just end by saying that I think that what we really need is good empirical evidence here and, unfortunately, good empirical evidence is sorely lacking on both sides of the debate. So I worry that I'm just going with my gut, and my gut tells me that there's a bias here and that relying on publication records is the most reliable way to make the first cut. I wish that there was some good evidence that could either confirm or disconfirm what my gut is telling me. Alas, I don't think that there is any.

This discussion began with a curiosity as to how much pedigree affects where one ends up hired (if one's lucky enough to get a job teaching philosophy at all). From there the discussion became largely about possible ways to blind hiring processes. While interesting, though, the conversation has failed to distinguish two ways in which "pedigree" can come into play; and one sense, the more important one, has been omitted from the discussion.

Sense A: If one goes to a prestigious school, gets good letters from mentors, etc., then all things being equal, one will stand a much better chance of landing certain jobs in the field, particularly prestigious research jobs. This sense does not bother me, and I'm not teaching at such an institution (though I'd be happy to do so). In any field of which I can think, if one trains with the best and is recommended by the best, one will have the best chances of entering the field. While we could debate the legitimacy of this practice, I'm not inclined to do so because the idea is that the best in the field should be the best at predicting who will go on to contribute most to the field. But there is a more troubling sense of "'pedigree" on my view.

Sense B: No matter how much one's CV outclasses a rival candidate's in other respects, most notably publications, one's likelihood of landing a research job will be profoundly hindered, if such jobs are even remotely within reach, by virtue of the fact that one's Ph.D. is not from a top-ten program.

I cannot demonstrate that this is the reality. But I strongly--strongly--suspect that it is. And the problem is that it seems that insofar as one's pedigree is relevant to hiring decisions, it is again qua indicator of one's likelihood of contributing to the field. We are members of a discipline, after all, and we want the discipline to be about breaking ground, discovering insights, and so forth, right? Not just hanging out with buddies from graduate school. But if one's having a Ph.D. from Princeton with no publications trumps a rival candidate from a lesser program with quality publications, I take this to be a problem. For, again, the whole purpose of getting a Ph.D. from the best school, or of having letters from the best minds, would be to show one's likelihood of contributing to the field. And I would submit that if one's already doing that, despite having a less impressive graduate institution, that should not matter as much as I suspect it does. By the way, if one is inclined to doubt that the school from which one earned one's Ph.D. can trump quality publications in the job market, one might ask oneself how much college administrators like to say that they just hired a "Ph.D. from Harvard or Princeton."

I'm convinced that such labels matter more to many people than do candidates' proven ability. I should note, however, that I'll continue to write regardless. For, again, that's what I take the discipline to be about.

Committed Philosopher:

I really doubt that pedigree comes into to play to the degree stated in sense B. But aren't you missing a third sense?

Sense C: There is a tendency among a significant number of philosophers to give pedigree more evidential weight than it in fact has, putting candidates with lower pedigrees at an unfair disadvantage relative to those with higher pedigrees and leading search committees to make worse decisions.

Also, you write: "the best in the field should be the best at predicting who will go on to contribute most to the field." Perhaps, this is true. But it's not as if each candidate goes before an impartial and international board of the best in the field, a board that then tries to predict who among all the job candidates are the most likely to go on to contribute the most to the field. Also, as discussed here, graduate teachers have an obligation to look out for the welfare of their students. We think, for instance, that we're obligated to write letters with an eye to helping our students rather than helping search committees make the most informed decisions. So even if the best in the field are the best at judging quality and potential, we might do better to give more weight to publications in the top journals (which do involve the impartial vetting by some of the best in the field) than to even the most glowing letters.

I don't deny either that pedigree can provide good evidence of future success or that the lack of publications is not evidence for the lack of potential for future success. But the issue is a comparative one: that is, the issue is whether there is a pedigree bias and whether due to this bias (if it exists) search committees would make better decisions as to the first cut if they followed the Turri Proposal than if they followed the current method of making the first cut.

It might be thought that people will always make better decisions if they have more evidence. But this is false if people have certain biases. And it is because people have biases that many journals opt for a blind or even a double-blind (where even the editors don't know the author's identity or affiliation) review process despite the fact that the information that gets eliminated can often provide good evidence. After all, isn't the fact that Scanlon wrote paper x good evidence that it should be accepted for publication? Yet, many of us think that reviewers will overall make better decisions if they don't have this sort of evidence available to them, because we think that people are prone to bias and thus prone to give it more evidential weight than it in fact has.

Let me also explicitly say, so that I'm not misinterpreted, that I readily concede the point that many have been making above: namely, that implementing the Turri Proposal would lead search committees to make worse decisions in certain instances. For instance, it might lead to a Portmore fresh out of grad school making the first cut but not a Schroeder or van Roojen fresh out of grad school making the first cut. That would, indeed, be a bad decision, as I certainly think that Schroeder, van Roojen, and their like have made a more significant contributions to the profession than I have. But, again, the issue is a comparative one. And the current method has certainly led to some search committees making in certain instances worse decisions than they would have made had they implemented the Turri proposal -- I have personal knowledge of some such decisions. And I tend to think that if the Turri Proposal was implemented, then people like van Roojen would behave differently (they wouldn't, for instance, fail to act on a revise-and-resubmit verdict as van Roojen did) and that their graduate programs would act in ways to minimize the Schroeder-type case -- that is, they would do what Edinburgh is doing. This would minimize the sorts of bad decisions that the Turri Proposal might lead to.

And, for the reasons cited above, I tend to think that on the whole better decisions will be made on the Turri Proposal than on the current one, for I tend to think that publication records can be (at least, if everyone is encouraged to publish) a more reliable indicator of future contribution than pedigree and good letters are.

I think Committed Philosopher is saying that there is one sense in which 'pedigree' is actually useful, and should be taken into consideration by the hiring committee; but that there is another sense in which 'pedigree' is misleading.

My own understanding is this: the hiring committee should to some extent at least be guided by where one has obtained their PhD. and who has provided a reference for them, in terms of making selections as to who should be invited for an interview. But the committee should only take this as an indicator that the candidate 'may' have some potential, and not that they do 'in fact' have potential. The danger is when pedigree, which ought to be taken as an 'indicator' of potentiality is automatically (and misleadingly) translated as a 'fact' about the candidate's potentiality. In other words, 'pedigree' is one among many other factors (quality of research evidenced by publication, work submitted with the application, teaching experience, etc.) which ought to all be taken collectively and judged on a case-by-case basis. This ought to provide a fair and mixed (pedigree and non-pedigree) list of candidates invited for the interview.

The second stage, of course, is the interview itself. It takes a good interviewer to select the desirable candidate. This is a crucial stage in which the given institution/department can weigh up the merits of each candidate (from consideration about character, work ethics, flexibility, career aims, organizational & admin skills, time-management, efficiency, professionalism, suitability for the particular job on offer, etc.). Academic philosophy posts involve a lot more than just doing philosophy and writing articles. It is important that the hiring committee is aware of this and makes its selection accordingly, since these 'other' factors are not necessarily related to 'pedigree' as much as they are related to character, experience, and personal skills. Hence, in addition to being a good philosopher, one has to be a good interviewer; they are not always one and the same. The quality of the candidates selected in the end also reflects the quality of those doing the selection.

Pedigree does have its merits and for that reason it should not be omitted from a CV. Its danger lies in its being misunderstood as 'the final word' on the matter, and this does not warrant its complete rejection. Rather, interviewers should concentrate on remedying the dangers that I could entail by coordinating better interview selection processes and interview conducting techniques. This would ensure fairness as well as efficiency in hiring the suitable candidate.

I guess I'm saying that the problem is not so much to do with pedigree such that it should be omitted. It is our understanding of what perdigree means, and the accurate weight that should be assigned to it, which perhaps needs a radical revision.

I think this is a great idea but the hierarchal structure that goes back to the dawn of the American university system would never allow it. Legacy is one of the most important ways that ivy's reproduce status, which of course is tied to funding, attracting future students, and dominating intellectual debates. Imagine, though, how many solid 2nd and 3rd tier program candidates would eek through the glass ceiling and undermine illusions of pedigree?

Re: "I'm thinking of the issue in terms of making the field open to real talent."

At the risk of sounding contrary, I'm quite confident that the system as it's currently set up works perfectly well to satisfy all of the relevant interests. The hiring process is explicitly biased in favor of candidates from Ivy League (+ a select few) schools. Departments hire people with fancy degrees. Administrators croon about how impressive the faculty are. And (and this is the key point) students feel good about going into debt to pay 30K+ per year for their degrees. Where exactly is the problem?

It would be awfully hard to get little Jimmy (and his Mom) to cough up that sort of dough if his Political Theory prof was certified by Podunk State rather than by Princeton, no matter how "really talented" she was.

If you don't understand how something works, follow the money trail. If you suppose that paychecks at philosophy departments are signed by Pallas Athena and not a for-profit business, look again. Don't let the ex-hippie credentials of the hiring committee members distract you.

[Editor's note: A comment was deleted at the author's request.]

Re: "If you don't understand how something works, follow the money trail. If you suppose that paychecks at philosophy departments are signed by Pallas Athena and not a for-profit business, look again. Don't let the ex-hippie credentials of the hiring committee members distract you."

If it's a battle between productivity in terms of "profit-making", and productivity in terms of the "quality of philosophical out-put", and if the former will always win on account of being necessary for putting bread on the table, then - if this is true - we will have to sacrifice "quality" in order to make "profit".

If this were the case, then I confess to being a little confused: surely there are far more lucrative avenues for prestige (in terms of profit-making) and investments (again in terms of profit-making) for both Jimmy (and his mom) and any institution wishing to invest for profit! Excuse me if I am wrong, but I thought Philosophy was not the best career-choice for those seeking a high-paying job (i.e. for the likes of Jimmy), nor is education the most lucrative business enterprise (i.e. for educational institutions whose primary aim is profitability).

I'm not being naive, nor am I denying that - sadly - in today's world the relationship between philosophy students & a university is that of the relationship between "client" and a "service provider". I'm just lamenting the fact that Philosophy has come to this: profit-making; and am hopeful that if I moan about it for long enough, a few others may join in and maybe - just maybe - things will change in another two-hundred years!

The comments to this entry are closed.

Ethics at PEA Soup

PPE at PEA Soup

Like PEA Soup

Search PEA Soup


Disclaimer

  • Unless otherwise indicated, the views expressed in any given post reflect the opinion of only that individual who posted the particular entry or comment.