3 Tips For Your First Philosophy Class

Did you enroll in a philosophy class? Cool! You might have heard a few things about philosophy. But — on average — few people know much about academic philosophy. So here’s a quick introduction to your first philosophy class. It’ll cover the basics of what your philosophy teacher cares about and what they probably expect from you.

1.  Forget What You Already Believe

Good judgment matters in many contexts. It matters when we’re voting, when we’re raising children, and when deciding how to spend our time, etc. In each of these cases, we need to be able to

  • find information.
  • understand information.
  • explain information.
  • evaluate information.

And this is similar to what we will do in a philosophy class. So your grade in a philosophy class is a matter of how well you understand, explain, and evaluate information — where “information” is just the stuff you read and discuss for class.

But that’s not very specific. You probably want to know how to evaluate and explain the information we come across in a philosophy course. For instance, is it enough to say, “I disagree with So-and-so because I believe that _______”? The short answer: no.

In a philosophy class, it doesn’t really matter what we believe. Academic philosophers care more about Continue reading 3 Tips For Your First Philosophy Class

Workflow: Academic Reading

When I read visually, I tend to read very slowly. Like really, really slow! A 30-50 page text can take most or all of my workday (depending on a few things). And my job requires me to do hundreds of pages a week. So I cannot do all of my academic reading visually. Fortunately there are other ways of reading. I’ll discuss them below.

1. Visual Reading

When I have a text in front of my eyes, I am very tempted to take my time, read very carefully, and look for ways to appreciate the sections that would otherwise strike me as unimportant. Giving in to these temptations can be foolish. To explain consider a few questions.

  1. Can I finish all of my reading if I take my time?
  2. Does this allegedly important text deserve a careful reading?
  3. Is this allegedly important text actually important?

For much of my academic reading, the answer to at least one of these questions is “no.” In other words, usually…

  • I cannot finish all of my reading if I take my time…
  • it’s not clear that a text merits a careful reading, or…
  • it’s not clear that a text is important.†

Don’t get me wrong, the visual reading method is sometimes crucial for academic reading. If you really want to (try to) understand the nuances of a text (or a series of texts), then careful visual reading, with intermittent break for note-taking is probably worthwhile.

But visual reading is not well-suited for every situation. For instance,  Continue reading Workflow: Academic Reading

Podcasts …for research?

In a recent APA blog post historian of philosophy and pun-loving podcaster, Peter Adamson, floated the idea of using podcasts for teaching. Sounds like a good idea, sure. In this post, I’d like to focus on the idea of using podcasts for research. As I see it, podcasts could be AMAZING for research! Yeah, like, all-caps amazing! Continue reading Podcasts …for research?

Productivity, Overworking, & Incentives

University faculty might face a dilemma. On the one hand, productivity is required for faculty to keep their job, be promoted, and — for tenure track faculty — secure tenure. And one way to survive in the competitive academic market is to outshine the competition in terms of productivity. And one way to be more productive than the competition is to overwork yourself. After all, overworking is associated with greater productivity (Jacobs and Winslow 2004; see also Seals and Rodriguez 2006 and Thomas 1992). However, overworking is also associated with lower job dissatisfaction (ibid). So, overworking

Continue reading Productivity, Overworking, & Incentives

Grad School | Part 5: Contingency plans

You’re trying to figure out whether or not you want to go to grad school. You’ve tried to estimate the value of a PhD in philosophy (Part 1). You’ve considered academic jobs (Part 2). And you’ve considered the nuts and bolts of grad school (Part 3) and the pros and cons of grad school (Part 4). Now it’s time to figure out what to do if — after starting grad school — you find yourself no longer wanting the academic life. It’s time to talk grad school contingency plans.

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | …

1. Disillusionment

Sounds exciting, right? Hear me out.

In just a few years, I have encountered many grad students who Continue reading Grad School | Part 5: Contingency plans

Grad School | Part 4: What’s Good And Bad About Grad School?

Prior to this post, I argued that the value of a Ph.D. is not in its job prospects …or lack thereof (Part 1). I showed that desirable academic jobs are neither ideal or common and that most academic jobs are very undesirable: they pay very little, they expire as frequently as every semester, and they offer no health insurance (Part 2). Then you found out about how most US philosophy Ph.D. programs work (Part 3). If you are considering getting a Ph.D. in philosophy, then you’ll want to have a realistic view of the process. This post attempts to provide such a view. It covers two things:

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | … | Part 5

1. What’s So Great About Grad School?

Even on a mediocre day, I can honestly say that I am living the dream! Really, there’s a lot to be grateful for in terms of being a grad student in philosophy.

1.1 Admission

Just being admitted to grad school Continue reading Grad School | Part 4: What’s Good And Bad About Grad School?

Grad School | Part 3: The Basics of a PhD In Philosophy

Most philosophy programs in the US seem to share the same general model. So no matter where in the US you get a PhD in philosophy, you can expect a few things. Before we get started, here’s the outline of the series, in case you want to jump to another post.

Part 1 | Part 2 | … | Part 4 | Part 5

1.  Timeline

All US philosophy PhD programs have roughly the same timeline:

1st year: teach/research, take seminars

2nd year: teach/research, take seminars

3rd year: teach/research, finish coursework, qualifying Continue reading Grad School | Part 3: The Basics of a PhD In Philosophy