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    2015 Fall
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  1. Sorry, what I just said is bound to come off the wrong way and I don't know to edit on a phone. All I mean in terms of "sentimentality" and "professional factors" is that it seems like, in your case, you'd be fooling yourself if you let your decision turn on some small technical detail(s) about the two programs any of us might be able to tell you about. That's definitely what I realized when I made my decision at least, and I don't regret it.
  2. It's just an MA. Two years; four semesters; 10 classes? I don't intend this to be some resounding, final judgment, but—not only are you avoiding debt—you are not losing that many years of your life held up in some Gitmo of Analytic philosophy. As far as I was told, NIU's TA position is renewable under certain (albeit unreliable) conditions. Although you're right that it's far from guaranteed for a second year, don't completely rule out the possibility of avoiding debt. If you really are as existentially repulsed by analytic philosophy as it seems (by what you've said and the interests in your signature), then I imagine this dilemma is somewhat pulling away from a purely academic/professional choice anyways. By this I don't mean to say your problem seems sentimental—because that's sorta fine, I completely understand that and was just there myself. Only: I don't see any "professional factors" settling this one way or the other for you; at this point, I don't think they should, let alone could. It's up to you to decide how much you want to pay for the two year ride. (OK, I'm wholly projecting how I thought of it when I was in the same situation, and I decided the kind of passive satisfaction for a short two years I would get at the fit school is not worth tens of thousands of debt.) Also, don't rely too much on working a part time job if you also are supposed to TA or do anything similar at BC. Grad school will be full-time. (This, also, was a deal-breaker fact for me going to a Boston university)
  3. I think you are definitely right in expecting NIU not to fit your more specific interests, however they do offer enough "neutral" classes to probably hold you over for two years (Ancient Ph., Ethics, etc.—it's not all "Kripke's Metaphysics," "Kripke's Implications for Ethics," "Phenomenology-but-only-insofar-as-it-relates-to-Kripke" etc.). When I was deciding between a perfect-fit-but-less-funded program and a funded-but-less-fitting program, a couple of points turn me towards the latter, including: 1. Try to soberly check how courses you would realistically be taking that actually your interests at the fit-school anyway. Is that worth X amount of debt? 2. Most MA students I talked to said they still learn the most from the studying they do outside of their program. Don't expect that simply because you'll be taking a few courses called "Philosophy of Your-Deepest-Life-Interests" that it will be your course-loads carrying your education for you: it' won't—your education only and always falls on you. While I'm sympathetic with your dilemma (I was just there for the past couple months), I will say that looking back, I feel it was unfathomably crazy for me to consider going into debt for a masters. Edit: I would qualify the entire NIU option on how likely it is that you actually will get the funding. The Grad. Director said the TA position was virtually guaranteed for me, but I wound up declining the acceptance altogether before I ever actually received the offer. I don't know how direct you can be, but absolutely make sure this is a certain thing.
  4. This might be a long-shot, but does whatever school you're going to do a joint JD-MA in Philosophy? If so, you could maybe just apply for the master's program next fall. I think when I was looking around, I saw several schools talk about JD and philosophy students opting for a joint degree while one was in progress, so I don't think this is a rare thing, just something to check for wherever you're going. This would be good, too, because your application materials are still fresh. I would myself be very uncomfortable relying on 5 yr old professors for the strongest letters of recommendation; as Die_Kurator said, better to just go with whatever political theory professors you might latch onto while your there if you don't go for the joint JD-MA.
  5. Well, the results would make as much if not more sense if you were making the completely wrong assumptions: 1. I wouldn't say people's hopes were exclusively reserved for their single top choice; I imagine most, like myself, just hoped to get in anywhere (or mostly anywhere). This is because... 2. If TGF were comprised of what I'll tactlessly call "the losers" (but you know what I mean—underdogs), by communicating and sympathizing with other "losers", the general standards here for what is hoped for could be pretty low—namely, "pretty much anything". (Again, I'll wholeheartedly admit I'm projecting here; I'll leave it to you to take it or leave it.) Basically flip everything about your explanation/speculation on its head and I think it comes out aright, with no interesting questions leftover. P.S. Seriously congratulations isostheneia. Fingers crossed I'll be joining you there in a couple years.
  6. I know this question's susceptible only to speculation, but what do y'all think is value of specialized philosophy tracks when it comes to PhD admissions? Positive, negative, or null? By specialized tracks I mean, e.g., master's programs that offer Neuroscience/Neurophilosophy or Linguistics tracks. I know in philosophy culture generally, for instance, it's increasingly frowned upon to do philosophy of science without some kind of science background. Do you think a student who professes an interest in Ph. of Language taking a linguistics-oriented track would look better to an admissions committee, or does the impure transcript just look weak? One of the reasons I ask is because I noticed they tend to have strangely minimal requirements. For example, GSU's Neurophilosophy track only asks for 2 electives to go to Psych/Neuroscience courses; UW-Milwaukee's "Language and Linguistics" philosophy track also only differs from the straight-and-narrow by needing 2 electives to be in Linguistics, and since the regular option affords up to 3 electives anyways, if those were in the right courses, all the sudden this special name could be slapped on their transcript. Do you think anyone would care? Lamest kind of bragging rights?
  7. I know this is a stupidly obvious point, but I'm surprised no one has mentioned it and it seems worth considering: Some great students just suck at exams, and this seems especially true in philosophy, which is enormously ill-suited for the format. So if you're deciding between thesis v. exam options, it might be better to go for the thesis (in some cases) just so long as you aren't a test-taker type. (But then again, I don't know what MA exams are like; if they're easy A's, this is a moot point.) Right?
  8. As someone from Baltimore, I might just chip in that—as with every city—it all depends on the neighborhoods you live in. Obviously, the gentrified streets have only been getting more expensive (especially right around JHU, Charles Village), but it's not like you'll be significantly safer or anything living there—it just looks nicer and that's about it. I strongly recommend moving towards the outskirts of the city, where some decent-enough apartments in decent-enough neighborhoods open up at pretty great prices. Three friends of mine just grabbed a large three story townhouse for ~$1.2k collectively; three others pay twice that to live in an one-floor apartment that's half the size, roughly as nice, and closer to the city. The cost of living is dynamic: you can live very cheaply if you want to (well, in most aspects, I suppose).
  9. How forward are you all with professors you hope will be your thesis advisor? I feel like it would be equally weird to field the related questions nonchalantly.
  10. I have one related question: what should you talk to faculty about? I've seen a lot of advice on what to ask current grad students about (climate, supportiveness, well-being, TAing, real costs of living/attending, etc.), but if I want to meet with specific faculty...? I feel like once you eliminate the blunt questions it would be too tactless to ask (and so you instead get answers from students), all that's left on the table is, "Hi, my name is ____." Any advice on useful talking points?
  11. Thinking of this as an empirical hypothesis as you say, would there be any empirical difference between there being a second "wide" sense to 'philosopher', and there just being a habit of applying the univocal title metaphorically (as in the Dylan example), under the varying assertability conditions of loose-talk?
  12. Update: approaching 5,000 words. If we keep this up for a few more days, I can maybe edit this sucker into the first draft of my thesis.
  13. [1] OK--that's interesting. I used to say MLK was not really a philosopher: I said that in a room full of my undergraduate faculty and was roundly bucked at. Because I'm a proud jerk, I thereafter researched into why they were so adamant that he was a philosopher ("in their sense," even though "their sense" is the same sense as everyone else's but with tighter assertability conditions). That's where I came into pretty much everything and every point I've made in this thread. Especially (i) the evidence I've already linked into this thread, and (ii) the post mortem canonization into the history of philosophy--I think--justifies the title. [2] This is what I tried to introduce several posts above. From the start (you can check), I've only been relaying a certain position that I think is most common in academia. I'm interested in going down the other road, where "philosopher" is an inherently normative term, and everyone should be held up to it to better or worse degrees. (Well, actually, because of my Wittgensteinian tendencies, I'm more inclined to say that everyone has philosophical impulses/neuroses, and these are a bad thing, which "philosophers" study/cure like a cancer.) This would force philosophy departments to be less cloistered. [3] No, I said popular understanding [i.e. that one sense as a matter of fact is quantifiably more popular than others] is empirical. [*] Ian, you might be interested in this too. I think one way to clarify the position I've defended is with an analogy to epistemic pragmatism/behaviorism, wherein there is no distinction between "truth" and "assertable beyond reproach," or the like. I think this kind of pragmatism fails in epistemology but fares a lot better in language (between "correct usage" and "utterable beyond reproach"). I think it is just a historical, empirical fact that popular usage of a term bows to expert usage, not the other way around; this is part of what makes expertise expertise. But, qualiafreak, I think you've already stipulated too much in your example to say, "In another sense, they are speaking nonsense because no one around them understands them." The fact that, as a matter of contingency, a bunch of people (but not everyone around them, only 90%) don't yet understand them but in principle could, I think, shows that they are by definition not speaking nonsense. Nonsense has no sense, but not only does their speech have a sense--which is sufficient enough for not being nonsense--but that the public could readily interpret them, pushes your example into overkill. Also, on "hello" and the performative utterances: No, they in fact can communicate the intentions of the speaker perfectly well but become meaningless/nonsense/infelicitous for, as you yourself mention, contextual reasons--not for a failure to reveal intentions; which is to concede that the communication of ideas/intentions is not the sole criteria for meaning -- my entire case. I chose "hello" because the relevant intention is so simple that it cannot fail to be communicated and understood, so it fails for other reasons; understanding intentions =/= understanding meaning (which should be obvious because "meaning" can mean "use," "purpose," "role," "consequence," "felicity," "representation," "extension," "intension," and a bunch of other things; "intentions" is just maybe the weakest but fairly intuitive reduction to go for, hence why I call it naive). That said, I have said from the start that we should pay attention to what kind of linguistic mistake is being made. **What I've been saying all along** In the case of the "philosopher" example, applying the term can be a conversational mistake even when the extension is correct, so long as it suboptimally implies the speaker's intentions (which it does in the "broad," complimentary sense of "philosopher," since the "broad" sense is equally if not more often used as an insult). My whole point is that we should not (over-)think but look at the way people actually use the term "philosopher," see that it's often in fact derogatory (has been for millennia), and then we can agree that whatever "broad" sense we're talking about does not even maximize effective communication but promotes misinterpretation/disregard--whereas some nearby, intended compliment would work perfectly; the mistake, then, is not going for the nearby compliment (this pretty deductively follows). So, yeah, I think we agree on a lot, so I'll just point out some things to see what you think. On (1), there are clearly people writing on the exact same historical figures, participating in the exact same dialogue as academic philosophers, who nevertheless aren't a part of academia; "philosopher," then, can include both them and the academics. For example, Richard Rorty was "excommunicated" from academic philosophy, but remained a philosopher (in part), and remains a key figure, staking out a key territory of the philosophical landscape (even if just as a punching-bag, but hey, that's what most philosophers become). Alain De Botton, I think--I'm not sure if he holds a position in a formal institution--would be another example. On (2) and (3): I mostly agree, and have already said as much. I mean, it's a PR strategy, plain and simple; one that is probably failing. You later say stuff like "Derrida is a charlatan, not a real philosopher" is an evaluative use of the term, but I think it's actually performatively constructing a descriptive use of the term, to just demarcate the kind of respect-for-the-arcane academics want apart from what (i) the public is more liable to ridicule and (ii) academics don't want to spend their time studying/attacking. (I know the terms "respect" and "ridicule" suggest evaluative, but I think if you think it through, you can see what I mean; it's a detaching from any evaluative application of the term.) I think we are still very much in agreement here. But seriously, come on, guys: "the exemplary philosopher being someone who lives well and does not just research well." You're just being a mouthpiece for Plato here. You are not talking about exemplary philosophers but exemplary human beings. What has anything about philosophy characteristically have to do with effectively making you a better human being? This is pure rhetoric -- maybe necessary in the time of the Sophists, but it's been laughable nonsense for the past two centuries at least. I don't know what kind of education forms an ubermensch, but we should hold ourselves to some modicrum of integrity and screen-off the philosopher's bias in ethics. ("Look, I'm a philosopher, I study what it means to lead a great life, and I can tell you with an expertise you'll find nowhere else that I alone hold the key.") No one who hasn't sipped the Kool-Aid of PHIL 101 equates "philosopher" with "great person". Period. Go through your history books, look at all the great figures, and see whether "philosopher" even seems, even on a stretch, apt. How many will you find?
  14. To Ian Not quite: I have never been talking about a term as it's used by an entire community (100%—even though I could maybe push this way if I wanted to); in these particular cases it's the status of a term used by a large or majority population, whose usage might be subject to correction by people who might then have the role of "linguistic experts". (Chemists on "water" meaning H20, Physicists on "heat" meaning mean kinetic molecular energy, and so on, up to Philosophers on "philosophy" as XYZ ——the metaphilosophical problem is obviously big right now, so I'll leave that one open; the point is the epistemic authority involved.) The majority could very well be persuaded that they've been using it not necessarily wrong but without understanding; I should note that while you've been focusing on "misuse", that's been confusing the problem as to why the term is meaningful and when it is meaningful. Going back to MLK, the point there was that people could truthfully call him a philosopher without understanding why he's a philosopher. On dictionaries: again, not quite—especially on your own terms. Dictionaries take on an explicit status as descriptive v. prescriptive: some dictionaries throughout history have actually tried to say, "This book is prescriptive," failed, and then later backtracked; every other dictionary (or dictionary committee) explicitly says that the book records only how words are used, not how they ought to be used—the latter is what style-books are for. I don't see how you can, on your own terms, argue that the self-proclaimed descriptivist dictionary writers aren't ipso facto descriptivist. So, if this is up for grabs at all, it's because it's an empirical question, but with loads and loads of evidence in my favor. And, if you want to say, as you seem to do, that dictionaries have authoritative power — not because they claim it for themselves (they empirically don't) but because we grant it to them regardless (in which case I and many others will be your empirical counterexamples) — then it would hurt your own point that "beg the question" is regularly targeted in prescriptivist, descriptivist-prescriptivist hybrids, and descriptivist-with-prescriptivist-intentions (OED) dictionaries. And again, you should be able to think of easily enough on your own the multitude of philosophical problems that would follow from meaning being solely words on the right side of dictionary entries (Derridean paradoxes, the resulting fickleness of meaning, that terms would be overdetermined by the multitude of sources saying different things, that I could write a dictionary to make everything you've said so far show agreement with me, the meaning-status of tribes without dictionaries...). You say, "You see a separation between how ordinary speakers use words to successfully communicate their ideas, and how they ought to use words." Again, I've already tackled that in this thread, but this presupposes an extremely naive view of meaning on your part, that meaning is solely the communication of ideas (wherein successful communication of ideas = successful use of words). How a person ought to meaningfully say, "I promise..." or, "I love you" seems to be determined a lot of other things than ideas in the person's head, words in a dictionary, etc. ("Hello" spoken no matter how intentionally mid-conversation is meaningless.)
  15. There are some circularity mistakes in there (e.g. "They have whatever meaning they have because and only because people understand them to have that meaning"—a meaning is precisely that which is understood, so you can't use understanding to ground meaning). But to quickly address what's arguably my most controversial but I think wholly justified point, re: "I don't even see how anything but popular understanding of a term determines its meaning". Premise 1. Popular understanding/usage is an empirical fact about what is the case. Premise 2. Meaning is a normative concept: there are correct and incorrect ways to use a term; equivalently, definitions of meaning are about what ought be the case (regarding utterances). Premise 3. ~Naturalistic Fallacy: facts about what is the case can't in themselves justify facts about what should be the case (if you even want to call these latter "oughts" facts, anyway). Concl. Popular opinion can't determine the meaning of any given term. (It's a rather safe instance of Kripke's Rule-Following Paradox, which more widely tries to show that no facts whatsoever determine the meaning of any given term. (My use of it is ironic, since Kripke's own solution to the problem was to appeal to majority opinion; virtually every commentator has pointed out this ironic flaw in Kripke's solution.) I recommend seeing it it as saying less about the nature of "meaning" than the nature of "determining," in the particular case of meanings. (This turns it into just a general philosophical problem of normativity: wtf?)) P.S. I specifically said "I don't pretend to know" the right theory of meaning here. But my "nonsense" remark was just a lame joke about the "decay of language" or whatever (although it is a plausible reductio ad absurdum of the majoritarianism view: all it takes, on the view you've offered, for this forum to literally become nonsense is enough people to start talking differently). And your words-represent-mental-concepts view, I take it, is basically Jerry Fodor's. Just mentioning that in case you didn't know / are interested; but it's a notoriously sketchy philosophy with a lot of problems: if the words represent the concepts, then what are the concepts doing? Representing external objects? Then why aren't the words representing those objects? What has the middle-man of mental understanding-states done but kicked the can down the road, displacing the burden of explanation? Is all meaning just "representation" anyway? (Certainly not.)
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