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Political Theory Applications 2019

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3 minutes ago, as2472 said:

I love this idea! What do you study within PT?

Let's get this thread going! I am more analytically oriented I think and ultimately have some interests in methodology in political theory. If normative positions conflict, maybe a shift in methodological approach can alleviate that conflict. That's quite abstract but can be explored though a variety of questions, including by drawing from democratic theory.

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Hey gang, I am wondering what you esteemed theorists think of the political theory vs. political philosophy divide. To me, it's a pretty arbitrary distinction that creates a gap between politics and philosophy departments (though this varies from school to school of course). I have a Politics/IR background, but I have always integrated philosophy/theory into my writings. I've been pondering this a lot as I consider contingency options (the politics PhD app cycle has been rough for me), so I have been considering doing an MA in ethics to diversify my portfolio in a way. Is that a weird idea? 

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Great thread idea! 

Does anyone know for sure where they'll be going next year? 

I've been accepted to Michigan, waitlisted at Minnesota, and still waiting on Columbia and Northwestern (although that last one isn't looking good).

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4 hours ago, Onwarrdz said:

Great thread idea! 

Does anyone know for sure where they'll be going next year? 

I've been accepted to Michigan, waitlisted at Minnesota, and still waiting on Columbia and Northwestern (although that last one isn't looking good).

No clue. Still haven't heard back from anywhere, which is to be expected - most of my schools are late bloomers in the cycle. So who knows!

 

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On 2/18/2019 at 1:34 AM, Theoryboi said:

Hey gang, I am wondering what you esteemed theorists think of the political theory vs. political philosophy divide. To me, it's a pretty arbitrary distinction that creates a gap between politics and philosophy departments (though this varies from school to school of course). I have a Politics/IR background, but I have always integrated philosophy/theory into my writings. I've been pondering this a lot as I consider contingency options (the politics PhD app cycle has been rough for me), so I have been considering doing an MA in ethics to diversify my portfolio in a way. Is that a weird idea? 

I'm a currently attending theorist, and I have a fellowship at an "ethics center" hosted in the philosophy department at my university. The methods of political theory and the methods of political philosophy are, at least today, very distinct. First, as a general note, political philosophy is almost an afterthought at most Ph.D. philosophy programs, where the focus tends to be on metaethics, metaphysics and epistemology, philosophy of mind, etc. Traditional "moral philosophy" and political philosophy are less important in those fields. There is a sharp divergence in method of interpretation, the aim of our work, sensitivity to real-world or empirical facts, analytic rigor, and the 'canon' of thinkers and text. 

Jacob T. Levy has a helpful meditation on some of these differences at the following: https://profs-polisci.mcgill.ca/levy/theory-philosophy.html

Some of the distinctions are, without doubt, arbitrary. Others are much more integral to either camp's work. 


-- 
All that to say, regardless of what you think of the distinction, it is a real and lived distinction and these departments and thinkers are usually compartmentalized through their various institutions. If your aim is to be a political theorist, in a political science department, you will probably not experience a great benefit from pursuing an M.A. in a philosophy department. 

 

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1 hour ago, StrengthandHonor said:

I'm a currently attending theorist, and I have a fellowship at an "ethics center" hosted in the philosophy department at my university. The methods of political theory and the methods of political philosophy are, at least today, very distinct. First, as a general note, political philosophy is almost an afterthought at most Ph.D. philosophy programs, where the focus tends to be on metaethics, metaphysics and epistemology, philosophy of mind, etc. Traditional "moral philosophy" and political philosophy are less important in those fields. There is a sharp divergence in method of interpretation, the aim of our work, sensitivity to real-world or empirical facts, analytic rigor, and the 'canon' of thinkers and text. 

Jacob T. Levy has a helpful meditation on some of these differences at the following: https://profs-polisci.mcgill.ca/levy/theory-philosophy.html

Some of the distinctions are, without doubt, arbitrary. Others are much more integral to either camp's work. 


-- 
All that to say, regardless of what you think of the distinction, it is a real and lived distinction and these departments and thinkers are usually compartmentalized through their various institutions. If your aim is to be a political theorist, in a political science department, you will probably not experience a great benefit from pursuing an M.A. in a philosophy department. 

 

Hi Strength & Honor!

Thank you for your reply. Your note and the blog post have given me a lot to think about in truth. I am interested in continental philosophy (of the postmodern variety), which seems to fit firmly within the blurred lines camp as pointed out by Levy. To be more specific, I want to examine moral and truth claims in international relations, especially related to Neo-Conservative foreign interventions under the premise of the moral good. Furthermore, post-intervention state building such as in Iraq after 2003 was littered with truth claims such as 'democracy can work in Iraq'.

This all probably reads as very Theory oriented, rather than Philosophy, however, I want to marry these topics with post-structuralist views on truth and morality (ie: there is no objective truth) as a commentary on Liberal (Neo-Con) IR claims to morality as a means of justifying interventions. Basically,  I want to critique the use of metanarratives in IR. On the methods side, I am not at all interested in empiricism. Overall, I see this project as greatly spanning the traditional field and sub-field boundaries that we are talking about. From IR Theory to continental ethics, I personally see this as all interrelated and departmental divisions to be constraining, so my thought has been to try and gain insights from a variety of these disciplinary perspectives as a means to synthesize these topics. I have a background in politics (theory) and IR, but I am finding most departments are perhaps not interested in my investigations concerning post-modernism since it can be seen as more philosophically-oriented and less 'scientifically rigorous', however, Analytics then relegate PM to literary theory. So you can see my problem. The Phil MAs I had in mind are specifically continental-focused, so I think there could be more room for me to branch out, especially when considering that post-modernism defies a lot of these field distinctions. Anyways, sorry for the long post and the outlandish question. Thank you again for your insight. I don't know what I will do.

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On 2/19/2019 at 10:01 PM, StrengthandHonor said:

First, as a general note, political philosophy is almost an afterthought at most Ph.D. philosophy programs, where the focus tends to be on metaethics, metaphysics and epistemology, philosophy of mind, etc. 

Could you back up your claim? Better not to spread misinformation, and this seems to be badly mistaken. (I graduated with a BA in philosophy and my main AOI is political phil.)

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1 hour ago, _izzythekid_ said:

Could you back up your claim? Better not to spread misinformation, and this seems to be badly mistaken. (I graduated with a BA in philosophy and my main AOI is political phil.)

Not OP, but from my experience this is also true. I'm a transplant to political science out of philosophy because of the paucity of research and opportunities for political philosophers in philosophy departments proper. I've had plenty of contact with the philosophy department both at my undergrad university and others close by, and spent a fair bit of time researching philosophy PhDs before making the switch to political science, and political philosophy 100% fell by the wayside. I've found a few exceptions, though: (1) if the department is more continental you're more likely to have a range of political philosophy, and (2) you'll probably at least get social contract and Rawls in the analytic departments I've encountered. It's also a lot easier to run a couple political philosophy courses for undergrads (everyone can teach Rawls) than it is to develop a robust political philosophy faculty who consistently does great research.

But certainly since the vast majority of American schools skew analytic in their philosophy departments, you'd be hard up doing your PhD in philosophy on political issues. Obviously this is department-dependent (e.g. if you're at Chicago hanging out with Nussbaum and Pippin you're obviously have a lot of options), but places like Chicago seemed to be an exception when I was looking prior to my MA.

 

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2 hours ago, PBandMachiajelly said:

Not OP, but from my experience this is also true. I'm a transplant to political science out of philosophy because of the paucity of research and opportunities for political philosophers in philosophy departments proper. I've had plenty of contact with the philosophy department both at my undergrad university and others close by, and spent a fair bit of time researching philosophy PhDs before making the switch to political science, and political philosophy 100% fell by the wayside. I've found a few exceptions, though: (1) if the department is more continental you're more likely to have a range of political philosophy, and (2) you'll probably at least get social contract and Rawls in the analytic departments I've encountered. It's also a lot easier to run a couple political philosophy courses for undergrads (everyone can teach Rawls) than it is to develop a robust political philosophy faculty who consistently does great research.

But certainly since the vast majority of American schools skew analytic in their philosophy departments, you'd be hard up doing your PhD in philosophy on political issues. Obviously this is department-dependent (e.g. if you're at Chicago hanging out with Nussbaum and Pippin you're obviously have a lot of options), but places like Chicago seemed to be an exception when I was looking prior to my MA.

 

This is a lovely response, and now it seems that I am the mistaken one. My philosophy department was filled with (analytic) social and political theorists, but perhaps that was a provincial view of the discipline. 

 

On another note, I'm also thinking about transitioning to political science for graduate study--would you mind if a PM'd you?

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1 hour ago, _izzythekid_ said:

This is a lovely response, and now it seems that I am the mistaken one. My philosophy department was filled with (analytic) social and political theorists, but perhaps that was a provincial view of the discipline. 

 

On another note, I'm also thinking about transitioning to political science for graduate study--would you mind if a PM'd you?

Of course - PM away! I'd also be curious to hear what other people's experience has been - obviously two posters online doesn't represent an entire discipline, and I'd be interested if there are any others here who have been involved in philosophy departments too.

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On 2/22/2019 at 6:11 AM, _izzythekid_ said:

Could you back up your claim? Better not to spread misinformation, and this seems to be badly mistaken. (I graduated with a BA in philosophy and my main AOI is political phil.)

I am speaking to my experience as someone who moved from politics and philosophy as an undergrad to a theory Ph.D. program, and from what is a fairly common perspective in academia. There are, of course, Phil programs that focus in social and political philosophy. I don't know where you attended undergrad, but it is also true that political philosophy and applied ethics are more widely taught in undergraduate classes than as the focus of graduate programs. 

I think an excellent exercise is to examine the types of projects and papers that are being produced in political philosophy programs versus political theory as a discipline. Check out the recent conference programs, and ask which type of work you would rather do. 

I think my comment about the marginalization of political philosophy within the discipline is adequately supported by reading mainstream philosophy journals and conference proceedings. But YMMV. 

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On 2/19/2019 at 5:39 PM, Theoryboi said:

So you can see my problem. The Phil MAs I had in mind are specifically continental-focused, so I think there could be more room for me to branch out, especially when considering that post-modernism defies a lot of these field distinctions. Anyways, sorry for the long post and the outlandish question. Thank you again for your insight. I don't know what I will do.

I understand the difficulty. Really, the best advice I can offer is to look at a variety of programs and determine what sort of department offers you a) the best resources for the type of work you wish to do and b) the best path towards a Ph.D. if you plan to continue that route. 

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UCI - Accepted

UCR - Accepted

Rutgers, UIC, and UNC - pending

UMich, Cornell, UW (Seattle), UVA and UC Berkeley - Rejected (with my GRE quantitative I am not surprised).

I'm curious what have you all been doing before applying. What's your background/work history like? 

I have a BA in Phil, MA in Comm and a work history of mostly unrelated nonsense to pay the bills. 

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6 minutes ago, thephaeron said:

UCI - Accepted

UCR - Accepted

Rutgers, UIC, and UNC - pending

UMich, Cornell, UW (Seattle), UVA and UC Berkeley - Rejected (with my GRE quantitative I am not surprised).

I'm curious what have you all been doing before applying. What's your background/work history like? 

I have a BA in Phil, MA in Comm and a work history of mostly unrelated nonsense to pay the bills. 

Sorry, what are UCI and UCR? 

I finished my MA in political theory this past August and am currently doing a fellowship year with a Jewish social justice non-profit! It's somehow extremely relevant to my work which, given that I do normative political theory, is kind of shocking honestly. The rest of my work history is an assortment of part-time teaching positions + a year as a barista. 

 

 

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2 minutes ago, as2472 said:

Sorry, what are UCI and UCR? 

Univ of California - Irvine & Riverside. 

That fellowship sounds awesome. How did you come across it?

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What are y'alls thoughts on smaller political theory programs within more quant-driven departments? (e.g. Stanford) 

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On 3/2/2019 at 5:28 AM, Theory007 said:

Any thoughts on UVA vs. UNC for theory?

UNC! Mostly because I'll very likely be there lol... I'm comparative though... But I do know Duke has some good theorists too and I think what makes UNC and Duke very appealing is that if you attend the one you can relatively easily utilize the resources of the other. 

 

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