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Inside and outside the Philosophy departments


surlefil

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Hi!

 

I wondered if anyone of you applied to a Ph.D. program that wasn't IN Philosophy specifically, because your interests were philosophical but outside the Philosophy departments, such as English departments, Comp. Lit., German/French Studies, Latin American Studies, etc.

 

I would like to apply to a Ph.D. in Philosophy, but as my AOI is Aesthetics and I'm interested in continental philosophy, I do not have a great deal of options, especially if I want to apply to a top school. I'm considering the possibility of applying to a Ph.D. in Art History/Art Criticism/Art Theory, but I want my research, thesis and everything to be philosophical.

 

Could you talk about how was your experience? Is it possible to do philosophical work in other areas? Do the professors have philosophical knowledge? Does a Philosophy student have chances of being accepted in a program not in Philosophy?

 

I read some of you have in fact this problem, so I thought maybe we could talk about this and hear different experiences. It might be useful to many of us!

 

Thanks!

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I'm in exactly the same position, but with political theory. Does anyone out there have advice for someone trying to decide between philosophy departments and political science departments for political theory? My interests also err on the side of continental. Is there actually a difference in the degree that you come out with and your job options post grad?

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My understanding is that, frankly, professional philosophers -- by which I mean those who are paid to profess in front of students -- at least at the better places, tend to be pretty skeptical of people who come in from other departments (Comp Lit, German, etc.) and give talks. My father, who teaches at a top Leiter department, is not particularly kind in his reviews of these talks, as he feels they generally either misuse or use superficially whatever philosophical constructs they're laying claim to.

 

So based on that, and the comments of his friends and colleagues over the last 30 years, I would have to say that my guess is, if you want to end up in a philosophy department, you should really try to find one for your doctoral work. By all means, find a school that will let you take as many classes in your interest of field, but if your goal is a professorship in a philosophy department, I would stick with phil. (Of course, if you'd be happy to teach art history or poli sci or whatever, ignore all of this and go for it!) And I would also add that in philosophy, as in other grad areas, your advisor and LOR writers will ultimately likely be more important than the "rank" of the department, so the key is just to find the people doing what you want to do and doing it well, and then try your damndest to join them.

 

My two cents, anyway, and admittedly I haven't followed my dad's career path, but I've spent a lot of time with profs and grad students over the years, so I just thought I'd throw this out there.

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You might also be able to find a good Continental department for your work.  Continental programs feed into Continental jobs, where the search committees aren't as big on the "top programs."  A Continental school isn't likely going to look to hire a Heidegger scholar from Yale or anything like that.  The school would probably be much more interested in good scholars from the New School, Stony Brook, DePaul, and the like.  

 

EDIT:  Maybe I'm off-base on this, as having someone from a big-name school on your faculty does look good on the surface, but Continental schools know which programs are the good ones for Continental philosophy.

Edited by hasbeen
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My understanding is that, frankly, professional philosophers -- by which I mean those who are paid to profess in front of students -- at least at the better places, tend to be pretty skeptical of people who come in from other departments (Comp Lit, German, etc.) and give talks. My father, who teaches at a top Leiter department, is not particularly kind in his reviews of these talks, as he feels they generally either misuse or use superficially whatever philosophical constructs they're laying claim to.

 

While I generally agree with this post, the reference to Leiter makes me wonder if this is totally applicable ("top Leiter departments" tend to be--but aren't necessarily--more Analytic, and thus tend to be dismissive of continental philosophy).  My own story is that I'm a Philosophy MA student with an undergraduate degree in French and English lit, and that I'm dating an English MA student. On a note related to edgirl's--in addition to considering your role in Art History etc. with regard to philosophy and to philosophers, you should consider how much room there will be in your new life for philosophy. We Continentalists have had it rough for decades in America; in the past it was perfectly acceptable to take refuge in other humanities departments. As my prof put it, there was a time when most comparative literature professors were philosophers in disguise. But those days might be coming to an end. I'm not sure about the Art Crit/Hist scene, but in comparative and national literature departments there is a real move away from theory in the service of making lit majors more "marketable."

 

I would contact someone in an Art dept (that you're considering) and ask about job prospects--be upfront: is writing on or teaching theory a reasonable expectation for an Art Crit/Hist PhD? In a way it doesn't matter, following edgirl, whether philosophers take you seriously if you don't have the opportunity to do philosophy in the first place. 

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If you're interested in SPEP-style continental philosophy Leiter is useless to you.  The "top schools" for such things are totally distinct from mainstream philosophy departments.  Those who do philosophically oriented work in comp-lit, english, german/french, and cultural/media studies departments generally work in the SPEP style and on similar problems and thinkers as those schools - but this might not be the case for aesthetics (as correlated with art history/theory/criticism departments).

 

Do you do the kind of "continental" philosophy done at Stony Brook, Penn State, DePaul, Memphis, Villanova, Duquesne (and the 10 or so other schools in the SPEP constellation), or the kind done at UofC, Berkley, Riverside, Rice, etc. (basically the top Leiter-ranked continental schools)?  I think any advice has to take this into account, as these are different worlds.

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Thank you all for your inputs!

 

If you're interested in SPEP-style continental philosophy Leiter is useless to you.  The "top schools" for such things are totally distinct from mainstream philosophy departments.  Those who do philosophically oriented work in comp-lit, english, german/french, and cultural/media studies departments generally work in the SPEP style and on similar problems and thinkers as those schools - but this might not be the case for aesthetics (as correlated with art history/theory/criticism departments).

 

Do you do the kind of "continental" philosophy done at Stony Brook, Penn State, DePaul, Memphis, Villanova, Duquesne (and the 10 or so other schools in the SPEP constellation), or the kind done at UofC, Berkley, Riverside, Rice, etc. (basically the top Leiter-ranked continental schools)?  I think any advice has to take this into account, as these are different worlds.

magog, could you explain to me the difference between those two groups of schools? I’m sorry, but I’m not from the US, so I’ve been doing some research on Ph.D. programs, but I don’t have like a general view of them.

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Thank you all for your inputs!

 

magog, could you explain to me the difference between those two groups of schools? I’m sorry, but I’m not from the US, so I’ve been doing some research on Ph.D. programs, but I don’t have like a general view of them.

 

In my understanding of the differences, the Leiter-ranked schools are much more analytically oriented even if his rankings included schools that have Continental philosophers in their departments or have historically Continental thinkers listed as their AOI's. Generally speaking if you browse the interests of those on the PGR rankings you'll see that the most "Continental" you get is something along the lines of vague interests in Hegel, Kant and maybe Nietzsche. The style of philosophy that Leiter seems to privileged is one that is focused specifically on traditional philosophical issues, using traditional philosophical language. I would even argue that Lieter's view of Continental philosophy basically ignores much of the work of the 20th century, and in particular anything that can be classified as Post-modern.

 

In contrast looking at the interests of those at places like DePaul, Memphis, Duquesne, et al. you'll see philosophers making statements about contemporary/20th century philosophers and offering distinctions between 19th and 20th century philosophy within their own AOI's. The above departments are more broad in their view of what constitutes philosophy and tend to embrace a more broadly construed view of the field as a whole and its interrelation to other fields. This isn't to suggest that they do not address philosophical issues using traditional philosophical language, but that the more Continental departments also integrate sub-fields into their work - such as art, literature, film, etc, because Continental philosophy - especially in the 20th century - firmly entrenches itself in discussing issues of the culture at large, and addressing meta-narratives, and blah, blah, blah. All that being said there is (as it is self-reported by the institution) an attempt by specifically Continental programs to prepare their graduate students for some competence in Analytic-style philosophy.

 

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Related to what Iamtheother said, a number of the "Continental-friendly" programs on Leiter's list have one or two Continental philosophers and that's it.  Continental programs tend to be very interested in the history of philosophy too, especially the more traditional programs.  Their faculty definitely make the distinction between 19th and 20th century philosophy, though the connection to sub-fields I would say is most common with 20th century philosophers and not as much with earlier philosophers covered by Continental programs.

Edited by hasbeen
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Related to what Iamtheother said, a number of the "Continental-friendly" programs on Leiter's list have one or two Continental philosophers and that's it.  Continental programs tend to be very interested in the history of philosophy too, especially the more traditional programs.  Their faculty definitely make the distinction between 19th and 20th century philosophy, though the connection to sub-fields I would say is most common with 20th century philosophers and not as much with earlier philosophers covered by Continental programs.

 

Agree. I think I should also clarify that both "schools" of philosophy approach different problems in different ways, and that when looking for a heavy Continental-oriented department it's worthwhile to read some of the work of the faculty to get a sense of how they approach their argumentation and/or analysis. That being said, I think they're both valuable and that one of the reasons that Memphis appears attractive to me is their apparent insistence on addressing both fields, even if they slant heavily in the Continental direction.

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The style of philosophy that Leiter seems to privileged is one that is focused specifically on traditional philosophical issues, using traditional philosophical language. 

 

I shouldn't be quibbling, but it should be noted that the "tradition" referenced here is maybe one hundred years old (depending on how you date it). 

I'm obviously biased--I'm a continentalist. Even if the difference is only stylistic (to avoid any polemics), Analytic philosophy is a markedly different from most everything before it that we'd consider philosophy, so I'd hardly call it traditional. For better or for worse! 

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I stand corrected. I should have been more clear. Perhaps than; the philosophical language isn't traditional, but the philosophical concerns are traditional in their scope (obviously some fields were not delineated until some-what recently). If you view metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, etc as traditional philosophical concerns.

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Ok, thanks a lot. I didn't really pay so much attention to PGR, since I've seen it's not really useful for what I'm looking for. Yet, I wonder if the better choice wouldn't be to study both continental and analytic tradition in one's AOI, to really be able to have both insights and start clearing up that great division... I don't really know what the better choice is. I have to admit I really didn't find interesting the few things I read in analytic aesthetics...

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