## Why I Left Academic Philosophy

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• 54

There is nothing special about academic philosophy. You could get a similar set of complaints from a schoolteacher, a policeman, a politician and everyone else. That while I am interested in making a difference, the rest of you are only interested in your careers or point scoring. That the rewards go to the well-connected and those who say what people want them to say, and not to original and courageous free thinkers (i.e. me). And so on.

Fortunately, there other branches of philosophy that help us reconcile ourselves with the unsatisfactory nature of the world in which we find ourselves.
• 128
Would it be fair to say then that academic philosophy has succumbed, or surrendered itself to the prevailing materialist paradigm/ethos -- using the descriptor 'materialist' in both its ontological and cultural sense -- just like most other academic pursuits, such that, once indoctrinated, there's no longer much leeway to be a so-called 'free thinker' outside that paradigmatic box, so to speak.
• 54
Would it be fair to say then that academic philosophy has succumbed, or surrendered itself to the prevailing materialist paradigm/ethos -- using the descriptor 'materialist' in both its ontological and cultural sense -- just like most other academic pursuits, such that, once indoctrinated, there's no longer much leeway to be a so-called 'free thinker' outside that paradigmatic box, so to speak.

I don't know about succumbed. T'was ever thus. Things have been much worse; think about Heidegger's academic career. Or what passed for Soviet philosophy. I must say that from the outside US academia has always seemed highly conformist, you have to have the right political attitudes to get along. Of course, that doesn't seem so obvious if you share those attitudes yourself.

What I am saying is that if you drop out and join some hippy commune in the desert you will get just the same thing. As Homer Simpson explained; The code of the schoolyard, Marge! The rules that teach a boy to be a man. Let's see. Don't tattle. Always make fun of those different from you. Never say anything, unless you're sure everyone feels exactly the same way you do...
• 128
Yes, very true ... My academic college 'sojourn' amounted to a couple of years of art college, attended and taught by many counter-culture types, and even there it seemed that there was only so much leeway granted when it came to colouring outside the lines, if you will. One imagines that Picasso would not have thrived there ... not that I was in his league by any stretch of the imagination. :)
• 128
@Londoner Further to your point, having peaked my curiosity, I now recall that some of the staff and students of that art college, bemoaning the status quo of art education believing that it had become too focused on teaching 'commercial' art, eventually quit and broke away to start their own program, naming it The New School of Art, or some such moniker, with the motto 'for artists, by artists.' Wondering how long it lasted, I googled away and discovered that after morphing into some later alternative incarnation, it eventually filed for bankruptcy some years ago, and closed its doors. Meanwhile the status quo institution it denounced is still going strong. Such is the power of prevailing consensus paradigms.
• 5.9k
We are long past the time when only a small number of wealthy people sent their children to college to study whatever they felt like studying, or what was deemed 'necessary' at the time. After WWII, ordinary people enrolled in affordable colleges for the purpose of obtaining a liberal education, yes, but also to get on the conveyer belt of upward mobility. And, by and large, it worked very well for such purposes for quite a while.

Over time, say by the 1980s, people getting off the end of the conveyor belt were finding that their liberal arts degrees were less useful in the job market than they had expected. As the cost of college rose, they also began stepping off the belt with fairly large college loan debt. Debt and few great job opportunities has soured a lot of people on college education.

If commercial art provides better job prospects than a classic atelier school, or some rebel art-for-artists approach does, then that is the responsible thing for art schools to teach. Same goes for the state university. If nobody is hiring French Literature majors, then one needs to be honest about the program's benefits. It might be worthwhile, but be aware you won't get hired to teach it. If students disappear, so will the major, and so will the French Department.

I was lucky; I started college in 1964 when college was still cheap. My long range planning was abysmal, and I got a bachelors degree in English Literature. Never taught it, but having the degree helped qualify me for some decent jobs that had nothing to do with Shakespeare. It was worthwhile. I'd do it over. In fact, I'd like to do it over, though at 71 that doesn't make much sense.
• 5.9k
By the way, I'm inclined to be in favor of the rebels starting their own art school. I generally approve of rebels. But... whether they can make it work financially and 'professionally' is another matter.

There is a bookstore in town here, Mayday Books, which is a 100% rebel operation. They've been "in business" for maybe 45 years, though I'm sure their sales never covered the rent in the ratty spaces they've occupied. They have a sugar daddy, apparently. They are more of a meeting place than a going book selling business, and I laud the devotion of the rebels who have kept it going. I used to belong to a socialist group who served the same sort of function -- we were more of a meeting place and discussion group than any threat to capitalism, but such rebel operations are important to some people.
• 128
To be sure, it is just the fact of life while firmly entrenched within the current prevailing paradigm, that our higher education systems, dependent upon tuition and/or grants from the establishment in order to survive, must become de facto shills for that paradigm.

To your point about the breakaway rebels, for the record, that alternative art school did turn out some notable indie artists over the years, who no doubt like most such folks struggle to get by on just the proceeds of selling their unique works of art. Alas, It just is the way it is, with no easy way to shift the paradigm, which it seems will only metamorphose when its evolutionary time has come.
• 197
Enjoyed this post, and particularly
The second component is ego, which was comically avoided in this article. I’ve spent a long term around other academics and many of them are ego-driven jerks
I ventured into academia a little later than most, and generally got the feeling that many (though not all) of the faculty members were very clever children whose emotional development was arrested back in the school playground.
Anyway, sometimes I think the main problem in academia these days is that the whole university system remains mired in a spirit of feudalism, whilst trying to negotiate a world that has evolved economically into capitalism (don't get me wrong, I'm no apologist for capitalism, but nor for feudalism either). Maybe we need to move away from the idea that we do all our studying up to the age of 21 (or for some of us a little later) and then ditch it and get on with earning money, and move towards a world in which work and education really are both life long.
• 17
Yeah, I think that's a good way to put it. They are often very clever, usually well-read folks; at the same time they are emotionally stunted in more than a few ways. Now of course that's not every single one of them - there really are nice, humble, and genuinely good-hearted academics out there, but they are not the norm.
I think in a lot of ways you’re absolutely right. But I’d take your comment a little further and say that while the institution itself plays a role on the whole of academia it has a particularly deleterious effect on the humanities and specifically an old field like philosophy. I used to love academic philosophy when I was an undergraduate, and when I got into graduate school and started working with other academics in other disciplines and going to conferences and meeting other types of people from the academic world and the private sector I realized philosophy really was a group of bitter, archaic, men.
Part of it is the material and the method undertaken within the academe. A part of it is the institutional configuration itself which takes philosophy – a field rooted in a history of intellectual elitism, criticism, and attempts to secure immunity from that criticism – and turns it into a machine which produces new generations of the same brood. More recently competition is taking a toll on the field and its practioners: philosophy jobs are declining, most of the good ones are only accessible to those with degrees from elite institutions, and more and more undergraduates who feel out of place in college or who feel a deep sense of disenchantment are drawn toward philosophy as a major. That may or may not be a bad thing depending on what we’re after, but it does mean that typically unhappy people with few job prospects are teaching other unhappy kids with even less job prospects. It’s more than just knowledge of the material that is carried over from professors to kids.
• 128
t’s more than just knowledge of the material that is carried over from professors to kids.

This does sum it up in a nutshell sort of way, does it not? When considering how much about such educational institutions is about indoctrination, as opposed to any actual open-minded edification, I can now see why from almost day one of school I intuited with a sinking feeling that it was some kind of sham cooked up by those in charge to imprison me within their parochial worldview. No wonder I spent so much time window-gazing in imaginative revelry about what mysteries may await beyond the pane ... pun intended.
• 5.6k
William's piece just... ugh. :vomit:
"Why I left Academic Philosophy". "Because Men. Because the way Men Write (badly). Because I felt insignificant in comparison to BLM. Because philosophy student are arrogant hairy (Men) hipsters that nobody in their right mind would want to associate with. Because I felt shame when I told people I was studying Philosophy."

I think that that's the best criticism I've seen so far. It's one of those "harsh, but true" comments.
• 5.9k
ONE good thing about all the underpaid, exploited adjunct instructors who would like to be professors, but are not going to be, is that they are free to teach. They don't have to worry much about publishing pointless papers and they can pursue their interests freely.

Another good teaching group in college are full, tenured, agéd professors who are getting close to retirement and no longer need to prove anything.

It is the younger, fully committed to the not-so-tender trap of the tenure track who are made to suffer the most.
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I think that that's the best criticism I've seen so far. It's one of those "harsh, but true" comments.

And to note, I kinda do agree that Philosophy courses are dominated by men (and mostly white men). In a specific way. Philosophy is like the reverse Law course. In Law, you often start with 50/50 men/women in early classes. After the second semester, tho, it becomes 40/60 men/women, and keeps increasing until you finish with graduations that are 85% women. Philosophy, in my experience, goes the other way.

And ideally, there should be a diversity of people from different cultural backgrounds and experience that interest themselves in Philosophy enough that they wish to register to a university course. And when a group becomes predominantly male and white, especially when a lot of the members of the group are socially akward, then it can become very toxic toward women, transgender and etc...

But if someone leave Philosophy because there are too many White Men, because they are too hipster, because they feel shame at what they do, then, honestly and seriously, we are the better for it. I'm 100% positive she would have been bad at it.
• 6.8k
Philosophers use “rigor” to justify bad writing
Even if academic philosophy were publicly accessible, I doubt the public would be interested in reading any of it. Philosophers often go to great lengths to make their papers as boring and difficult to read as possible. This is done in order to seem “rigorous” and “technical,” but most of the time that “rigor” does nothing but make it harder for non-philosophers to understand.

I agree with this.

But I think the ultimate sin is that academic philosophy is filled with people — mostly men — who spend a lot of time talking about things that are almost entirely abstracted from the pragmatic realities of human existence.

And not in a good way.

I will never forget sitting in our auditorium listening to a long talk about meta-ethics when, right outside the doors of the university, Black Lives Matters activists were marching (this was in St. Louis at the time of Ferguson).

I could hear them chanting; the stark contrast between the esoteric subtleties of meta-ethics vs. the concrete realities of what would be considered “applied ethics” — a term usually uttered with slight contempt — made me deeply uncomfortable.

How could I justify this exuberance of abstraction when there were so many real-world problems that needed the minds of intelligent people?

I don't agree with this.
• 3.7k
As the cost of college rose, they also began stepping off the belt with fairly large college loan debt.

We have the Hope scholarship in Georgia funded by the lottery and I pay just over $1,000 in tuition per semester for my son to go to the University of Georgia. He pays$400 a month in rent and like $100 a month for food. He also spends$0 annually on haircuts and clothes and it seems like he has a very small soap budget. He'll emerge tired, hungry, dirty, and cold, but he'll have no debt. I might allow him a hot shower upon graduation if his grades are good enough.
• 28
We have the Hope scholarship in Georgia funded by the lottery and I pay just over $1,000 in tuition per semester for my son to go to the University of Georgia. He pays$400 a month in rent and like $100 a month for food. He also spends$0 annually on haircuts and clothes and it seems like he has a very small soap budget. He'll emerge tired, hungry, dirty, and cold, but he'll have no debt. I might allow him a hot shower upon graduation if his grades are good enough.

Wow, I applaud you both, that is precisely how I wish I could have aspired to play this game. If I could watch your son I would truly lust over his methods and achievements, but most of all; the display of that innate ability to hold oneself together. I can't even take it as it comes.
• 3.7k
If I could watch your son I would truly lust over his methods and achievementsXTG

Well, thanks, although the odor is a challenge. I keep a can of Axe in the trunk of my car and I make him get out and put his arms out and I spray him down when he comes home. It'd be funnier if I were joking.
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