I recently graduated with a BA in philosophy. I recently applied to many Ph.D and MA program. I feel that with philosophy as competitive as it is, my record will place me in a MA program first. What can I do to distinguish myself in a MA program, for my later application to a PHD. My hope is for a top 20 school, in my area of interest, what special activities are looked for coming from an MA. The following have been suggested from a variety of sources. Please advise, did I miss anything here, are any of these wrong? Thank you for any comments you might have, 1. Maintain an good GPA 2. Publish, in both graduate and professional journals 3. Don't rely only on your own university; become involved with other nearby departments. 4. Get teaching experience. (TA, Tutoring, Teaching critical thinking) 5. Teach at a community college level (some programs allow this) 6. Gain research experience (indexing, editing etc..) 7. Directed readings in areas of study, (I'm not sure if this would help for an MA,...

My own view is that all this is incredibly wrong-headed. Singularly missing from this list is the project of immersing yourself in philosophical texts, thinking and talking to people about those texts and the issues they raise, and developing a deeper and subtler understanding of philosophical issues. I would like to think that we still live in a world in which, if you were to do this, then the rest will sort itself out appropriately. I might be wrong - but in that case, I personally would be less interested in pursuing such a career.

Why students checking facebook on class are regarded disrespectful, while a professor who checks his facebook on a symposium as another professor is reading his paper is said to be cute and cool? Are there absolute boundaries between righteous and evil, right and wrong?

I wouldn't regard such a Facebook-checking colleague as "cute and cool". Besides the fact that wanting to check a Facebook page already disqualifies one from being cool, it is disrespectful. I don't allow my students to use computers, cell phones, etc. during class, and if I were organizing a conference I'd strongly discourage those in the audience from doing so as well.

Okay, before you read my question - please read it with a "voice-tone" of curious respect. How does one becomed "recognized" as a philosopher? I suppose the simplified version of my question is "What makes a Philosopher a Philosopher"? I mean, we all have ideas about how things work, and spend time considering the great mysteries of life. If I want to become a philosopher, how can I make a living at it? It seems there are few options aside from teaching philosophy in universities or writing philosophy books. Thanks.

It's hard to answer what makes someone a philosopher for perhaps the same reason it's hard to say what precisely philosophy is. These days (and probably it's never been very different) most people who are able to make contributions to philosophy (and in that sense are philosophers) have received an education in which they've read and thought about many of the great classical texts, about many seminal contemporary contributions, and have had the opportunity, through conversation with others, to improve upon their native talents for critical analysis, imaginative reflection, and clear exposition. As for how you make a living, well these days I'd say close to 100% of those making widely recognized contributions to philosophy are in the education business (universities, colleges, community colleges, distance-learning enterprises, perhaps even schools). Some philosophers work in hospitals and businesses offering help in matters of practical ethics. Alas, there are not many philosophy stores.

I read somewhere that, in her professional lifetime, Martha Nussbaum has averaged 3-5 published pages per day. This raises two questions: 1) Wouldn't that make her a great panelist candidate for this site (not exactly a philosophical question, I admit)? And 2) what is the relationship between prodigious output of thought and quality/clarity of thought? In trying to read Nussbaum on my own, I find that she has some really great nuggets, but there is a lot of sifting before I find them (_Upheavals_of_Thought_ as a case in point). This seems problematic. Moreover, does the process of publishing sometimes work to diminish originality of thought (generally) and/or dilute the acuminity of thought? I suppose this melds into a third question: how has philosophy changed in relation to the changing dynamic of publishing (from an emphasis on treatises like books to shorter journal articles - and THIS as an effect of 'publish or perish')? And what may we say of this change - is it a 'good' change; what does...

I sent this query to Martha Nussbaum, who was kind enough to reply: I work very hard, and I never never read blogs or write on them. (I'm answering this question through an e mail message, and I have no intention of ever reading a blog.) I also have been very lucky to have a lot of leave time, and wonderful students to whom I can present my work in progress. Nonetheless, the average figure you quote seems to me rather ridiculous, and I am sure it is simply invented. As for clarity versus quantity: Upheavals of Thought was the product of about fifteen years of work, so I suppose it ought to take a relatively long time to read and understand also. It is highly interdisciplinary, so that the reader has to take a serious interest in psychology, literature, music, and other relevant disciplines. I think most philosophers today are rather badly trained in the humanities: thus it is not surprising to me that the most incisive discussion of the book came from the late Richard Wollheim, a man of...

I have a little dilemma that I need serious advice on. I started studying philosophy for 2 years at a small college in California. However, I chose to put my education on hold after I got married and had a child. Now I am seriously debating on going back to school and finishing up my BA degree in philosophy and then applying for graduate school. Do you know of any school where one could finish a degree up as a working adult? That is, is there an accredited school out there where one could attend a long distance program for a BA degree in Philosophy? Furthermore, after one enters into a graduate program at a University, can one get paid for teaching graduate courses to undergrads? How do graduate student who are pursuing a PhD make money during the 4-7 years that they spend at a University? Your answer will be much appreciated.

I don't know the answer to your first question about where to get aB.A. while working. There are continuing education programs througoutthe country designed to make that possible. My recommendation would beto go to a good nearby library and ask a reference librarian for help:s/he should be able to tell you how to get this information. As foryour question about support during graduate school, well, that varies.Most graduate schools will try to do what they can to support theirstudents, either through outright grants, or by hiring them to beteaching assistants, or via low-interest loans. What kind of support isavailable will vary from school to school, from year to year, and possibly also from student to student.

Hi. As an undergrad I became deeply interested in philosophy two years ago, and am currently on track to graduate next semester. I've enjoyed relative academic success in my studies but am usually unable to translate this into any sort of "philosophical" confidence. My question I suppose is this, did any of you experience extreme dread before considering grad school and lack of confidence as well? I feel that in ways philosophy has opened up so much for me, and that I can either continue to pursue it academically or live out a "philosophical" existence of experience. This is all very vague but I'm looking forward to hearing advice from a diversity of people in the field. Thank you for your time...Jake Claro

Dear Jake, People differ, of course. Some are sort of cocky and look graduate school in the face without blinking. Others — and I've known many, many such — are very nervous at the prospect, convinced that they just don't know enough to go to graduate school, aren't well prepared enough, perhaps aren't even smart enough or philosophically astute enough. I don't expect any of these postures is in the slightest bit predictive of how much a person will enjoy graduate school or of how well he or she will do in philosophy: confident people can crash and burn, and insecure souls can flourish. I suppose if your lack of confidence is so intense you simply cannot enjoy what you're doing, well, that's one thing. But if you don't find that your worry dims the delight you take in philosophy, then perhaps you ought to consider allowing yourself to be nervous but paying it no mind. Yours, AG

Why did you take philosophy? Was it a long standing goal in life or did you just wake up one morning and decide to be the next Plato or Socrates?

For many, I expect, a love of philosophy was neither a revelation nor something nurtured since infancy. Like many of the better things in life, philosophy is something one develops a taste for, over time, often accelerated through exposure to powerful influences at critical junctures. A mind-bending book here, a wonderful teacher there, some deeply satisfying experiences trying to wrestle with a problem, and before you know it, it's under your skin.

The rapid growth of scientific research has resulted in, and is probably also the result of, the impressive solution of successive scientific problems. Do the panelists think that the rapid growth of philosophical research in Universities can be explained correspondingly in terms of impressive solution of philosophical problems? If not, then by what?

Has there been "rapid growth in philosophical research in"universities? How should we measure that? Perhaps by looking at theincrease in the number of philosophical journals? And in terms of thenumbers of articles and books published per year? I would expect that,judged by such measures, philosophical research is booming. I think themost obvious explanation for this is the tying of promotion through theacademic ranks to publication. The search for "objective" standards forpromotion (to abet the abdication of judgment, to avoid lawsuits, toprovide a measure of an institution's standing vis-à-vis its competitors),this search seized with relief upon the spurious quantifiability ofarticles and books. Academic presses understood the need and stepped into supply the demand. No mysteries here. Only a situation to regret, andresist.

Hi, I am an aspiring philosopher and I would like to become a professor one of these days. But I don't know how to go about it. I am still an undergrad student and I don't what steps to take. The advice will be much appreciated. Thanx.

A first step is to take philosophy courses! You'll learn about philosophy and you'll learn more whether that's what really interests you. It's probably a good idea to major in philosophy (though it's not impossible to enter a graduate program in philosophy having majored in something else). And then, if you find you're still interested and would like to pursue your studies further, you should eventually talk to philosophers in your college's/university's philosophy department about the process of applying to graduate schools.