Adventures in Ethics and Science

Please apply.

If memory serves, today is the day that the meeting of the Eastern Division of the American Philosophical Association draws to a close. That meeting, always conveniently scheduled to fall in the interstices between Christmas and New Year’s, and more often than not located in some East Coast city with nasty winter weather (this year, Philadelphia), is traditionally where philosophy departments from U.S. colleges and universities (as well as a few from elsewhere) conduct preliminary job interviews.

Except this year, apparently, a great many job searches have been frozen or canceled, owing to the fact that exploding economic markets have depleted endowments and state budgets and probably baskets of puppies and kitties and bunnies and chicks. There’s some higher-than-average probability that a lot of the people at the Eastern APA this year actually spent most of their time giving and listening to papers. I can’t even guess whether that would be more fun or less fun spending four days in the dance of presenting yourself as the ideal candidate (or, on the search committee side of the dance, of trying to discern from how those you are interviewing present themselves who might in fact be a good fit for your position and a good colleague in your department).

Since I’m not in Philadelphia but in sunny Los Angeles County at the moment, this is mostly idle speculation. However, during one of my infrequent sabbatical visits to my departmental mailbox a couple months ago, I retrieved a letter soliciting my application for a position in a philosophy department not my own.

It was an interesting kind of letter to get. It offered a position would involve work in an area of applied ethics that is not precisely what I do now, but that is not so far from it, either. The position would include affiliation with a newish (and apparently well-funded) institute as well as with the (well-regarded) philosophy department proper.

It would also be a tenure track assistant professorship. As a tenured associate professor, this is not an appealing feature.

True, the teaching load looked to be significantly lower than that in my current position. However, as I actually like teaching, I’m not sure in the long run that cutting my teaching load down so severely would make me happy. And while the department offering the position rates as significantly more prestigious than my current department (and offers Ph.D.s where we only offer M.A.s), it is much less geographically attractive to me (and would be so even if I were a single body in the academic sea, rather than encumbered by a partner and children).

Honestly, the thought of mucking up my sabbatical (in which I am still trying to find my writing rhythm) by going on the job market was one I dismissed almost immediately. Still, I’m curious as to how I ended up on the list (however long that list might have been) of people invited to apply for the position.


  1. #1 Carl Lovely
    January 6, 2009

    An interesting thought occured to me while reading this blog entry, and it is this. When should you tell your department that you’re considering an other position, and who do you ask for references?


    PS It is conceivable that this blog has tipped off a few people.

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