It has been noted that job advertisements in philosophy are increasingly moving away from core areas such as metaphysics and epistemology. For example, Prof. Marcus Arvan, of the University of Tampa, counted the number of times an area is mentioned as a desired area of specialization (AOS) in PhilJobs job advertisements in the period from August 1, 2016 to May 31st, 2017. For entry-level, tenure-track positions, he came up with the following numbers:
|Philosophy of mind||6.4|
|Philosophy of language||2.3|
|Philosophy of race||9.5|
Table 1 Number of times an area is mentioned as AOS (if, in a particular advertisement, x areas are mentioned as AOS, then each area is considered to have been mentioned 1/x times).
Note that feminist philosophy, non-Western philosophy and philosophy of race get more mentions than each of the following areas: metaphysics, epistemology, logic, and philosophy of language—all “core” areas of philosophy with the possible exception of philosophy of language. Non-Western philosophy and philosophy of race even get more mentions than any of the other areas, with the exception of ethics.
In job advertisements, areas mentioned among the AOSs are of course just one indication that a certain kind of candidate is preferred. A job advertisement may also indicate such a preference by mentioning certain areas of competence (AOCs), or courses that the successful candidate may be expected to teach. On 26 November, 2017, I counted the number of times African(a) philosophy, feminist philosophy, philosophy of gender, and philosophy of race are mentioned in non-expired job advertisements on PhilJobs. The total was 31/147 = 22.6% for tenure-track, continuing and permanent positions in academia (in other words, the most attractive positions). Restricting my search to advertisements for positions in North America and the UK, the total became 31/121 = 25.6%. Including social justice as AOS or AOC, the total became 32/121 = 26.4%. Excluding African(a) philosophy, the total became 27/121 = 22.3% (without social justice) and 23.1% (with social justice).
The question is why these non-core areas are mentioned so frequently (to be precise, in about 1/4th of all ads for jobs in North America and the UK). Brian Leiter considers these areas to be “trendy”, but, in fact, a quick look at the top journals of (general) philosophy does not reveal any such trend. For example, 48 papers are presently listed on PhilPapers as either 2017 or forthcoming publications in the Journal of Philosophy, but only one of these (2%) falls within the aforementioned non-core categories. Similarly, 40 papers are presently listed on PhilPapers as either 2017 or forthcoming publications in the Philosophical Review, but none of these (0%) fall within the aforementioned non-core categories. Hence, the aforementioned non-core areas do not seem to be trendy as far as philosophical research is concerned. Of course, this should not surprise anyone suspecting that political correctness affects the reviewing process. After all, if that is the case, then there simply is not enough room for a lively debate (say, between realists and social constructivists).
So there must be another explanation for why non-core areas are overrepresented in job advertisements. Here are two alternative explanations, which do not exclude each other.
First, philosophy departments are very eager to have more members from so-called underrepresented groups; women and nonwhites in particular. Since, in comparison with core areas, there is a much higher proportion of blacks and women in the areas of African philosophy and feminist philosophy respectively, mentioning these areas among the AOSs or AOCs will help to meet the goal of recruitment.
Second, the Leftist establishment in philosophy departments is increasingly worried that a younger generation might not buy into its Leftist dogmas. It is therefore looking for ways to discern Left from Right at the recruitment stage. Given that Leftist views are nowadays expressed mainly in terms of race, gender and sexuality (rather than class), the most obvious way to achieve this goal is to require job applicants to express views on these subjects before they are hired; for example, by asking them how they have taught these subjects, or how they would teach them. Such questions inevitably come up if the job advertisement specifies, for example, philosophy of race and gender as a desired AOS or AOC. Everyone knows this, and so conservative or right-wing philosophers will not even bother to apply (see my earlier post).
Regarding the second explanation, one might think that conservatives still stand a reasonable chance when it comes to the remaining 75% of job openings. But this is not true: the remaining 75% includes job openings in the areas of, for example, applied ethics and social and political philosophy, where Leftist bias is bound to play an important role as well. Moreover, unmentioned until now are other subtle cues in job advertisements; for example, a stated preference for candidates who can demonstrate commitment to “diversity” and “inclusiveness” (see also this post).
When all of this is factored in, it is pretty unlikely that a conservative will land a tenure-track or permanent job in North America or the UK.
- The Politicization of Job Advertisements in Philosophy - December 14, 2017
- “A certain kind of conservative” - November 13, 2017
- Why Not Colonialism? - September 17, 2017
- How Our Profession Rewards Ignorance - August 18, 2017
- The Google Gulag - August 10, 2017
- Why a “Philosopher of Color” Declines to Contribute - July 26, 2017
- The American Philosophical Association’s Explicit Bias about Implicit Bias - July 20, 2017
- The Central European University Saga - May 31, 2017
- Live and Let Live, or Let the Left Live? - March 31, 2017
- Philosophy’s Culture of Silence - March 1, 2017