Philosophers should be people who think especially well, but to have decided upon a career in philosophy marks you as irrational. How do you deal with that raging incoherence?
(Link via A&L Daily.)
AND: Glenn Reynolds wonders if I'm being fair: "You might rationally decide you want to be a philosopher even if the job prospects are poor. But if you do so decide, then it’s irrational to complain about a poor job market, I guess."
I agree that it may be rational for an individual to choose to go into philosophy, despite the poor economic prospects. In the comments, OSweet, noting Morris's "Whether or not I get paid...," scoffed: "Yeah, right." That made me say:
Actually, I think there are many people who would teach philosophy without getting paid. (Socrates did this.)I still have to doubt that our best thinkers are choosing to become philosophers. I know that makes me like the kind of jerk who would say "If you're so smart, why aren't you rich?" And I really do think that people ought to do work that they are intrinsically interested in.
In fact, I think if the job of philosophy professor were put up for an auction, limited to people who could do it competently, that you could get people to pay for the privilege of teaching good students and a good college. I'll bet there are many people who continue teaching philosophy when they could retire and make more money collecting their pensions.
Also, I said "a career in philosophy marks you as irrational." You could be marked as irrational and yet not be irrational, since other people may look at you and think you've made an irrational choice. You may still have your reasons.
Still, you've got to doubt that the 550 job seekers referred to in the article are really the people that should be doing the work of philosophy if philosophy is going to matter very much. That said, I hope they find their jobs, and 550 applicants for 270 jobs isn't all that terrible. Close to 50-50 odds. So good luck. And remember, you can always go to law school, and philosophy makes a great background for law study.