Academic Jobs and Career Suicide

Imagine if we all just stopped believing that the only way to be an academic is to be constantly employed by a university. There—wouldn’t that make people’s lives a lot better? Let’s just do that.

Josh Parsons is my favorite contemporary academic philosopher because he took the time to give the world’s flags letter grades, he has likened LaTeX to a cargo cult, and he has the best advice for how to give a talk to get useful feedback. He has changed the way that I think about the flag of Brazil, operational languages, and the “matador technique.” Plus, he is not, nor has he ever been, a turnip.

Parsons has also written, at Daily Nous, what I consider to be one of the bravest posts about academic life that I’ve ever seen: The Career Move that Dare Not Speak Its Name, about resigning his academic position at Oxford. It is worth reading in its entirety, and with an open mind, especially the “objections” section.

Any academic who is dissatisfied with their job, be it permanent or temporary, is in relevantly the same position. The only reason it might seem otherwise is if you thought that a permanent academic job is an end in itself, and as someone who currently has one, I can tell you it’s not.

Also worth exploring is this followup by John Schwenkler, which invokes Martha Nussbaum in making the case that Parsons’ choice is literally tragic.

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