Bunch O’ Links

by Brian on December 9, 2003

Various stuff I’ve seen so far tonight…

I’m not the most paternal chap in the world, but if I do have kids I want them to be like Brad DeLong’s.

Having spent most of the weekend reading reference letters and writing samples I wholeheartedly agree with Brian Leiter’s recommendation: comparisons to well-known philosophers count for much more in reference letters than the usual generic “X is a wonderful philosopher” letters. They are even more powerful than comparisons to your own students, which can easily be overdone. One prominent philosopher endorsed four of the candidates I was reviewing tonight – saying each was one of the best that (s)he’d seen in twenty-something years. You really don’t want to say that about too many people with names at similar points in the alphabet who will be applying for similar jobs.

The short answer to John Holbo’s question is that there is one super-maxim: Be uncooperative. The more precise maxims may take some work, but I think the reverse maxim of quantity – say the weakest thing you can get away with, will probably be on the list.

Between Emma’s letter to Aristotle and Matt’s note to Al Gore it’s becoming a week for snarky philosophers. I had some thoughts for a longer post in reaction to what Emma said, but maybe I’ll leave it for a night when I’m up at 4am for more recreational reasons.

Part of that longer post was going to include an “I can remember thinking that way when I was younger” story, but now that Emma has an I’m getting old post I might want to skip that part. Nostalgically remembering what it was like to be getting old is a bad state. I’m having to find more and more spectacular things to do so I can say I’m young for an X, where X is some category I actually fall into.



dsquared 12.09.03 at 12:55 pm

One prominent philosopher endorsed four of the candidates I was reviewing tonight – saying each was one of the best that (s)he’d seen in twenty-something years

C’mon, if things are always getting better (and they are), this is trivially true, just as every year should be “Another All-Time Record Year” at the sausage factory.


david 12.09.03 at 2:53 pm

Not just things getting better. Those letters should begin, “As I expand my mastery of the art of instructing graduate students….”


Brian Weatherson 12.09.03 at 4:07 pm

I think this would be a wonderful strategy for everyday life. It could make judging vintages a breeze. How do we tell if the X vintage is better than Y? Well, if X > Y then it is, otherwise not. I’m starting to sound like Hempel here I fear.


Ophelia Benson 12.09.03 at 6:16 pm

As for the getting old thing, just keep in mind (as I do) something once announced out of the blue by a co-worker of mine. It was first thing in the morning, we were all Parks Department workers (basic manual labor, you understand) sitting around in that first thing in the morning stupor before toddling out to begin picking up litter or cutting grass, when Clarence, a moody, somewhat irritable jazz musician informed us, ‘Ain’t but two or three people in the world as old as I am.’

A profound statement, I’ve always thought.

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