Grad school thoughts (version 8,347,103)

I think I just live in an existential crisis. Perhaps I am who Sartre had in mind when he said we are condemned to be free?! Probably. He must have been thinking about me. I transcend the boundaries of space and time.

Recently my pressing existential questions have been about academia. Do I want to make a career out of it? (Maybe?) Do I have what it takes? (Probably?)

Honestly, sometimes a career in academia sounds exhausting. Maybe not as exhausting as fundraising when you’re an introvert (WHAT HAPPENED), but exhausting nonetheless. The publish-or-perish hell is real, and may only be a hell out-hellished by the dismal job market for humanities professors. So maybe I won’t get that dreamed-of PhD and become a philosophy professor, unless we win the lottery we don’t play and I can do whatever I want. (In that case, I’d totally get a PhD in philosophy, and then one in psychology. I’d be a very animated, opinionated, curious, peer-into-your-soul-and-make-you-desperately-uncomfortable dinner party guest.)

But since the lottery is only very rarely won by people who don’t play, I should probably have a career Plan B.

Plan B is underway now (and I’m LOVING it, for the record). But as such, if my next step isn’t a PhD, what do I do with this Masters program I’m in?

The awesome answer? ANYTHING I WANT.

I had a freeing realization: I can do whatever I want with and in this Masters degree! I can focus on whatever I want because this is now just for my own enjoyment and enrichment. I don’t need to try to specialize in something “de jour” or try to predict what departments will want, and give myself heartburn over whether or not I’m reading the field correctly. So then I asked myself: what do I want to learn?

Ethics. Philosophy of mind. Anything that explores how we behave, why we behave the way we do, and how behavior and brain states inform what we say about how we should act. The history of ideas and how those have shaped the world and future ideas.

Mostly, however, I just want to keep getting better at thinking. I want to continue to get better at argument analysis, finding the core ideas, mapping out what relies on what, and being able to pass well-founded critical judgment on whether or not an argument is a good argument.

So no matter the class I’m taking, the goal of learning how to think better is my guiding ethos. I’m finding it to be a very freeing and free goal, one whose success does not depend on any particular career result. Considering, as mentioned above, the absolutely dismal state of the humanities professorial job market, I think this is a wonderful way to approach a graduate program in philosophy.

Someone join me so we can talk about all this?!?!

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