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Grappling with ‘mediocrity as a philosopher’?

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The other day, we had a thread discussing the situation of reader who is grappling with a loss of intellectual passion. In our newest “how can we help you?” thread, Med raises a related query that I expect other philosophers may identify with:

I am curious to see some tips for accepting one’s mediocrity as a philosopher but still feeling fulfilled.

I am lucky to have a job at a small public school. I got my degree from a lower ranked program. My papers have been continuously rejected by journals with a couple of exceptions. Some of them just do not have any chance to be published anywhere at this point. Very few people know my name in my field. I teach many “service” courses in gen-ed. My topic courses were under-enrolled and thus canceled a few times. I work in a traditional M&E area, and few students were interested in topics that I am interested in.

I am not an ambitious philosopher, and I feel okay with my current situation, not to mention that I feel lucky to have a job. However, as an early career person, I can feel that there will probably some kind of “existential crisis” for me in the future.

In response, another reader writes:

Once you find yourself getting tired – even before – you should set yourself up to do some serious service work. You may find that you are an effective administrator or dean, even. In that way you can still help the discipline, representing us at the table (the adult table, if I may). You can also earn a lot more money. Just some thoughts.

This seems to be a helpful suggestion, as my immediate reaction was also that the reader might consider going into administration. However, it’s not entirely clear whether the OP is in a position to go into administration. I’m not entirely sure, but I know that some administrative jobs (e.g. Dean or Assistant Dean jobs) require one to have tenure, and it’s not clear whether the OP is in a tenure-track position or whether they have tenure. At the same time, I have a feeling that other administrative jobs that might be fulfilling could be available even without tenure–though again, I’m not sure. Do any readers have any helpful tips, experiences, or insights for the OP? It might also be good to hear whether other readers find themselves in a similar situation. Do you find yourself grappling with “accepting one’s mediocrity as a philosopher”? If so, how have you approached it, and how has it gone? Have you been able to find (sufficient) fulfillment? 

Originally appeared on The Philosophers’ Cocoon Read More

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