Networking and Merit in Philosophical Success

Networking and Merit in Philosophical Success

Critiquing the Philosophy Tag game, commenter “Aspasia,” a tenure-track professor, worries about it “perpetuating the status quo of getting somewhere by networking rather than on the basis of merit in philosophy.” Leave aside Philosophy Tag. Let’s look at the broader issue about the role of networking in philosophy. It crops up in a lot of places such as publishing (see recent discussions here and here about journals, for example), conference and talk invitations, and, of course, employment. The influence of networking will never go away, but we can ask what we can and should do to manage its influence.

There are a number of relevant questions. Here are just some: (1) Networking’s influence in the philosophy profession is sometimes thought to be pernicious because it detracts from the role of merit, but it can be asked whether that is (always) the case. (2) What forms of networking are problematic? (3) Are there other concerns with networking besides its effect on the role of merit? (4) What forms of networking are good, and is their goodness merely instrumental to countering bad forms of networking? (5) Generally are things better or worse than they used to be regarding the influence of networking? (6) How do or should we determine “merit” in the philosophy profession, anyway? (7) What ways of arranging our institutions and practices contribute to or detract from the influence of networking? (8) Ought we teach our students how to network, and if so, what should such instruction look like?

I welcome your thoughts on these and other related questions. To save me the trouble of responding to individual commenters, I would ask that contributors to the discussion refrain from reporting rumors, making unsubstantiated or unverifiable accusations, or naming particular people whom you believe have inappropriately benefited from networking. (Note, too, that comments of the sort, “it seems like Journal X publishes a disproportionate number of articles from School Y,” that do not have any data to back up their claims are unlikely to get approved.)

(art: detail of “Chimera” by Sarah Morris)

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