Why and How to Get a Job in a Business School: A Guide for Philosophers (guest post)


Philosophers, have you considered trying to get a job in a business school? In the following guest post*, Kenneth Silver, who earned his PhD in philosophy from the University of Southern California and is now assistant professor in business ethics at the Trinity Business School at Trinity College Dublin, explains why you might want to, and how to do it.

Why and How to Get a Job in a Business School:
A Guide for Philosophers

by Kenneth Silver

If you’re a PhD student[1] in Philosophy today, then you know how competitive the academic job market is for jobs in Philosophy departments. Let me pitch to you why you should consider trying to get a job in a business school, then lay out some steps to do this that I wish I had known.

Why?

A significant reason to try to get a job in a business school is that, with some maneuvering, it’s a goal that you might stand a decent (or at least a better) chance of achieving. Consider my experience. With a dissertation in the metaphysics of action from one of the top programs, and with eventually about five or six publications, I received almost no interviews over three years on the philosophy job market. In contrast, within business schools and management departments, I came close to getting two very nice postdocs, had three skype interviews for one three-year and two permanent positions, and had a separate flyout and subsequent job offer.

This is anecdotal, but I’ll note two points: First, you might look better for philosophy jobs than I did. I had only managed to get into good philosophy journals, not the best ones. And, in hindsight, my work was not as significant as the work of some of my peers. So, if you are publishing impactful work at the highest level as a graduate student, then pat yourself on the back, stop reading, and get back to it!

The second point to make is that you might also not look as bad for a job in a business school as you may think. Five years into my doctorate, I can promise you that I did not look like someone who could get a job in a business school. Ultimately, it was one publication in the right journal, several response articles, and going to a few conferences that got my foot in the door with my business school. The bar is not low for getting this kind of job, but it may not be quite where you think it is. Consider: few academic fields are as competitive as philosophy.

So, a job in a business school may be achievable. Moreover, the costs of such a job are low or manageable, and the benefits are high. Let’s consider these in turn.

First, moving into a business school represents few academic/philosophical sacrifices. You don’t lose access to the journals. You can still go to philosophy conferences and get paid to do it. You can still publish in philosophy journals. No one is going to stop you from regularly attending the APA or publishing a paper on the semantics of ‘ought.’ These contributions may even count towards your advancement.[2]

Instead, I think the largest costs (or challenges) are psychological. You risk facing dual imposter syndromes: feeling like an imposter in your new department, as you are set to teach MBA students and are surrounded by social scientists, and feeling like an imposter in engaging with philosophers, wondering if they realize you’re in a business school or take you seriously as an interlocutor. But you can overcome this. (Heck, if you get a tenure-track job, you have the time to.)

It can be a little bit awkward being in a business school as a philosopher. It may be true that you never properly worked in a business. But then, many academics in business schools haven’t either. Your colleagues will work in extremely different methodologies, and their impression of philosophy may skew continental. If you’ve been trained in the analytic tradition, however, then they will come to appreciate how you think, and that you work on legitimate issues deserving attention. (Honestly, my challenge was in the other direction. The past few years exposed to fields outside of philosophy has made me incredibly proud of our field, its intrinsic interestingness, and its methodological strength. Frankly, it’s hard not to be snob.)

It can also take some work to figure out the right way to teach business students. You’ll have to do a little more pitching to show how the subject is genuinely necessary for them. In my experience, this is worth it. Some students end up loving it. And it’s an opportunity to show off what our field can offer, how it must be engaged with to address the questions that any inquisitive person has. Moreover, depending on your institution, these students might turn out to be pretty darn important to the community and economy.

About feeling like an imposter in philosophy: Most understand the reality of the job market. And just a few publications in generalist journals will help you feel like you should still be taken seriously. You will still have all your friends to see at conferences, and you will make new ones. You are sure to be welcomed by the Philosophy department at your university. After all, you’re just another philosopher (and one they don’t have to pay for). Meanwhile, you will be praised for being interdisciplinary!

The deeper challenge is about your self-perception. If you just don’t see yourself as a ‘business-y’ person, and all you want to do is hole up in an abstract corner of philosophy, well, I wouldn’t blame you. You’d hardly be in a grad program for philosophy otherwise! With the job market as it is, though, you may end up having to become a very business-y person regardless. But that’s not a bad thing. Working in a business school is an opportunity to transcend your own expectations for your work and yourself. It is convenient for me to think this, but I have come to see it as bad faith not to see yourself as capable of stepping outside of philosophy with at least one foot.

And it will only take one foot. Though pitching yourself for a business school may require a reorientation of some of your work, and maybe the development of an extra targeted project or two, it takes less than you might think. After all, ‘business ethics’ has a broad definition. Yes, it’d be good to know some ethics before trying to get a job to teach business ethics, and that is the job. But you don’t have to consider yourself an ethicist first to make the case for it.

In contrast to suffering professionally, you will be rewarded. The pay is higher. (Well, it is in the US. The pay is the same in most of Europe.) You may be able to do some work in executive education, or even in consulting with industry, and you can get paid for that too. You will immediately be taken more seriously in some areas of public debate. Really, the sky’s the limit concerning your reach outside of academia, yet from the comfort of working within it.

So, having made a case for going this route, let me outline how to do it.

How?

Step one is to do what you should already be doing anyway: Think about your Plan B outside of academia. This can help you land a job in a business school, both in terms of making you look better on paper as well as giving you the vocabulary for how to talk to people in business schools.

In my case, I tried and failed several summers to get internships in top consulting firms (McKinsey, BCG, Bain, etc.). These firms often have onboarding summer programs targeted at non-business graduate students.[3] I landed part-time or summer gigs with a smaller consulting firm and a commercial real estate firm. Listening to podcasts got me interested in finance, and I eventually took/passed the first exam in the CFA sequence. I also took a class on corporate governance.

None of this was enough to get a specific job, but it might have been enough for a solid alt-ac starting job. Meanwhile, it taught me a lot about business, got me excited by some of the problems there, and gave me a competency in talking about it (and some extra cash). Doing all of this did eat up time that I could have used to write one or two more philosophy papers. To be realistic, though, those papers were not going to make the difference in securing a job in a philosophy department – knowing my work at the time, they still wouldn’t have been interesting enough.

A second step is to familiarize yourself with business schools. Leverage the b school or management department at your university to take classes (or just audit) or set up a meeting with faculty members. It’s awkward, but not abnormal, and networking is not as awkward in a business school. Socialize yourself to the environment and see what it’s all about. Notice that it’s in a snazzy building, and the people have good social skills. If you’re lucky, you may even be able to convince people to let you teach a class in the business school to get some experience for your CV.

More concretely, the real work you’ll want to do towards securing a job in a business school is to consider the conferences, journals, and jobs to be on the look-out for.[4]

Conferences

The primary organization for business ethics is the Society for Business Ethics, which has an annual conference in the summer. As a matter of fact, submissions are already open for this year and due in mid-February. If you have a paper loosely connected to business ethics, or if a paper could be slightly re-written with a business-y spin, then why not go for it? Acceptance is far from guaranteed, but I promise you that it is way higher than your typical APA conference (and you won’t need an embarrassing number of different lengths of abstracts). That said, if you won’t have a paper, you’re in grad school, and if you’re still on the fence about this idea of business ethics, this conference has a truly marvelous onboarding program just for you – the Emerging Scholars program.

This program puts together a cohort of people still in grad school (or just at the end of it I think), and there’s loads of benefits. There are free meals. There’s a mentorship program where they pair you with a senior expert in the field. There’s a reception where you’re announced and introduced to everyone at the conference. There’s a special lunch with previous emerging scholars (myself included). It’s great. It only takes an abstract submission. And, even if you don’t get chosen for it, you’ll still likely get invited to give your paper as a poster at the conference. (It’s a small enough conference where this is still a serious networking opportunity.)

Apart from SBE (the Society for Business Ethics annual conference), there’s a few other organizations and their conferences to think about. The umbrella organization for business schools/management departments is the Academy of Management (AOM), and it also has an annual conference. (SBE is always planned in the same time and in the same city, so it’s possible to go to both, and many do.) In contrast to SBE, it is massive, typically taking up about four hotels in their entirety, and it is split into many different divisions based on subject area. The one that will likely matter for you is Social Issues in Management (SIM).

This conference is overwhelming, but it could also be worthwhile. The individual paper sessions can be quite small, and most people there and reviewing won’t be of the philosophical methodology, but your paper will get reviews. It’s a great window into how people in management circles will see your work and the kinds of concerns and literature that they’ll think about. SIM also has its own reception, and people are very friendly about making new contacts and offering advice. Apart from these benefits, even becoming a member of AOM and getting onto the program will signal something to business schools – that you’re in the right circles.

There are other more management-focused conferences that would also provide this kind of signal and have networking benefits. One is the annual conference for the European Academy of Management (EURAM). And another is the annual conference hosted by the Chartered Association for Business Schools (CABS). These organizations not only have large annual conferences, but they host a myriad of smaller conferences/development workshops. (These would be helpful if you’re developing a conceptual project for a more general management journal even outside of the business ethics journals. More on this below.) These organizations also have resources for students on the job market. The conferences have special sessions for PhD students, though you can also just get on the regular program. And, just as philosophy job interviews used to take place at the Eastern APA, some job interviews for business schools still occur at AOM.

Apart from these management conferences, there are a few conferences that are especially targeted at or helpful for philosophers. One prime example is the Zicklin workshop at Wharton. This is run out of their Legal Studies & Business Ethics department, one of the only departments focused largely on business ethics, and it’s a series of full paper workshops that occur throughout the year. Look for the call before the school year annually. Another annual workshop focused on normative business ethics[5] is Business Ethics in the 6ix, which is run out of the Ted Rodgers School of Management at Ryerson University in Toronto. A third strong typically annual event to have on your radar is the Workshop on Teaching Professional Ethics run by the Georgetown Institute for the Study of Markets and Ethics (GISME) in the McDonagh School of Business. Each of these conferences are extremely good opportunities to meet business ethicists, and they are hosted by institutions or groups that are particularly active in or known to the business ethics community.

There are other conferences worth considering more within philosophy that could look good and help you develop projects for business ethics. There is an annual meeting run out of Oxford on philosophy and management, the annual meeting for the International Social Ontology Society (ISOS), the annual PPE Society meeting, and others I’m sure.

Journals

To get a job in a business school, it would help to target journals that business schools care about. In Philosophy, we have our own journal ranking (fraught as it may be), and the social sciences are even more all-in on rankings. (As a note, impact factor matters a lot more to other fields that we are used to thinking about it, and management journals often cite more than we would be used to.) As far as I know, the most important journal ranking is the Chartered Association of Business Schools (ABS) ranking (here’s the 2018 guide). At least, this is the one my business school talks about. Also relevant is the Financial Times research ranking (the FT 50).

If you’re thinking about going from Philosophy to a Business School, the most relevant journals for you are the Journal of Business Ethics and Business Ethics Quarterly. The latter is the flagship journal of the Society for Business Ethics, so it’s quite prestigious and high-ranking on the ABS ranking, but the former is the only one of the two on the FT50 ranking.[6] It is a problem that there are so few journals directly on business ethics that will count for business schools because of their spot on the rankings. Journal of Institutional Economics is also well-ranked, if your work in business ethics has the right emphasis. Business Ethics, the Environment & Responsibility might publish philosophical contributions and is on the ranking, but it is not ranked as highly.

There are many other great journals and might take work in business ethics, but that will not mean as much to business schools because they are not on the rankings. It is rare but possible that Ethics or Philosophy & Public Affairs or Philosophy and Phenomenological Research will publish work on business ethics if broadened out or focused appropriately. Additionally, Philosophy & Economics, Public Affairs Quarterly, Journal of Applied Philosophy, Journal of Social Ontology, and several others are great philosophy venues that might be more inclined to take work in business ethics. (Most generalist journals might if pitched correctly.)

There are a few other journals even more focused on business ethics that are unfortunately not on the ABS ranking (at least not in the 2018 ranking), but that it may still be beneficial to publish in, including the Journal of Management and Business Ethics Journal Review. Publishing in these journals signals to philosophy jobs a likely ability to teach business ethics courses, and it also give you greater engagement with the business ethics community. BEJR in particular is a great place to engage with business ethicists. Unlike Analysis or Thought, it encourages short, direct responses to recent business ethics publications, and it is widely known/read by the business ethics community.

Many of these journals frankly ought to count towards jobs in business schools. You wouldn’t believe the tangential journals in psychology and sociology that are on the rankings, and so where getting a publication would give you a huge leg up on a job in a business school. It is why the majority of business ethics jobs are taken by social scientists. My long-term plan is to try to get the rankings to include more of our journals. But this will take some time.

Just in case you think there must be a way to get publications from ranked journals without being restricted to just a few, I have advice and warnings. The advice is to target journals that explicitly say that they accept theoretical/conceptual contributions or encourage interdisciplinary work. Academy of Management Review is probably the best journal among all the management journals that might accept this kind of work. Organizational Science, British Journal of Management, or Journal of Management are also phenomenal places to publish. And Harvard Business Review or California Management Review are impressive venues that publish more public-facing work. And you do have a leg-up as a philosopher in a sense. Management journals are competitive, but few are as competitive as the best philosophy journals. Moreover, management journals often desk reject a high proportion of their submissions, but I think philosophers are trained to write in a way (clearly) that makes it more likely to get our submissions past the editor’s desk.

Given the likely reader of this piece, my warning about going for other management journals should take precedence. Your editors/reviewers are almost certainly not going to have a background in analytic philosophy. So, publishing in these journals requires not only mastering the differences in conventions between fields and utilizing different literature taken to be significant by management scholars, but it involves writing in a way to satisfy concerns not likely to occur to you given your training. Doing this can be extremely frustrating. (Trust me.) Moreover, numerous R&R cycles are more common, so it is a process that can take years. If you have the time and the ambition, I think you should try to publish in these journals, because doing so is the only way that more philosophers will get to review for and serve as editors for these journals.[7] But if you are still a graduate student, my earnest advice is to stick to JBE, BEQ, JOIE, BEER, BEJR.

Jobs

For business school jobs, the best place to look is the jobs listserv from AOM. There are also announcements for members of SBE on their website, but the AOM listserv may also list opportunities that are not first and foremost for business ethics, such as general management jobs, where you might be able to sell yourself for it. And, by the way, the cost of these extra applications is much lower – you often just need the cover letter and CV. (That’s right, no ten document requests from departments supposedly sympathetic about the struggles of the job market.)

For jobs at European universities, there may be different listservs that are helpful. Jobs.ac.uk has postings for management and business ethics positions. Because these jobs are often less advertised, and often come up on a rolling basis, there may be far fewer applicants.[8]

If you need more time to set yourself up to apply for some of these jobs, but you’re already on the market or about to be, some advice I have is to go for postdocs in or near the area. Wharton and Georgetown regularly have postdoc positions come up, and they would like to see philosophers willing to move into business schools. Other visiting positions in business schools may be advertised in the coming months on the right listservs. Even teaching a one-off course in a business school might give you some credibility for future years on the market. Other relevant postdocs that might take a business ethicist with the right focus include the fellowship associated with the Brown Political Theory Project or the Chapel Hill PPE program.

Some of these postdocs will already be on the radar of anybody on the market really, but the broader point is that much of what might help make you look good for teaching business ethics could also help you for jobs in adjacent subfields. If you secure them, it could give you more time to put yourself in a position to get a job in a business school, or you might find yourself making valuable applied contributions permanently from a philosophy department after all.

Conclusion

I think there should be more philosophers in business schools, and at times it feels like an accident of history or sociology that more philosophers haven’t found their way to them. Ethics in business is so important and finally being taken seriously in the corporate sphere. This involves necessary and hard conversations, conversations that I think can be especially well-led by philosophers.

We have a great community of normative business ethicists, but there is a lot of room for entrepreneurial new voices and avenues in the field that would fit well in a business school. The path may be easiest if you are an ethicist, or political or legal philosopher, but there is so much fascinating work to be done by epistemologists turned business ethicist, or by a philosopher of language or metaethicist. And this is work few currently working in business ethics would be able to do. So, in a very real sense, if you feel too far away to make this transition, let me say directly that you are the person that we especially need.


Notes

[1] If you are an undergraduate reading this piece who loves philosophy but might want a business school as a possible eventual job alternative, here’s some additional advice: First, you could think about the PhD program at Wharton in their department focused primarily on business ethics. (See advice here.) They have successfully graduated and found placement for many strong applicants. Though that program can be great, I think it could also be a great idea to pursue your other philosophical interests at any top program that can hone your philosophical skills and give you strength in some core area that can be brought to bear on issues in business. One challenge you would face is that the prestige and attention often surrounds the core work in philosophy, but emphasis has been placed on good applied work lately.

[2] However, whether these count and how much will depend on your institution, and so you’d need to pay attention to who controls your advancement and what they care about. Some universities will only care about management journals and the journals on particular rankings. More on the rankings below.

[3] I will acknowledge that there may be good reasons to have serious moral reservations about working for some of these firms. We could have that debate, but I think you would still be justified in working for them for several years to learn about business and built a career path, especially coming from a more precarious background like Philosophy.

[4] If you are in a business school and I’m leaving anything out, please comment with any additional helpful info.

[5] Since I didn’t figure this out for years – philosophers doing business ethics would almost entirely be categorized as normative business ethics. We are trying to say which things in business ought not be done and why, after all. This is in contrast to ‘descriptive business ethics,’ which would typically be what social scientists do applying qualitative methodologies (running studies and reporting the results).

[6] I have more thoughts on the focuses of these journals, their styles, and issues around navigating them as a philosopher, and I’m happy to tell you all about it at the SBE receptions.

[7] To build a pipeline of philosophers into business schools, I think we need to get our journals on their rankings and get an editorial foothold in some of the journals already on the rankings. But this is a challenge that you can join me in working on once you have landed the permanent business school job.

[8] Note in contrast that the US business school job cycle may start even earlier than the philosophy job market, since there are some interviews at the annual AOM conference in August. At least, I think this is the case. As some qualifications, I am remembering how I thought it was a few years ago, and this was only my impression talking to people, since I myself never had an interview at the AOM annual meeting.

top image: “Wisdom of the Owl” coin

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Kenneth Silver
7 months ago

Happy to see other relevant helpful suggestions people might have that I missed. For instance, just saw a great link to a conference for PhDs and postdocs on business and human rights in Switzerland meant to target work on business ethics. Just takes an abstract to apply. Here’s the CFP: https://gcbhr.org/backoffice/resources/call-for-abstracts-bhr-yrs-2022final.pdfReport

Joona Räsänen
7 months ago

Great post! I currently work as a postdoc at a business school although I did my PhD in philosophy. 

It makes sense to apply for jobs at business schools, and other non-philosophy departments as well, with a philosophy degree. 

Think about it, when you apply for a job at a philosophy department you are competing against people who are like you (but perhaps smarter). People who decide whom to hire are also philosophers (who are likely more experienced and smarter than you are). It is very difficult to impress them and convince these people that you should be hired.

But suppose you apply for an interdisciplinary job at a business school. You might be the only philosopher who applies for it. And perhaps that school do not have any philosophers working there yet. It is much easier to impress these non-philosophers with your philosophical skills than to impress philosophers at philosophy departments.

Even mediocre philosophers look genius in places where there is none.

So here is a piece of advice for job seekers: apply for places where your expertise is not common.Report

J Friedland
7 months ago

Nice article Kenneth (he holds my previous position at Trinity). PhD programs need to prepare their students for migrating out like this and into other applied fields as well. One qualm is I think you are downplaying the extent to which one generally needs to publish in top business journals much more than philosophy journals. This generally requires developing relationships with coauthors in relevant social science.Report

Kenneth Silver
Reply to  J Friedland
7 months ago

Thanks! Developing these connections leading to more co-authored projects in management journals is a great idea. I wish I would have communicated too how co-authorship generally is much more common within business schools. (I was even asked when starting if I had some aversion to working with others because I hadn’t at that point co-authored!) Developing these relations and projects may be more of strategy once you’re in a business school – at least it’d be easier to execute. But maybe if you’re a PhD student it’s smart to have it on your radar just in case you can build those connections.Report

phil grad student
phil grad student
Reply to  J Friedland
7 months ago

Could you say more about the co-authoring issue? In particular, do you mean to say that the kind of work that tends to get acceptance at top business journals is at least partly social science? If so, does this mean that papers in normative business ethics don’t generally get accepted in the top journals? (Since the original post seems to implicate that at least some journals do accept such contributions.)Report

Kenneth Silver
Reply to  phil grad student
7 months ago

This is a good question. One thing to recognize is that the top management journals generally are controlled by editors from a variety of backgrounds outside of business ethics even when they are in charge of editing the theoretical contributions that business ethics might fall under. Both because of this and because business ethicists generally might not reach for these journals, I think it is fair to say business ethics papers generally don’t get accepted to these journals, especially of the kind that philosophers might write. But that’s not to say that they can’t or that there have not been exceptions. It’s to say that if you write a strong business ethics paper and submit it to one of these journals, there is no guarantee that the reviewers will really know the specific area that you’re writing in. And there will be some expectation that you will interact with other prominent theoretical work within management scholarship generally that might not be expected at other venues.

So, that is to say that my impression is that the top management journals are open to the right kind of contribution from business ethics, but it would have to be very carefully pitched in view of the background literature of these journals.

What does seem true about co-authoring is that you might find social scientists who are more accustomed to or aware of the norms of these top management journals, but maybe they would want to bring you on for a theory contribution to some piece that they’re working on. They might lead better when it comes to submitting to these journals, though you would still have something valuable to add. And it would also be true that it would still be very impression to publish with them as co-authors, and not looked at with such suspicion as you might find in a philosophy department.Report

J Friedland
Reply to  Kenneth Silver
7 months ago

Well put, Kenneth. What has been the case for me personally is that I tend to be first author as philosophical theorist but my co-authors help me to situate it best within existing business literatures. They also helped me initially get a handle of the style format, which tends to be very different.

A good rule of thumb is the ABS journal list which has a category on ethics. Anything 2 or higher is a decent journal with 3 being very good and 4 and 4* being excellent. Also the FT 50 journals are great (basically ABS 4 equivalent) and several of them have spots for ethics. Journal impact factor also is a big part, which can make an ABS 2 look like a strong 3.

Unfortunately, given the empirical underpinning of these fields, it is tough to get anything purely normative published in them. I actually have a paper on this problem. But since it was published 10 years back, the field has opened up a lot more.Report

Jeffrey Moriarty
7 months ago

Excellent post! Thanks for spreading the word Kenneth.Report

Michael Kates
Michael Kates
Reply to  Jeffrey Moriarty
7 months ago

Didn’t realize you were that Moriarty 🙂Report

Jeffrey Moriarty
Reply to  Michael Kates
7 months ago

Why yes, Michael, I am the Napoleon of crime.Report

Derek Bowman
7 months ago

This is all very helpful. I don’t have much to offer on the “how,” front, but I’d like to offer some additions to the “why,” aimed especially at people like me who got into philosophy, in part, because we weren’t interested in pursuing success in ‘business.’

1. The ideal of a liberal arts education, and more specifically an education in the humanities, is to encourage and enable our students to think critically about the world and their values in ways that will enrich their lives. Even Aristotle says that the point of studying ethics is ultimately to allow us to live well.

But out students will spend much of their lives as producers and consumers of goods and services, as employers and employees, and as (potential) investors. To live up to its promises, then, a liberal arts education must give our students the tools to think critically about the business practices and economic structures that will play a dominant role in their lives.

Far from being in opposition, a serious approach to business ethics has a central role to play in a liberal and humanistic education.

2. Many of the best students in the required core philosophy and humanities classes I teach have been business students. These are students who want to engage in the kind of serious thinking and learning offered by classes in Literature, Philosophy, History, Cultural Studies, or other liberal arts disciplines but who believe (or whose parents believe) a business degree will provide a more stable foundation for their future careers.

Teaching in the business school gives you an opportunity to engage with these students and to provide them some of the benefits of a philosophical education.

3. The business school at Providence College, where I teach, recently (2020) hosted a conference on Teaching Business Ethics, which you can watch here: https://business.providence.edu/initiatives/ethics-in-business/teaching-business-ethics-best-practices-workshop/

The whole conference is about 3 hours long, but I especially recommend the keynote address from Mary Gentile, on her “Giving Voice to Values” approach to business ethics education. (If you fast forward the video, her address starts around 9:30).Report

Jason Brennan
7 months ago

I work in a b-school too. I’m lucky that they don’t care really at all whether I publish in b-journals, so I mostly don’t.

Here are comments about teaching. (I teach 3 courses a year, some mix any given year of a A) PPE course, B) a crash course in political science for business majors, C) a first-year undergraduate seminar or intro MBA session on what makes people act badly, and D) a course on effective altruism and social entrepreneurship).

Teaching b-students well is not the same as teaching phil students. Teaching them how to write long philosophical essays is probably not useful. Having them reading philosophy is useful, in context, but should be paired with work on what to actually do about it.

It’s better to give them things which teach them how to transfer and use these skills in ways they will actually use them when they graduate. (Frankly, I think that applies to philosophy students too, but we can ignore that here.) Consider having them construct mock businesses and make strategic decisions for them. Have them write up reports analyzing why different organizations do what they do, and why they act well or badly. Given them real-world experiential projects where they have to apply principles to actual action and take responsibility for that they do. Have them do group work so that they can encounter ethical problems first-hand. Consider a mix of business memos, op-eds, mock congressional testimony, advertisements, CSR reports, etc. Have them read philosophy, sociology, economics, psychology, and applied management theory.

If you want copies of my own teaching material, email me and I’ll give my my slides, syllabi, etc. Also consider applying for our pedagogy workshop here: http://gisme.georgetown.edu/workshop-on-teaching-professional-ethicsReport

David Lu
7 months ago

Engineering schools are worth taking a look into as well. I teach computing and engineering ethics in a CS department. I also also teach intro programming, algorithms and complexity, data structures, discrete math, formal logic, and theory of computation and a lot of this has significant overlap in philosophy.

I’ve also used the position as a stepping stone out to industry as I split my time in cybersecurity research. Students have expressed a lot of gratitude for having an instructor with a varied background and industry experience and connections.Report

Scott Hill
Reply to  David Lu
7 months ago

Thanks for this. May I ask, where do you find jobs for engineering schools posted?Report

David Lu
Reply to  Scott Hill
7 months ago

A lot of CS jobs are posted at the Computing Research Association: https://cra.org/ads/Report

Vikram Bhargava
7 months ago

Thanks for this terrific post, Kenneth. A few further points:

First, some philosophers may worry they’d have to teach on topics/readings that they aren’t interested in or be familiar with. Maybe. But this doesn’t have to be the case. For example, my biz. ethics courses cover:

Taurek’s, Should the Numbers Count
Parfit’s, moral mathematics 
Norcross and Huemer’s work on the ethics of factory farming
Pettit’s work on group agency
Singer’s FAM; MacAskill’s work on the ethics of career choice
Foot, Thomson, Kamm, and others’ work on the trolley problem
Satz, Brennan & Jaworski, etc. on commodification
Rachels on relativism 
Etc.

My courses are not unique in this respect. Several other philosophically oriented biz. ethics profs. teach at least some of these topics. (I should flag that here I’m referring to undergraduates—many take a different approach with MBAs.) That said, most b-school students would never have been exposed to this sort of material and this can make things challenging. Still, in my experience, the students are eager for this sort of material.

Second, at the end, students are consistently asking for follow up courses. But most b-schools don’t have follow up electives. So, I usually have a small chunk of my students go on to take on a minor (and some even a major) in a philosophy department, once they realize that’s the best place to get more of this sort of material.

Third, at least at some b-schools, there is an appetite and support for the highest quality philosophical work. E.g., Wharton has hosted a major public lecture in ethics (“The Dunfee Lectures”) with leading philosophers: the inaugural lecture was Elizabeth Anderson, and this past year was Anthony Appiah. That said, this is definitely not representative of business schools more generally—usually, a business school is lucky to have even one business ethicist with philosophical training.Report

J Friedland
Reply to  Vikram Bhargava
7 months ago

Hi Vikram. As it happens, I was also in your dept. as a visiting prof. prior to going to Trinity. I appreciate your work and am actually citing your recent BEQ paper on EAW and very much enjoying your JBE on branding as promise.Report

Vikram Bhargava
Reply to  J Friedland
7 months ago

Thanks for the kind words, Julian. Much appreciated.Report

Ed Freeman
7 months ago

Excellent post. I have always taught in a B school since getting a PhD in Philosophy in 1978. Happy to help others.Report

pit piton
pit piton
Reply to  Ed Freeman
7 months ago

Yes he is that Ed Freeman–great scholar and remarkable human beingReport

phil grad student
phil grad student
7 months ago

Thanks for this helpful post!

You say, “it involves writing in a way to satisfy concerns not likely to occur to you given your training.”

Could you say a bit more about what kinds of concerns you are talking about here? Even just some examples would be helpful to get an idea.Report

Kenneth Silver
Reply to  phil grad student
7 months ago

Sure thing. Two sorts of problems come to mind:

(1) Reviewers that haven’t been trained in analytic philosophy make all of the kinds of mistakes that non-philosophers are prone to. I can’t quite think of examples off the top of my head, but a recurring theme in reviews I’ve gotten has been reviewers getting side-tracked by elements brought up that are not actually significant for the argument being made. Of course, this can happen even in philosophy journals, but I have noticed that where I’ve had more than one reviewer, and where it is clear one of them was trained recently in analytic philosophy, it is crystal clear which of them was not. For this kind of mistake in focus, it is pretty challenging to respond to an R&R in a way that satisfies all reviewers without blowing papers up to be far too massive. I know it’s a bit vague, but I often find myself thinking, “A philosopher would be pressing me on the moves of the actual view, not getting hung up on X.”

(2) Reviewers from other fields will be mad that you do not cite more of their field, even if you have positioned the paper to not quite be in contact with that field. And I have felt this myself. Having reviewed for management journals a few times and for AOM, I can say that it is monumentally irritating to see people trying to engage with philosophical/conceptual questions but without any of the relevant background. So, it becomes pretty important to be aware of what empirical field your paper is in some way in contact with (e.g., psychology, law), and to perhaps use sufficient empirical work in discussing it – similar to what Jason talks about below. As a philosopher, it might not occur to you that the paper really needs it, especially if you have been careful in making normative claims that don’t seem to rely on particular descriptive circumstances. But your reviewer that was not trained as a philosopher will not appreciate this and will be upset.

I think that this can be negotiated successfully if the project is interesting enough, and I think if you have the time then it ought to be negotiated. But it is fairly unavoidable. The editor will see the topic that the paper is on and almost certainly send it to someone writing on that topic, and they will privilege this over someone writing in your methodology. I have even gotten upset at times and complained to editors (a very dangerous game) that this is inappropriate, that reviewers not trained in our methodology ought to actually decline the review, just as I would for a quantitive paper. But the editors, who themselves were not trained in analytic philosophy, will not understand/agree. Unless you’re bringing in tons of logic, what they will see is a nicely written paper that it feels like anyone should be able to understand and critically engage with.Report

Matt L
7 months ago

I taught at Wharton (in legal studies and business ethics – I should note that the department is as much “legal studies” (and social science) as it is “business ethics”) for three years, and have also taught business students at my current job (though I was teaching them legal studies, not business ethics) so wanted to add a few more points:

There is a lot of variation among students. It’s a stereotype that business students are lazy, unintellectual people who don’t really want to be at college, just get a job. That’s not all wrong! But, at Wharton the undergrads were very smart and mostly hard working. Not all of them were very interested in philosophical issues, and many had not really thought about them before, but essentially all could and would do work, and many really enjoyed getting to think philosophically. (The MBAs were much worse. There was a joke that “they were there to network, not do work”, and they mostly lived up to it.) On the other hand, the business students where I work now were, on average, noticeably worse than my law students. It would have been hard to teach them philosophy. Most were not eager or able to read hard texts, for example.

I think there is even more variation on expected publication types than suggested here. I have a mix of publications in law reviews and philosophy journals (and book chapters), and at one top department I applied to, I was told that the law review articles were not really counted because “people didn’t know how to evaluate them”. (I might have suggested reading them, but it was too late for that.) In another top department I was told that they strongly favored law review publications. Wharton considers both, but really only in “top” journals or law reviews. So, find out what you’d need to do for tenure (or even to be considered.) There is a lot of variation.

Also on places that might publish “business ethics” work that can be seen as good, it’s worth looking at journals like Law and Philosophy, Canadian Journal of Law and Jurisprudence, and some others like that. If there’s a “legal theory” hook, it might fit in those places, and they are sometimes of interest to business schools.

Finally, let me put in another good word for the Zicklin Center talks at Wharton – it’s a very good series, with substantial feedback, a good community, and usually a pretty friendly environment. (Usually.) The people who take part are smart and engaged, so if you can present there, it’s a great opportunity.Report

Jason Brennan
Reply to  Matt L
7 months ago

I’m not denying Matt’s experience at all, but I wanted to write a few comments on the “lazy” stereotype.

1. At “elite” schools, in my experience and based on what I’ve heard from others, the undergraduate students are generally willing to do intense work, but the trick here is to give them the right kind of work. Business students are not interested in writing 7-page analyses of the concept of “consumption” anymore than the typical philosophy student is interested in pitching a business idea or designing a management structure for a firm.

1.a. An aside this last point, look up the empirical literature on transfer of learning. The bummer is that students mostly do not transfer what we teach inside the classroom outside of the classroom. They *could*, but they mostly don’t. Indeed, this is one of the more persistent findings in educational psych. So the good news about this bad news is that teaching responsibly requires us to design activities that train them to use abstract ideas, concepts, principles, and so on, in the very kinds of settings and actions we want them to use it. The good news about that is that those activities are more fun to do and grade.

2. Outside of “elite” schools, you often run into the problem that the business major–especially “business admin” major (as opposed to specific majors like finance, accounting, and so on) attracts a wider range of students. Philosophy benefits tremendously/suffers horribly from a selection effect in which it tends only to get conscientious and smart students as majors. Business admin doesn’t. It’s more like communications. Specific business majors, like finance, business economics, accounting, and so on, do better. So part of why teaching business students can be hard at some schools is a selection effect for talent.

3. At Georgetown’s b-school, at least, I find students are intellectually curious, as intellectually curious as political science and philosophy majors were at Brown, but about different things.Report

Matt L
Reply to  Jason Brennan
7 months ago

I agree with this pretty much completely.Report

Jason Brennan
7 months ago

It’s worth re-emphasizing, too, that if you are going to work in business school, it’s really important to know more than just philosophy.

For instance, before you talk about, say, the ethics of employment, ask yourself, do you understand the economics of employment? Do you know basic labor econ? Do you Coase’s theory of the firm? Do you know some of the background laws? Do you know anything about management or the empirics of how firms function?

Philosophers, sitting in the room with other philosophers, love to tell each other that they can theorize well about institutions without having knowledge of the empirics of how these institutions function. But you’ll get exposed as having no clue what you’re talking about by your better students and colleagues if you don’t know this stuff. So, if you do decide to work in a business school, learn it. Hell, learn it anyway. You have opinions on this stuff already. You might as well have the opinions based on understanding rather than assumption.Report

Alan Strudler
7 months ago

I have taught business ethics at Wharton for many years. Our business ethics courses are among the most popular in the School. It would be good to have more philosophers teaching business ethics. Students, including MBA’s, are happy to discuss philosophy topics, as these topics are a relief from their standard fare. But in my opinion, it does not work to give students a steady diet of articles from Phil Review. You have to port over the philosophy to business. More important, you need to connect with business practice, just as, I think, good philosophers of science connect with scientific practice. For a good example of how to do this, see Jeff Moriarty’s book, Business Ethics.

Business students are fun. They are smart and outgoing, not nerds. When I was graduate student at Arizona, most business students took our logic class, because it was the most painless way to satisfy their logic requirement, I think. I still remember how puzzled we were that business students on average did so much better than liberal arts students.

I worry about the future of philosophy in the business school. Most business school faculty are social scientists who are most comfortable with other social scientists. Ethics is now a popular topic among psychologists. Psychologists just might make philosophers extinct.Report

Kenneth Silver
Reply to  Alan Strudler
7 months ago

Thanks for this Alan. Indeed, I have similar fears about psychologists – part of why I really wanted this covertly as a bit of a call to action. I also enjoyed your piece on the Wharton program, and I linked it for students in the first footnote.Report

Jason Brennan
Reply to  Alan Strudler
7 months ago

I agree with Alan about all this.

Psychologists are doing lots of interesting work about how people make ethical decisions. Some of this stuff turns out to be non-replicable, and some of it is literally fraudulent, but quite a bit of it is replicated and good.

At Georgetown, we tend to divide our mandatory undergrad ethics class into three bits: 1. What is right and wrong in business? 2. What do the social sciences (including psychology and economics) tell us about why ordinary people of good will so often act badly? 3. How can we get them to act better?

Our ethics class is in their sophomore year. To our surprise, our students tend to say that this is the first *useful* business class they’ve gotten in their career so far.Report

Doris
Doris
Reply to  Jason Brennan
7 months ago

Hi Jason,

Do you have examples of literally fraudulent work in the sort of moral psychology likely to turn up in business classes?

My guess is that we don’t have a clear idea of how much scientific fraud actually occurs, but the usual view is that while “questionable research practices” (or at least debatable ones) are pretty widespread, outright fraud is not.Report

Chris
Chris
Reply to  Doris
7 months ago

I assume Jason is thinking of Marc Hauser’s work when he refers to “outright fraud”Report

Alan Strudler
Reply to  Doris
7 months ago

Fraud is most naturally a concept applied to sales; it involves much more than deceptive lying. So it is hard to know what constitutes “literally fraudulent” work in psychological research, which is not sales. I think that the real question is whether psychologists often tell outright lies when they vouch for their work. And here I disagree with Doris about the usual view. But I rely on gossip, not proof. The Ariely case, however, is interesting.Report

Chris
Chris
Reply to  Alan Strudler
7 months ago

In the Hauser case he made up data! That is more than “deceptive lying” – it is standard to talk about cases where scientists made up data as fraud. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’s Office of Research Integrity (ORI) classified it as “fraud”!Report

Chris
Chris
Reply to  Alan Strudler
7 months ago
Doris
Doris
Reply to  Alan Strudler
7 months ago

I’m not sure what the force of “outright lies” is here, but I’d have thought (as Chris notes below) that falsification of data is what people generally have in mind when they say things like “literally fraudulent.”

We’ve got two cases on the table here, and I can think of a couple more off hand, but even if we can produce many more that that, it will not come to more than a tiny fraction of the papers published, which is presumably why many people adopt what I’ve called the “usual view” that “literally fraudulent” research reports are comparatively rare.

As I said, since some unknown amount of fraud goes undetected, I’m not sure we have a good idea of the actual rate, but “not all that much” seems a credible guestimate, based on the known rate.Report

Alan Strudler
Reply to  Doris
7 months ago

Interesting empirical questions here about what social scientists actually do and interesting normative questions about whether knowingly representing merely sloppy work as accurate constitutes deception. We all make mistakes in scholarship. Not all of them constitute deception. But, I suppose, all this is a topic for a different post.Report

Jason Brennan
Reply to  Doris
7 months ago

Yeah, off the top of my head, I had in mind Hauser and whatever the hell happened with Ariely, Shu, et al.Report