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Why does it seem that everything that I read in philosophy always uses "she" or "her" instead of "his" or "he"?

This is the effect of a successful political movement, one that sought to replace the use of "he" and "his", as "gender-neutral" pronouns, with the use of something else. The reason was that people thought that the use of "he" and "his", at least in certain contexts, made readers liable to assume that the pronoun referred to a person of the male persuasion, when it need not. One option is to use something that is truly gender-neutral, such as "he or she", but that is rather verbose. Some people therefore use "s/he", but that is ugly. I've taken to using "s'he", but I'm lonely. And there is a case to be made for "she" and "her", unaltered, as well, namely that it makes one conscious of something of which one might not otherwise have been conscious.

This is more a technical than a philosophical question, I think. When referencing Greek philosophers, what is the significance of providing the original Greek word(s)? (e.g., “Your eagerness [PROTHUMIA] is worth much if it should have some right aim.”) Is there something about Greek (as opposed to other foreign languages) or about philosophy that makes this useful? As a reader, what am I supposed to be doing with these?

The original words are there because translation is an exceptionally tricky business, and it's often important, from a scholarly point of view, to know what the original words were, so that one can judge the correctness of a translation, or note that two words that are cognates in English are also (or are not) cognates in the original. This is more common, I think, in classical philosophy, though you certainly will see it in any sort of historical study of sources originally in another language. But if so, then that is only because classical Greek is an old language. It's not because Greek is particularly difficult.

Is it much harder to be a philosopher now (that is, to make a contribution to the discipline) than it was 50 years ago? Is philosophy like science in that there can seem at times to be less and less left for us to "discover," over time?

Yes to the first one, but no to the second one, and I think no to the second one even for science. What makes science, and philosophy, harder now, in a sense, is that they are both so highly specialized. Let me use an example from mathematical logic. Fifty years ago, you could pretty much become an expert in mathematical logic by reading and understanding one book, Stephen Kleene's Introduction to Meta-mathematics . I'm not, of course, saying that doing that on one's own was easy. The central results were not understood them as profoundly as they are today. Nonetheless, the contrast with today is clear. It's not so much that there's not much left to discover. It's that, to do any serious work, there is so much that has been discovered and so that one has to know.

Dear AskPhilosophers, I'm not an avid philosopher (ask me to pull up quotes from a philosopher and I'll mumble something from Thomas Jefferson), but I've always been curious about something: What kind of jobs do philosophers do? I ask this in good heart; I'm just curious as to what you do after going to college for four years to learn about philosophy. But then what? Is there a philosophy job of sorts? Can you just have that job and nothing else?

There are a couple different parts to this question. You ask about people who "go[] to college for four years to learn about philosophy", so I take it you have undergraduate concentrators in mind. Such people do just about every job you can imagine. The study of philosophy is excellent preparation for many lines of work, because it teaches you how to read, how to write, and how to think, and those are generally useful skills. So it should be no surprise that I've had students go into business, law (a very popular choice), medicine (gotta do those pre-med requirements!), music, and so on and so forth. But I take it you are more interested in whether there is "a philosophy job of sorts". There is, or better, there are. The obvious one is teaching philosophy, and that is what all of us here do, which means that we are employed by colleges and universities. (I've known people who teach philosophy at private high schools, as well.) As part of that work, we also write philosophy: books, journal...

I am a master's student in philosophy and my marks at least, show that I'm doing quite well. I'm also very interested in the subject even if it can get really difficult. My university is offering me a teaching post, but lately, I find myself contemplating on shifting to social work (and doing it full time) because I have this feeling that it's my "calling". How do you know that you are for professional philosophy? Do you think one can meaningfully practice philosophy outside the academe? Thank you very much.

When I asked this question of my undergraduate mentor, he asked me a series of questions: Does it keep you up at night? Would you do philosophy anyway, no matter what else you were doing? The point of these questions was that, to be a professional philosophical researcher, you really do have to feel "called" to it. (OK, I'm sure there are some exceptions.) There are a couple reasons for that. For one, getting through graduate school and then getting a good job is a difficult process. That's not to say one can't have fun doing it. I certainly did. But the various times I as "on the market" (that is, looking for a job) were among the most stressful and difficult times of my life. Moreover, and this is the second reason, philosophical research tends to be a very lonely, and very frustrating, business, where the criteria of success are not very well defined and the rewards not much more so. To keep at it, especially through the lean times, which we all experience, one has to be very committed, from inside,...

Is there some kind of award for philosophical "discoveries" like the Nobel prizes for the sciences? Or do you philosophers disagree too much to call anything a definitive discovery?

So far as I know, there isn't really such an award, but I don't believe that's because we all disagree. One wouldn't have to give such an award for a "discovery". Rather, one might give the award for some other sort of contribution, and philosophers do agree, to a significant extent, about whose work is good and worth reading. Of course, there are disagreements there, too, but there are also such disagreements on the cutting edges of the sciences. That's one reason the Nobel Prizes tend to be given to work done quite a while ago. It's not always obvious at the time what work will last. And so, if we were to look backwards, say, thirty years, I think you'd find very broad agreement about what work done in the mid-1970s is still worth reading.

Are there any websites that accurately rank (as far as that is possible) philosophy departments in non-English speaking countries with strong philosophy programs?

Are there any websites that accurately rank (as far as that ispossible) philosophy departments in English speaking countries withstrong philosophy programs? (Sorry, I couldn't resist.) I presume the question is motivated by a desire to get some sense of where one might get a good education, in a non-English-speaking country. If so, then please contact me directly, and let me know what countries you have in mind. I can (probably) put you in touch with people in the relevant area whose judgement I trust, and they will (hopefully) be able to give you some guidance.

I'm applying to very competitive doctoral programs in philosophy. Everything in my application package is stellar except for my GRE scores. How much do admissions committees at competitive programs weigh GRE scores? Does Math matter more than Verbal? Is there a general baseline score I should try to aim at getting over?

As Lynne said, it varies. Most of us have seen enough applications, and known enough students, to know better than to take GREs with anything other than a pound or so of salt. In my own reading of applications, a low verbal score is a red flag, but I'll disregard it if further reading of the student's material doesn't suggest language problems. Similarly, a low quantitative score (or, nowadays, a low "reasoning" score, or whatever it's called) is also a red flag, but it just makes me look harder at other parts of the file. You don't say whether you are a native speaker of English, but, in my experience, non-native speakers very often have poor GRE scores, even when their spoken and written English is very strong, and even on the Math part. And I've seen such students with excellent GREs, even with high verbal GREs, whose English is so poor they cannot follow a lecture or participate in discussion in a seminar. (There's a lesson there somewhere.) So with non-native speakers, I uniformly disregard GREs...

I am a student interested in philosophy as a major. Are there any careers realistic for a philosophy major outside of teaching?

Lots! There are certain things for which philosophy obviously would not prepare you terribly well: Graduate study in physics, for example. But beyond these obvious sorts of cases, there is nothing you cannot do. Probably the single most popular career for philosophy majors is the law: A significant proportion of students at Harvard, where I taught for 14 years, went on to law school after graduating. However, in my years of teaching, I have known students who went to business school, who went into business directly, who became writers of fiction or artists, who went to medical school (of course, they also did the pre-med requirements), and so on and so forth. So, as I said, studying philosophy closes very few doors. Studying philosophy prepares one quite well, then, for a whole range of careers. A study done some years ago (I can't remember by whom) showed, in fact, that businesses are particularly keen on philosophy majors. The reason, I believe, is that studying philosophy teaches you how to read...

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