What's the best way for someone who's really into philosophy to make their mark on the philosopical community if he or she is having trouble going to a university? I've tried sending my work to professors throughout the US, not necessarily for publication purposes, just to get it looked at, but for now, no dice.

It's a perhaps unfortunate fact of academic life that credentials (degree, university affiliation) are very important to being taken seriously. Although it's not a hard-and-fast necessary condition (i.e., it's not impossible to be taken seriously without them, as would be if it were hard-and-fast necessary condition), and it sure isn't a sufficient condition, either (i.e., not everyone with credentials is automatically taken seriously). I'd suggest joining an online community devoted to philosohical discussion, such as the AskPhilosophers Group linked on the left menu bar. I imagine there are also online philosophy courses you can take, or at least follow ( MIT has been doing some wonderful work in this area). The internet is a virtually limitless resource; I can't even remember how we did intellectual work without it. Good luck!

Questions about going to school for philosophy have already been asked, but I couldn't help but ask another; I am strongly considering a search for a graduate-level philosophy school, and the panel is partially made of individuals working within grad. philosophy programs, and certainly those who graduated from such programs. I would like to know, from the panel member(s) that may respond: What exactly brought you to the point that you could say you were a constructive contributor to the philosophy field? What level of work did you have to demonstrate to enter the graduate program which you entered, and what quality of work was your output there? I'm asking you to evaluate these things to better understand what exactly needs to be sown to reap the feeling that you earned your degrees and the university position at which you teach. I think it would help to build a scale to use to quantify my own goal of professorship, or otherwise significant contributions to the field, one day.

I'll be interested in seeing what other answers you get to this question. Phil grad programs vary widely in reputation, as well as in both entrance and graduation requirements. There's also variation in the quality of work that gets published, as well as the amount and venue of publication that will count, in the eyes of colleagues and potential employers, as a "significant contribution to the field." I consider myself a constructive contributor every time I answer a question on this site or help a previously befuddled undergrad distinguish between a sound argument and a fallacious one...though the American Philosophical Association would probably be inclined to disagree. For insight into programs and their respective requirements, see University of Texas professor Brian Leiter's Philosophical Gourmet Report , especially the links on Graduate Study. For insight into the process of getting through graduate school and into a philosophy professorship, see A Philosophy Job Market Blog, ...