Thursday, August 13, 2009

Managing Interactions with Non-Philosophers in the Department

Here are comments from survey respondents describing how, if at all, they have dealt with the issue of managing interactions with non-philosophers in the department. (Many small philosophy departments are administratively linked with faculty from another discipline. There are, e.g., Departments of Religion and Philosophy, English and Philosophy, etc.)

  • I've learned how to teach. Teaching is an art; Socrates is the model teacher. His model is nothing like the current hyper-specialized professor who finds students just like him and tries to make clones. I get to know each student, I assign lots of short papers in which they can compare their own views with what we have read, I keep track of what they have written to let them know I care about who they are, I point out to them how much they have grown and changed over the semester, I let them speak up in class so they can see how each other is growing and changing. We all take an interest in each other as human beings. Those who are in the honor society I work with closely over the year. We program events that highlight values and lifestyles connected to religion and philosophy. I get to know they students in this capacity also. I have volunteered to participate in the spring break mission trip which gives me another wonderful chance to bond with students. Philosophy is a way of life, not a way of using words. Students can recognize this and learn more philosophy from a teacher who they respect and know as a human being.
  • I try to cultivate friendships with the other liberal arts professors. This effort has been successful. We sometimes do reading groups, outside lunches, etc.
  • Professionally, keep them to a minimum.
  • Participated in the department meetings of other departments and kept in close contact with my colleagues about good students.
  • It is general career advice: find an unmet need, fill it, and gently point out to people that you've filled it. I would add that you should be picky, too, and select things that you *want* to do.
  • It's never been addressed by me or coworkers, it's just a continuing sense of disjunction.
  • Be polite.
  • none successful since the non-philosophy areas claim resources are necessary for the major programs
  • trying to engage with the problems they see as important - ensuring I regularly consult with them so they can "see" that my teaching is relevant - trying to convince them of reasons why ethics is relevant to police generally and as part of a police-training course more specifically - not 'talking down' to them [this is important, as many of the police practitioners don't have uni quals and it can be 'easy' to talk to them in a jargon-ish sort of way that they find offensive]
  • For curricular consultations, we usually separate by discipline. Ditto for the brunt of job searches. From my point of view as a Continental philosopher, the chasm between my analytic colleagues and me is comparable to that between philosophy as a whole and religious studies as a whole. (This personal perspective is doubtless influenced by the fact that I also hold a doctorate in religious studies. My philosophy colleagues feel that they have little in common with the religious studies wing of the department.) Basically, we leave each other alone as much as possible.
  • Nothing to offer you here. We have an excellent rapport with our non-philosophers right now.
  • Confrontation is generally a bad idea. The most useful strategy I have found is to show interest in the research of others and to suggest ways in which philosophy is relevant to other disciplines.
  • I don't understand this question -- there are no non-philosophers in my department. Do you mean non-majors?
  • This one's not hard. We get along pretty well, and my colleagues in other disciplines appreciate the value of philosophy in their own disciplines.
  • Happily, I am part of a collegial department.
  • Largely interact on a social rather than an intellectual level. There are some exceptions for those in literature, but this is mostly the case with the linguists and theatre folks.
  • We have hired 2 lecturers without philosophy degrees as a result of the bias of one philosophy faculty member. This makes our department wildly unbalanced in its offerings (we teach many, many courses on Freud and on Evolution, neglecting ethics and philosophy of language and science, even though Freud and Evolution are usually not considered to be "core" topics in the undergraduate major). There is not much chance to remedy this, as the lecturers are hired and get good teaching reviews. They are good, scholarly people who deserve to have positions at a university. They just do not have areas of expertise in traditional philosophy
  • We're in a religion, philosophy, & classics department. Mostly my colleagues recognize the value of philosophy so that hasn't been a problem. Because there are 6 religion fac and only 2 philosophers, we're sometimes left out of decisions, but for the most part relations are collegial.
  • It's tricky, especially when I hear them making fun of philosophy to my students or other colleagues. I really think several of them have very little idea of what philosophy is, but I can't address this without insulting them (in my opinion). So I try to be polite and put pro-philosophy propaganda on my office door for people to read.
  • Religious studies faculty are supportive.
  • Be clear about our distinct methodologies, and work together on planning co-curricular activities.
  • We run an interdisciplinary BA and MA programme ("Philosophy, Media, Arts"), so we have to cooperate closely with the colleagues from the media and arts departments, which works out quite satisfactorily (with some tensions time and again). For many years the department has organised and hosted an interdisciplinary lectures series to foster discussions and cooperation across department affiliations.
  • We share a department with religion - three atheists in philosophy, and three believers in religion manage to get along just fine. But our merger is for administrative purposes only. Our students tend not to overlap, and we pretty much stay out of each other's business. The concerns that we do share unite us, and they are the same concerns that belong to any of the teachers in the humanities.
  • I have learned that the way philosophers speak to each other comes off as being a smart-ass to everyone else. Be kind, listen, etc. Be a decent human being.
  • We all pretty much do our own thing--the religious studies folks have their own major, and we have ours. We're a combined department purely for administrative purposes.
  • Regular departmental meetings.
  • I have kept up friendly interactions with a number of non-philosophy colleagues, which is very important. The philosophy program is well supported because the Dean of the faculty is a philosopher, though he does not teach into the program he is very supportive of it.
  • I have none. There is no possibility pre-tenure to manage "interactions" with hostile faculty to philosophy.
  • Well, I have to say that I am not very good at this.

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