What the title asks.

Apparently there are some professors in departments of philosophy working on logic or semantics (e.g. William Starr or Nino Cocchiarella [retired]). Does one need to know the "real philosophy" to get such kinds of positions in departments of philosophy? Or does one only need to know logic/semantics (and not, say, treatises of Plato)? And does one have to have a PhD in philosophy, or does a PhD in math or linguistic suffice?

  • While it doesn't strictly require a degree in the field, knowing how to write papers/books/etc. in the fashion expected is a non-trivial skill which will vary widely, and is something you are directly or indirectly trained in during a Ph.D. How a philosopher writes and presents a work is usually much different from how a mathematician writes one. And not knowing how to write and format things according to the field's standards is an easy way to get labeled a crank. Jun 16, 2019 at 11:14

1 Answer 1


The correct, if not very useful, answer to the title question is no, not absolutely necessary. But philosophy departments aren't likely to advertise very often for mathematicians or computer scientists grounded in computability (an important topic in epistemology).

Like any other modern academic field, philosophy has specialization, and some departments are very specialized. So, with certain skills, but not a broad knowledge of the foundations of philosophy you would find a few positions open, but I suspect they would be rare.

Being specialized is both a blessing and a curse. The curse comes because you might not be suitable to teach the courses that need teaching, but the blessing is that you know how to go deep into some important topics.

If you have a degree already in math, philosophy might present an option if the right position came along. But it would probably be a mistake to try to build a career on the assumption that it would be easy to do so.

Also, of course, if you just love it, there is no real reason why a mathematician or linguist can't enter into collaborative relationships with philosophers on topics of common interest. Such relationships can be highly productive.

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