As an undergraduate, I studied philosophy and the field in which I'm pursuing a PhD right now. Though I had passion for both fields, I chose this field because I did better in this field than I did in philosophy, and the job market situation seemed slightly better here.

But I figured I still want to be in touch with philosophy, so I've been taking graduate philosophy courses for credit. The problem is, I've found these courses more interesting than the field I'm currently in. It's not that I'm entirely disinterested in my own field, but I prefer the method or approach taken in the philosophy department to those in my own field. Good news is that there's a philosophy professor who's interested in my project and I'm planning to work with her (she's officially affiliated with my dept). I'm also trying to have another philosophy professor join my committee so that a half of my committee will be from the philosophy department. And, of course, my dissertation will encompass both fields.

That said, in the future, I want to apply for jobs in both departments. But I don't know how realistic this hope is. I'm not talking about how hard it is to get a TT job, as I've heard nightmare stories numerous times since when I was an undergraduate student. Rather, I wonder if not having a degree from the phil dept will become a massive hurdle even if I work closely with the philosophy department. If I have to choose either, I honestly would prefer a philosophy department, but I guess I realized it too late.

Thanks in advance!


  • 1
    To the question in the title: Yes, I know several examples. Feb 13, 2020 at 3:14
  • Thanks for the comment! That's good to hear. Feb 13, 2020 at 4:09
  • What is the other field?
    – Buffy
    Feb 13, 2020 at 11:42
  • @Buffy It's one of the STEM fields. (I know this is a quite broad answer, but I'd feel a little exposed if I delve into the details) Feb 14, 2020 at 3:27

2 Answers 2


The key would be to offer the department something attractive. Let me give you a well known example.

Previously in philosophy there have been many workers who have studied the questions around "what is the mind?" They have asked a huge variety of questions such as:
- How do we recognize a mind in another?
- How does the mind connect to the body?
- What does it mean to be conscious?
- What happens to the mind when we sleep? Get knocked out?

And many many MANY other questions. Whole aisles in the library of books published on such questions.

Then along comes artificial intelligence. And a new philosophical "industry" is born. You can go look at nearly any of those books and check what happens if, instead of a biological mind, you use a computer made of silicon and transistors and so on. And instead of memory and sensations it runs on software and electronics. This can be a hugely productive research program that can, in principle, interest both the philosophy department and the computer science department. And possibly the neuro-science types in the medicine research areas.

There is another example. Consider the idea of evolutionary biology. This area studies how characteristics relate to genetics and evolutionary selection pressures. Then along comes Prof. Gad Saad who studies the evolution of psychology, with emphasis on why people value certain things over competing interests. Such as why people select their mates, why they prefer certain clothes, etc. And he is a prof of Marketing.

Now you enter with your degree in some other science. Is there the possibility you can relate this to some important philosophical question? In principle, you could found an entire new channel of philosophical investigation.

Crossovers of two seemingly disparate lines of research can be massively productive. There can, of course, be some difficult times at the start. But if you can establish it, you could wind up being the wellspring of a huge amount of highly interesting research.

  • I was thinking of what may have been the same types of examples @Andrés E. Caicedo was thinking of, namely people primarily in mathematics who have interests in mathematical logic that are closely connected to some of the areas of logic done in philosophy departments (e.g. relevance logic and modal logic), but your examples are probably even more likely. Feb 13, 2020 at 15:44
  • Thanks a lot for the detailed answer. I certainly have friends from my undergraduate school who's doing cognitive science and philosophy together. It definitely seems like one of the hottest topics in analytic philosophy. I'm at the stage of substantializing my dissertation topic, and I've found it more challenging than I had imagined. But as you said, I'm hoping that I will get somewhere with this project in the future... Feb 14, 2020 at 3:32

You seem to be doing the right things to make this possible. But, like any candidate, you will ultimately need to convince some philosophy department to take you on. That will depend, ultimately on your qualifications.

One problem you will have, I fear, is that there are probably more doctorates granted in philosophy than there are jobs for them. Some folks have a terrible time finding employment. So, the competition for a philosophy position will be fierce, and many candidates may be better prepared in philosophy than yourself.

But one option you have is to find a position that lets you work in two departments, perhaps just in a minor way, initially, in philosophy. Depending on how your career develops you might, then, have options to move more in one direction or the other. Flexibility is good.

And, of course, tenured faculty have wide latitude in what they study and in their research trajectory. But, you have to get there first.

  • Thanks a lot for the comment. I thought about how I could be engaged with the phil dept and did whatever I could do in my situation. I'm glad that I'm heading in the right direction. But I can see how fierce the competition will be, especially since I'll be behind in this game. I'll keep in mind what you said as I further my studies. Thank you again. Feb 14, 2020 at 3:39

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