Calling All Former Philosophy Majors

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MachineLemon
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Calling All Former Philosophy Majors

Postby MachineLemon » Wed Mar 14, 2012 8:07 am

Hey all, I recently got into a pretty competitive MA program in philosophy. As such, I'm trying to decide between law school and grad school. Looking for opinions from current law students who studied philosophy in UG. Do you enjoy law school? What aspects of legal study satisfy your philosophical interests and which frustrate them? Thanks!


PS. If there are any lurkers around that actually chose grad school, feel free to chime in!

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FlanAl
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Re: Calling All Former Philosophy Majors

Postby FlanAl » Wed Mar 14, 2012 8:30 am

I actually thought about this the other day. I think that jurisprudential issues can spark the same intellectual curiosity that philosophical ones do. The main draw back is the lack of time. In UG I could actually spend some time thinking about issues raised in class. I also had time to research topics only touched on in readings or lectures just for fun, even though I knew I wouldn't be tested on them.

With legal writing and the amount of reading there really isn't a ton of time to research legal issues just out of interest. You're kind of just forced to plow through as much as possible while picking up a bunch of rules. In general these rules are not to be questioned unless some judge or statute questioned them, not a lot of the free thinking compared to philosophy.

Not sure if that makes sense. There are probably a lot of other factors that make my experience different form the law school experience in general. I have no idea about the competitiveness of philosophy MA's or how useful they are, but if you don't have to pay a ton for it I'd probably go for it and decide if you want to get into academia. I think that law can be rewarding for philosophy students as a career and as an intellectual pursuit. Its not that I don't enjoy it, I'm just sure that it could be better (hopefully it will be after 1L)

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MachineLemon
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Re: Calling All Former Philosophy Majors

Postby MachineLemon » Wed Mar 14, 2012 9:08 am

Thanks for the reply. With my scholarship, the MA would cost 13k/year plus COL. TA job would bring in about 12k over two years. I would likely end up in a top PhD program. For law, I'm T10 secure with about a half ride.

My main concern here is about being in law school and how much people interested in philosophy enjoy it. Current attorneys are also welcome to chime in about their satisfaction with practicing law.

hicrhodus
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Re: Calling All Former Philosophy Majors

Postby hicrhodus » Wed Mar 14, 2012 9:59 am

As a 0L, I can't speak to how philosophy majors enjoy law school. However, as someone who has a lot of friends and a partner in PhD programs, I do have a sense of the academic job market. There are no sure bets in this economy, but a philosophy PhD, particularly outside of the very top programs (by which I mean Princeton, NYU and Rutgers), gives you a very low shot of getting a job you want--i.e., something tenure track. Moreover, there are basically no non-academic jobs you can get with a philosophy PhD that you can't get with a BA. Simply put, you should not be going to grad school if you're paying; they should be paying you a stipend because odds are 5 or 7 years later you will end up without any job prospects. You also shouldn't be going to grad school in philosophy if you can see yourself doing basically anything else and enjoying it.

I'm more familiar with MA programs in the social sciences and languages/literature than in philosophy, but they are almost universally a bad deal. Top schools generally offer admissions into MA programs as consolation prizes to applicants who don't make the cut for the PhD; they then take your money to subsidize their preferred candidates while treating you as a second-class citizen. Even MA programs at well-regarded research universities (Chicago and NYU are the ones I'm most familiar with) have poor placement into top PhD programs as they're known within academia as where second-rate candidates end up. You really need to look into the post-MA trajectories of students in the program in question rather than taking any assurances about placement into top PhD programs at face value. (The only paying masters that I'm aware of giving you a major boost into US Phd programs are those at Oxbridge and maybe LSE, but those are pricey sans scholarship.)

None of this is to say that you should go to law school instead of pursuing a MA in philosophy. Clearly, even a top 10 school is not a sure bet these days to get a decent job--whether you define that as big law or govt/pi work. But you really need to think long and hard before you spend two years racking up non-dischargeable debt--13k+COL means debt even with a TAship--for a MA of limited utility. (Also, this may not be relevant as I'm not sure where you've gotten in, but NYU in particular has strong programs in law and philosophy with Waldron, Dworkin and Nagel on the faculty, although I'm not sure how accessible they are; if you go there, you could spend much of your 3L year taking pretty high-level legal philosophy courses.)

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MachineLemon
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Re: Calling All Former Philosophy Majors

Postby MachineLemon » Wed Mar 14, 2012 10:47 am

Thanks, hicrhodus. These are factors I have considered, but they are well worth reiterating for others. My situation differs somewhat from the usual situation for paying MA students. Will PM.

For others, let's stipulate that I do trust the placement power of the program, but will have to go into the red.

aquaokay
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Re: Calling All Former Philosophy Majors

Postby aquaokay » Wed Mar 14, 2012 8:56 pm

bump. I'm really interested in this too.

flightcontrol
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Re: Calling All Former Philosophy Majors

Postby flightcontrol » Wed Mar 14, 2012 9:17 pm

I was a philosophy major at a top undergrad, and have taken several law school courses with first-rate philosophers here in law school. It's been a treat, and a welcome break from much of law school, though to be honest, I find that I enjoy the doctrinal law classes more. They require less deep thinking and more creativity; legal analysis is about shifting squares into diamonds, while legal philosophy is about figuring out whether the square is really a square. On an intellectual level, I find the former more rewarding. But perhaps that is just the applied/theoretical divide.

If you are looking for the chance to do some philosophy in law school, you will have that chance--though of course, the particular faculty at your school may not teach in the subjects you like. But if you are looking for a sustained immersion in philosophy (legal or otherwise), law school makes no sense at all. Law is a profession; philosophy is a calling. The choice between an academic philosophy program and a J.D. comes down to figuring out whether you simply want to take a couple more classes in the subject, or if you want to make it your life. If you have any doubts, you should do neither; law school is too expensive if you want to teach philosophy, and grad school is too great of an opportunity cost if you want to act in the world. If you are unsure, work on a farm or in a business or on a political campaign, and see where you are in a year.

But if you must go to one or the other, ask yourself this: Do you want to be a lawyer who sprinkles Kant in his criminal appeals, or do you want to be a philosopher who looks critically at the law?

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FlanAl
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Re: Calling All Former Philosophy Majors

Postby FlanAl » Wed Mar 14, 2012 9:55 pm

MachineLemon wrote:Thanks for the reply. With my scholarship, the MA would cost 13k/year plus COL. TA job would bring in about 12k over two years. I would likely end up in a top PhD program. For law, I'm T10 secure with about a half ride.

My main concern here is about being in law school and how much people interested in philosophy enjoy it. Current attorneys are also welcome to chime in about their satisfaction with practicing law.


If you're only going to go 2k in the red and its a top rated program I'd say that you should definitely go for it. I can only imagine it would be a super rewarding two years intellectually, if not career wise. Then you can come back in like a year or whenever you have to apply to law school and ask about Phd vs. JD. Also with your stellar numbers you should probably make this more of a chance at HYS vs MA thread. I'm sure you've thought about doing a joint one, I'm not sure what the placement power into Phd programs is for HYS' philosophy departments but I'd assume its decent (if they actually have MA programs).

ALSO with those numbers have you thought about just doing a 1 year MA at Oxbridge? Most of my professors in UG studied at one of the two (kind of like Yale is for law professors) and it sounds like an incredible experience.

PS very jealous of your choices but good luck in making them!

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Richie Tenenbaum
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Re: Calling All Former Philosophy Majors

Postby Richie Tenenbaum » Wed Mar 14, 2012 10:02 pm

Did you apply to be a Furman scholar at NYU? Also, if you are really interested in both law and philosophy, NYU's PhD/JD program seems like it would be the best option out there.

aquaokay
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Re: Calling All Former Philosophy Majors

Postby aquaokay » Wed Mar 14, 2012 10:07 pm

I don't mean to hijack the thread, so sorry MachineLemon, just one quick question:

@flightcontrol (or anyone else): How would you compare the kind of thinking you do in law to the kind you do in philosophy? Of course, the content of philosophy is inherently interesting, but I've also thought the kind of thinking (analytical, critical, clarifying) that it involves was really enjoyable as well. I've always imagined law as being philosophical thinking with just somewhat less-interesting subject matter. Is this fair?

flightcontrol
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Re: Calling All Former Philosophy Majors

Postby flightcontrol » Wed Mar 14, 2012 11:09 pm

aquaokay wrote:I don't mean to hijack the thread, so sorry MachineLemon, just one quick question:

@flightcontrol (or anyone else): How would you compare the kind of thinking you do in law to the kind you do in philosophy? Of course, the content of philosophy is inherently interesting, but I've also thought the kind of thinking (analytical, critical, clarifying) that it involves was really enjoyable as well. I've always imagined law as being philosophical thinking with just somewhat less-interesting subject matter. Is this fair?


You are right that law is analytic, and that many (probably most) philosophy majors find legal analysis rewarding. But the difference is not merely one of subject matter; it is also in the depth and kind of analysis. I think philosophy is harder, while law is more creative. Let me try to illustrate the difference:

(1) Legal analysis: D says to P: "Buy this car, and I'll give you all of the upgrades for half off." P agrees and signs the contract. Later, the car is delivered with no upgrades. P sues, only then discovering that the written contract did not specify any upgrades. There is a legal rule that a written contract generally supersedes any oral agreement, and the judge will not look beyond the written document to discover its content and meaning. A good plaintiff's lawyer will try to find creative ways to get around this rule, perhaps by arguing that (1) the oral agreement was binding, and the written contract simply memorialized it; (2) if the oral agreement was valid, the written contract could not be valid because there was no additional consideration; (3) even if the written agreement is valid, the parties agreed to upgrades separately and they would have been part of a different agreement. So the written agreement is not binding as to the upgrades.

(2) Legal scholarship: In a situation like (1), who should bear the burden of clarifying the uncertainty at the time of the contract? The dealer is a repeat player (lower costs), but the plaintiff has better knowledge of what he upgrade he wants (lower costs). What are the economic/social/ethical interests, and how do we balance them? What have other jurisdictions done?

(3) Legal philosophy: What does it mean for a court to enforce a private contract? One of the principal justifications for contract is autonomy, but how does that justification figure when one (or both) parties have made a mistake? Does your right to be autonomous include a right to make a mistake?

(4) Philosophy: What is autonomy?




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