Why One Philosopher Left Academia

Nov 18 2013

Zachary Ernst has written two great posts about his decision to leave academic philosophy and join a tech startup. One post focuses on giving up tenure. But the more interesting one is his explanation of why he is leaving academia. <!-- break -->

I never made it anywhere near tenure, but I did choose not to pursue a career in academia for most of the reasons Ernst cites. Like Ernst, it's not the students or the course load I didn't like. Far more has to do with the nature of hyper-specialization in the university (read: discouraging interdisciplinary work), the really bad pay for non-tenure faculty, and the "big business" attitude I saw developing in university administration.

Then there's impact. Ernst points out that:

Academic philosophy is a very small world, and like most academic specialties, it's rare for one's work to gain an audience outside of a narrow circle of specialists.

This is so true. In contrast to this, the work I am doing every day in the commercial sector impacts thousands of people, and has the potential to impact many more.

But with all of that said, the research I did while in grad school, while working on my PhD, and while teaching was the most personally rewarding thing I have experienced. Some days I yearn for the slow pace, the quiet library, and the simple pleasure of reading for hours on end with no goal in sight other than to just learn.

comments powered by Disqus