The semester will eventually draw to an end for your academic philosopher. Now that the papers, classes, grading, and office hours are done, your philosopher will have several full months of freedom. Philosophers generally handle this freedom in several ways.
1. Feeling Guilty
Yes, your philosopher does finally have a little freedom and what do they do? Sit around every day feeling guilty because they are not doing enough work.
Some philosophers handle this guilt by trying to drink a lot and hang out with other free philosophers; some just dink around, powerless to come up with anything to do because whatever they decide to work on must be important enough to work on all summer, which means that they will never decide on anything; or some commit themselves to impossibly large projects, which makes them feel even more guilty when they cannot accomplish all of them.
2. Start Reading Groups
Philosophers love reading groups. Near the end of semesters, you might hear a buzz around the philosophy departments about different reading groups that members of the faculty or grad students are planning on organizing. Almost every philosopher—at one time—commits themselves to a reading group, but it common knowledge that nearly half of all philosophers who do commit to a reading group will actually attend said reading group. Just the idea of reading groups make philosophers very excited.
Those who do actually follow through with this group will commit themselves to many more readings than they can actually finish in a break, which adds to their guilt. My philosopher, in fact, has gone on record for the statement, “Perhaps the most important skill in grad school is guilt management.”
3. Working on a Thesis, Dissertation, or Publication
Most people who are not affiliated with anyone in academia do not realize how much work academics actually do during breaks. Philosophers (and others) tend to keep a mental list of all of the projects that they need to do during the school year, which they are planning to push off until a break. The list is usually insurmountably long, and your philosopher may end up seeming even busier than they are during the semester.
This is often the time when philosophers work on theses, dissertations, or other publication projects (articles, books, conference presentations).
4. Having Lots of Philosopher-Parties
Philosophers generally love to get together and drink and eat. Because they don’t have specific schedules during breaks, you may often find philosophers getting together for philosopher-parties.
5. Attending Conferences
There are many conferences during breaks—especially summer breaks. Long breaks are the chance for long-term conferences, sometimes up to a month long. Philosophers also may find themselves invited to special roundtables or workshops, which are chances for them to spend time with other philosophers interested in their subject area and present and write papers together. Your philosopher may even get paid for attending these.
To spouses/partners of philosophers: Because philosophers tend to either throw themselves completely into projects during a break and obsess over them or do nothing and feel really guilty and depressed, you might find yourself as a sort of floodgate controller. I find myself doing a lot of "directing" during breaks, especially in regards to encouraging my philosopher to attempt new projects when he's in the doldrums and being a helpful shoulder when he's attempted a project that's too large. Bake lots of cookies.
To all non-philosophers: The nicest part about breaks is that your philosopher is a bit more flexible with their schedule than they usually are during the semester. Feel free to encourage (and/or nudge) your philosopher to do something fun with you. Philosophers also like to do normal-people things, but sometimes they just need a bit of encouragement that it’s okay to take a break from their work.
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