Saturday, 30 April 2011

Living with Your Philosopher: Movie Commentary

I’m generally a pretty tolerant person when it comes to my philosopher being weird. By now, I’m used to his commentary on conversations we overhear at the coffee shop (being in Texas, we overhear some doosies), I’m used to preparing an argument to justify every larger financial purchase I want to make, and I’m used to a variety of other strange quirks (drifting into Philosophy Land in the middle of putting on his socks, etc). One thing I am working on tolerating is movie commentary.

Philosophers usually fall into two categories when it comes to movie commentary: those who pause the movie to comment and those who only comment at the end of movies. I will be discussing the interrupters here, as there have been several requests for addressing this type of philosopher.

Those of you who have spent very much time with a philosopher will know exactly what I am talking about. You and your philosopher(s) decide to watch movie X. Movie X begins with a certain kind of music that reminds your philosopher of something. She/he pauses the movie and gives a mini-lecture on this idea. They expect you to comment. You do not comment. They feel let down and continue the movie until something else during the movie reminds them of some idea. Repeat.

[This kind of commentary might be a bit different in my case than in yours, because my philosopher reads everything about everything (not just philosophy). He learns a lot, thus has lots of connections to make.]

It can be really easy to get annoyed with your philosopher when they do this, after all you are watching this movie for a little entertainment, not for a philosophy lecture, right?

By just snapping at your philosopher when they do this, it doesn’t really accomplish anything except in creating resentment or hurt feelings. After all, philosophers are just so excited about ideas and connecting ideas, so hurting this excitement will only serve to squelch your philosopher. Here are the things that I do to deal with movie commentary:

1. Suggest going to the theater to see a movie instead of watching one at home.

Going out to a theater does one of two things: (1) it prevents your philosopher from being able to pause the movie and offer commentary and (2) if they insist on giving commentary during the movie, public pressure is likely to discourage many episodes. You can also pull the “Shh. How about you save it up and tell me after the movie?” You also might be able to wrangle some expensive movie-treats out of your philosopher if you go to a theater.

2. Talk to your philosopher about it beforehand.

On really crummy nights when I just want to watch a movie and know I don’t have the patience for commentary, I might ask my philosopher beforehand to try really hard not to comment during the movie, but to wait until the end. Philosophers enjoy analyzing things and they love connecting ideas, so giving them a chance to do so at the end is better than shutting down commentary completely.

3. Go with it.

When I can handle it, I just find that it’s best to swallow my annoyance and let him comment. You don’t have to get into a discussion about each comment, a simple, “That’s interesting,” can work just fine for this sort of commentary. It just makes philosophers so happy to give little analyzing comments about things, that I can handle a minor annoyance at the interruption. Besides, I usually learn some pretty interesting things during commentary time; sometimes I even teach him something.

4. Movie selection.

I have heard from several philosophers that commentary may be significantly reduced based on the movie that you choose to watch. For example, if you choose a movie like Bruce Almighty, where the idea of free will is played with, your philosopher might have an awful lot to say during the movie. If you choose a movie like Robin Hood: Men in Tights, your philosopher might be able to enjoy the movie themselves without have to stop and correct or make additions. If you are a serious movie-watcher, who prefers the artistic and sublime to blockbusters, then you are setting yourself up for movie commentary.

Living with a philosopher is really all about picking your battles. Does movie commentary drive you absolutely crazy? Discuss this with your philosopher and set some boundaries or select movies carefully. Just remember that your philosopher is not trying to be annoying; they are just doing what philosophers do. 

You can follow me on twitter (@philosiologist) or friend me on facebook (Philosiologist Qed). You can also send me an email (left sidebar) if you have a post suggestion, want to chat, or have a question about philosophers. If you send me chain emails, I will block you forever. 

~The Philosiologist~

Friday, 29 April 2011

Comprehensive Exams

[Note: I did not have my philosopher look this over today because I was in a hurry, so there might be serious errors or lapses in judgment. Please excuse me in advance].

Perhaps you’ve heard rumors of a terrible test or a series of terrible tests that all Ph.D. students must slay before they can move on to dissertation-writing. This beast of a test (these tests) is (are) always lurking in the background for a grad student, waiting for that day when it (they) will attack your philosopher and rip out their soul.

Okay, so comprehensive exams (comps) are not that bad.  They are annoying, they are time consuming and frustrating, they are usually seen as a complete waste of valuable time, they might end your philosopher’s academic career, but they will not rip out any souls.

What is a Comps Exam?

Comps are usually a series of tests for Ph.D. students that cover very large selections of material. For example, your philosopher might have to take a comps exam in the History of Philosophy or in Ethics and Metaethics. Well before each exam, your philosopher is given a reading list, with thousands of pages of philosophy texts that they must read and absorb and then answer a few questions about at a 3-ish hour exam. They will not receive these questions before the exam.

These are not ordinary exam questions, though. Your philosopher will be expected to examine other philosopher’s ideas in detail, with examples, and contrast a philosopher’s ideas with other philosophers’ ideas.

What Happens Next?

After your philosopher graduate student takes this exam, it is graded by a group of philosophy professors, who then decide if your philosopher answered each question adequately enough to pass or instead should fail.

What Happens if My Philosopher Fails?

If your philosopher fails the exam, they will have to take it again, and if they fail it a second time, they might get booted from the program or lose funding or something else drastic (pledge their firstborn to the philosophy program, etc). Sometimes bad things happen on the first failing.

How Does My Philosopher Prepare for a Comps Exam?

Your philosopher will spend hours of time reading, note-taking, and answering practice exam questions. They may form a study group. They may try to cram all of the preparations for the comps into one month, which is trouble, trouble, trouble.

Do all Programs Require Comps?

Nope. Some programs—usually the more “with the times” programs—have stopped requiring the comps exam. There is actually a huge debate behind comps in philosophy-world. Some professors (usually the old-guard or the students-these-days-are-weak philosophers) think something like, “I had to suffer through comps; so should everyone else. We’re making these programs too easy!” Some professors (usually the younger, more ‘in the field’ philosophers) think, “We should not make students take comps because philosophy-world is such that students have to publish papers and attend conferences before they finish their Ph.D., and the comps takes away valuable time from these activities.”

You can see how people would be very opinionated about the comps.

The hard thing is that philosophy-world really has changed in the past 50 years. Philosophers used to be able to finish their Ph.D. and get a job without publishing or conferencing at all, and now they have to have articles published and give conference talks and, ideally, be working on their first book. 

So if your philosopher has to prepare for comps exams, approach your attitude to the exam like, “this is just going to be a really long paper-writing season.” Bake lots of cookies.

You can follow me on twitter (@philosiologist) or friend me on facebook (Philosiologist Qed). You can also email me if you have questions, blog ideas, and/or want to be friends. Stay tuned for my conference reporting this weekend/early next week. Also stay tuned to see a picture of my cat wearing a philosiology t-shirt, which he will be wearing very reluctantly, though he will look absolutely precious.

~The Philosiologist~

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Philosopher Faces: What Non-Philosophers See

Despite the caffeine I've consumed today, I have not been very clear-thinking (there was a brief window of thought-clarity this morning, but it was taken up by work at my real job), so I drew a graph of philosopher-faces for the post. This is an extremely accurate* picture of what we non-philosophers see on our philosopher's faces when they are in different mood-states.

The colors don't mean anything. I just like colors.

*By "extremely accurate" I mean, of course, my philosopher's facial expressions look like this. Yours may be different. As a note, though, I think that we non-philosophers  all might agree on the angry, philosopher-attack, and thinking faces.

I'm stewing over a philosophy lesson for tomorrow, so there may be a long post tomorrow, sleepiness permitting.

P.S. I'm working at a philosophy conference this weekend/early next week, so I will be documenting all of the strange things I see/hear. That should be "fun" for all of us.

You can follow me on twitter (@philosiologist) or friend me on facebook (Philosiologist Qed). You can also send me an email with post ideas, comments, questions, etc (email in the left side bar). I really try to be expedient in responding to messages and emails, though I have been lax at answering emails lately. My cat notes that he would like it best if you did not follow or friend me, though, because I use too much of my "cat time" to monitor the social networking sites.

~The Philosiologist~

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

How Philosophers are Like Secret Agents . . . Kind of

[Note: My philosopher says that academics in some other fields may do this, too].

I bet you didn’t know that your sometimes-extremely-oblivious philosopher had secret agent capabilities. This is one of the most surprising things about philosophers.

The particular secret agent quality that almost every academic philosopher possesses is that of memorization. Philosophers are exceptionally good at knowing exactly where every other philosopher went to school, with whom other philosophers are working with/are planning to work with/worked with, what other philosophers’ philosophical areas of specialty are, and tracking which schools philosophers have worked at.  I like to refer to this as philosopher-knowledge (as in, knowledge about other philosophers).

Every once and while (rarely) you might hear your philosopher say about another philosopher—say, for example—a visiting speaker—is “Hmm, I’ve never heard of this person before.”  Translation: “I have to know about this person now because I am obsessed with philosopher-knowledge, so I’m going to go stalk their university profile and memorize their CV so I can place them in philosophy.”

Philosopher-knowledge is important, as it is both a survival technique and a reference point. Just imagine being at a large conference, like the APA Eastern, and not being able to connect people to schools and programs and other philosophers. This would be harmful to your academic philosopher, as knowing where other philosophers are located usually determines how much prestige a philosopher has and what they are interested in determines what kinds of projects they are working on (philosophers who study the same sorts of things might share papers and write articles together).

Philosopher-knowledge can be very fun for you, too. Here’s an example. When my philosopher first started in his Ph.D. program, I asked him one day to name all of the other philosophers (professors and grad students) in his department, where they went to school, and what they studied. It was fun for me to see this philosopher—who sometimes can’t remember to wash his hair in the shower—rattle off all of this information that looked superfluous to me. What can be even more fun is to attend a philosophy lecture or conference where there will be many other philosophers and ask your philosopher to spill out philosopher-knowledge about some of them.

I find this is also very useful for parties. When I am going into a situation where I will have to be around several strange philosophers (as in philosophers who are strangers to me, not just strange, because they’re all rather strange), I will often either get a debriefing before the party so I know what kinds of questions to ask which philosophers, or I will point out people at the party and ask my philosopher for information about them so I can talk to these strange philosophers. It makes parties much more fun to have some knowledge about the people you will be talking with.

So remember, next time your philosopher forgets to go to call you on your birthday or forgets to pick up bread at the grocery store on the way home, that your philosopher has these crazy capabilities. They may not be exactly directly useful to you all the time, but they will help your philosopher in her/his field. Also, this doesn’t mean that your philosopher should be able to remember things that are not philosophy-knowledge, because it’s a completely different category in their brains.

You can follow me on twitter (@philosiologist) or friend me on facebook (Philosiologist Qed). I haven't posted too much lately beyond links to new posts, but it's paper-writing season for my philosopher, so he has dibs on the computer. Maybe I'll be more interesting in the summer. Anyway, you can also send me an email if you have a suggestion for a blog post, question, or just want to chat with someone else who lives with a philosopher.

~The Philosiologist~

Monday, 25 April 2011

Surviving a Philosopher-Attack

I can remember very clearly my first sighting of a philosopher-attack. I was in college and rooming with my sister. My philosopher and I were in the first few months of our young romance, a time when he was far away getting his M.A. and I was finishing up my B.A, so we talked on the phone every night. One night, my philosopher made a comment over the phone that I was supposed to share with my sister, and then she had a comeback for him that I was supposed to pass back. This little back and forth game went on for a while until I got tired of being the middle-woman and passed my phone off to my sister, who proceeded to have an hour-long debate with my philosopher over something.

Meanwhile, I left the room and innocently did some laundry, caught up with some friends in the dorm, and finished some homework. By the time an hour had passed, I was getting antsy, so I came back into the room. My sister nearly threw the phone at me, in tears, and left the room. My philosopher, on the other hand, was in an absolutely superb mood.

What just happened? My sister was the unfortunate survivor of a philosopher-attack.
[Note: It took her awhile to recover from this attack. There had to be several years of me enforcing a no-debating zone around my sister for her to trust him again—and I bet she still doesn’t completely trust him].

Philosophers do these sorts of things with each other all the time. I don’t know how many times we’ve been at a philosophy party when I wander back to my philosopher after making the rounds of conversation with other non-philosophers, I discover that he is in heated and angry-sounding discussion with other philosophers. When it’s all over, though, everyone is happy and joking and full of philosophy intoxication. In the first case, he didn’t try to make my sister upset, and your philosopher in the midst of a philosopher-attack does not try to hurt you, either.

Philosopher-attacks are very dangerous to non-philosophers, though, and sometimes deadly (they can kill any desire a non-philosopher might have to ever talk to one again), but you can survive them.

[Note: One interesting thing that I’ve noticed about philosophers is that analytic ones are more likely to initiate attacks than continental philosophers. All of my experiences with continental philosophers—when talking philosophy—have been positive and non-damaging (any bad experiences I’ve had have been due to a philosopher’s arrogance, but all philosophers have to fight against some sort of arrogance, not just continental philosophers). You will probably never experience a philosopher-attack from a continental philosopher, but continental philosophers might often encounter philosopher-attacks from analytic philosophers. These sorts of attacks can been incredibly harmful to your continental philosopher's perception of analytic philosophers. End note.]

At the beginning of your philosopher’s philosophical awakening, they can be rather quick to attack but very unwieldy. Young philosophers can be smart-alecky and quick to pull out the cheap moves (“Aha, but we can make a distinction between those two claims such that….therefore your argument is invalid!”). These sorts of attacks can be annoying, but they aren’t really too harmful yet.

The time when they really become dangerous is in grad school. I don’t know how many times I’ve been chattering along about something and accidentally make some careless, general statement about something, when whamo! I see that gleam in my philosopher’s eyes and I know the next thing out of his mouth is going to be something along the lines of, “So you think in all cases . . .” or “Do you really want to commit yourself to that?”

The danger comes when a philosopher drives you into a corner and makes you feel like you’re stupid. I’ve said before that philosophers do this with each other as part of their jobs, but when they unleash their philosophy-powers on one of us non-philosophers, the act of driving a non-philosopher into a corner can cause a lot of bad feelings and resentment.

So, non-philosophers, how can you get yourself out of a philosopher-attack alive?

1. Change the subject abruptly.

You may think this is rude, and it is, but it can be more harmful for both of you if you allow your philosopher to corner you in an argument.

2. Refuse to continue the discussion.

This can be incredibly difficult for those among us (*ahem*myself*ahem*) who want to be right all the time. After all, it is very tempting sometimes to keep arguing because you think that maybe you could actually win this one. Philosophers are tricky. Don’t fall into this trap; sometimes you just have to throw in the towel and walk away.

3. If your philosopher is of the understanding, sensitive sort, stop them and say that the conversation is making you feel attacked and you would rather stop.

This only works if you have a sensitive philosopher. There are more than a few of these out there (like mine!), but some philosophers are just not that understanding or not that perceptive (sorry, philosophers, but some of you just don’t play nicely), and saying something like this might have no effect on them.

4.  Turn the conversation around on them and say something like, “I don’t really understand this problem well. Why don’t you explain to me what you think the best answer is?”

This may not work on some philosophers, but can work marvelously on arrogant (or unaware) ones. After all, it is very hard for almost every philosopher to resist the sirens’ call of “Please tell me what you think is correct in this philosophical argument,” so the more arrogant among the philosophers, who already love to talk about philosophy, will be more than happy to indulge to you what they think. Some philosophers do not fall for this trick, though.

If you end up falling into or willingly entering a philosopher-attack, be aware that a really painful one could fracture your relationship with your philosopher. Sometimes diverting conversation to a thought experiment or to one of your philosopher’s favorite philosophical ideas is really the best thing you can do for everyone.

It is also worth noting that as you get better about redirecting philosopher-attacks, you might be able to train your philosopher to not be so thirsty for blood when she/he enters into philosophical discussion with you. Philosophers, like other humans, can be trained effectively, if you are patient.

I must also note that this is not an excuse to avoid talking about philosophy with your philosopher all together, and it is also not an excuse to always shut your philosopher down. There is a very clear difference between regular philosophical discussion and philosopher-attacks: when you start to feel threatened or hurt or super-annoyed, it is time to stop the conversation so you won’t be perpetually annoyed with philosophy. Philosophers, setting up boundaries like this will help you in the future.

Be aware. Divert conversation. Save yourself.

P.S. You can follow me on twitter (@philosiologist) or friend me on facebook (Philosiologist Qed). You can also send me an email, too. I am much too sleepy now to come up with something witty to say.

~The Philosiologist~

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Questions/Topics to Avoid with Philosophers

There are a few phrases that get said to or questions that get asked of philosophers that absolutely drive them crazy—in a really bad way.

Keep in mind that you can use these if and only if [my philosopher protests to my incorrect usage of iff in this case, but I’m leaving it in] you want philosophers to avoid you and think badly about you. They are incredibly useful if there is a particular philosopher you know whom you would like to stop talking to you forever. Also, these could be useful if you would like to embarrass your philosopher terribly at a party (especially if you introduce yourself to the department head and then ask one of these questions). I do not recommend using these EVER, but I am also super-sensitive about my reputation with philosophers.

For the philosopher out there who is going to disagree with me and say that one or several of these questions/statements is not so bad, you are probably not a graduate student or a professor. Just you wait. These questions/statements even annoy me, and I am definitely not a philosopher.

[As a note: my philosopher has been asked, these questions at one time or another].

I’m going to be a bit harsh with my evaluations here (these make me angry because people can be so insensitive to philosophers), so if you’ve said or done one of these things in the past, don’t be offended, just prepare yourself to reform (“Go and sin no more”).

1. “Oh, you study philosophy? What are you going to do with that?”

This seems like an innocent question, right? I mean, it is common practice for most non-philosophers to ask questions about employment situations after an introduction. For philosophers, the reactions that non-philosophers have to their answer to this question are similar to the reaction they might have to a person who answers that they are unemployed. Sometimes non-philosophers react with glassy eyes; sometimes they get out of the conversation as fast as possible and move on to someone else; and sometimes they ask the hated follow-up question, “Oh, you’re going to be a professor. So you’re going to teach?”

Where do they even begin to answer this question to a non-academic? I recommend that you philosophers start referring all questions like this to my blog entry.

2. “Ok, so I’ve got this philosophical problem for you: If a tree falls in a forest and there’s no one around to hear it, did it make a sound?”

This is committing several grievous problems. First, you are reciting a silly “problem” that everyone and their mother has heard before, which implies (1) that you think your thoughts are original and (2) you think that philosophers are only interested in silly “problems.” Imagine how insulting this is to a philosopher. It’s like a person walking up to their car mechanic and telling them about an article they read in Highlights magazine (a magazine for young children) about spark plugs and how useful these are in cars.

As a note, almost anything that begins with “I’ve got a philosophical problem for you . . .” is bound to be trouble.

3. “I have some of my own philosophical ideas that I’ve wanted to talk to someone about.”

Please don’t do this, unless you are really a philosophy student (in which case, you will probably not say this to another philosopher). Don’t do this, even if you were a philosophy student in years past. The philosophy-world changes pretty quickly, so if you have stepped out of it for a while and have not kept up with all of these changes, you do not know what is going on and your ideas might be considered irrelevant. It is insulting to say this to a philosopher because they have been working so hard in their field and are deep in the literature, and then you just figure you can roll in with your “ideas” and impress them without doing all of the work it takes to really understand philosophy. Philosophy is hard work. End of story.

Now, it is okay to ask a philosopher some questions about a certain philosophical idea that you have been thinking about for a while, but be kind to both them and yourself and figure out first whether this particular philosopher studies the kind of philosophy you are interested in. Then, perhaps have some questions relating to your subject prepared that you can ask them in a non-arrogant (perhaps, “I don’t know much about this and I know this is your area but could you explain to me….”), curious way. Philosophers love curiosity (especially when it’s also humble) the way that my cat loves treats (he would eat them until he explodes, if given the chance).

4. “So in philosophy you just basically talk about your opinions.”

Philosophers take issue with two words in this sentence: ‘basically’ and ‘opinions’. Philosophers do not have straight-out opinions in philosophy; they have views and positions that can be supported by arguments. Even continental philosophers have arguments.

They dislike the word ‘basically’ because it implies that something can be summed up quickly and effortlessly, which just can’t be done in philosophy (believe me!).

5. Any mention of Ayn Rand.

People like Rand are not philosophers, they are posers (and she is a terrible writer, too). Do not mention Ayn Rand in conversation with a philosopher, as it is insulting. The only case in which it is okay to talk about Rand is when you are making fun them or asking a philosopher why Rand is ever considered a philosopher (which is also dangerous; tread lightly). I recommend just avoiding the subject all together.

6. “You’re a logician? I love Sudoku and other logic puzzles!”

Logic is not about logic puzzles. Logic is a series of incredibly difficult stuff that relates to mathematics. By saying something like this, you are implying that logic is fun and—as someone who has taken a formal, baby-logic course or two, involving both predicate and propositional logic—I can promise you that logic is not fun at all (okay, so I lied—propositional baby-logic is actually fun in a geeky kind of way).

7. Connecting philosophy to theology.

Most philosophers do not study anything relating to theology. You could be on very dangerous ground if you starting talking about theology with a philosopher and think you are going to get far. For your own safety, assume that they do not study theology. My policy is to talk theology with seminary students or graduates and talk philosophy with philosophy students or graduates.

Ok, confession time: I rarely talk either philosophy or theology with anyone. I usually ask philosophers about other things because I know just a little bit about philosophy; enough to be annoying but not insightful.

If you’re nervous about asking philosophers anything about philosophy now, that’s ok. Philosophers like lots of other things, too. You can ask them questions about:

1. The local music scene.
2. University politics/recent policy decisions within their specific university/Department gossip.
3. Good bars/restaurants
4. What kind of books [outside of school] they have been reading lately.
-Only ask this at the beginning or early part of the semesters since this tends to drop off for many philosophers during paper writing season [see previous post] and asking them about it only inspires guilt and makes them irritable.
5. Movies [Note: Don’t ask about the Matrix!].

Philosophers, any other things that people say that super-annoy you?

Non-philosophers, are there any other questions you’ve found work well when talking to philosophers?


I wanted to add this note because I realized that the way I phrased the sentence "Even continental philosophers have arguments" was taken to be a barb rather than a helpful explanation. I said it this way because I have overheard some very misguided analytic undergrad philosophers say things like, "Continental philosophers don't use arguments; they base everything on feelings." I am sorry if you were offended. Perhaps a post about something strictly within continental philosophy will make it up to you? I would make you some cookies, but you are all so far away.


Note: You can follow me on twitter (@philosiologist) or friend me on facebook (Philosiologist Qed). I will probably accept your requests and/or follow you, too, but I won't read your twitter updates (I might stalk on your facebook profile, though, especially if there are pictures of your pets). I will post all of my blog updates on these profiles.  You can also email me (email address on the left-hand sidebar) if you have questions or post suggestions (or if you are willing to donate a small cottage in Europe--I have a great rental history).

 ~The Philosiologist~

Friday, 22 April 2011

Living with Your Graduate Student Philosopher: Paper-Writing Season

My philosopher and I refer to the end of the academic semester as paper-writing season for the obvious reason that it is the time of the semester when all philosophers are buried in mounds of texts and articles, frantically writing papers for all of their graduate courses. Graduate students start to keep even stranger hours than normal and walk around the department with bloodshot and very desperate eyes, hoping that we will host some sort of department event that will have snacks so they won’t have to leave the office to scrounge up meals.

For those of you non-philosophers who are not as familiar with the academic life of your grad student philosopher, their semester is usually structured in the following way:

1. Read really hard stuff for 15-16 weeks of the semester
2. Prepare well enough to discuss the article/book during class periods (usually articles)
3. Either write 2-ish page reading responses (I per week) during the course of the semester, with one long-ish paper at the end of the semester; write two, 10-15 page papers, one at the midterm and one at the end of the semester; or write one 25-ish page paper at the end of the semester

As you can see, the end of the semester is usually weighted heavily with paper-writing.

Your philosopher, especially if they are either a new grad student or a burnt-out grad student, may always look like the kind of grad student I described previously. So how else can you tell that it is, indeed, paper-writing season?

1. When you enter a philosopher’s work space, you may see more papers scattered over the floor or in large, messy piles than usual.
2. You may discover your philosopher asleep within these paper piles.
3. If you were to ask your philosopher when they last ate food, they may either not understand the question or may not remember.
4. Your philosopher may go through periods of intense, existential angst and ask you repeatedly why they ever chose to go into academic philosophy. The best way to handle these periods is to bake them cookies and take them for a walk out of doors.

One of my favorite parts about paper-writing season is a phenomenon I like to call lower-willpower advantages. There have been several scientific studies, one of which you can read a short summary about here, that note that people who expend a great amount of willpower over something (i.e. focus for intense amounts of paper-writing and researching) will have less willpower over everything else.

Since your philosopher will be expending such large amounts of willpower to finish papers, this is the prime time to do things like go out to eat all the time, buy new things, or get your philosopher to agree to doing some activity at a later date that they usually hate to do and turn down (i.e. attend a symphony concert). Your philosopher will probably not have either the willpower or the time to protest about the finances when you say something like, “You are really stressed right now. Why don’t we just go out for dinner tonight?” They will also not notice when you buy new things, which can be very advantageous for those of you—particularly spouses—who like to spend money and dislike it when your practical philosopher gives you a concrete argument as to why you should not spend the money on whatever it is you want. They won’t have the time or energy to argue with you during paper-writing season!

In all seriousness, paper-writing season is very stressful for grad student philosophers, so taking the time to do something kind for them will be appreciated, if not at the time (they may be too stressed to acknowledge the kindness at the time you perform it), then later. Don’t be bad like me and take too much advantage of paper-writing season.

P.S. You can follow me on twitter (@philosiologist) or friend me on facebook (Philosiologist Qed). I always post articles on these profiles right after I post them here, and every once and a while I also say something witty. I really try hard to not post about my cat all the time, even if he is somewhat philosophical (and very dashing) himself. You can also email me (see the left sidebar) if you have questions, blog post ideas, or want to talk about your philosopher.
~The Philosiologist~