Phi Beta Cons

The Right take on higher education.

William James and the Ph.D. Octopus


Jill Biden – or, as she prefers “Dr. Biden” — provided fodder for Charles and Kevin on the “title-inflation” beat. As Solomon put it, there’s nothing new under the sun. Back in 1903, William James identified vanity and the “love of titles” as two of the motivations that fed the “Ph.D. Octopus.” It’s worth remembering that the Ph.D. as we know it today was a German import in the 19th century. Soon thereafter, universities saw this new credential as a “mere advertising resource, a manner of throwing dust in the Public’s eyes” — basically, nothing but signaling. Something to bear in mind as the chorus for reform grows louder and louder.


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