Archive for the ‘Philosophy’ Category

Philosophy – what’s the use?

December 17, 2007

There are a couple of people, including myself, in our team at work who have philosophy degrees. I went to university later on in life as what is euphemistically called a “mature student” so I had to go through the annoyance of putting up with such comments from friends and family as “Philosophy – you must be mad what the hell use is that?” Apart from my Mum, who always supports me in anything I choose to do, who said that she was sure studying philosophy would be “very nice”.

I was, therefore, glad to receive from a colleague of mine, whose son is doing maths and philosophy, this link to a paper which espouses the benefits of studying for a philosophy degree and the transferable skills it helps to develop which should be of benefit to any employer.

It’s a formidable list of benefits and I don’t pretend to having half of these transferable skills but I’ve never regretted my decision to study philosophy. It raises the important question of what is the use of any degree. Maths and English can certainly be applied to a lot of practical and useful careers, but what about Music? Should we really allow youngsters to study music as ultimately “what the hell use is that”? But if you are of the opinion that every degree should be vocational and “useful” then you may end up like the man who learned to service the betamax video recorder (as a philosophy student at my university pointed out).

And what is education for? Is it to produce worker drones or is it to produce people who can think for themselves?

In Britain I think there is often a prejudice against intellectualism which, as a friend of mine pointed out, often manifests in the often overheard phrase “Oh these people, they may have degrees but they have no common sense” and of course Socrates was murdered by the state for his wisdom!

What, after all, is the use of you? or of myself? Is Gont Mountain useful, or the Open Sea? … (Le Guin, A Wizard of Earthsea)