What Good is Studying Philosophy?

BenchLet me tell you a joke; one you might hear again and again if you pursue a philosophy degree.

Q: What’s the difference between a philosophy graduate and a bench?

A: A bench can support a family.

The joke, like most jokes, rests on false stereotype: the notion that should you pursue a degree in philosophy, you will find yourself unable to find meaningful employment. But that premise is wrong.

Let us ask what assumptions this thought might be founded on. It is not often spelt out, but I think the rationale typically goes something like this:

In pursuing a philosophy degree, you pursue questions that have no real-life application. When you study the nature of knowledge, or the fundamental structure of reality, or what constitutes right and wrong, you are studying things that are irrelevant to employers, who will consequently be reluctant to employ you.

The argument fails in a number of ways.

Continue reading