Studying Philosophy, Getting a Job, and Saving the World

(I apologize in advance for any grammatical errors. My wife didn’t get the chance to proof read this).
So normally I like to post some fairly serious philosophy but today will be different. Normally, I just post slightly revised assignments from school. As a philosophy major I probably write 3 papers a month (mainly because I am taking 4 philosophy classes a the moment and 3 of them are upper division). The readers of this blog do not get the chance to the see the most polished pieces of work, I will admit, but this makes it easy to keep up on weekly posting (God knows what will happen in the summer). Today I finished a paper on Berkeley and I considered posting it but something happened that must be talked about.

So, every Sunday I wake up early with my beautiful wife and go to work with her. She works at the best coffee shop ever (Goldy’s corner) so I go with her because I can sit and drink unlimited drip coffee while I write this blog and do homework. Last time I ran into a peer at school, a philosophy major, who is graduating soon. This person is now teaching high schoolers philosophy and they are facing a problem; they must continually convince parents their subject is important.

I myself have friends who consider what I study useless (they won’t ever know I mentioned them since they will never read this blog) but I want the world to understand that we philosophy majors can get other jobs, in fact, our specialty is convincing people to hire us, but we should have a larger number of teaching positions available to us as early as middle school and this is why; philosophy teaches you how to think. Philosophy is a gym for the mind. America cannot think rationally and doesn’t want to. If you believe I am wrong I implore you to consider the political system we have in place. Right now we have rhetoric, which is a weapon in the hand of skilled wielder, being used to slash and hack at the weak of mind. This political system is reinforced early in life and needs to stop. If we can train children early in the art of rational thought then some people wouldn’t have even made it into office. Imagine Bush or Obama trying to convince Kant, Hume, Berkeley, Lewis, Russell, or any other philosopher of some of the the crap they convinced America to believe, it just wouldn’t happen. This is simply because philosophers think critically and often are skeptical. I don’t know of many philosophers who believe something they hear right away even if they want to believe it! People only will believe what they want to believe and it is a huge problem. We currently value beliefs that help us support our bias. We need to value beliefs that are true. If you don’t think having philosophy taught would change this I would like you to consider the fact that every political system, including the United States’, is based on the work of some philosopher. If everyone read Locke, Hobbes, Keynes, Malthus, Smith, and Marx (and many others) and were educated in how to think rationally, we would have a well informed society that can decide for itself how to vote. The standards for political rhetoric would be much higher. If the standards are higher then the people spewing the rhetoric would themselves be of a higher standard intellectually to keep up with the demand.

Hire philosophers to teach your kids and we will save the world.

 

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13 Responses to Studying Philosophy, Getting a Job, and Saving the World

  1. Sometimes we even start our own businesses and try to create a new better world around us.

    Studying philosophy has been the greatest experience and decision of my life. I find every day it makes me a happier better person (Even if my friends become tired of my rambles).

    Sadly parents who follow authoritarian rule tend to like the benefits of imposing authoritarian rule.

  2. Francois says:

    Hi. I am a second year undergraduate majoring in Industrial and Organisational Psychology. The kernel of your argument seems to be that teaching the masses how to think more skilfully will make the world a better place, and because studying philosophy teaches one to think more skillfully, teaching philosophy to the masses will make the world a better place.
    If I grant you the first premise, that teaching the masses to think better will improve the world, the question of whether philosophy is the best way to accomplish that is left open.
    Do you mind stating why you believe philosophy is a superior field to, for example economics, decision theory, strategic management, cognitive science, etc, for accomplishing the goal of teaching the masses to think more skillfully?

    • Trevor Adams says:

      I don’t mind at all! I was inspired by Aristotle who was a multidisciplinary master. Aristotle believed that Rhetoric was dangerous in the wrong hands, especially if the rhetorician didn’t have an ample understanding of logic. I believe that philosophy can discipline the mind in logical thinking and thus overturn the status quo of pure rhetorical and fallacious reasoning in the political realm. So I am not discrediting any other disciplines but one must see the home of philosophy is critical thinking and skepticism, since it is home to philosophy, it requires a response in our culture to make philosophy a greater priority than it is now.

      If anything philosophy isn’t “better” in some sense but just needs to be elevated from where it is now.

      • Francois says:

        School time and other resources are finite. This means that without expanding those resources the elevation of philosophy implies an opportunity cost or the degredation of other possible subjects.

        By the way, I love philosophy! I have been reading the history of philosophy almost non stop for about a year now, and I’m not planning on quitting soon.

        I’m just trying to stimulate you to expand on your argument, because it is fairly one sided.

        I also love economics, which is the study of the optimisation of resources. From an economic perspective, your argument is pure sentimentality. Very irrational. It’s not good enough to mention the merits of philosophy as a subject. You have to weigh the relative merit of philosophy against other subjects given finite resources.

        • Trevor Adams says:

          That is a good point! I think if Philosophy was put on the same level as English, Science, and Math then we would proportionally decrease time from these subjects. Or, we could combine English with Philosophy. Or, simply have philosophy be an elective, at least then it is optional (this is the one I endorse).

  3. Trevor Cashmore says:

    A sentiment I’ve felt for a long time. You could also simply point out that philosophy is the love and pursuit of knowledge – and pretty much all sciences are just philosophies applied to different realms of the world. Science, politics, economics, linguistics – all share their roots in philosophy and the study of truth. Learning philosophy, quite simply, is learning how to learn.

  4. internet user says:

    Yes. I am Philosophy major without a home, who graduated feeling that the foundational aspects of what philosophy entails should be explored openly with students at younger ages.

    There are a number of places around the world trying to start this expansion into High School, Middle School, and even Elementary School, but the number is slim percentage-wise.

    Most children are natural philosophers, and giving them the opportunity to create rational sets of questions for people who believe and think certain ways has an educational quality which extends into other areas of academic pursuit.

    In philosophy, we study peoples beliefs and why they have those beliefs. We talk about it in class, write essays about it, and get to observe our peers challenge our thought processes and help us mold our own assumptions.

    I write a blog about Philosophy for Children, and I hope that one day I can work my way into being able to make a humble living doing so.

  5. Seth Strong says:

    I don’t disagree but I think more tough problems should be taught earlier. For me, I ran into a bunch of stuff in a Systems Engineering curriculum about analysis that I could have benefited from earlier. And the fruits overlap with your concerns in getting to data that represents reality as opposed to our biases.

    Law, data analysis, morality models, and physics would take a more central role if I could figure out how to design curriculums (and I’m not at all a person you should expect to design curriculums). I just think these things are niche in skill but affect us all. Philosophy would be fine there, too.

  6. bmichaud says:

    I have thought about this a bit myself and I think we need to ask two questions: 1) are children ready for philosophical thinking in middle school? And 2) do we actually want everybody to have a philosophical education?

    To the first question, if I remember correctly, Mill and Hume were both taught philosophy at a very young age (to our benefit of course) which means that it is at the very least, plausible that people can be taught philosophy at an early age.

    If people can be taught philosophy at an early age (and this is still an assumption based off of the Mill and Hume example) then the question is should we teach everyone philosophy? The answer depends on two things: 1) what our conception of the good is and 2) whether philosophy can help us attain that good.

    If the good is making everyone or most people happy, then we should ask whether philosophy makes people happy. I can think of countless examples of miserable philosophers but then again I can think of examples of jovial philosophers. What if it’s the case that teaching everybody philosophy will make more people want to be philosophers? Then we have to ask, what will be the outcomes of having more aspiring philosophers. One possible outcome is that most people wouldn’t be able to get positions as philosophers because there are not enough academic posts. If this is the case, then happiness may be diminished by training more people in philosophy.

    You have argued from a certain conception of the good that thinking well is something worth while. However, if we have a different conception of the good, in the above case, happiness, then we might not want more people studying philosophy since it might impede us from pursuing that end.

    Then again, I don’t value people’s happiness that much, and would prefer it if they thought better. Therefore, I surrender my argument to Mill who wrote “it is better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied; better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a fool satisfied”.

  7. love it says:

    Not so much that we should be teaching “philosophy” but using the resources philosophers have given us to guide students in exploring their own interests. See http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/children/

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