why study philosophy (#4)

Some Deeper Reasons

Scott Samuelson considers the more profound benefits of studying philosophy in this Wall Street Journal article from March, 2014. Reacting to the many, recent employment-based arguments for studying philosophy, Samuelson writes, “America should strive to be a society of free people deeply engaged in ‘the pursuit of happiness’, not simply one of decently compensated employees. A true liberal-arts education furnishes the mind with great art and ideas, empowers us to think for ourselves, and appreciate the world in all its complexity and grandeur.” Samuelson in Wall Street Journal

In “Why I Teach Plato to Plumbers,” (April 2014, The Atlantic), Samuelson explains why philosophy (and the liberal arts in general) are socially valuable for working class individuals:

Traditionally, the liberal arts have been the privilege of an upper class. There are three big reasons for this. First, it befits the leisure time of an upper class to explore the higher goods of human life. . . Second, because their birthright is to occupy leadership positions in politics and the marketplace, members of the aristocratic class require the skills to think for themselves. Whereas those in the lower classes are assessed exclusively on how well they meet various prescribed outcomes, those in the upper class must know how to evaluate outcomes and consider them against a horizon of values. Finally (and this reason generally goes unspoken), the goods of the liberal arts get coded as markers of privilege and prestige, so that the upper class can demarcate themselves clearly from those who must work in order to make their leisure and wealth possible.