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.
Learn to think clearly.
In the 2013 Salon article, “Be employable, study philosophy,” Shannon Rupp writes, “…a smattering of undergrad philosophy classes taught me something applicable to any and every job: clarity of thought. Name me one aspect of your life that doesn’t benefit from being able to think something through clearly.” (The article was originally published in The Tyee.)
(Via the great page, “Philosophy: What Can It Do For You?” compiled by Tomás Bogardus.)
Here are four more articles that address possible practical benefits of studying philosophy.
“The Unexpected Way Philosophy Majors Are Changing The World Of Business” (Huff Post College, 2014). In this article, Carolyn Gregoire argues that “Philosophy and entrepreneurship are a surprisingly good fit.” “In fact,” she writes, “many leaders of the tech world—from LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman to Flickr founder Stewart Butterfield—say that studying philosophy was the secret to their success as digital entrepreneurs.”
“Philosophy is Back in Business” (by Dov Seidman, founder, chairman and chief executive officer of LRN; appeared in Business Week, January, 2010). Seidman claims that insights from philosophy are valuable in the business world, and argues in favor of hiring philosophy majors: “Forget economics. Philosophy offers a deeper, broader way of thinking to help guide companies through times made tougher by overspecialized experts.”
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Occasionally I post links to news items, data, or discussions that illuminate practical reasons one might study—or major in—philosophy. This is salary survey data from PayScale Inc. (2008), which suggests that people with undergraduate degrees in philosophy fare quite well financially—especially in mid-career. The Wall Street Journal refers to this study:
Your parents might have worried when you chose Philosophy or International Relations as a major. But a year-long survey of 1.2 million people with only a bachelor’s degree by PayScale Inc. shows that graduates in these subjects earned 103.5% and 97.8% more, respectively, about 10 years post-commencement. Majors that didn’t show as much salary growth include Nursing and Information Technology.
There are some surprising numbers in this study; for example, the mid-career median salary for those with philosophy undergraduate degrees is $81,200; while it is $72,100 for those with undergraduate degrees in Business Management.
Referring to this and other data, a 2009 Forbes article entitled “The College Degrees With The Biggest Salaries,” reports,
For starting salaries, engineering and things like nursing are pretty strong,” says Dr. Al Lee, director of quantitative analysis at PayScale. “But the list reorders further into people’s careers. . . . If you looked at the pay of people 15 years out, philosophy is actually in the top 10%.”