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why does philosophy matter?

... This time from a non-philosopher.

http://www.adn.com/2012/09/18/2630239/gray-areas-in-life-require-philosophers.html

This is an interesting, and short, piece in the Anchorage Daily news about an Alaskan writer whose cousin has a son starting a philosophy doctorate program. Said cousin makes all the observations about how you can't get a job in philosophy, it's useless, etc. So Elise Patkotak, the author, offers this answer on why philosopher *is* worth studying and *does* matter.

I don't think she's quite right about the reason we philosophers do what we do. At least for me, it's not about impacting history, though I do hope to do that to. I actually believe in things like truth and the good, and I think it's more important to work at finding them than to earn a fat paycheck. Of course you need a certain amount of money to buy bread and blue jeans, to say nothing of rent and health insurance. That's a given. But beyond that, I really do want to help people identify the best kind of life (for themselves or universally, wherever you fall on that issue) and teach them to do the same. Part of that is giving people the tools to approach arguments over seemingly intractable things like religion, politics, and taste in Twilight movies in a way that's actually fruitful. Part of that's showing them the implications of their beliefs, so they can see why people without their particular blind spots might react to them the way they do. And part of it is helping them see beyond those assumptions to imagine the world in a different way. For example, that worth may not be synonymous with salary. In my experience, philosophy is a good tool toward these goals. And that's why I study and teach it.

Okay, I also study and teach it because I find people like Augustine and Anselm and Aristotle as fun to play around with as Tolkien and Rowlings. Philosophy is hard work, but it's also fun time in much the same way as writing fanfic is. But I'd much rather be proved wrong and grow from that, than have other people just assume I'm right.

That quibble aside, this is an interesting look at why philosophy is relevant even outside the academy, and (refreshingly) it has nothing to do with LSAT scores or giving a nice complement to that marketing degree that employers will find attractive. Do read it.    

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( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
elliska
Sep. 23rd, 2012 12:11 pm (UTC)
I actually believe in things like truth and the good, and I think it's more important to work at finding them than to earn a fat paycheck.

I'm sorry. I just felt the need to single that statement out to maximize its refreshing potential.

I hope you have a long, influential career.

It was an interesting article. Many of the same arguments are that ones I have long heard used to justify many other subjects. Pity we need to justify education.
marta_bee
Sep. 23rd, 2012 11:00 pm (UTC)
The ABD market is a scary plae these days, so I'm crossing my fingers on the "long, influential career." I'm glad you enjoyed this, though. It's a pity education (aside from the job-training kind) needs so much defense, but that does seem to be the world we live in.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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