Two interesting articles appeared recently that tout the value of studying philosophy. The first is in an article that was published on Philly.com (the web incarnation of The Philadelphia Inquirer) and talks about the growth in students studying philosophy despite the downturn in the economy. Staff writer Jeff Gammage cites some hard numbers that show graduates in philosophy has been growing over the last decade (by 46%) surpassing other disciplines in the humanities like history and even the firm sciences like psychology. Heartening quotes from the article include:
“Though philosophy is routinely dismissed and disparaged – as useless as English, as dead as Latin, as diminished as library science – more college students are getting degrees in that field than ever before.”
“At a time when some majors have faded to near-extinction, philosophy is showing gains.”
“Proponents say it teaches analytical skills that enable students to succeed in everything from running businesses to practicing law to operating nonprofit agencies.”
“And being a ‘philosopher,’ however the work might be defined, is among the best jobs in the country, according to Careercast.com, an employment website. The company ranked 200 jobs based on income, environment, stress, physical demands, and employment outlook.”
A core theme of the article focuses on the idea that philosophy prepares students who study it for whatever job they might end up in. He quotes students ranging from business majors to athletic hopefuls who all agree that their time in the discipline has made them much better at their work. He rightfully notes that the average pay for professional philosophers isn’t stellar and majors typically end up in lower-paying jobs since positions in philosophy departments and ethics boards are scarce. But he’s clear that even if a student doesn’t end up a professional philosopher, spending focused time in college on the discipline is well worth the time and the cost.
The article was picked up by Edward Tenner of The Atlantic Monthly who reiterates Gammage’s themes and notes that philosophy “is a tool (like history and religious studies) for thinking about everything else, and every profession from law and medicine to motorcycle maintenance.”
The articles amplify the themes I touched on in my article, “The Value of Philosophy” in which I discuss the role philosophy has played in my own intellectual development. As a business professional who works in the computer science industry and who has the happy opportunity to teach philosophy at the college level, I wholeheartedly agree with both author’s conclusions and can say quite practically that they are right on the mark.
Thanks to Andrew Smith for the pointer.