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Be Employable, Study Philosophy

01 Jul 2013
Posted by Shannon

Well who knew that a piece in praise of philosophy would be such a hit? 

My piece for Salon magazine, "Be Employable, Study Philosophy," just went viral with more than 24,000 social media pick-ups and a surprising number of interview requests from all over, including American Public Radio. It’s my warning to would-be journos to stay out of the J-skools and get themselves a proper education in a real discipline. 

It’s a highly contrarian view in this age of universities selling credentials in all sorts of trendy subjects. And philosophy is often dismissed as a useless degree by the sort of people who think the business of education is to train tomorrow’s workers for yesterday’s jobs.  But as one of my former instructors noted, if you teach people to think first they can do whatever else they want.

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I find it hugely reassuring that so many people seem to be in favour of our universities delivering real education instead of certificates in nonsense. 



study philosophy

Couldn't agree more. Epistemology is where it's at (whereas aesthetics, in which I once long long ago mistakenly attempted to write a Ph. D. thesis is marginally less coherent than astrology).

As I learned even longer ago from my teacher Karl Popper, objectivity is pure myth. At best, what we have is intersubjective agreement. In the natural sciences, where there are broadly agreed upon decision-making protocols, this works well enough to count as 'knowledge' at least within the community of scientists. Outside of that, it's a free-for-all.

But knowing how to assess knowledge claims, i.e. epistemology, at least lets us distinguish between such claims as 1)water freezes at 0 deg C 2) I know that my redeemer liveth 3) Stock prices will rise.

I recommend the works of Naseem Taleb, a former stockbroker, student of Popper, and well-versed in mathematics and science. A critical thinker in the best sense


Hello Shannon:

I've just read your piece on the value of philosophy. It's such a fantastic piece and you've made a really good case for studying philosophy.

I always start my Introduction to Philosophy class by clearly laying out the values of studying philosophy whatever my students' majors may be. I'll share your piece with my students in the coming academic year.

I teach philosophy at St. Louis University, in St. Louis, MO.

Tedla Woldeyohannes

you're very welcome

What a kind message, Tedla. And what a great approach to teaching philosophy. I hope your students get a kick out of the piece.