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Examined Life - 3 Videos That Show the Value of Studying Philosophy

Updated on December 25, 2014

What Can You Do With a Philosophy Degree?

Academia and popular sentiment have exhibited no shortage of controversy regarding the value of Philosophy. Should universities continue its requirement in undergraduate degree programs? Is it prudent to offer degrees for Philosophy in an increasingly vocational culture? What are the tangible benefits of studying Philosophy? These questions recently came to the forefront of public debate in light of Neil deGrasse Tyson's comments regarding philosophical inquiry:"Philosophy is completely useless to the everyday job of a working physicist." As one may expect, this proclamation has not passed without its own criticism. Caltech Physicist Sean Carrol retorts:

Because: duh. If your criterion for “being interesting or important” comes down to 'is useful to me in my work,' you’re going to be leading a fairly intellectually impoverished existence. Nobody denies that the vast majority of physics gets by perfectly well without any input from philosophy at all. ('We need to calculate this loop integral! Quick, get me a philosopher!') But it also gets by without input from biology, and history, and literature. Philosophy is interesting because of its intrinsic interest, not because it’s a handmaiden to physics. I think that philosophers themselves sometimes get too defensive about this, trying to come up with reasons why philosophy is useful to physics. Who cares?

Here, Carrol differentiates between the practical value of hard science and the "intrinsic" worth of understanding reality via rationale ideas. While apt, this criticism manufactures a false dichotomy between Physics and Philosophy that need not necessarily reflect the merit of these respective disciplines. Below are several sites that attempt to dispel this contrivance by demonstrating the everyday virtues accrued by studying Philosophy.

Thunk - 33. Does Philosophy Matter?

Thunk - 33. Does Philosophy Matter?

The above webcast attempts to dissolve the often abused misconception that Philosophy comprises a pointless exercise. In particular, "THUNK" defends Philosophy by describing innovative course curricula from other cultures. Surprisingly, The United States comprises one of the few large, developed countries where Philosophy cannot be found in primary or secondary school classrooms. "THUNK" suggests this may contribute to the discipline's "second class citizenship" among collegiate subjects.

The site attempts to further ameliorate Philosophy to a general audience by lauding its greatest exponent, logic. Without the comprehensive study of reason undertaken either tacitly or overtly by history's greatest thinkers, humans would likely rely on intuition for major decisions. The site also suggests that the formulation of admirable behavior via ideals and reason owes a significant debt to strides undertaken in philosophical inquiry. Based on these propositions, it can be reasonably claimed that Philosophy so ubiquitously pervades our everyday lives that even Hayden Planetarium physicists can take it for granted.

Bertrand Russell On the Value of Philosophy

Bertrand Russell On the Value of Philosophy

Speaking of logic, the above selection derives from one of its twentieth century patriarchs, Bertrand Russell. Russell's contributions to the development of analytic philosophy remain largely unchallenged decades after their initial publication. Russell serves as an able ambassador for the practical application of Philosophy since his propositions have been adapted for set theory, cognitive science and artificial intelligence.

At once, Russell disavows the need to defend Philosophy on practical terms. According to the above chapter from Russell's larger work, "Problems in Philosophy," contemplation of human understanding appeals to comprehensive study precisely because it cannot yield "general" gains. Others (sometimes many) can benefit from a single person's pursuit of scientific truth. However, Russell contends that only individuals can truly benefit from philosophical inquiry. This makes the unilateral reading of philosophical works a necessity rather than recreation.

Damon Horowitz: Philosophy in Prison

Damon Horowitz: Philosophy in Prison

Google In-House Philosopher Damon Horowitz starts his brief apologia for philosophical study with a visceral episode from one of his incarcerated students. The sum of the previous sequence serves Horowitz's greater argument, that seismic personal change can only be gleaned through rigorous philosophical investigation. While "hard" disciplines may supply knowledge to its students, Philosophy measures its success by the values and standards individuals apply to their intelligence and gifts.

Horowitz states, "Socrates dies in prison, his philosophy still intact." This implied challenge should reverberate with an array of audiences; that the meaning individuals ascribe to their reality is drawn largely by the quality (or lack thereof) of their philosophical understanding. The sum of Horowitz's presentation pertains to the "Why?" of reality rather than "What?" or "How?"

Always Already There

Know any other online resources for substantiating the need for studying Philosophy? I look forward to your comments and thank you in advance for any kind words. Check out my other Hub Pages for additional suggestions for navigating college assignments by working smart instead of merely working hard.


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    • Dip Mtra profile image

      Dip Mtra 

      4 years ago from World Citizen

      Great article. Voted up.


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