Do Philosophy For Its Own Sake, Not for a Job
Truman Chen

13 March 2017

In these days of economic insecurity, it's not surprising that students thinking of majoring in philosophy have difficulty convincing their family and friends. A new website, created by professor of philosophy Jack Russell Weinstein, titled "Philosophy is a Great Major" tries to work around this by pitching the philosophy major as actually a great way to make money. The website touts Peter Thiel, a former philosophy major at Stanford, as a "philosopher king of Silicon Valley." According to the website, "Philosophy is economic stability. Philosophy is freedom."

But isn't there something lost in pursuing a philosophical education for monetary gain? No one of course should be against philosophy majors making a decent living, but in trying to cater to those people who ask whether you're practicing the line "do you want fries with that?" do we lose sight of the value of a doing philosophy for its own sake? If this tactic of selling philosophy as something to be instrumentalized toward getting rich works, I suppose it will help to convince some people to more seriously consider philosophy when they wouldn't have otherwise. But at the same time, we would do well to reserve this pitch to the unconvinced around us, while firmly remaining authentically philosophically interested for those of us who need no convincing—monetary or otherwise. Instead of pitching it as a good sell, why not pitch it as something essential to democratic citizenry? Or a deeper appreciation for the arts? The list goes on...

Check out the website here:

Comments (3)

dedo's picture


Monday, March 13, 2017 -- 12:42 PM

Reasonable question. When I

Reasonable question. When I started philosophy it was never to make money, but it was never to provide for a democratic citizenry either. I did it to learn how to live in a world filled with order and to understand my place in it. Done right, these are marketable skills/learnings. Leveraged or not, philosophy is a strong foundation from which to make money, and should be marketed that way. Academics for it's own sake doesn't make sense to me.

Sheik_e's picture


Monday, March 13, 2017 -- 9:25 PM

The solution may be to make

The solution may be to make it a core or mandatory course for K-12 and/ or a required part of ANY college or university degree. (This is philosophy per not the history of philosophy or the study of the "canon".) you will then. Not have to be concerned ab wasting your time on a narrowly focused unpacking of great ideas but an engaging with current concerns about your focus of study or the day to day issues of your life that can be informed by studying philosophy.

Jack Herrera's picture

Jack Herrera

Thursday, March 16, 2017 -- 11:13 AM

Truman your post reminds me

Truman your post reminds me of Lewis Hyde's famous book on creativity, The Gift (1983). Hyde writes that certain artistic achievements only work as long as they are gifts, and not pure commodities. Of course, a great painting can be sold, or an book of poems can be published, but something conceptual about the the actual art remains gift-like: part of what it gives us goes beyond its financial value. However, as soon as a painting's sole role becomes a commodity, it stops being a gift, and therefore stops being art. That's why we don't look at billboards the same way we look at paintings in art museums (in general, anyway).

Maybe the same is true for philosophy. Sure, we can be compensated for philosophizing, but as soon as philosophy starts being done purely for financial reasons, it stops being true philosophy. That's interesting to me: however, I can't think of any example of purely-commercial philosophy. Can we think of any examples of a philosopher for hire? And don't say Peter Thiel.