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Is a philosophy degree a waste like everyone says?

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[OP]
Penalty Box
Mar 8, 2016
325 posts
48 upvotes

Is a philosophy degree a waste like everyone says?

Is it truly pointless to take a philosophy degree, as you can't really use it in the work force except to get into law?
Also, why would a person want to take a philosophy degree if its truly useless?

My cousin wants to take it and just want to get university graduates/students opinions
35 replies
Sr. Member
Jul 26, 2013
592 posts
368 upvotes
Toronto
I don't have a philosophy degree but I've been studying philosophy as a hobby for nearly 30 years. For what it's worth...

As you wisely note, philosophy degrees usually don't map well to many job skills. A friend of a friend of mine received his degree in philosophy and he's a professional salesman today. This is probably why a common mistake some that haven't studied philosophy make is viewing it as a sort of ideology. I had a friend that once even claimed philosophy was "mental masturbation". While some make nonsense claims that you can't know anything (a self-contradictory statement) studying philosophy *does* allow someone to peel a few layers away from what most claim as reality. This is a rational consquence of studying what we claim as knowledge, existence, ethics, and even language itself.

There are negatives too though.

While there are "a ha" moments there is no ultimate enlightenment like say some religions claim. It's like studying any trade. You will go to your grave learning new stuff. Constant revision. You can acquire concrete pieces of knowledge but you also realize some questions are beyond our capacity as humans to resolve conclusively. Plato's Allegory of the Cave could possibly be applied recursively... ad infinitum. Whose to say that Neo taking the red pill was nothing more than one more simulation or that we ourselves are not part of a simulation? Studying philosophy doesn't provide one omnipotence. This is self-evident by the contradictions between outlooks of sundry philosophers over the centuries. It also doesn't necessarily mean you will be a happier person. Many that have studied philosophy have emotional breakdowns (IMO due to cognitive dissonance).

This variation in outcome is probably what gives modern philosophy the unfair pseudo-science moniker in some corners but the purpose of studying philosophy isn't to teach someone how to live or to give someone job skills. It just provides some cognition tools. How you apply what you learn results in "a" philosophy... which is different than the study of philosophy itself.

Although they might not vocalize it in this manner everyone has a philosophical outlook whether they study philosophy or not (even sophistry would qualify) The difference is without studying philosophy their outlook is usually based on emotional whims and/or mimicking behaviors of those around them. This is precisely why those born to a family or society that supports x ideological outlook tend to follow the same beliefs. (confirmation bias is a very real world effect)

The bottom line is you need to ask yourself what you want out of life. If its just about having nice stuff... forget about philosophy. It's a time consumer that detracts from the practical side of things. Very successful people can, and do, go their whole lives without studying philosophy. Philosophers are not necessarily right and adopting an existing philosophy isn't necessarily wrong. Someone can drive a car their entire lives without ever investigating it's innards.

If you are curious about the universe though... whether you get a degree or not... I highly recommend studying philosophy as a lifelong learning activity (along with some physics and math). We don't have to be professional philosophers, mathematicians, physicists, etc... to indulge our curiosity.

(Disclaimer. Although this rebuttal may sound like I'm telling you what to do, I wish to make clear I'm not advising you follow in my footsteps. I believe in knowledge but I believe uncertainty also exists. And I'm far more uncertain about aspects of reality today than I was before I began studying philosophy. These are just my views at this moment and I have observed some of them evolve with time so I might argue differently in the future)
[OP]
Penalty Box
Mar 8, 2016
325 posts
48 upvotes
needybot wrote: I don't have a philosophy degree but I've been studying philosophy as a hobby for nearly 30 years. For what it's worth...

As you wisely note, philosophy degrees usually don't map well to many job skills. A friend of a friend of mine received his degree in philosophy and he's a professional salesman today. This is probably why a common mistake some that haven't studied philosophy make is viewing it as a sort of ideology. I had a friend that once even claimed philosophy was "mental masturbation". While some make nonsense claims that you can't know anything (a self-contradictory statement) studying philosophy *does* allow someone to peel a few layers away from what most claim as reality. This is a rational consquence of studying what we claim as knowledge, existence, ethics, and even language itself.

There are negatives too though.

While there are "a ha" moments there is no ultimate enlightenment like say some religions claim. It's like studying any trade. You will go to your grave learning new stuff. Constant revision. You can acquire concrete pieces of knowledge but you also realize some questions are beyond our capacity as humans to resolve conclusively. Plato's Allegory of the Cave could possibly be applied recursively... ad infinitum. Whose to say that Neo taking the red pill was nothing more than one more simulation or that we ourselves are not part of a simulation? Studying philosophy doesn't provide one omnipotence. This is self-evident by the contradictions between outlooks of sundry philosophers over the centuries. It also doesn't necessarily mean you will be a happier person. Many that have studied philosophy have emotional breakdowns (IMO due to cognitive dissonance).

This variation in outcome is probably what gives modern philosophy the unfair pseudo-science moniker in some corners but the purpose of studying philosophy isn't to teach someone how to live or to give someone job skills. It just provides some cognition tools. How you apply what you learn results in "a" philosophy... which is different than the study of philosophy itself.

Although they might not vocalize it in this manner everyone has a philosophical outlook whether they study philosophy or not (even sophistry would qualify) The difference is without studying philosophy their outlook is usually based on emotional whims and/or mimicking behaviors of those around them. This is precisely why those born to a family or society that supports x ideological outlook tend to follow the same beliefs. (confirmation bias is a very real world effect)

The bottom line is you need to ask yourself what you want out of life. If its just about having nice stuff... forget about philosophy. It's a time consumer that detracts from the practical side of things. Very successful people can, and do, go their whole lives without studying philosophy. Philosophers are not necessarily right and adopting an existing philosophy isn't necessarily wrong. Someone can drive a car their entire lives without ever investigating it's innards.

If you are curious about the universe though... whether you get a degree or not... I highly recommend studying philosophy as a lifelong learning activity (along with some physics and math). We don't have to be professional philosophers, mathematicians, physicists, etc... to indulge our curiosity.

(Disclaimer. Although this rebuttal may sound like I'm telling you what to do, I wish to make clear I'm not advising you follow in my footsteps. I believe in knowledge but I believe uncertainty also exists. And I'm far more uncertain about aspects of reality today than I was before I began studying philosophy. These are just my views at this moment and I have observed some of them evolve with time so I might argue differently in the future)
thanks. i understand exactly what you're saying. you are correct, and a lot of people don't understand it, but it is extremely dangerous... cognitive dissidence is a scary thing. i try to be careful with it. its more of a hobby for me than anything. for whatever reason i like it.
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Nov 12, 2011
4132 posts
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You've come to the wrong place to ask. People on RFD think engineering or business degrees are the only way to go. Don't view university as a place to go to line you up with a job, that's what college is for. You go to university to study a subject you're passionate about. At the end, you'll have developed a skill set that is up to you to apply to an area you see yourself working in.

Yes, job prospects for arts degrees suck, but I wouldn't let that stop you if philosophy is something you really enjoy. Also, comparing arts degrees to ebgineerig or business degrees are like comparin apples to oranges. It is an unfair comparison. Things will sort themselves out when you're done if you're truly passionate about it. I have two degrees and can say I learned far more in my arts degree than in my business degree.

I'm completing my masters now and am making more money doing that than if I was working full-time like many of those I graduated with. If academia is something that interests someone, there's definitely lots of funding available there if your have the right research interests and grades.
[OP]
Penalty Box
Mar 8, 2016
325 posts
48 upvotes
Typhoonz wrote: You've come to the wrong place to ask. People on RFD think engineering or business degrees are the only way to go. Don't view university as a place to go to line you up with a job, that's what college is for. You go to university to study a subject you're passionate about. At the end, you'll have developed a skill set that is up to you to apply to an area you see yourself working in.

Yes, job prospects for arts degrees suck, but I wouldn't let that stop you if philosophy is something you really enjoy. Also, comparing arts degrees to ebgineerig or business degrees are like comparin apples to oranges. It is an unfair comparison. Things will sort themselves out when you're done if you're truly passionate about it. I have two degrees and can say I learned far more in my arts degree than in my business degree.

I'm completing my masters now and am making more money doing that than if I was working full-time like many of those I graduated with. If academia is something that interests someone, there's definitely lots of funding available there if your have the right research interests and grades.
ok thanks
Deal Guru
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Mar 31, 2008
12039 posts
2372 upvotes
Toronto
In general, yes, not very high earning or marketable. But if it can be applied in a business setting, sure. Would definitely help in law, or even learning to program (ie Philosophy of Logic). My wife has a Philosophy degree, but it just gave her a 'different' way of thinking and learning that helped her than the standard business student. But she started off in a very low position and worked her way up.

I took some philosophy courses and it definitely helped me as well, including getting into Finance of all things. Also, instead of learning 'business writing', it helped me approach a thought or idea a bit differently. It also helped me understand Politics at a early age when reading the paper which helps me in my current job. But I do think a degree in it is overkill unless one has a specific plan and goal in mind.
Sr. Member
May 5, 2010
971 posts
118 upvotes
Very useless and unfortunately, probably a growing portion of universities as everyone feels a bachelor a necessity.

I would think if you have what it takes to be a lawyer to begin with, then you would take an undergraduate that's more gear towards prepping that path than a liberal arts degree.
Banned
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Nov 19, 2014
910 posts
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He has a philosophy degree. Seems to do pretty well for himself. So it's possible.

https://www.linkedin.com/in/justinkan?a ... n%20kan%20
I'm At The W, But I Can't Meet You In The Lobby, Girl I Gotta Watch My Back, Cuz I'm Not Just Anybody, I Seen Em' Stand In Line, Just To Get Beside Her, That's When We Disappear, You Need GPS To Find Her, Oh That Was Your Girl? I Thought I Recognized Her."
Sr. Member
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Feb 24, 2013
577 posts
110 upvotes
none of your busines…
You have to be incredibly naive/ignorant/stupid to invest 30k+ for a useless, liberal arts degree that has 0 ROI.
[OP]
Penalty Box
Mar 8, 2016
325 posts
48 upvotes
DealSeeker3000 wrote: You have to be incredibly naive/ignorant/stupid to invest 30k+ for a useless, liberal arts degree that has 0 ROI.
but what if someone genuinely likes the subject, does it as a hobby and wants to do it in school?

and, what would you suggest for a good roi degree?
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Nov 19, 2014
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1theguy1 wrote: As you can see, this person has a degree in "Physics and Philosophy", not to mention he went to Yale.

This profile is the exception, not the norm.
You've confused the issues.

The question was about philosophy degrees and whether you can enter the workforce. Not what university someone went to. And people on RFD will often say that science degrees are just as useless as philosophy or liberal arts degrees.
I'm At The W, But I Can't Meet You In The Lobby, Girl I Gotta Watch My Back, Cuz I'm Not Just Anybody, I Seen Em' Stand In Line, Just To Get Beside Her, That's When We Disappear, You Need GPS To Find Her, Oh That Was Your Girl? I Thought I Recognized Her."
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Oct 24, 2005
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Only know one friend who has one. He's a teacher now but in the UK.
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Newbie
Feb 3, 2011
42 posts
11 upvotes
If you're going to get a Liberal Arts degree realize that you're going to have to work much more harder and be that much better than your peers when looking for a job. If you consider yourself average and not that hard working then you're better off getting a Computer Science or some other STEM degree as average STEM graduates do much better than average Liberal Arts graduates.

PS: If you have connections then it doesn't matter what degree you get.
Deal Addict
Nov 8, 2013
1226 posts
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Mecca
No, but it likely won't make your life any better.
[OP]
Penalty Box
Mar 8, 2016
325 posts
48 upvotes
which university would you guys recommend to go to for an arts degree?
Newbie
Oct 21, 2014
71 posts
27 upvotes
Toronto, ON
An arts degree is a dime a dozen nowadays. Don't expect to get a good job out of the gate after 4 years. Art degrees are not easy either; still takes a lot of effort. Effort that can be put to better use elsewhere. Nobody is going to care if you've got a philosophy degree or an advanced rocket science degree.
It comes down to "What do you do for a living?" and "Can you pay your bills?".

But if your cousin is well off and money is no concern... then who cares? just take whatever, and enjoy life.

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