The arts tend to catch a lot of flak, especially from parents trying to steer their kids into certain post-secondary degrees or from science students clinging to the notion of empirical evidence like a newborn child to their mother’s breast.
Arguably one of the most hated-on subjects is philosophy, which is commonly described as the “most useless” of all subjects.
But really, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Are you currently breathing as you read this?
Buddha says, “Life is suffering.”
Marx says, “Life is the continuation of class struggle.”
Nietzsche says, “Life is meaningless. Life is repetition. Science is the new god. We are only concerned with how, not why.”
Philosophy is the perspective through which we experience life and filter thought. There are countless versions of description for an experience of life that is intrinsically subjective.
In the words of one of my most wise high school teachers (wise high school teachers are like a unicorn), “if you have ever asked a question, you’ve been a philosopher.”
I’m willing to bet anything that people who find philosophy is a waste of time were taught philosophy like history and didn’t make an effort to forge their own opinions or actually don’t know anything about it at all. Philosophy is inherently interesting – it’s in our nature to practice it – and it’s deeply seeped into every aspect of existence, whether we realize it or not.
Studying philosophy gives the student access to the thoughts of great minds that have probably wondered about the same questions and had a lot more time to come up with potential answers. Being exposed to these channels of thought can go two ways— either you stumble across something that resonates with you, or, nothing equates and you create something that fills the gap.
Besides being awesome for the individual, philosophy has also had a wider-reaching impact on the collective. Philosophers helped drive humanity forward with fables that helped create moral and ethical standards; with theories and insatiable curiosities that built foundations for maths and sciences. Philosophers also helped to advance language to create a higher standard of communication. How different would business and politics be today without the works of Machiavelli or Sun Tzu? Where would engineering and medicine be right now without Pythagoras and Aristotle?
To address a common argument against “wasting time” on philosophy degree – a degree in it doesn’t necessarily mean a bleak job outlook. If you are just going to school to get a piece of paper so you can pick up another piece of paper at the end of each month with the largest line of zeros, then you probably don’t understand what education is about in the first place. Education is about expanding your intellectual horizons and learning to solve problems in a bunch of different ways. Philosophy does this while teaching you to communicate complex ideas with easy-to-understand language, justify your own ideas and teaches you how to deal with tricky ethical and moral issues.
I have friends with a Master’s Degree in philosophy who have all managed to land great jobs because their educations taught them how to solve problems in a unique way.
True, there aren’t too many jobs that involve sitting around on a marble staircase pondering purely philosophical issues anymore— but basically every occupation requires the application of philosophy to some degree.
Philosophy is, always was, and always will be a driver of humanity. If you think about it, it’s actually a part of what makes our humanity distinct – no other living being has the same level of consciousness to understand concepts beyond survival. So don’t let your inhibitions hold you back from venturing into a world of questions that don’t always have constant answers or answers that can be swallowed with the ease of skittles.
Never stop wondering. Never stop breaking past the fences of your own perception. More so than algebra, more so than physics, more so than business, philosophy is inseparable from the human experience. Philosophy is the examination of the art of living.
For a more eloquent and lengthy version of why philosophy is actually important as fuck see Ayn Rand’s work, Philosophy: Who Needs It.