The value of studying Philosophy

in philosophy •  3 years ago  (edited)

When I tell people that I have studied Philosophy, many ask me what value Philosophy has.

At first, when I was a teenager, I thought that studying Philosophy was interesting and that that by itself should be enough reason to become a student in Philosophy. Now, that I have finished my Master’s degree two years ago, I feel that I can reflect more realistically about the value of studying Philosophy.

Philosophy is liberating 
Philosophy is valuable for its effects on those who study it. I have heard many peers telling me that it was “life changing” and that particular philosophers have made such an impression on them that they feel “liberated” by them. The most important value of Philosophy is that it makes us realize that we are all prisoners of our own comprehensive doctrines. Much like the prisoners in Plato’s allegory of the cave, philosophers may feel that they have only seen shadows of reality prior to their philosophical journey. The world is black and white, there is little substance, it is simple and most of us are dogmatic until we have the courage to ask deep questions about the simplest, but most important questions in life like: “why do we exist?” “what happens when we die?” “what is a good life?” “what is happiness?” “why does the sun rise every morning and set every evening?” The effect of asking such questions is that it broadens our world. And philosophy is exactly doing that. 

Philosophy makes us more imaginative 
When Philosophy is asking deep questions, probing through the surface of reality, it requires us to become more imaginative. Philosophy invites us to look beyond the status quo and look for new possibilities. I was once in an International Political Theory class, which was filled with Political Science and Political Theory students, where we discussed the role of education for a citizenry. Everyone was saying that we should allow more people to go to school as if schooling would be a basic human right. I was the only one who raised the question: “do we really need more schooling or can schooling itself be more harmful? And are there other ways to educate ourselves outside of schooling?” Of course I mentioned several philosophers of education like Ivan Ilyich and Paolo Freire who were extremely critical of schooling. Although such critical questions about schooling may come from anyone, I think Philosophers due to their formal critical training are more likely to ask these type of questions.

Philosophy sustains our speculative interest in the universe
If we only care about knowledge that has been proven or at least have not been falsified, we would be missing something that philosophers provide. We, human beings, have a deep interest in the speculative and the metaphysical. “Is there a God?” “Is absolute truth possible?” “Is pre-birth the same as death?” “Why do we love?” Such questions are most often the most important questions for people. They can give us more solace or meaning in life.

Philosophy trains our mind
Studying Philosophy is extremely tough. It does not surprise me that in general Philosophy students are among the best performers on their SATs and GREs. Philosophical problems are not easy to solve and some may never be solved. It requires relentless logical thinking skills and constant argumentative investigations. I find this challenge extremely invigorating, but I understand if some may find it frustrating. 

Philosophy keeps us humble and prevents us from becoming dogmatic
One of the most important lessons that Socrates taught us was that he was the wisest, because he knew that he knew so little. This philosophical attitude keeps us humble in our knowledge and prevents us from becoming dogmatic. Often, when philosophers study philosophical questions they end up with more philosophical questions. It can be a train ride towards no destination.

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Ran across your post just now. I studied a phd (didn't finish) and MA (did finish) in Anthropology. I studied a lot of philosophy and got a lot of "what are you going to do with that". At the time, though my studies were very interesting, I didn't see any use for it in the "real world".

But, then, I left academia and found a job in the tech industry. Today, I know that it was kinda like the Karate Kid training - seemingly pointless but when it comes down to it studying philosophy provides you a foundation to understand everything.

I have been successful in bringing new perspectives and ideas to where I work and that is thanks to the worldviews I developed while studying.

You can learn more "practical" disciplines but what is useful when you enter school can be obsolete by the time you get out. Especially, in tech. However, the philosophical principles I learned have been priceless and will always be useful.

Thank you for your comment. I'm also working in the tech industry now, and notice a competitive edge of philosophy as well. It's easier to learn the tech (I am in) than learning to ask good questions and to have new perspectives.

Ditto here! It's the best undergrad degree, as far as I'm concerned. It prepares your mind and heart for a very messy world.

I was doing an SAT practice test and there was a great article on the test about philosophy. I was always interested in philosophy, but only as an extremely interesting field that I would read about and discuss on the Internet. It really is worth studying, because regardless of the field one works in, philosophy can be applied to their job and their lifestyle. It introduces new and profound ways to think. It teaches you how to think, not what to think.

It really is worth studying, because regardless of the field one works in, philosophy can be applied to their job and their lifestyle. It introduces new and profound ways to think.

Now you mention it, I started working as a Software Engineer last year. In the Netherlands we have several traineeship programs for people with STEM degrees to learn Software Engineering. Although I did not have a STEM degree, I was still allowed to enter the traineeship, because the company that hired me thought that Philosophy students could give some 'outside of the box' perspectives to their IT teams. :)

That is actually awesome. However those opportunities are still rare. Universities should respond to the problem of philosophy graduates not having specific skills that can be of concrete use to future employers, by offering those kinds of training as part of the curriculum. I know this is not the goal of studying philosophy, but not all of these students plan on staying in academia.

I agree. Philosophy graduates are often left with minimal marketable skills. Maybe universities should give these students more options.

Thank you for your comment. Philosophy alone may not be very marketable, but philosophy in combination with practicality = awesome. :)

The older I get,the more interested in philosophy I am..

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Congrats again!

Thank you! I am not planning to cash it out yet, but I have bookmarked your guide in case I need it. :)

read this, It leads me to remember in the begin of my my career, all people say me, you are not good for this, this is not good for working, thi is not good for life, i am now in the eighth semester and, i don´t regret studying psycology.

All people only say stuff

Yes, there are always other ways to separate yourself from the crowd. You could do some extracurricular things that make you more marketable. I wish you good luck with your psychology studies! :)

I found a very accessible/non-threatening introduction to philosophy is the book Sophie's World by Jostein Gaarder. Although its fiction, it covers a wide range of philisophical greats, and the story itself is structured around the nature of reality, and even makes the reader wonder what the nature of their own reality is; well it did me, anyway.
The film The Matrix also asked about the nature of reality (I walked out of the cinema wondering if VR could really fool us so convincingly, shame they screwed it up on the sequels!). Im sure there are plenty of other examples.

Unfortunately middle age has kind of kicked the philosipher out of me somewhat, no time to rhuminate...

Ah yes, Sophie's World was how our Philosophy teacher in high school introduced us to a wide variety of philosophers. I enjoyed watching it in class.
The Matrix is a very great philosophical movie, and sadly I have to agree with you that the sequels were not good. Part 1 is definitely among one of my most favorite movies. :D
It seems that, although we are not always aware to which philosophical thought our ideas belong to, we cannot escape that we too have subscribed to a personal philosophy.

What a coincidence - I just added a link to the Existential Comics' guide to studying philosophy as an amateur, which is actually a serious and seriously good guide:

I also did a couple of podcast episodes to help people wanting to study philosophy independently:
Establishing A Philosophy Reading Practice

Keeping A Philosophy Notebook Or Log

And an episode on how to run a philosophy discussion:
How To Run A Philosophy Salon

Enjoy Truthseekers!

Great article :)

Thank you, I appreciate that you like it. :)

When someone asks me what the value of Philosophy is, I can't help but feel hatred inside. It's like asking why free thought is important...

Haha :D Nicely said.

i enjoyed your post, thanks 8]

Thank you Gekko. I'm happy to know that you have enjoyed it. :)

The world could definitely use some "Practical Philosophy 101" - if for nothing else, just to slow down and think a little before saying something.

Yes, :) I coudn't agree more.

I am doing a master in Artificial Intelligence and I was forced to take a philosophy course about AI. There were some interesting things explained but my main impression was that the course was not very practical. Too many irrelevant impracticle questions were being raised and tried to be solved. I can understand why people like it. But for me it was too much trying to find answers to questions that don't really matter.

  ·  3 years ago (edited)

Agreed. Philosophy expands our cognitive abilities and increases our options. Especially when we realize how many possible viewpoints are there. The value of not being dogmatic should never be neglected - it helps us better spend our time and time is the only real currency in life.

The value of not being dogmatic should never be neglected - it helps us better spend our time and time is the only real currency in life.

That's a very cool thought! :)

At the age of 18, when I had to choose my studies, I briefly toyed with doing philosophy, but ultimately I went into engineering, mainly because I was worried about job opportunities with a degree in philosophy.

After a couple of years however, I felt myself drawn back towards philosophy, and whereas I completed my studies in engineering and work in that field, I am regularly studying philosophy by myself, mainly by reading philisophical works (currently mainly ancient Greek, next year I will focus more on Roman Philosphy).

Besides being an agreeable passtime, I found that it has had a hugely beneficial impact on my life, even within my profession as an engineer.

Philosophy teaches you to look at a certain problem from different angles, and often shows you an angle which other people didn't think of.

Cool! Philosophy as a supplement to another discipline is very enriching. Peter Thiel, Jim Rogers, George Soros, Reid Hoffman, Bruce Lee and many more have said that it has given them many new insights in other disciplines.

Great. Thanx.

Thank you! I appreciate that you have enjoyed the article. :)


I don't know what you mean by your comment, but am glad that it made your night & day. :D


Friends, and philosophy students indeed. :)

It definately helps your argumentation and debate skills.

Wow Chhay, you're doing a great job!!

Thank you, cheerted! :)

I always been good at philosophy at school, even my teacher told me it was a good option for me, but I preferred to study computers

It is frustrating trying to explain to someone why their position is self refuting, or full of logical fallacies, etc. Heck, even trying to explain that a conversation taking place implies truth exists is difficult. I wish there more critical thinking skills taught at a younger age so when kids get into college they are not so gullible. Sure, dogmatism is dangerous, but so is the absense of belief.

Nice essay. I got very in Philosophy in college spending more time at the Philosophy house than my major/s. I write more about transcendentalism/non-dualism (I am an atheist). You may enjoy "The Storytelling Animal"

Thank you! I just read your article and, indeed, I have enjoyed reading it a lot! You are a very good writer. I hope to read more stories from you in the future. :)

Thank you :)

To much Awareness will always turn out negative

Thanks for writing this post it is good to keep the minds aware of other possibilities and to build our own belief system not what we have necessarily been taught.

That's exactly the core of Philosophy I think: to be aware of other possibilities, maintain our consciousness, think for ourselves and eventually building up our own belief system. :) No one will think for us, we have to do it ourselves.

What do you think philosopher's stone is true?
Philosophy is only debates ,or once it was a practical science?

The philosopher's stone seems to be a myth to me. I haven't digged very much into it, so I cannot say too much about it.
Philosophy, by the way, was a very practical science. More so than it is today. You're touching on a very interesting thing here. It seems to me that philosophy has become more academic and is losing touch with the real concerns of everyday human beings. It used to be seen as a way of life or a form of therapy. Now it is often abused to sound smart. Nonetheless, I believe it has still remained much of its value :)

I couldn't agree more. Now if only our global leadership would exercise some of the teachings the world would be a much better place!

Alan Watts is the only philosophy you need.

I was at a drunken philosophy meetup (super fun) and I talked with this guy who said the best benefit of philosophy to him was the ability to clearly see perspective of whatever situation. And I totally agree. Helps us get to a more peaceful world once you start building up that muscle.

I have a question for you guys, philosophy steemers, you think that philosophy has achieved its purpose? its core basic one...

I don't know. What is the core basic purpose of philosophy? :)

like searching the truth in it's essence? it is not my thesis, Richard Rorty said that there are no a priori philosophical truths to be discovered...

Philosophy is a very worthy subject yet hardly taught in schools. I was first influenced by Bruce Lee's philosophy then it opened up my mind to all other spiritual and religious philosophies. What is really interesting is a theory about how all of the world's religions are from the same source and are in essence the same philosophy but because of corruption and people using it to control and fabrication, it has splintered into so many factions.

I am quite surprised to hear that you have been influenced by Bruce Lee's philosophy. Not so many people know how philosophically minded he was. He studied Philosophy at the University of Washington. My latest post is an analysis on Bruce Lee's philosophy. You may be interested in reading it:

Nice thanks! I got into it when I was 14 after watching his films, read his book the Tao of Jeet Kune Do, taught me a lot about philosophy and I really liked his aproach 'the style of no style' maybe that has contributed to my ambition and interest in a wide range of fields.

Philosophy teaches how to ask questions with many answers, and to accept all of them and none of them.

Reminds me of Steve Jobs's Stanford Graduation address where he said to "stay hungry, stay foolish."

  ·  2 years ago (edited)

I totally agree with this essay.

In Murakami Haruki's novel "Forest of Norway", the heroine says she can live well without learning trigonometric function. The male insists that it is meaningful to train a systematic way of thinking.

The specific 'content' of mathematics is important, but it is more important to learn 'thinking abilities' that is trained in learning the content.

I think I can apply the same story to philosophy.

In the age of the 4th Industrial Revolution, 'thinking abilities' is likely to become more important.

Philosophy is the best way to train yourself, the best way to gain self-esteem. There are many different types of philosophy and many different roads to cross. However, the destination is the same. Your own soul. That gives you the opportunity to discover new ways of thinking, new ideas. I've read many books and the only thing i need to share with you, is that philosophy prepares your soul to be ready to make these dreams, you have in mind, come true. Nice article btw!

You have put it very nicely. :)

great article. Simple and to the point

Thank you!

Thank you for your comment!

Yes, philosophy is extremely valuable to learn!


Like you stated, the greatest gift philosophy has to offer is the ability to question objectively—and thereby free yourself from the chains and stresses of a dogmatic life.

Academia was not where I thrived, but I'm so grateful that I saw my education in philosophy through. I'm an industrial welder—but also a rational being—and still I can't think of a more applicable education to have received.

Philosophy is the study of ideas. There is, unfortunately, a stereotype that philosophy students are pretentious pedants. Funnily enough, it is precisely the study of ideas that humbles one enough to not consider their ideas untouchable. Everything is up for debate, even existence itself. :)

Nicely phrased :)

  ·  2 years ago (edited)

Uhm... Ok. Your eyes are so big

I remember saying to my philosophy professor jokingly "you're breeding atheists!" and he said to me very seriously " I just teach people how to think". I think my education in philosophy changed my life, definitely for the better.

Glad to know philosophy is a seasoned subject on Steemit

And if we allow all these 'philosophical' influences to enter our lives then, I dare say, philosophy brings us ever closer to Wisdom @chhaylin

Thank you for your comment.

I'm pretty new to Steem, and it's good to meet fellow philosophers here. Ii totally agree with your take on philosophy, I wish more people (and philosophers!) would consider philosophy a tool to keep us humble & questioning beings...
Will follow you, and see if I can find out through your other articles what you've ended up doing with your philosophy degree :)
I just wrote a post about why I decided to become a freelance philosopher, in case you're interested.

  ·  2 years ago (edited)

Unfortunately, I just read your comment now. Anyways, I left a reply on your post. Have fun at Steemit! I'm following you now btw

No worries. It is never too late :) Time is relative, and all that. Nice to meet you!