“That whole deep existential torment,” she said. “It’s good for getting girlfriends.”
I smirked at this quote from a New York Times article reporting that the numbers of philosophy majors are rising out of proportion to overall college enrollment.
Because as an undergraduate I couldn’t summon the self-discipline to master the calculus sequence required for a computer science degree at UW-Madison, I ended up with a B.S. in Philosophy. (No, that’s not redundant: Sometimes B.S. stands for Bachelor of Science and only some philosophy is navel-gazing bullshit.)
At the time, the standard joke about getting a degree in philosophy was that it really taught one how to ask the essential questions, like, “Do you want fries with that?,” a query indicative of the expected employment for a philosophy major.
Now it turns out that getting a degree in philosophy is some kind of trendy phenomenon among college students, who recognize the value of the critical thinking, analysis, and logic skills that study of philosophy can impart, as well as of the worldview-broadening that can occur from studying multiple metaphysical systems. According to The Guardian, employers are increasingly agreeing with this assessment of the practical value of philosophical training.
Even better, as the opening quotation from the New York Times article alludes, the painful existential crisis fomented by having one’s foundational assumptions about reality repeatedly demolished and reworked by the most brilliant thinkers in history is apparently a chick magnet. When I think about it, there may be some truth to that assertion, as I did start dating my wife in the middle of my own personal crisis, though I’m not entirely sure whether it was more of a crisis in confidence from failing calculus or a crisis of faith in the foundations of my worldview from taking to heart Humean skepticism. In either case, I guess I owe a debt of gratitude to my professors.
Frankly, though, I’m more impressed with the prospects for teaching philosophy to students younger than your average undergraduates, convinced by the incredibly articulate voices of the 13-year old students featured on an Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s Philosopher’s Zone radio episode outlining an innovative philosophy and reason curriculum taught at selected Queensland high schools. Would that more students spoke so well or thought so clearly!
But I will settle for increased numbers of philosophically trained college graduates. Perhaps this promises greater opportunity for meaningful conversation, something I miss since so few of my current neighbors seem to have pondered Plato or cogitated on Kant, pretentious activities to which I am sometimes still prone.