Philosophy departments face many challenges. Philosophy is perceived by some as “less practical” and so less choiceworthy a course of study. Most entering students have not taken philosophy courses and do not come to college thinking about studying philosophy. Philosophy is unfamiliar, its critical element can scare away some students, and it has a reputation among undergraduates as being hard. The result of this appears to be lower enrollments, and an increased threat to the survival of philosophy departments from budget-conscious administrators and legislators.
Most of the readers of Daily Nous believe that studying philosophy is valuable. It may be valuable for its own sake, for the skills that one develops when doing it, for the attitudes it encourages, and other reasons. We should make it easier to explain and share our reasons for thinking that it is good for undergraduates to study philosophy.
To that end, I have created the Daily Nous Value of Philosophy Pages (VPP) pages. The purpose of VPP is to provide a centralized, highly visible, and up-to-date resource for those seeking information about the benefits of studying philosophy and those seeking to disseminate such information. It is intended for a wide range of users, including: students making choices about their studies, departments trying to attract students and majors, faculty and administrators looking for arguments and data with which to defend philosophy’s place in the college curriculum, teachers seeking to learn about the value of philosophy outreach programs, and so on. There is now a link to the Value of Philosophy Pages in the main menu, above.
There is a lot of information already out there, and many departments have “Why Study Philosophy?” sections on their websites. VPP is not intended to replace those sites. Rather, it can serve as an easy-to-find resource for those who may be interested in creating and maintaining such sites, and for people the world over to share new relevant material.
Some of the information on VPP is data regarding test scores and salaries. But there is also room on VPP for essays and passages that discuss the intrinsic, or at least less directly pragmatic, value of studying philosophy. There is a temptation to give in to the instrumentalization of education mentality that is so dominant today. While I think it is important that we are able to answer the concerns of people whose view of the value of education stops at the dollar signs, it is even more important to try to get such people to see further.
And besides, we should at least be able to say to prospective students more about the appeal of studying philosophy than: “Philosophy: not as useless as you thought.”
The Value of Philosophy Pages is very much a work in progress. There isn’t much there yet, but with your help it can be great. Let’s do it! Get suggestions to me via email, Facebook, Twitter, carrier pigeon, heck, even in person.
Thanks to Professor Robert Stufflebeam of the University of New Orleans for suggesting this project and his help with it.