An undergraduate student in philosophy writes in with a question that I suspect many philosophers confronted at some point in their studies. Perhaps we can provide some assistance:
I am a philosophy student in my last year of undergrad studies in need of some advice. I am about to apply to graduate studies in philosophy but not sure what I should choose to focus and research on. On the one hand, what I find most fun is “puzzles” in metaphysics and philosophy of language (such as the puzzle of constitution, Kirpke’s puzzle about belief, etc.), but I am often gripped by a feeling that what I’m actually doing when I’m working on such things has no real impact or value. I know few people generally tend to read academic philosophy, and even less likely to pick up a paper on, say, mereological universalism. On the other hand, I do have some interest in fields such as political philosophy and ethics, and I do feel that work in those fields have a better chance of actually having an impact (and are also easier to formulate in terms that make them more likely to get published in “popular” magazines that many more people tend to read).
So I’m caught at a crossroads. Should I go for what I find most amusing now (the metaphysics-y stuff) and risk ending up as a philosopher whose work none except my students and colleagues are interested it or can appreciate; or should I follow the more practical philosophy route and aim to have a broader impact and take up more current issues (something a-la Peter Singer who is about the only philosopher any of my non-philosophy friends have heard about).
Would the experienced readers of Daily Nous have any suggestions?