Here are five predictions about the state of philosophy in ten years:
1. Philosophy’s popularity as a major will increase. This will be owed in part to the swing of the cultural pendulum, to economic growth making people more comfortable with a major lacking a clearly-defined career path, to efforts by the profession to emphasize the practical value of philosophy, and also to attempts to bring philosophy to previously under-served populations.
2. Philosophy will have an increased presence in the business world—especially moral philosophy, philosophy of mind and cognitive science, philosophy of science, and experimental philosophy—as humans become increasingly served by “intelligent” automated services and goods. Think of the questions arising now—regarding, say, the uses of social media, or the programming of autonomous robots and self-driving cars—applied to all of the things we use. Relatedly, the American Philosophical Association will move from three annual meetings to just two: one focused on academic philosophy and one focused on “philosophy in practice,” aimed to attract philosophers and those doing philosophical work in the worlds of business, technology, medicine, and elsewhere outside academia.
3. The topic of “women in philosophy” will not be newsworthy.
4. Continuing a current trend, those working in academic philosophy will increasingly seek interdisciplinary collaborations with those outside the liberal arts. Disciplinary standards regarding the need for support for empirical claims made in philosophical works will be more stringent.
5. At the same time, philosophy will continue to be a refuge for those who insist that most important philosophical questions are not empirical, and who wish to study those questions. Additionally, atheism will become more commonplace in the broader culture, leading fewer atheists to feel the need to go into philosophy to argue about gods. For these and other reasons, there will be a higher proportion of philosophers who are theists. This could result in another fracturing of the discipline (along the lines of what happened in the 20th Century with analytic and Continental philosophy).
I’ve marked my calendar for October 27, 2025 to look back and see if any of these are right.
(Related: The Chronicle of Higher Education looks back to the predictions it made in 2005 about the state of higher education.)
(image: detail of “A Single Note” by Ben Sack)