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Value of Philosophy

Welcome to 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.

VPP is a work in progress.  Please send in additions (via email, Facebook, Twitter)!

VPP is organized into four pages:

(Material may appear on more than one page.)

Suggestions welcome!

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9 years ago

With Justin’s permission, I’ve posted these materials and more at
It’s a convenient URL to suggest to students and others so they might better learn more about why they might want to study philosophy.
If anyone would like to help improve these pages, please contact me.
I hope this URL is helpful!

8 years ago

Michael – I find your view odd. For a start, it seems to me that medicine has made vast stride and continues to do so.

—“Here’s an alternative approach. Observe the questions that people are already curious about, unaware that philosophy has developed some pretty good answers. (E.g. many people wonder about free will vs. determinism, with no idea that compatibilism is an option or they wonder about some version of “How do I know I’m not a brain in a vat?” with no idea that philosophy made some headway on that in the 1908s.) Then show them the answers, by the shortest line possible, even if it cuts a lot of corners. Take the lead from popularizations of science, which deliver the impressive conclusions with only a sketch of the working. Of course it’s no substitute for doing philosophy properly, just as popularizations of science are no substitute for science — but they /do/ show why it’s worth looking into.”

It seems true that people will usually vote for an extreme view and not consider compatibilism. Most philosophers seem to have no idea that compatibilism would be an option for all such questions, and anyway an option is not an answer.
Philosophy as whole forgets that compatibilism would be an option for such questions. It would be possible to argue, as I have been doing for years, that this is its central problem. Compatabilism would be the solution offered by the perennial philosophy for such questions.

Did someone make progress in the 80’s on the brain/vat problem? I have the impression that most scientists and philosophers believe that they are exactly a brain in a vat.

“Then show them the answers”. But you don’t know the answers. This is the problem. You can lay out the options as you see them, but you cannot show them the answers.

“Take the lead from popularizations of science, which deliver the impressive conclusions with only a sketch of the working.” Do you mean pretend that we know far more than we do about philosophy, in the style of most scientific popularizers? I’m sure you don’t mean this. It seems to have become the favoruite method for de-popularizers of religion.

“Impressive conclusions”.? It would be the dearth of Impressive conclusions that attracts the professional criticism that has been much-discussed at DN recently and that leads to philosophobia. .

“Of course it’s no substitute for doing philosophy properly,..” I didn’t imagine for a moment that you were advocating bad practice. Yet ‘doing it properly’ would surely have to mean reaching some impressive conclusions, and you can’t beat the philosophy of the Upanishads when it comes to impressive conclusions, one of which would be that compatibilism is not just an option for metaphysical problems but their correct solution.

Not arguing really, just presenting a different perspective on things.

Marketing is not promotion. More important would be the design of the product or service. If marketing does not begin here then a lot of money and effort may later be wasted on promotion. Perhaps one question would be: How can philosophy be improved so that it would hardly be necessary to promote it? A good title for an essay competition maybe.

Reply to  PeterJ
8 years ago

My apologies. The previous at post is a formatting mess. It looked okay at the time.

Ib Jørgensen
Ib Jørgensen
8 years ago

Robert Musil said: “We do not have too much intellect and too little soul, but too little precision in matters of the soul” to which I would add “…and too little soul in matters of precision.” This is what I see as the task confronting our species, finding the right mix between the intertwined sentiments of rationality and spirituality. It goes without saying that this is where philosophy can and must contribute.

Robert W Tucker
Robert W Tucker
8 years ago

No one who has studied philosophy carefully can doubt that some problems are permanently solved and that some of these solutions carry direct implications for the work of scientists and others.

Among the philosophers who would agree with this assertion, many are unwilling to assume responsibility for the fact that the contributions of philosophy are underappreciated on the larger stage of intellectual progress.

In considering the many philosophers I have known, either personally or through a careful longitudinal study of their work, only a few can be said to be influential on that larger stage. In this regard, Michael Scriven is one of the most underappreciated contributors. Michael spent his career employing the intellectual knowledge and tools of philosophy to help scientists and policy leaders of all stripes solve difficult problems. He was successful because he offered the best solution in the room and because he did so without a hint of the pedantic rhetoric common in some philosophical circles.

nathan nobis
nathan nobis
7 years ago

A new page of interest and value!
Philosophy is a Great Major . com

Mikey Charles Hall
Mikey Charles Hall
7 years ago

I can appreciate that studying the classics and literature offers more to the individual than familiarity of the prominant metaphors and text. You gain fantastic critical and analytical skills along the way and these are invaluable in many areas outside English in the academic setting – plus they are skills that never seem to go away.I think studying Philosophy does a similar thing – although it seems to me to be a much stronger version; Philosophy permeates every facet of experience. As it should, i’m guessing, because you are subtly and gradually strengthening the way you perceive the world. You think differently – rather your thinking develops and it’s a very positive thing because that strengthened perception offers new levels of engagement and interest to flourish, and you begin to see things you never noticed in the world before.. It’s during the idle moments that i notice the difference most and can almost feel it working while i’m waiting for a green light or waiting for the phone to stop ringing – or trying to decide what will actually be the result of not looking under that stone.

I returned to university at 35 to do a degree majoring in Philosophy after enjoying some electives in my first undergraduate degree. Not a single person i knew understood why i would take on more study at that stage of the game – on top of work.commitments and the like. Something just happens to you if you are the type and the best way i can think of expressing it is that is nurtures and nourishes your sense of curiosity. It’s not dissimilar to when you discover amazing music where you never thought to look or you see the richness of Kubrick emerge for the first time; the hidden structures and their meaning surfaces.

The feeling doesn’t go away either, i’m so glad i challenged myself and pursued it.

Thank you & Enjoy – sincerely Michael (Perth, Western Australia)

Hasti Mirshah
Hasti Mirshah
6 years ago

I have a Bachelors in Philosophy and Literature. On the subject of the value of philosophy, nothing seems to me to be more valuable on the humanities side of academic disciplines (and strongly competing with any important scientific discipline). What is the purpose of scientific progress or any other thing if the humans involved in that and the humans receiving the benefit of that are leading thoughtless lives? Even if the majority of people are happy (which I advocate they are not) it still would not make sense because that happiness would undoubtedly come at the cost of something. It is the philosophers role, then, to figure out what those costs are and how those costs can be eliminated or better yet, prevented. Philosophy has the distinct pleasure of being able to include information from all disciplines and all thought in order to come up with analyses of everything in a way that directly applies to human beings. It is not chemistry in a lab, it is the work of minute to minute life, thought, and emotion. In analyzing whether our lives have meaning and beginning those discussions, philosophy thereby imparts meaning. By providing room for discussion of novel concepts and for the inclusion of different points of view from every possible academic discipline and just plain thought, philosophy gives humans a chance to connect and meaningfully analyze their lives. If it weren’t for the reflective philosophers, our societies would disintegrate fast.

3 months ago

I’m a sophomore at an international high school in China. I hope to share my experience exploring philosophy as a high schooler and give concrete advice to Daily Nous’ high school audience (and perhaps some undergrads). I hope a few philosophers might be curious, too. I’ll organize my experience and lessons taken by topic.

Club (experience: 8/10)

I founded my school’s philosophy club as a freshman. In the first year, I collected PowerPoints available on the internet (~300 slides in total) about 15 philosophers and rehearsed them to present at the weekly meetings. But, as you can probably imagine, only 4-6 students came, and none aspiring to pursue philosophy as a major. So the following year I turned my focus to hosting activities such as public symposiums, philosophy-related games, and debates, and now the club is one of the largest in my school. My lesson: high school club? More activities, less lecturing.

Journal (experience: 5/10)

My original intention of co-founding the journal was to create an English counterpart to our school’s existing Chinese journal. I talked with my school admins, who readily agreed to support it. The first volume ran somewhat smoothly, with submissions from four other schools in our region. However, my school withdrew support because a Chinese admin feared publishing essays on religion and ethics could have political implications (talk about free speech!). Without my school’s backing, I am currently trying to specialize it as a journal of applied and practical ethics and appeal to high school students outside of China. My lesson: high school journal? Do it yourself, and consider specializing; it’s more difficult than you imagine.

Podcast (experience: 9/10)

This is a project that every high school student wanting to pursue philosophy should have. My podcast was specifically for ethics, and I now have stimulating debates weekly with my teachers, ethical vegans, LGBTQ people, activists, and academics. Contrary to a journal, many more people would be willing to be on a podcast, and the conversational format also enriched and informed my moral views. If you would like to be on it, please feel free to reply to this message and I’ll reach out. It’s short and lightweight, and we love to see guests from outside our region. My lesson: podcast? If you’re good with public speaking, definitely consider doing it.

Competitions (experience: 7/10)

There’s not a lot to do. Most competitions favor continental approaches, and others value style over content. I’ll list the ones I did, what I got, and how much I recommend it to other high school students.


John Locke Essay Competition: I got two distinctions for philosophy and theology. Recommendation: 3 stars (do it if you want to practice writing philosophy, but don’t expect too much)

International Philosophy Olympiad (China selection exam): I got a third prize (top 12). Recommendation: 4 stars (it is very difficult topic-wise but relatively friendly to students who write analytically).

Think Essay Prize (by the journal Think): I submitted a few weeks ago. Recommendation: 4-5 stars (the additional information part is great, and the judges are professional, especially compared to mainstream ones like John Locke).


Public forum debate: I am a two-time national champion (at the two largest tournaments in China), a global semifinalist at the Harvard Nationals (open division), and a gold division qualifier for TOC. Recommendation: 4 stars (if you want to major in philosophy it’s better to do Lincoln–Douglas).

Research (experience: 8/10)

I did many high school research programs in philosophy with professors at Penn, Stanford, Colgate, and Oxford. My mother, a professor of media at a top Chinese university, also taught me to do research in her free time. These programs did expose me to much philosophy, but if you hope to really contribute to the literature, these programs certainly won’t cut it (like what you’re probably thinking now, I believe that real research requires a PhD. However, my paper was cited in my Ukrainian journal, which is interesting). Indeed, most programs of this sort are not worth it. That said, they have prepared me for more serious research, which I hope to do at UCSB’s RMP program this summer.

Summer Schools (experience: 7/10)

I went to summer@Brown for my freshmen year, and my experience is mixed. I suppose more selective summer school would be better, but I didn’t feel intellectually challenged during the course, and mostly, the readings taught me. The tutors are great researchers and educators; it’s just that they have to accommodate everyone’s learning. I have nothing against that.

Self-study (experience: 10/10)

This is where I really learned philosophy. I try to read 3-4 books a month and I select and discuss them with my tutor (a philosophy PhD at a top philosophy department). Here are some that I enjoyed the most:

Philosophical Devices (Papineau), Logic: A Complete Introduction (Lee), Metaphysics: A Contemporary Introduction (Loux and Crisp), Ontology and Metaontology (Berto and Plebani), and Philosophy of Physics: Quantum Theory (Maudlin).

Here are some that I enjoyed but didn’t get to finish (yet):

Logic for Philosophy (Sider), Writing the Book of the World (Sider), A Critical Introduction to Formal Epistemology (Bradley), Metaphysics, Sophistry, and Illusion (Balaguer), The Nature of Contingency (Wilson), and Quantum Ontology (Lewis).

My most sincere thanks to their authors. What a good time to be alive.

Thanks for reading!

Reply to  Justin Weinberg
3 months ago

With pleasure! Thank you for the amazing articles on Daily Nous

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