Thursday, October 31, 2013

Philosophy degree - why'd you want to study something useless like that?

Also - it's fascinating.

14 comments:

Unknown said...

I don't doubt that studying philosophy is valuable; but is this chart telling us something about the effect of studying philosophy or something about the sort of people who decide to study philosophy?

Philip Rand said...

Well Unknown...

I think there are only two types of people who are attracted to study philosophy...

1/ Those who wish to search for truth.

2/ Those who wish to search for justice.

Interestingly, in my experience I find these two "searches" mutually exclusive...one is either drawn to one or the other...NEVER both...

Philosophy is like Psychology...in fact this is what it has in common with Theology...

I still haven't come to the conclusion that Philosophy is scholarly...

It is a form of "knowledge" but whether it is scholarly knowledge...I doubt...I mean, you can't make anything with philosophy...no power in philosophy, like theology...but it can make one feel better mentally like psychology...

Kel said...

My computer science degree is feeling like less of an achievement all of a sudden

L.Long said...

I am very fond of stating that 'philosophy is the art of throwing BS and sounding intelligent while doing so.' Primarily because of the ways that apologist make use of it.
But I like philosophy and know that to do it well improves your methods of laying out coherent thoughts and ideas.

Atopos Search said...

I think philosophy plays a significant role in terms of pointing out what we don't really know for sure. This gives rise to the consideration of multiple variable influences for knowledge, creating a certain kind of intelligent perspective. See philosopher.io

Damien Samways said...

Stephen
Agree with the tenor of both your recent posts. But it's a sad state of affairs that philosophy needs defending.

IMHO, there's a bit of problem right now with philosophy (along with statistics, sadly) getting short shrift in the sciences, especially the life sciences (John Wilkins has spoken of this).

Philosophy is important both for the practical conduct of science and for its ethical conduct.

Philip Rand said...

Here is a philosophical own goal...

Dr Andy Martin (Cambridge) has invented, Becksistentialism which he terms is "existentialism but with a very cool haircut".

You can find his ideas on Dr Martin's blog, "Becks in Paris".

Paul P. Mealing said...

From my limited experience, I'd say that the method of philosophy is argument, which is also how it is presented. It teaches you to be analytical and insightful and to think deeply about what you are talking about.

Regards, Paul.

Anonymous said...

While I don't doubt Philosophy is useful in terms of self-development, such development does not pay the bills. I am from a working class background myself and a primary consideration must be the jobs you can do with your chosen course of study. Philosophy doesn't, at least not directly, afford one many options. It seems to me that you can either teach it or write books, or both but not much else.

Education to degree level is mostly a one-shot deal for working class folk. If you get the oppertunity you had better make it count. If you pick something with decent monetary return you might be able to afford additional education further down the line. You really don't want to be in the position of being utterly unconnected from any employment above manual labour (I mean no connections through friends or relatives to better oppertunities), and a philosophy degree.

HH said...

Hi Damien,

"Philosophy is important both for the practical conduct of science and for its ethical conduct."

Would you mind expanding on that, particularly the first part.

Philip Rand said...

Perhaps HH it depends on what one means with the word "practical"...

Practical implies the "empirical", meaning what we can "measure", i.e. photons, electrons, etc...so with regards to quantum physics say, one does not require philosophy to support a physics theory because it can be empirically valid without recourse to metaphysics, i.e. what IS a photon?...what IS an electron?

It is only when these types of metaphysical questions are asked that philosophy has any role in science.

I mean, think of the discovery of the Higg's...We use theory/calculations to predict tracks in a bubble chamber, from the experiments we infer the trajectories we see in the bubble chamber are "particles" flying through the chamber leaving tracks...

However, what is wrong with this is that really what we are seeing is a succession of bubbles...AND the mistake is to link them together...because in quantum theory "stuff" does not have trajectories...instead they are simply independent "events"...

This is when philosophy comes into play with science...it is in the interpretation of these events...and with it perhaps certain insights that may point in a new direction of research.

Damien Samways said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Damien Samways said...

"HH said...
Hi Damien,

"Philosophy is important both for the practical conduct of science and for its ethical conduct."

Would you mind expanding on that, particularly the first part."


With regard to "practical" I'm referring on the role of philosophy in narrowing down Best Practice for the process of investigation.

e.g.

1) Hypothesis framing
2) Experimental design and appropriate statistics analysis
3) Data interpretation and conclusions

Science needs, and has always needed, philosophy because the former is ultimately an inductive process through which we are hoping to draw accurate conclusions about the universal from a mere sample.

Philosophy has been instrumental in figuring out the ways to strengthen that inductive process and mitigating its innate weaknesses. Unfortunately, things such as the importance of a good falsifiable hypothesis and avoiding post hoc theorizing &c are being forgotten, and it's clear that this is having negative consequences. There's a real problem both in the biological sciences and in psychology right now with failure to reproduce findings, even the really important ones (there was a pharmaceutical firm that reproduced something like 50 landmark experiments and only succeeded in reproducing 20% of them). In a small number of cases this is due to outright fraud, but in many cases faulty experimental design and inappropriate use and interpretation of statistics is key.

On top of that, there's this trend for government funding agencies to encourage, and sink tremendous amounts of money into, whimsical Big Science investigations. Ones that are too often driven by some vague, ambiguous, and usually conceptually dubious goal (see Genome Project, BRAIN Initiative, Protein Structure Initiative and similar ill-conceived boondoggle fishing expeditions).

So, yeah, philosophy is important to the efficiency of the scientific method, which has clear cost benefits both in terms of time and money. Frankly, I think a philosopher should be employed in every life science department (scientists seem to be cottoning onto the usefulness of having a resident statistician in the house, so maybe there's hope for us yet).

Philip Rand said...

Damien you bring up some interesting points...

I was wondering, is the question:

"Why can't I push my hand through a brick wall."

A scientific question, a philosophical question or both?