What's Philosophy Got to Do With It?

The traditional subjects matters of philosophy are Metaphysics, Epistemology, Ethics, Logic, Political Philosophy, and Philosophy of Religion. If GRE scores by intended major are a guide, philosophy continues to attract many top students. They top the charts in two of the three categories, Verbal Reasoning and Analytical Writing, and even manage to get barely above average in Quantitative Reasoning.

So what do they learn, and what is it good for? My philosophy prof had an ironic joke: what's the difference between a philosophy PhD and Large Dominos Pizza? The Pizza can feed a family of four.

In the real world though, philosophy PhDs who don't get tenured faculty spots are smart, recognized as such, and usually get smart people jobs as computer analysts, executives, comedy writers, and so on. Their chances of getting good jobs in their field are probably a bit worse than, say, astrophysicists, but for both, most will wind up doing something else.

So what about what they learn? Metaphysics and Epistemology have been annexed by physics, and Logic by mathematics. If anybody has anything useful to say about ethics and religion, it's probably psychology, anthropology, and neurology. That leaves politics, and there still isn't much accounting for it.


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