The Dark Side of Philosophy

Posted on July 14, 2016 by

I have spent some time thinking, writing and talking about how philosophers have valuable skills that are sorely needed outside academia (see for relevant posts). I’ve also provided advice for how philosophers can sell themselves in order to get good jobs in the business world. In general, I’m a fan of philosophy and truly believe everyone should have at least some exposure to it whether they pursue philosophy professionally or not. In this I’m not alone: many, many people from all sorts of professions have likewise lauded philosophy. So what I’d like to explore now is the flipside (dark side?) to philosophy in both one’s work and personal life. I’d like to get your thoughts rather than post my opinion, but I’ll help by posing some questions:

Does studying philosophy specifically make one worse at certain tasks, or make philosophers less capable to do certain jobs than they were before they studied philosophy? Are there jobs philosophers should specifically avoid on that basis? Beyond work, can philosophy create problems in your personal life or relationships? For example, did it turn you into an excellent debater, only to irritate and alienate your friends and family? Did it make it impossible for you to enjoy cultural or religious practices that you once loved, due to a heightened level of skepticism?

To probe this flipside even further, I’m wondering if there any readers who actually regret doing a degree in philosophy specifically (as opposed to merely regretting doing a graduate degree in general, for example.) And if so, why? What expectations did you have that weren’t met, or what problems did it cause? Certainly, studying philosophy carries an inherent opportunity cost, since time spent on philosophy is time not spent on something else. And if one expected to be able to get paid as a philosopher and found this couldn’t happen, then of course this opportunity cost may loom large. But I’d like to move beyond opportunity cost in this discussion to the disadvantages or downsides to studying philosophy specifically. Or perhaps there is no downside beyond opportunity cost (?) Thanks so much for your thoughts!