When I was studying philosophy, I sometimes asked my fellow students how studying philosophy affected their personal life. The answer I got was usually either "I haven't really thought about that" or "not the slightest bit".

I really don't know - should it? Should doing/studying philosophy afect our personal lives? Socrates seemed to have thought so. But is the Socratic view "outdated?"

  • 2
    Tongue-in-cheek answer: you ask whether philosophy matters to one's life. That is itself a question for philosophy to answer. Thus, insofar as philosophy can be used to determine its own worth, it matters to one's life so that one can use it to determine whether they need it.
    – commando
    Commented Nov 28, 2015 at 19:31
  • 3
  • 1
    Small children weigh the value of things with the minds of small children - if I do this will I get candy? Small minds evaluate the 'worthiness' of philosophical inquiry in a similar manner - Will it bring me material things or material desires? Philosophical inquiry should bring changes to your 'world view' and your mind, not necessarily to your personal outward life. Commented Nov 29, 2015 at 4:16

6 Answers 6


When I was a teenager, I was just starting my advanced studies. My friend went to philosophy and I went to computer science. We were both just thinking about getting a job. They told him that after philosophy you can work in institutions, use your diction, ability to speak and so on. And your great knowledge of history will help you become a great worker in many institutions. Well, after years of friendship with this guy and after my getting a job in computer science, I can definitely say, that between all university fields of study, philosophy provides the most direction for yourself ever.

First, you do and study what are you passionate about. After some time you start asking questions. You find answers to these questions in words of many historical philosophers. Then you can study many religions, and choose a religion for you. There are even many more things that you come to know about reality. When you see the art of some painter, or when you just discuss the world with someone, you know something deeper and you don't even need to say it

I cannot imagine a world without philosophy. Even a mathematician isn't more useful, because he can help with complicated formulas, but a philosopher helps not just with his knowledge but as a person. Not being just one of millions fed with mainstream knowledge can make you more into your own person. This shows that philosophy is for yourself.


How does higher mathematics or theoretical physics effect the personal lives of those who study those topics? Studying such fields contributes to the overall advancement of humanity. The students, as members of humanity themselves, are effected, even if infinitesimally, by the overall advancement of human knowledge.

The same applies to philosophy: Philosophy is a wissenschaft, a from of seeking knowledge and wisdom, and as such contributes to the overall advancement of human knowledge, and it effects the personal lives of those who study it in the same way that mathematics or theoretical physics does.

There are more prosaic ways of looking at the question though: Ask anyone living in an oppressive theocracy whether the question of God's existence effects their personal lives or not? Ask anyone living in a communist country whether Marx's ideas effect their personal lives or not? There answer will be a definite "yes, philosophy sure does effect our personal lives!", presumably this includes students living in these situations.

Finally, someone had already pointed out in this forum - I forget which post - that although we now consider Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, The Stoics and the Epicureans, and their ilk, as semi-divine mythical sources of wisdom, those guys were really just the self-help authors of their times, simply offering people advice on how to improve their lot in life. Any student of philosophy in our time is free to take their wisdom as such as well.

Personally, I am an amateur student of philosophy myself (no formal training except for a couple of high-school classes). Coming into contact with analytic philosophy has definitely changed the way I look things, and more importantly the way I argue and negotiate with people, in both my personal and my professional life.


Several off-the-cuff answers come to mind. The first is a behavioral test. Is a "philosopher" today readily distinguished from other people by observation in public settings? Probably not. Certainly not to the extent of a Diogenes.

Further testimony to the contrary: Though I can't recall the exact quote, Hume famously claimed that the skeptical inquires of philosophy simply vanish once the philosopher leaves his study and joins his friends for some claret, cards, and conversation.

On other hand, personal life may be negatively impacted by philosophy, and not only via a Socratic fate. Those beset with philosophical urges are famous for personal neglect. Both Thales and Adam Smith tumbled into ditches. Roland Barthes was hit and killed by a milk truck. The foppish Leibniz was praised for appearing so unlike a philosopher. Tellingly, a princess remarked of him: "It is so nice to meet a philosopher who laughs at jokes and doesn't smell bad."

And it depends on the philosophy. Stoicism, Existentialism, or Marxism, say, presumably affect one's ethical practices, while logical positivism has no bearing. In the modern world, philosophy should at least, we hope, make one less vulnerable to unexamined ideology, fallacious appeals, demagoguery, and general enthusiasms. Heidegger notwithstanding.

I like Mary Midgley's view of philosophy in the daily world. She likens it to "plumbing." No one sees it or thinks much about it until something breaks. This is as true personally, I believe, as socially.


My first answer would be a rather general claim: If you are studying anything and it doesn't affect your life, you're doing it wrong.

Philosophers are known for asking questions that do not have easy answers. In fact, I have seen many suggest that it is not the answers in Philosophy that matter, but the questions themselves.

We make assumptions every day, often mortal ones. When I confidently stare down a one ton fire breathing monster barreling down on my laughably protected shell of a body (also known as "riding my motorcycle in traffic"), I make assumption after assumption about what can and cannot happen to me.

In the case of many accidents, those assumptions prove wrong.

Philosophy provides approaches for identifying those assumptions, and seeking to set them on a more firm foundation. When I have a near miss due to some {bleep}-hole that nearly puts me on the pavement, I have an opportunity to explore my own life's choices, and decide how I might better take control of my fate (such as, perhaps, joining them by driving a car instead of a motorcycle. Or perhaps easing off on the throttle a little because I don't really have to be in that much of a rush). I can also see more into the decisions others make. When I see that unforgivable lout at the front of the left turn lane, ready to illegally cut across in front of me as the light turns green (seriously? What is up with some drivers?), I can see the way they're clawing at the wheel and start to make educated guesses as to their utility function, even though I've never met them, because I know utility functions are useful for questioning how everyone acts.

Are there other ways to come to these conclusions? Certainly. But all such paths provide more questions to be answered. They're just deeper questions, trickier questions. Questions philosophy happens to enjoy exploring. Eventually, they all either lead to philosophy, or an axiomatic assumption of truth which, if ever proven wrong, can wreak untold havoc on one's life.


Even in a modern context, there are living philosophers (of contrasting views and methodologies) who still insist on the decisive importance of philosophy to everyday life. Singer, Žižek, de Button and Dennett are just a few who come readily to mind. Not by coincidence, these are also the philosophers best known to an audience outside academic philosophical circles.

Within academic philosophy, however, there exist an endless variety of philosophical topics that seem to have little if any connection to everyday life, as well as a school of thought that insists that philosophy overreaches itself if it tries to opine on larger matters. As well-received as this last concept may be in contemporary academic philosophy, it remains a decidedly minority viewpoint when considered against the scope of philosophy throughout history.


It matters to personal life in many ways.

You digest and organise information differently when you have a philosophical mindset. Being philosophical leads you to critique and question all information and entertainment you're presented with: Does this politician's argument make sense, do I really believe in this ideology? Why do I feel a certain way when this kind of music is playing on the radio? Why is this film so thought provoking? Ah - it's because the central theme is a metaphor for a big philosophical question.

Philosophy makes you ask different questions when making your big plans in life: What are your core values and what do you strive for? What are your ethical values? Is your purpose in life to flourish and meet your full potential, to become superhuman, to educate, or simply to fulfil your ethical duties? Where does your work, children, location, hobbies, etc all fit in with and uphold those core values?

Depending on the type of philosopher you are, it gives you a different perspective and approach to your everyday life and work: how can I make this more beautiful, or more ordered, more clear, or more symbolic?

Perhaps most importantly, a philosopher is always willing to question their own thoughts and assumptions, always open to different approaches.

If you apply Philosophy to your personal life, or indeed your whole life, you experience life through a completely different lens, and you always ask questions.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .