I am wondering if any philosophers have described this concept. For example, if you wanted to get into music school, it would be better to master one instrument than try to get good at two instruments.

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    There is no definitive "concept" that it is "better" even outside philosophy. And philosophers will tell you that it is meaningless to ask what is "better" without specifying for what and by whose standards, and that the implied inference that jack of all trades is master of none is a fallacy. Here is philosophers' bemoaning that "*the college professor who was formerly a jack of all trades, now modestly confesses that he is master of none". The Philosophical Review, Volume 15, 1906 (p.130).
    – Conifold
    Commented Aug 28, 2018 at 7:16
  • This from Hegel, "The man who, on the contrary, would do everything, really would do nothing, and fails. There is a host of interesting things in the world: Spanish poetry, chemistry, politics, and music are all very interesting, and if any one takes an interest in them we need not find fault. But for a person in a given situation to accomplish anything, he must stick to one definite point, and not dissipate his forces in many directions." Encyclopedia Phil. Sciences, Sec. 80. I would not call this an essential doctrine of Hegel, more of an aside to make a point.
    – Gordon
    Commented Aug 28, 2018 at 7:48
  • I'm counting myself Jack-of-all-trades. I write about myself: "I don't like to deepen inside things. I want to sit on the top grasping as much as I can, but missing details due to my imperfect vision". But without details nothing we still would live in Stone Age. Without people capable of superficial understanding of lots of things we would be there as well. Everyone is important as long as there is practical use of skills.
    – rus9384
    Commented Aug 28, 2018 at 13:43
  • The well-known saying actually expresses the opposite philosophy: "jack of all trades, master of none, but often better than master of one".
    – Steve
    Commented Jun 20, 2020 at 13:51
  • Just noting Isaiah Berlin's famous essay on the "Hedgehog and the Fox." And Marx seems to equate freedom with a plurality of occupations, as opposed to drudgery in the division of labor, where one can: “ hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticise after dinner, just as I have a mind, without ever becoming hunter, fisherman, shepherd or critic..." Commented Oct 18, 2020 at 21:22

3 Answers 3


There is a Nietzschean idea of peaks of excellence, which are purported to be of more benefit to humanity than a sea of mediocrity, in that new inventions of benefit to all come from the peaks.

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    But do the peaks of excellence occur primarily amongst those who master just one topic to the exclusion of all others, or from those who know many topics?
    – Steve
    Commented Jun 20, 2020 at 13:55

I think the term "specialism" (versus "generalism") gets pretty close. Or "localism" (versus "globalism"). Or maybe even "particularism" (versus "regularism"). Or even "exclusionism" (versus "inclusionism").


It isn`t possible to master all trades, however, it is possible and worthwhile to master two or more.

Polymath`s place https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCD_ew0Ba7bj8JOcggCjzLUQ

  • When you post a link, please describe it, including why it's relevant. Answers on this SE should reference or set things in, a philosophical context. You haven't stated even a reason why you think what you do.
    – CriglCragl
    Commented Jun 19, 2021 at 10:15
  • What is the function of a question? To elicit an answer or to elicit thoughts? Commented Jun 19, 2021 at 13:03
  • Please see 'How do I write a good answer?' philosophy.stackexchange.com/help/how-to-answer and take the site tour philosophy.stackexchange.com/tour Answers here are expected to be of a certain standard, or they may be deleted. Welcome to the site.
    – CriglCragl
    Commented Jun 19, 2021 at 14:16
  • The question seems to be academic, but the example given suggests the questioner is concerned with practical matters as well. Polymath's Place is a website by a sociologist who did her doctoral dissertation on the modern polymath. She considers what it means to be a polymath and she examines the difficulties and rewards of being a polymath in a time when specialization has come to be valued much more than polymathy. Commented Jun 19, 2021 at 14:30
  • Also, since the questioner was looking for a description rather than a justification, I thought it was appropriate to let the questioner encounter a different opinion. Commented Jun 19, 2021 at 15:36

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