Because philosophy is seen by many as a useless subject and a mere waste of resources, universities the world over has retired countless degree programs in philosophy.

So my questions are

  1. How is philosophy useful?

  2. What are the practical of philosophy to the day to day lives of ordinary people?

  3. What is the usefulness of philosophy to the plumber, to the engineer & scientists?

  4. Is philosophy all talk, talk & talk with no action?

  5. Is philosophy really necessary?

  6. What type of jobs do philosophers do with a degree in philosophy? Other than become lecturers & teach other students who will become lecturers & the cycle goes on?


4 Answers 4


Most of higher mathematics is irrelevant to ordinary people.

As is most of Quantum Physics and Quantum Field Theory.

Even though Einstein Theory of General Relativity is neccessary for the correct functioning of GPS, his theory too, is directly irrelevant to ordinary people the world over. Most people do not understand it, and do not want to understand it.

One rather suspects that if Science had not such a profound effect on the world ordinary people the world over will have no interest in it - will have pronounced it irrelevant to human needs.

But consider that those who began science had no material interest in sight. Were they ordinary people looking for ordinary material interests science would never have got of the ground. And I wouldn't be typing this on a laptop with a calculating power exceeding that of all humanity put together.

Now was that just a philosophical thought?

But having said this - there is a need for practical philo-sophia. Academic discourse by its nature, and because of the infinite malleability of human thought, very quickly becomes abstruse. This is true of the very earliest times when philosophy was practised as a discipline as it is now.

There are of course of forms of learning and teaching by which one absorbds sophia (wisdom) - through novels & films. Through stories, through politics and ordinary discourse. Through religion and through proverbs. Through nursery-ryhmes and through songs.


A given philosophy offers a unified viewpoint on a diverse, arguably universal set of what would otherwise be viewed as disconnected phenomena. It is of crucial practical value in terms of bringing into alignment the activities of people who are acting independently.

At a more personal level, I have found my philosophy degree has offered me a valuable perspective on every subsequent pursuit. In addition, all the symbolic logic I took was directly applicable to my current job as a programmer.


It's important to draw a distinction between useless and valueless. Music and art could be called "useless" in that they have no practical applications to the real world, but our lives are immensely better because of them: most people would be unwilling to give them up.

A similar case can be made for modern research, especially in fields like pure mathematics, pure science, and philosophy. These fields have few (if any) practical applications to the real world, but it is absurd to say that they have no value: whether or not they are "useless", our lives are vastly greater because of them. If humanity focused solely on practical problems (e.g. building stronger bridges, finding more efficient ways to purify water, creating faster computer processors), I would be forced to ask "What's the point? Shouldn't we just try to enjoy our lives? To truly live?" For many people, solving practical problems doesn't bring joy and meaning into their lives; value comes from passion, spirituality, relationships, and understanding of one's place in the world. The world where people solely focus on practical applications isn't a world fit for humans, because it's art, music, philosophy, pure science, that tell us how we should live our lives, what our role is in this universe, and what it means to be human.

So, in response to your question "how is philosophy useful?" I would say that as far as I know philosophy has at best few practical applications. But, in response to your other question, "Is philosophy really necessary?", I declare absolutely.


Philosophy teaches you to think clearly. Where might this most be seen? Try the justice system; people with philosophy degrees score highest on the LSAT:

Major                    LSAT    Compared to Average

Philosophy               157.0   +4.7pts
Economics                156.2   +3.9pts
History                  154.5   +2.2pts
English                  153.5   +1.2pts
Psychology               151.7   -0.6pts
Political Science        151.5   -0.8pts
Accounting               151.5   -0.8pts
Sociology                149.4   -2.9pts
Communications           149.4   -2.9pts
Business Administration  148.2   -4.1pts
Criminal Justice         145.4   -6.9pts

(source: Purdue)

Now, consider what the above means. If you take the stereotypical view of a lawyer as scum of the earth, you probably are dead in the water. If, however, you see justice as extremely important, then what kind of person would you want to play a role? Hopefully people who can think clearly, see the ramifications of things, and think about how to improve society. Asking "What would be good for society?" is one of the most important questions for at least a subset of a nation's population to be asking. When that question is asked, philosophy is done. This doesn't mean e.g. scientific results cannot be used, but when that question of goodness is asked, philosophy is necessarily a part.

N.B. Even if Sam Harris' The Moral Landscape is implemented, philosophy will be required to determine how to interpret results, e.g. of MRI scans of the brain. Harris and others might believe that once this is done, philosophy will be obsolete. That, however, is code for "Never question the system, except on its own terms." In part, philosophy exists to question those terms.

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