What philosophers do … outside the academic world

As Rebecca Rosen says in The Atlantic“The romanticized version of what it’s like to be a philosopher must be one of the most appealing careers possible: read great thinkers, think deep thoughts, and while away the days in a beautiful office, surrounded by books, an Emeralite lamp, a hot mug of coffee, and perhaps a cat curled up by your feet.” But what about philosophers in the real world?

Helen De Cruz of New APPS: Art, Politics, Philosophy, Science interviewed seven philosophy Ph.D.s who have left academia for the private sector: Part 1: How and why do they end up outside academia?Part 2: What’s it like to have a nonacademic job?, and Part 3: Transferrable skills and concrete advice.

As Zachary Ernst, a software engineer at Narrative Science, puts it,  “As a professional philosopher, if you haven’t gotten over-specialized and narrow, then you’ve got really good analytic and communication skills. So you’ve got the ability to learn quickly and efficiently. You’re also in the habit of being very critical of all sorts of ideas and approaches to a variety of problems. And if you’ve taught a lot, then you’re probably pretty comfortable with public speaking. Those skills are very rare in almost any workforce, and they’re extremely valuable.”

 

Happy … the Epicurus mix

Alain de Botton says that while previous philosophers wanted to know how to be good, Epicurus wanted to know how to be happy.  “Even today, Epicurus remains an indispensable guide to life in advanced consumer capitalist societies because advertising – on which this system is based – functions on cleverly muddling people up about what they think they need to be happy. An extraordinary number of adverts focus on the three very things that Epicurus identified as false lures of happiness: romantic love, professional status and luxury.”

Why physicists talk to philosophers … Part 4

Ivette Fuentes explains: “Science and philosophy share common goals. They aim at developing and deepening our understanding of reality, at uncovering the basic constituents of the Universe and its fundamental laws. Science and philosophy also share a common past. … But the overlap between science and philosophy is not only a matter of the past. In our present search for knowledge there are many moments in which the lines between them blur. Every single scientific theory and philosophical exploration starts with questions and with reflection upon them. Basic ideas are produced in order to provide answers to these questions. These ideas are developed though critical and logical thinking. At this point science and philosophy are indistinguishable. …  Once a new scientific theory is proposed, it is not only confronted with experiments (when possible) but also to philosophical scrutiny. Once a theory is born, there is an unavoidable need to interpret the objects of the theory and its results. At this stage science and philosophy again come close together.”

Why physicists talk to philosophers … Part 3

Lee Smolin explains: “To aspire to be a revolutionary in physics, I would claim, it is helpful to make contact with the tradition of past revolutionaries.  But the lessons of that tradition are maintained not in the communities of fashionable science, with their narrow education and outlook, but in the philosophical community and tradition.  And that is why I talk with philosophers and encourage my students to do so.”

Why physicists talk to philosophers … Part 1

Sean Carroll explains: “Science often gives us models of the world that are more than good enough, in terms of getting answers that fit the data within the error bars, even though they might not be completely coherent or well-defined. But that’s not really what drives us to do science in the first place. We shouldn’t be happy to do ‘well enough,’ or merely fit the data – we should be striving to understand how the world really works. Our best chance of achieving that outlandish ambition is for science and philosophy to work together.”