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.”


Is that ethical? There’s an app for that

Making an ethical decision? Use this app.  The disclaimer on Santa Clara University’s new mobile app is forbidding: “In no event will we be liable for any loss or damage arising out of, or in connection with, the use of this website/app.” As the Chronicle of Higher Education puts it, “The Ethical Decision Making app is an attempt to bring applied ethics into 21st century. It is not so much a Magic 8_Ball as a pocket Socrates, which is to say the app asks more questions than it answers.”

Who should get to study philosophy?

In “Why teach Plato to plumbers?,” Scott Samuelson writes: “Once, when I told a guy on a plane that I taught philosophy at a community college, he responded, ‘So you teach Plato to plumbers?’ Yes, indeed. But I also teach Plato to nurses’ aides, soldiers, ex-cons, preschool music teachers, janitors, Sudanese refugees, prospective wind-turbine technicians, and any number of other students who feel like they need a diploma as an entry ticket to our economic carnival.” So why teach them Plato? “My answer is that we should strive to be a society of free people, not simply one of well-compensated managers and employees.”