July/August 2012

Meditations and Discourse on the Pursuit of Philosophical Studies - Part 1

Written by Catherine Cunningham

As a learned student of Philosophy, I have struggled with and explored many of the most perplexing questions of this era. Questions such as “Is there a God” “Is one’s mind synonymous with one’s body”, “Are we determined beings” etc.

At the risk of sounding immodest, I think I have managed to grasp and pontificate admirably on these problems and perhaps have even helped future generations in their quest for truth.

I am forced to admit though, that Philosophy still poses one problem which I am at a loss to answer. It is a question with which I am constantly confronted by my father. My father, incidentally, is not a philosopher, has no interest in philosophy and wonders if it was really he who conceived a daughter who studies philosophy. In short, my father thinks philosophy is a load of crap.

Still, I think there is hope of interesting him in the subject. He is obviously obsessed with this particular philosophical problem and insists on our discussing it at every possible opportunity. Certain professors in our renowned philosophy department are of the opinion that subjects such as God, the Mind, Morality etc. are of the most consequence to the average citizen. I feel compelled to argue (as is the duty of the philosopher). It has been my experience that when I have revealed the nature of my “studies” to my fellow man I am not asked about Socrates, Aristotle, Plato, Wittgenstein, Nietzsche, Kant etc (all with whom I am of course familiar). No, I am asked the most difficult question of all. The question with which philosophers have unsuccessfully struggled since Socrates discovered the science. What everybody, especially my beloved and demented father wants to know is “What kind of a job will you get out of this?

In this moment of altruism, I am prepared to reveal to my fellow student some of the defences of philosophical studies which I have postulated.

A certain philosophy lecturer once, in an effort to tackle this question told us about a former philosophy student who is now in corporate management. He said that the skills acquired in philosophy would be immensely valuable in any profession. so, as soon as the lecture finished, I dashed out, phoned my father and told him the story. For some reason he didn’t seem in the least impressed.

So what, he persists, can you do with a philosophy degree? Well, there are an infinite number of possibilities.

One could come back and do a post-grad in philosophy, an option, which I might add, is not available to non-philosophy graduates!

One can also come back and study for another degree, such a Banking and Finance, Human Nutrition, Social Administration etc. Naturally, the skills acquired in pursuing a degree in philosophy will be of tremendous benefit to the student.

Another alternative is to apply to the local factory for a job on the assembly line. Tasks which do not occupy the mind are best for people of a philosophical nature as they allow the freedom the speculate and explore while working. It is significant to note that a large proportion of philosophy graduates have “chosen” this type of work. One could always go around the world with a philosophy degree. I’m told by a reliable authority that it doesn’t carry much weight!

Another popular source of employment for many philosophy graduates is the ministry – so if all else fails …… (of course, it would be useful if one could manage to preserve one’s faith during one’s studies).

If one were really desperate, one could become a philosophy lecturer.

One could write a book on one’s philosophical speculations and discoveries. It should have a circulation of around ten, depending on the size of one’s immediate family.

Of course the number of books sold is irrelevant to the true Philosopher, who by nature is not interested in trivial things such as money, clothes, food, survival etc. No, such are not the inclinations of the Philosopher. All he asks for in life are his books and a bottle of vodka, the latter for inspirational purposes of course. I am sure that by this stage the reader, whether a student of philosophy or not, realises the superior nature of the Philosopher, and the subsequent moral responsibility to support and revere the Philosopher. To conclude, I must state that it is an insult to the status of the philosophy student to be queried about job prospects. It is immoral and extremely dangerous to distract his mind from higher things. It is obvious therefore, that the responsibility lies with the government to reward him for his genius, integrity and indispensable contribution to society.

© Catherine Cunningham 1991
Catherine Cunningham was a student at the University of Ulster, NORTHERN IRELAND