Here is a list of the most useful and useless college majors:
The top 10 most useful college majors:
2. Mechanical engineering
3. Electrical engineering
4. Civil engineering
5. Computer science
7. Marketing and marketing research
10. French, German, Latin and other common foreign languages.
The top 10 most useless college majors:
1. Fine Arts
2. Drama and theater arts
3. Film, video and photographic arts
4. Commercial art and graphic design
6. Philosophy and religious studies
7. English literature and language
9. Anthropology and archeology
10. Hospitality management
Philosophy comes in at #6 of the useless. Those who fill their belly from teaching philosophy (or rather from conducting philosophy classes, which is not the same) will be strongly tempted to defend philosophy by arguing that it really is useful after all.
I say that's a mistake. I take the classical line. Of course philosophy is useless, and therein lies its nobility and dignity. The merely utile is ancillary to the non-utile. Failure to appreciate this shows a lack of nobility of soul. What follows is the meat of my Should One Stoop to a Defense of Philosophy?
What I object to . . . is the notion that philosophy needs to justify itself in terms of an end external to it, and that its main justification is in terms of an end outside of it. The main reason to study philosophy is not to become a more critical reasoner or a better evaluator of evidence, but to grapple with the ultimate questions of human existence and to arrive at as much insight into them as is possible. What drives philosophy is the desire to know the ultimate truth about the ultimate matters. Let's not confuse a useful byproduct of philosophical study (development of critical thinking skills) with the goal of philosophical study. The reason to study English literature is not to improve one's vocabulary or to prepare for a career as a journalist. Similarly, the reason to study philosophy is not to improve one's ability to think clearly about extraphilosophical matters or to acquire skills that may prove handy in law school.
Philosophy is an end in itself. This is why it is foolish to try to convince philistines that it is good for
something. It is not primarily good for something. It is a good in itself. Otherwise you are acquiescing in the philistinism you ought to be combating. Is listening to the sublime adagio movement of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony good for something? And what would that be, to impress people with how cultured you are?
To the philistine's "Philosophy bakes no bread" you should not respond "Yes it does," for such responses are patently lame. You should say, "Man does not live by bread alone," or "Not everything is pursued as a means to something else," or "A university is not a trade school." You should not acquiesce in the philistine's values and assumptions, but go on the attack and question his values and assumptions. Put him on the spot. Play the Socratic gadfly. If a philistine wants to know how much you got paid for writing an article for a professional journal, say, "Do you really think that only what one is paid to do is worth doing?"
Admittedly, this is a lofty conception of philosophy and I would hate to have to defend it before the uncomprehending philistines one would expect to find on the typical Board of Regents. But philosophy is what it is, lofty by nature, and if we are to defend it we must do so in a way that does not betray it.
It might be better, though, not to stoop to defend it at all, at least not before the uncomprehending. It might be better to show contempt and supercilious disdain. Not everyone can be reasoned with, and part of being reasonable is understanding this fact.