The philosopher of science and prominent blogger Massimo Pigliucci suggests that there are at least three practical uses to which academic philosophy can be put: ethics, logic, and philosophical counseling. Of the last, he writes, ‘In a sense, philosophical counseling is a return to what Socrates was doing back in the streets of Athens two and a half millennia ago.’
Give three examples of how academic philosophy is useful in the contemporary world.
Answer by Massimo Pigliucci
Let me begin by questioning the question (just like any good philosopher would do!). Why should academic philosophy be useful, and what do we mean by useful anyway? It is curious that the question of utility comes up in the context of philosophy, but not of most other — arguably equally ‘useless’ — academic fields. What is the usefulness to contemporary society of, say, studying literature, or music? Indeed, even much of the research in mathematics and science (those paragons of utility) conducted within the academy, is useless, in the sense of having no practical application. Yes, scientists’ excuse for getting multi-million dollar grants is that their research may, one day, as yet yield unforeseeable pragmatic payoffs. But as a matter of historical record, it doesn’t, and at any rate…
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