What Good is a Philosophy Degree?

There’s one question I always dread. “So what are you majoring in?” Because as soon as I tell them, they ask me, “So what kind of job do you expect to get with that?!” You see, I’m a philosophy major. I read books by old dead white guys about all the things no one else bothers to think about anymore. I read about morality and freedom and “being.” I go over all the arguments for and against the existence of inalienable rights. I actually care if we have an accurate idea of the things we base our ENTIRE lives around. And then someone asks me what kind of job I expect to get? ABSOLUTELY NONE! There, I said it. There is no one out there who hires someone to read old books and tell them if they are “being” correctly. I’m still not even sure what it means for someone “to be,” so I certainly hope no one expects me to tell them this. I have no plans or expectations of getting a job in my field of study because there ARE none! But I don’t study philosophy to get a job. I’m sorry, but I think that’s a little shallow. Hey, look at me, I’ve learned one or two skills and now I expect people to pay me to do them over and over and over again. I’m sorry, but I hope it doesn’t take me four years to learn to do anything purely mechanical. I want to learn to think, to make good choices, and to be a better person. I want to improve myself so when I do get a job, those few skills I do need to learn come easily, and I actually understand WHY I have to do things one way instead of another. Excuse me if this seems a little irrational. I just sort of assumed that the point of college was to grow and mature, not to drink as much beer and vodka as humanly possible. Not to get a tattoo that will stretch and fade over the years until no one’s entirely sure whose name that is, or why it’s stenciled on my butt. Me, I’d like to learn to be a decent human being, someone who knows right from wrong, and why right IS right. I think I can get that better with a philosophy degree than with something more “practical.” Don’t get me wrong, we need people like you all, who fill out the work force and mindlessly obey authority because they just happen to write out your paycheck every few weeks. We need people to do the “real” work of running the country. But I’d rather be one of the people who questions authority, and has an actual hand in what we end up doing. I’d rather be the guy writing the checks than the one receiving them. Call me crazy, but I think that’s a better position to strive for. And I won’t ever get there if I study just to be some kind of skilled labor. You be practical; I’ll be human.