What People Don't Get About My Job: The Philosopher

"I love being a philosopher, even though it may sound pretentious."

I am a philosopher. (And yes, even I cringe because of the pretension this statement seems to contain.) It would be better if I were also a philosophy professor, because then I could say I teach. But I don't teach philosophy. Teaching is only part of what a philosopher does. Research, which consists mainly of reading books and writing books, is also a small part of what I do. The bulk of what a philosopher does is think. I think about politics, art, society, culture, science, music, language, technology, teaching, ethics, literature, history, religion, and philosophy. And yes, I think about the meaning of life. But because I am a philosopher, I can't unquestioningly rely on the criteria from other fields as justification for either those fields themselves or for the value I find in them. Instead, I have to think about history, for example, without relying on historical methodology. I have to question the value of art without merely resorting to historical or aesthetic or theoretical justifications for that value. I love being a philosopher, even though it may sound pretentious. I wish there were more of us enamored with thinking.

We're asking readers to tell us what the public doesn't understand or appreciate about their jobs. Learn about the project here.


Presented by

Ballpoint Pen Art: An Experimental Animation

"The film is a cycle of twenty drawings. The same paper is filmed, pages one through twenty, over and over again."

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register with Disqus.

Please note that The Atlantic's account system is separate from our commenting system. To log in or register with The Atlantic, use the Sign In button at the top of every page.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

The Absurd Psychology of Restaurant Menus

Would people eat healthier if celery was called "cool celery?"

Video

This Japanese Inn Has Been Open For 1,300 Years

It's one of the oldest family businesses in the world.

Video

What Happens Inside a Dying Mind?

Science cannot fully explain near-death experiences.

Video

Is Minneapolis the Best City in America?

No other place mixes affordability, opportunity, and wealth so well.

More in Business

Just In