The Instigator
Sargon
Pro (for)
Winning
13 Points
The Contender
Raisor
Con (against)
Losing
10 Points

A philosophy degree is useful

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 5 votes the winner is...
Sargon
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 8/7/2013 Category: Society
Updated: 4 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 4,378 times Debate No: 36464
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (33)
Votes (5)

 

Sargon

Pro

Ave

This debate will be about whether a philosophy major is useful. The standard for usefulness will be 'A perfectly rational person would recognize it as useful'. The winner of the debate will be the person who proves their case beyond a preponderance of the evidence. General DDO expectations of conduct should be followed. The first round is for acceptance.

Vale
Raisor

Con

I accept this debate, while observing that usefulness is defined by Pro in such a way that the definition of "useful" is left ambiguous. The definition of "useful" is therefore a fair point of contention in this debate.
Debate Round No. 1
Sargon

Pro

Ave

Preliminary Note

The framework defines useful as what a perfectly rational person would recognize as useful. This allows us to avoid epistemological issues about what qualifies as useful and not useful. I also did this to prevent anybody from accepting the debate and arguing that the resolution cannot stand because usefulness is subjective. If Con had scruples about this definition, then he should have posted a comment asking me questions, or sent a PM. If you do not agree with the framework of a debate, then do not accept it. Con has no right to accept a debate and then dispute the framework of it. That’s standard DDO conduct.

Philosophy major and salary

It seems that popular consensus has ruled philosophy as a useless major. This is not surprising, considering the media’s constant bashing of it. Anyone would be hard-pressed to find an article about the most useless majors without philosophy on it [1].

The median starting salary for a philosophy major isn’t nearly as bad as it’s made out to be. It’s 39,800 dollars [2]. The median starting salary for all majors is 44,928 dollars[3]. Put in that context, reports of how low the starting salary is are greatly exaggerated. Sure, it’s slightly below average, but this is mitigated by the mid-career salary.

The mid-career salary is better than most careers that are thought of as practical. The mid-career salary of the average philosophy major is 72, 600 dollars [4]. According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average cost of living a year is 20 thousand.[5] The average wage in the United States is 42 thousand dollars.[6] This entails that, as a mid-career philosophy major, you will make thirty thousand more dollars than the average wage, and have plenty of money to take care of yourself. You will make more money than biologists, nurses, zoologists, business majors, psychologists, criminal justice majors, and plenty of other majors.[7] You will make more mid-career than somebody with a Bachelors in Business Administration, yet philosophy is called a useless and impractical major, while BBA and MBA are frequently cited as one of the best degrees to get. [8]

Philosophy major and life skills

Philosophy majors score higher on the Graduate Record Examinations. This is the test you take before you apply to graduate school. University-Michigan Flint notes the following facts about philosophy majors scores on this test:

1: Philosophy students score higher than every other major in the Humanities and Arts, higher than every major in the Social Science, higher than every major in the Life Sciences, higher than every major in Education, higher than every major in Business, and higher than every major listed under "Other Fields." In fact, Philosophy students score higher than four out of the six majors listed in Physical Sciences, and five out of the seven listed in Engineering.

2: Students declaring an intention to go to graduate school in Philosophy have a higher mean score on the Verbal section of the GRE than any other major in any of the fields listed (mean score: 589)

3: Students declaring an intention to go to graduate school in Philosophy get the third highest mean scores of any major on the Analytical section of the GRE (mean: 625)

4: Compare the GRE mean scores with other popular pre-Law majors: Philosophy (overall mean: 1807), Political Science (overall mean: 1641), Communications (overall mean: 1505), Public Administration (overall mean: 1450). Now, which looks to you to be the best training for pre-Law? None of these majors did better than Philosophy students on any of the three sections of the GRE. [9]

This proves that a philosophy major will make you better at speaking and verbal skills, as well as analytic abilities. That's a useful skill for any job you have in life, no matter what it may be.

Here's a quote from a man who works for Carnegie Mellon University directing career development: "W
hen we talk with employers who come and recruit at the university, every year the No. 1 skill they look for is communication, verbal and written. That continues to be the No. 1 [attribute] in addition to problem-solving, team work, the ability to think creatively, applying technology and interpersonal skills." [10]

No doubt, a philosophy major helps you with those things.

Philosophy major and employment

Some people say that a philosophy major will make it hard to find a job. However, I quote New Mexico State University to the contrary: "For millennia students of philosophy have been lampooned for having their “heads in the clouds. Empirical research suggests otherwise: philosophy majors do very well in the corporate world. In general, philosophy majors tend to have little trouble finding jobs, with a 98.9% employment rate." [11]

Philosophy major and the quest for knowledge

One of the most obvious benefits to getting a philosophy major is the amount of knowledge you’ll receive from it. Philosophy is reasoning about the nature of reality in the broadest sense possible. Philosophy entails the philosophy of physics, the philosophy of history, the philosophy of philosophy, the philosophy of religion, the philosophy of mind, the philosophy of ethics, the philosophy of art, the philosophy of language, etc. One can read about these things without a philosophy major, but the easiest and best way to obtain knowledge of these fields is a philosophy major.

Philosophy permeates our everyday life, so a philosophy major should be useful. it. A basic statement such as "If it is raining, you should bring an umbrella. It is raining, therefore you should bring an umbrella" is philosophy! When we reason about ethics, we are using philosophy. How were my actions right or wrong? What is the appropriate punishment in this given situation? Is abortion right or wrong? Ethical questions entail the use of philosophy. Politics also entails philosophy. We debate the role of government in our society every day. Should it be small, large, intrusive, non-intrusive? This is basic political philosophy. We also use reasoning in our everyday lives. We debate sports teams, issues, disagreements between people, etc.

Conclusion
Decent starting salary, higher mid-career salary than a Business Administration major, gaining important analytic, language, and reasoning skills, 98.9% unemployment rate, and learning about the nature of reality. What’s not useful about that?

Vale

References
[1] I did a google search for ‘’top 10 useless majors’’. The top results included philosophy majors.
[2] http://philosophy.unc.edu...
[3] http://www.naceweb.org...
[4] http://www.payscale.com...
[5] ftp://ftp.bls.gov/pub/special.requests/ce/standard/2008/age.txt
[6] http://en.wikipedia.org...
[7] Consult reference four.
[8] http://businessmajors.about.com...
[9] http://www.umflint.edu...
[10] http://www.post-gazette.com...
[11] http://www.nmsu.edu...
Raisor

Con

Framework

I fully accept all of Pro’s definition, I am just pointing out how open ended the definition is considering Pro used the word he was defining within the definition he provided.

I would also like to point out that is Pro’s job to uphold the resolution “A philosophy degree is useful” and my job to refute it. I do not need to show that a philosophy degree is useless, only that it is not useful. A bent nail might be able to serve some purpose on a construction site, but a carpenter would not say a bent nail is useful.

Whether a thing is useful depends on the context of the thing and the viable alternatives. A hammer without a handle may be able to bludgeon nails in a cumbersome fashion and so might be useful if you need to hang a picture and have no other tools. Such a hammer would not be useful on a construction site with many functional hammers and a large number of nails in need of bludgeoning.


Philosophy Major and Salary


Pro’s statistics are almost entirely incorrect. His source for philosophy-related stats is “payscale.com,” a site which relies on user-submitted surveys to generate its data.


A more accurate study conducted by Georgetown University based on U.S. census bureau gives a more accurate picture of the employment prospects of philosophy students. [1] The study shows:


-High unemployment (9.8%) compared to the average unemployment rate for all college majors (7.9%)


-Extremely low initial salary of $29,000 and sub-pay experienced salary of $48,000


I'm going to group Pro’s employment rate argument here- his source for the 98.9% is just a claim form a state university’s philosophy page without any explanation of where that number came from or what it means. It’s a useless number tossed out with no context.


Pro’s comparisons to other majors are whack. For example, Pro claims philosophy puts you in better standing than a nursing degree, despite incredibly low unemployment in nursing (4.6%) and a starting salary (48k) comparable with the long-term philosophy pay.


The data shows that as a means of gaining employment and earning money, philosophy greatly underperforms other college majors. In this capacity, philosophy is a hammer without a handle- it might be of some use but it certainly is not useful.


Finally, the odds of finding a job that actually puts your philosophy degree to use are slim-to-none. Employment for a philosophy major is likely to be found in business, finance, or marketing, all jobs where your fantasy football picks will be more relevant to career success than you senior thesis on hermeneutics will. Even in a best-case scenario, philosophy is a degree which could be forgotten about completely post-graduation without hindering career success, showing that the degree is not useful.


Useful degrees, such as a degree in finance, confer knowledge which is utilized long after graduation. The degree comes in handy throughout an individual’s life, often prompting the individual to reflect “This degree sure is useful!”

Utility of a degree isnt just a measure of whether it can get you a job or not. Architecture currently has an abysmal unemployment rate, but it is still a useful degree. This is because an architecture degree gives graduates in depth technical knowledge and improves design abilities. The same cannot be said of philosophy majors.

Philosophy Major and Life Skills


First, Pro’s tries to make the leap between high GRE skills and valuable skills for employment, but this is a red herring. The story about whether philosophy creates marketable skills is fully told by the degree’s poor employment and earnings statistics.

Second, high GRE scores don’t show that you have the communication and analytical skills to succeed in life, they just show that you had the skills needed to score high on a test. This is why grad schools rely on a number of factors to evaluate applicants.

Third, even if philosophy gives you decent communication skills, it doesn’t follow that the degree is useful. The degree itself isn’t what is useful, it’s the offshoot abilities that are useful. If I learn to juggle with rocks and in the process get totally jacked so that I can do hard menial labor, we wouldn’t say that makes juggling useful.


A doctor would never explain the usefulness of her medical school training by pointing out how great his memorization skills became through the course of earning her degree, she would lay out all the great services she is able to render thanks to the knowledge she obtained while earning the degree. Pro cannot justify a philosophy degree as useful without defending the “philosophy” aspect of the degree.


Philosophy Major and the Quest for Knowledge


Even if Pro wins that knowledge of philosophy is useful, to win this debate he most prove that a degree in philosophy is useful. He needs to show how spenidng thousands of dollars and years of study in the field is better than personal study alongside a useful degree like engineering.

Pro gives no explanation of how the philosophical quest for knowledge is useful, he just says a philosophy degree helps with this quest.

The philosophical quest for knowledge isn’t useful. The overwhelming majority of human activity requires no philosophical introspection. The example Pro gives proves this- when it is raining outside, no one stands around contemplating the whether or not “wetness” is a universal or not. People just grab the umbrella and walk out the door.

Even in the few instances where philosophy becomes relevant, a philosophy degree is not useful. People contemplate hard ethical decisions without being philosophy majors and very few politicians are philosophy majors.

In contrast to useful majors, Philosophical issues do not inspire people to turn to individuals with accredited degrees. When my computer breaks, I call up my friend with a computer engineering degree because I know that his degree will be quite useful in solving my problem. In contrast, people do not seek out individuals with philosophy degrees when facing hard philosophical questions. This is a clear indication that most rational people do not find philosophy degrees to be useful.


Having a philosophy degree doesn’t put you ahead on the quest for knowledge. Most people with an interest in such a quest are capable of studying philosophy on their own. Resources for the study of philosophy are plentiful- books about philosophy, books explaining other books about philosophy, free online lectures, podcasts, documentaries, etc.


Pro responds that a major in philosophy is the “easiest and best way” to learn philosophy, but this is patently false. A philosophy major entails 4 years of education at a college or university. This means to earn a philosophy degree, the individual must sacrifice 4 years of their life and accumulate a small fortune in debt for the privilege. Once earning the degree, the philosophy grad then gets to work for low pay while struggling to pay off the small fortune of debt. A major in philosophy is certainly not an easy way of learning philosophy.


A better way would be to get a useful degree, study philosophy during leisure time, graduate and get a decent job, then continue philosophical studies while working a career that actually makes use of the degree you paid thousands of dollars for.


Conclusion


A philosophy degree is not useful.


[1] http://www9.georgetown.edu...

[2] http://www.theguardian.com...
Debate Round No. 2
Sargon

Pro

Ave

Framework

I apologize if I was “jumpy” about the framework. I didn’t want the debate to be taken places it wasn’t supposed to go. My fears were wrong, however, so let’s get into the debate.

Philosophy major and salary

1) The two articles I gave were part of a year-long study conducted by payscale which tracked the salaries of 1.2 million people with bachelors degrees who did not go on to get their masters.[1] It is true that they collected this information from those people using a survey.[2] Con does not provide any references that indicate problems with this methodology. The description of my statistics as inaccurate is therefore just his opinion. The study conducted cannot be accurately described as user-submitted, because the people conducting the study went to the employees, not the other way around. Any reference about the inaccuracy of user-submitted data would be a red herring.

2) Con references a study by Georgetown University called “Hard Times: College Majors, Unemployment, and Earnings”. According to Con, this study says that the starting salary of a philosophy major is a mere $29,000, with an unemployment rate of 9.8%. If you read the reference he provided, this statistic is actually for Philosophy & Religious Studies majors combined, not philosophy majors. The statistic comes from the US Census Bureau, which combines philosophy majors with religion majors when they calculate starting and median salaries. [3] This statistic is not representative of the starting salary for philosophy majors, but philosophy and religious majors combined, meaning that the average salary for philosophy is brought down by being combined with religious studies. Con has yet to provide a reference which talks about philosophy majors specifically.


3) In my last round, I noted that mid-career philosophy majors make more than biologists, nurses, zoologists, business majors, psychologists, and criminal justice majors. Con takes this argument out of context. He tries to show that nursing majors are better off than philosophy majors using statistics that relate to starting salary and employment. Con quietly switches from mid-career to starting in order to take down an argument I never made. The only justification for his assertion that the starting salary for a nursing major is more than the long-term pay for a philosophy major is the study mentioned earlier, but as I showed, that has nothing to do with philosophy majors alone.


4) Con says the data proves philosophy is behind other majors when it comes to getting income and a job. This is not the case, as the study I provided shows that philosophy majors make more than people with a BBA (mid-career), which is frequently cited as one of the best degrees for income and employment. The study he provided is useless because it combines philosophy with religious studies, and does not have any data on philosophy alone.


5) The last three paragraphs from Con in regards to this argument are purely his opinion, as no references are provided to substantiate his assertions.



Philosophy major and life skills
1) Con argues that connecting GRE scores and valuable skills for getting a job is disproven by the data on philosophy majors and employment. This argument depends on the previous study he referenced, which I demonstrated to be irrelevant. The quote from Carnegie Mellon University describes the traits that employers are looking for, and the GRE scores show that philosophy majors have those valuable traits.

2) I haven’t said that GRE scores alone prove you have the verbal and analytical skills to succeed in life. I have only said that philosophy majors score higher on these tests by huge margins, which is proof that philosophy majors build these skills. These skills are helpful for employment, which is proven by the provided quote.


3) Con argues that even if a philosophy major gives you these skills, it does not make the degree useful. That statement can’t be described as anything else but absurd. The philosophy major is the sufficient reason as to why the person has gained those skills. Part of the utility of the major is that you gain those skills from it, which can be helpful when getting a job or going about everyday life.


4) If a doctor who had just graduated medical school were asked to list all of the things she gained from her degree, the improved memory would no doubt be on that list. She might put it below the obvious benefits like saving lives, but this does not entail that improved memory was not a benefit of the degree.



Philosophy major and the quest for knowledge
1) The argument that a philosophy major helps you with knowledge and understanding reality is part of a cumulative case. I am not trying to affirm the resolution based on this fact alone, but a number of other facts combined.

2) The argument that Con gives against philosophy being useful can be reduced to absurdity. An overwhelming amount of human activity requires no thought about physics. When it’s raining and thundering, nobody thinks about the fact that water is two parts hydrogen and one part oxygen, or electrostatic phenomena. People simply, as Con puts it, get an umbrella and walk outside of the door. Does this mean that physics and its quest for knowledge are not useful? The answer is clearly "no". I argue that physics, just like philosophy, is useful for how much it tells us about reality.


3) The fact that people think about ethics without philosophy majors is irrelevant. I was not arguing that a philosophy major is a necessary condition for thinking about ethics or government. I was only arguing that it would improve your thinking about these subjects.



4) I stated in my last round that a major in philosophy is the best and easiest way of learning about philosophy. Con responds by listing the things you have to do for a philosophy major, such as student loans and four years in college. This doesn’t matter to my case. I was not arguing that getting the major was easy, just that it was the easiest way of learning philosophy. He describes a philosophy graduate as working for low pay, but that’s based on a study that I already demonstrated to be irrelevant. The only alternative way of learning philosophy that Con suggests is to read books and other material on the subject. I preemptively answered this argument in my last round. The best that reading philosophy can do is give you a layman's understanding of it. I cannot have a fully informed opinion on philosophy from reading it in the same way that I don't become a physicist because I've read popular science. Reading on your own time is simply not an adequate substitute from learning about philosophy in a college setting with philosophy professors. This is why getting a philosophy major is the best way of learning philosophy.

Concluding Points
1: Con has not provided any good reasons for why the study I cited is inaccurate. It's just his opinion, no references.
2: The Georgetown University study cited by Con cannot be applied to this debate because it comes philosophy majors with religion majors, meaning that the numbers aren't specific to philosophy majors.
3: Despite Con's objections, getting a major in philosophy is still the easiest and best way of learning it.
4: Con's argument against philosophy being applied to everyday life is a straw man, because I did not say that a philosophy major is a necessary condition for talking about ethics or government, just that it helps you with doing so.
5: Con's other argument against philosophy being applied to everyday life can be reduced to absurdity if you apply it to physics.
6: The philosophy major is a sufficient cause of gaining life skills such as analytic abilities, communication, etc, which can help you secure a job.

Vale



References

1: http://online.wsj.com...
2: http://www.payscale.com...
3: http://www.oswego.edu...

Raisor

Con


Framework


Pro functionally concedes my framework.


Philosophy Major and Salary


Even if I concede that Pro’s data is correct, it still doesn’t show that a philosophy degree is useful. Pro’s source ranks a philosophy degree 58 out of 130, placing it firmly in the middle of the pack. The ranking is based only on mid-career salary and neglects the huge disadvantage of a low starting salary. A low starting salary means that even if your mid-career salary is decent, over your lifetime you make less money. According to Pro a nursing degree is less useful because the mid-career salary is $1400 less than in philosophy. But the starting nursing salary is $14,300 more than philosophy! In the 15 years it takes a philosophy major to catch up to a nursing major, the nursing major will have made $100k more than the philosophy major (assuming linear pay increase).


The end-all of this is that at best Pro’s data makes philosophy a mediocre degree. If your goal is to choose a major to make a lot of money, philosophy isn’t very useful. Many other degrees will serve this purpose much better.


Enabling grads to get jobs in unrelated fields doesn’t make a philosophy degree useful. I did provide a source on this, I just forgot to place the citation in text- it’s my R2 [2]. University of Kent lists sales and secretarial positions as typical occupations for philosophy majors [1]. Apparently Pro thinks I need a source to show that philosophical knowledge isn’t relevant to secretarial work, but I would challenge Pro to explain how in-depth knowledge of Kant’s epistemology will ever be used in a typical office job.


The fact that knowledge from a philosophy degree will never be used post-employment shows that simply having a college degree is what is useful. This means that at best Pro has case that “having a college degree is useful,” but what Pro needs to show is that having a philosophy degree specifically is useful. The baseline usefulness of a college degree isn’t at question, so showing that a philosophy degree is an average performing degree doesn’t show that a philosophy degree is useful.


Pro’s source doesn’t contest my unemployment stat. Even if I concede Pro’s source, philosophy still performs much worse than the average college degree in terms of employment.


But my stats are better! Payscale.com gets its data from people who go to the website and fill out a survey in exchange for access to information on the website [2]. This opens up the data set to severe selection bias. The philosophy majors self-reporting to payscale are more likely those with high-paying jobs looking for competitive salaries. The philosophy major waiting tables probably isn’t going to payscale to fill out surveys. Payscale even admits to sample bias The median salaries tend to represent characteristics of large state university graduates, since these schools have the largest attendance” [4].


Pro claims my source is skewed because religious studies bring down the wages in my stats. Accounting for this, comparing the studies shows that payscale overestimates wages. Payscale puts religious studies at 34.9k and philosophy at 38.3k, while Georgetown put philosophy and religious studies at 29k. This means payscale overestimates the lower religious studies salary by 23%. A comparison with reported salaries from Virginia Tech ($28k) confirms the Georgetown results [3].


Con misinterprets my comparison of nursing salary. I only point out that per the Georgetown study, a nursing starting salary is what a philosophy major could expect mid-career.


I won’t go through a comparison of BBA and MBA. Maybe business degrees are overrated; this doesn’t show a philosophy degree is useful. What is important is that in both data sets philosophy performs somewhere between very poorly and on the poor side of average.


Philosophy Major and Life Skills


Pro’s whole argument is that philosophy gives you communication skills which can be helpful getting and doing well at a career. This means the whole argument collapses into the above argument of how well philosophy prepares you for employment.


Also, cross-apply all my arguments about learning philosophy independently. If the study of philosophy yields such great benefits, there is no reason individuals can’t get these skills without getting an actual degree.


1) If businesses valued the communication skills specific to philosophy majors they wouldn’t have a terrible unemployment rate. If GRE scores were relevant to these skills, it would be common place for employers to request GRE scores.


2) Pro concedes GRE scores don’t prove real world skills. He needs to show GRE scores indicate greater capacity for real world skills to win this point.


3) Communication skills aren’t the focus of a philosophy degree; you don’t get a philosophy degree by having good communication skills. I could communicate spectacularly about how much I enjoy the Twilight books but this won’t earn me a philosophy degree. Communication skills are non-unique to philosophy and so don’t make the degree itself useful.


Pro’s argument makes nearly every activity “useful” by virtue of any generic component that could possibly be useful, ruining any meaningful discussion. Tearing pages out of books exercises my arm and improves manual dexterity, so I guess Pro would say that’s a useful activity.


Even if Pro is right that gaining communication skills makes a degree useful, other degrees that teach you valuable skills intrinsically AND teach you communication would still be better degree choices and would be more useful. As I explained in my R2 framework, if philosophy isn’t contextually one of the best-going options, it isn’t useful.


4) Improved memory isn’t what makes a medical degree useful. I don’t dispute it is a side benefit to the degree, but no one would justify their degree in virtue of this benefit. Useful degrees are justified by subjects germane to the degree- in this case medical knowledge. A philosophy degree can’t be justified in this way; Pro demonstrates this by resorting to non-unique skills to justify the field.


Philosophy Major and the Quest for Knowledge


Pro drops my argument that rational people don’t find philosophy degrees useful. This is evidenced by the fact that people don’t seek out people with philosophy degrees in the face of philosophical problems.


2) Pro made the claim “philosophy permeates everyday life,” and I refuted it. Physics is useful for other reasons like telephones and electricity.


3) Pro concedes a philosophy degree isn’t necessary for philosophical contemplation. He contends it “improves” your ability to do so but offers no evidence of this, no explanation for how an improved ability matters in any tangible way.


4) Pro claims learning on your own time is an inadequate way to learn philosophy, but doesn’t offer any warrant for why. Considering the overwhelming majority of philosophical issues are dealt with by lay individuals it seems like lay-philosophy would be adequate for the overwhelming majority of people.


Given that most philosophy majors won’t utilize their “adequate” philosophical understanding in their jobs or any more than a lay-person studying philosophy would, it is unclear how a degree in philosophy is more useful than personal study.


Pro gives a perfect example of how a useful degree is different from philosophy. Knowledge of physics requires years of training before you are able to complete difficult tasks like designing nuclear reactors- without this in depth training you will fail at your job. In contrast, the jobs philosophy majors take don’t require the years of training in philosophy to complete them. The philosophical knowledge isn’t useful beyond what a layman could know.


[1] http://www.kent.ac.uk...


[2] http://www.payscale.com...


[3]http://www.career.vt.edu...


[4] http://www.payscale.com...


Debate Round No. 3
Sargon

Pro

Ave

Philosophy major and salary

1) You'll remember that in my last round I pointed out the flaws with using the Georgetown University study in this debate. The flaw was that the study combines philosophy majors with religion majors, meaning that the statistic is not specific to philosophy majors. For example, if the average salary of a philosophy was fifty thousand, and the average salary of a religious studies major was forty-five thousand, the study would list the average salary of philosophy and religion majors as 47.5 thousand dollars a year.

2) Con seems to agree with point 1. However, he argues back by saying that it still means a philosophy major has a 13% unemployment rate. This is not true, because that number has the same problems with the starting salary. It is an average of philosophy majors and religion majors, not a statement about philosophy majors on their own. If the unemployment rate of philosophy majors is 5% and the unemployment rate of religion majors is 15% percent, then the study would say that the unemployment rate for philosophy and religion majors is 10%, which clearly says nothing about philosophy majors on its own.

3) Con says that the Georgetown University study is verified by another study done by Virginia Tech. This reference was even more of a red herring than the first one! The Virginia Tech report deals with the average salary of philosophy majors who graduated from Virginia Tech. It has absolutely nothing to do with the average starting salary of people with philosophy majors. I encourage everyone reading this debate to read Con's reference, and it will be clear that the VT study is a complete red herring.


4) The "problems" that Con points out with the payscale study are irrelevant. Researchers understand that there is no perfect methodology, so they calculate a margin of error to account for this. The margin of error for the study conducted by payscale is listed as five percent[1]. This means that the range for starting salaries, when the margin of error is considered, is between 37, 810 and 41, 790. This does not allow for the starting salary of 29k mentioned by Con. The median salary is between 68, 970 and 76, 230. This does not allow for the median salary of 48k mentioned by Con. Even if you incorporate the flaws in the methodology listeed by Con, it does not harm the statistics I gave, but it does make his impossible.

5) Con argues against something I never said. I never said that a nursing major is less useful than a philosophy major. The statement I gave in my opening round was that according to my statistics, the median salary of a philosophy major is higher than that of a nursing major. That's all I had to say in comparing the two.

6) My statistics are therefore better than Con's. Payscale may have some small flaws with methodology, but that's true of all studies, and once you incorporate those flaws, my case still stands. The first study cited by Con has nothing to do with philosophy majors for reasons already stated. The second study cited by Con deals with VT graduates only, not philosophy majors in general. Con has therefore failed to provide a single relevant reference on salaries for the entire debate. Sadly, he can't provide some relevant statistics in the next round, as that would be a violation of conduct.

7) Even if you're not convinced by the argument I gave for point four, payscale is the only statistic left standing at the end of the debate.

Philosophy major and life skills
1) Con says that if a philosophy major helped you gain skills that led to employment, they would not have such high unemployment rates. This assertion is based on the studies he provided, but these are all red herrings, as demonstrated earlier.


2) Con says that I conceded that GRE scores alone don't indicate you have life skills. Well, I object to that, because
you can't concede a point you never made. I restated the real point I was trying to make in my last round.

3) I think a probabilistic argument can be made about GRE scores. If you score higher than other majors by large margins in regards to analytic and communication skills, then you probably posses those skills in reality. Some people may disparage that as "only passing a test", or some such statement, but it's almost obvious that you can't beat other majors so badly if you don't have those skills outside of the test.

4) Learning communication skills isn't the point of a philosophy major. I haven't said as much. My point was that a philosophy major vastly improves communication skills, which helps you with getting a job and life in general. Learning communication is not unique to philosophy majors, but what is unique to philosophy majors is that they crush the other majors on the GRE when it comes to communication. A higher mean score on the Verbal section of the GRE than any other major. Scoring higher than four out of six physical science majors, and four of seven engineering majors (on the general test). Think about it.

5) Ripping books makes you stronger, but it's not practical. With a philosophy major, you improve your skills in a practical way, because you have a major that has a decent starting salary and a higher mid-career salary than BBA's and nurses.

6) Con's argument about ripping books is not parallel to my argument, because the skills you get from learning philosophy are part of a cumulative case for its usefulness, while the fact that you get stronger from ripping books is the only thing that could lead you to think it's useful.


Philosophy major and the quest for knowledge
1) There is no evidence presented that most rational people don't find a philosophy degree useful. The best you could do is provide a poll about people's opinions on philosophy majors, but that says nothing about whether they're rational people or not.

2) There is an important difference between majoring in philosophy and studying it on your own time. A potential employer wants verification of your skills when you apply to a job. Saying that you are qualified because you read books carries no weight because there is no certification of that statement. A degree from an accredited university indicating that you completed a four year philosophy program is certification of your skills. It is possible that a person could get the same skills you get from a major in philosophy on their own time, but employers aren't going to take your word for it.

3) Con acts like I conceded that a philosophy degree isn't necessary for discussing ethics or the role of government in society. Again, you can't concede a point you never made.

4) Con quotes me as saying that philosophy permeates everyday life. He says this is wrong because you never consult a philosopher like you would an engineer. Had he put my statements in context, it would be understood that I was talking about philosophical reasoning, as it was followed by numerous examples of how philosophical reasoning is part of our every day life.

5) Con claims that I provided no reasons to think that studying on your own is an inadequate way of learning philosophy. I provided such reasons in the previous round and they were not addressed.: "The best that reading philosophy can do is give you a layman's understanding of it. I cannot have a fully informed opinion on philosophy from reading it in the same way that I don't become a physicist because I've read popular science. Reading on your own time is simply not an adequate substitute from learning about philosophy in a college setting with philosophy professors. This is why getting a philosophy major is the best way of learning philosophy." Studying a subject on your own with no formal education is to have a layman's understanding by definition!

Vale

References
1: http://www.payscale.com...
( I understand that there is a larger margin of error listed for Ivy League schools, but this does not matter, as I am referring to the margin of error for the study in general.)
Raisor

Con

Leniency please on grammar and formatting, I only have 20 minutes or so to write this round.

OVERVIEW

Pro’s job in this round is to support the claim that philosophy is useful degree and he has attempted to do this by showing the usefulness of a philosophy degree in three areas- Career, Life Skills, and the Quest for Knowledge. As I refuted Pro’s contentions in these three areas and showed how a philosophy degree generally fell short of other alternatives, Pro consistently replied that each area on its own is not supposed to show a philosophy degree to be useful but is instead a component of a “cumulative case.”

If the success of Pro’s case rests on all his points working together in concert, then if I win that philosophy is decidedly un-useful in any of the above mentioned points then I have successfully refuted Pro’s case as a whole. Since Pro concedes that none of the individual areas alone shows philosophy to be useless, as he does when he says “I am not trying to affirm the resolution based on this fact alone, but a number of other facts combined,” he must win in every area for his cumulative case to stand.

Philosophy major and salary

Pro fails to engage in my multi-layer argument by ignoring all my arguments that assume his payscale arguments are correct. I pointed out that even taking payscale data at face value, philosophy is still a middle of the pack degree made worse by its poor starting salary. Even if we ignore the Georgetown study, a philosophy degree vastly underperforms the majority of other degrees- such a performance could not be called useful in any meaningful sense.

Pro also totally ignores my arguments that philosophy degree is useless because you will never USE it in your job. This point alone is totally ignored by Pro and disproves the resolution. How can a degree be useful if it is never used?


1) Pro ignores my analytic explaining how even accounting for the combination of philosophy and religious studies, the payscale data overestimates pay by AT LEAST 23%. Even under the best assumptions it is clear that payscale estimates are high, and this is exactly the results we would expect given the sample bias of the website.

2) Con offers no contradictory evidence to my unemployment rate evidence, so it is a fair stat to use.

3) I agree the VT study is not comprehensive- the only purpose was to show that other datasets agree closely with the Georgetown study. Only my data has any corroboration.


4) PRO DOES NOT UNDERSTAND WHAT A MARGIN OF ERROR IS. A margin of error just describes the inherent error in a given data set- it is a function of the raw data and nothing else. It explicitly does NOT account for sample bias! [1]

5) Nursing is just one example of how the majors Pro claims philosophy outperforms actually do much better than philosophy majors /

6) Payscale has admitted sample bias, clearly has self selection bias, and conflicts with other more reliable studies. The Georgetown study is universally more reliable.

7) Even if you only use payscale data, philosophy degree isn’t useful.

Philosophy major and life skills
1,2,3) I stand by my Georgetown stats- Pro has no reliable source to refute them, given payscale is mute on the subject. The GRE issue collapses into an issue of how useful employers find the skills philosophy supposedly develops. Pro can make a probabilistic argument but has no hard evidence to support the claims that philosophy develops skills in a manner that is useful in life, especially in light of poor employment and salary stats.

4) Pro concedes/ignores my argument that relying on generic skills that are developed well by a broad range of activities makes the word “useless,” well, useless. Pro needs to defend the intrinsic usefulness of a philosophy degree without relying on meta-skills that can be developed across fields.

Pro offers no response to my point that if philosophy is so great for developing these skills, there is no reason why individuals cant study philosophy independently and gain these skills. This is much more useful than spending thousands of dollars and 4 years on a degree.

5,6) PROS 5 PROVES THAT THIS ISUE COLLAPSES IN CAREER ISSUE. He justifies the practicality of philosophy by salary data. This is especially problematic because Pro is supposed to be building a cumulative case- but two of his arguments are identical!

Philosophy major and the quest for knowledge

Pro at no point offers concrete examples of how having a philosophy degree is useful in engaging real world philosophical examples. Every day experience shows that a degree is not useful- philosophical issues are almost universally dealt with by laypeople. Even the high profile issues that come up in politics are handled by people without philosophical training. Even if philosophy itself is useful, Pro does not offer any evidence that a degree in philosophy is useful.


1) People don’t find philosophy degrees useful, otherwise people would be seeking out the expertise of philosophy graduates on philosophical topics. This doesn’t happen- no one calls up their philosophy grad friends when contemplating whether their job is meaningful.


2) Pro claims a degree is important because employer want verification of your skills. This is true of actually useful degrees like physics and accounting, but as I showed earlier, most philosophy grads go into unrelated fields where they will never use their degree. Hence why philosophy is not useful.

4) I don’t disagree that philosophical reasoning might be a part of life every now and then, I disagree that a philosophy degree is needed to engage the occasional philosophical aspects of life. Pro hasn’t provided any evidence that a philosophy degree makes a meaningful impact on how people engage philosophical issues. Thus I contend that self study is more than adequate, especially considering the high financial and opportunity cost a philosophy degree represents.

5) I agree self study results in layman understanding. I claim layman understanding is generally adequate.

References
1:
http://en.wikipedia.org...

Debate Round No. 4
33 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by Sargon 4 years ago
Sargon
Good debate.
Posted by proglib 4 years ago
proglib
Good debate, folks!

Not sure yet, whether I'll have time to vote on this, having only read through to the third round.

I agree with Mr. Zohar's first point that the ball was dropped on the definition of useful.

For me, there was a little too much argument over salary. Beyond a certain level of comfort, money is really not a very good measure of usefulness. If I have time I'll provide a citation of a study showing that money and happiness are poorly correlated. [ ]
Posted by wrichcirw 4 years ago
wrichcirw
Correction on 4) - Although I didn't state it was a "heavy implication", but an "obvious line of thinking", I did NOT state that what I said I took as fact. It was just what was going through my mind when I read your statement.

I do allow myself to think when I read these debates, lol. I hope no one is offended by that. =)
Posted by wrichcirw 4 years ago
wrichcirw
On 4), again it was a heavy implication, not a solid fact.

On 9), this was quite literally simple division and multiplication. I don't see any "alternate causality" in my assertion here, nor do I see any need for additional evidence.

Anyway, if someone said that the water I'm drinking contained banana puree, as a judge, am I not allowed to think that I'm not drinking pure water? I think I am allowed to think so, even if that person did not make that actual assertion.
Posted by Sargon 4 years ago
Sargon
I'm talking about something I wrote on the comments.

I don't have any strong opinions on the resolution. I just wanted a challenge by going into a new topic. And wow, a challenge I was given!
Posted by Raisor 4 years ago
Raisor
wrichcirw,

4) and 9) are far cries from "1+1=2" conclusions. You literally came up with an alternate causality argument that even if made would require evidence, then presumed it to be true.
Posted by Raisor 4 years ago
Raisor
I just have a hard time keeping myself within the character limit without that added burden of politiness and civility.

Also, I do have a formal degree in philosophy, albeit a minor and not a full degree. I took this debate for the challenge and after finishing it didn't feel super great about it. I absolutely do think I won the payscale argument though :P
Posted by Sargon 4 years ago
Sargon
On another note, I'm disappointed that Raisor never responded to any of my comments about how good he was and how much I enjoyed the debate. Maybe it's not his style, but I did feel snuffed.
Posted by wrichcirw 4 years ago
wrichcirw
Anyway, I don't mind at all any direct challenges of my vote during the voting period, AS LONG AS THEY REMAIN CIVIL (not aimed at you).

I make mistakes too, and pointing them out only makes my RFD better. I'm not emotionally attached to my votes.
Posted by wrichcirw 4 years ago
wrichcirw
@raisor:

It was a good debate, although IMHO first impressions are very important, and the impression I got after round #2 heavily favored PRO.

4) I assume that a judge's perspective allows for rational assessment. If someone says "1+1", I allow myself to conclude "2".

Regardless, this was a very minor point. Many times I just write aloud what I'm thinking, even if my thoughts do not impact my vote, as was the case here.

5) I stated why I found them to be unconvincing.

7) Because I found your rebuttal to be unconvincing.

9) Again, 1+1. I allow myself to conclude "2". PRO easily brought out statistics that would allow any rational observer to conclude that rate of salary increases favored the philosophy major.

Would you rather I just said that I was not convinced by your argument?

10) Salary increases are irrelevant to this specific point.

11) How many philosophy majors were there? How many religious studies majors were there? Without a breakout, no conclusion can be reached. You CANNOT assume 50/50. It could be 10/90. It could be 90/10. Therefore, your Georgetown source was irrelevant IMHO.

12) I do not immediately see the relevancy of the point you're making here.

15) Would you rather I said that studying physics is not directly relevant to operating nuclear reactors, that it is obvious that a physics degree by itself is not adequate for such a job?

18) I simply did not find any reason to accept any of these assumptions. It is easily possible to have made this argument at the beginning of the debate. I don't see why you think this is not possible to do.

19, 20) Basically, I found the GRE analysis to be synonymous with reasoning skills acquired through study of philosophy. Perhaps this was a tad bit of a leap for me, but I know there are several portions of the GRE that deal with reasoning specifically, and that much of philosophy discusses reasoning specifically.
5 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 5 records.
Vote Placed by wrichcirw 4 years ago
wrichcirw
SargonRaisorTied
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Total points awarded:50 
Reasons for voting decision: see comments. Very strong performance by PRO.
Vote Placed by Eitan_Zohar 4 years ago
Eitan_Zohar
SargonRaisorTied
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Reasons for voting decision: RFD in comments.
Vote Placed by thett3 4 years ago
thett3
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Reasons for voting decision: Comments
Vote Placed by Rational_Thinker9119 4 years ago
Rational_Thinker9119
SargonRaisorTied
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Reasons for voting decision: The tipping scale for me was the argument about employment and salary. Con's objections seemed to miss the mark, and his source's relevance was questionable. While I think it was a very close debate (Raiser was a very good opponent), Sargon edged the debate due to having sources that actually supported his position.
Vote Placed by Magic8000 4 years ago
Magic8000
SargonRaisorTied
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Reasons for voting decision: RFD in comments.