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The Guardian UK

I think, therefore I earn

Philosophy graduates are suddenly all the rage with employers. What can they possibly
have to offer?

Philosophy student Joe Cunningham: considering a future in medical ethics. Photograph:

Graham Turner"A degree in philosophy? What are you going to do with that then?"

Philosophy students will tell you they've been asked this question more times than they
care to remember.

"The response people seem to want is a cheery shrug and a jokey 'don't know'," says Joe
Cunningham, 20, a final-year philosophy undergraduate at Heythrop College, University
of London.

A more accurate comeback, according to the latest statistics, is "just about anything I

Figures from the Higher Education Statistics Agency show philosophy graduates, once
derided as unemployable layabouts, are in growing demand from employers. The number
of all graduates in full-time and part-time work six months after graduation has risen by
9% between 2002-03 and 2005-06; for philosophy graduates it has gone up by 13%.

It is in the fields of finance, property development, health, social work and the nebulous
category of "business" that those versed in Plato and Kant are most sought after. In
"business", property development, renting and research, 76% more philosophy graduates
were employed in 2005-06 than in 2002-03. In health and social work, 9% more.

The Higher Education Careers Services Unit (Hecsu), which also collates data of this
kind, agrees philosophers are finding it easier to secure work. Its figures show that, in
2001, 9.9% of philosophy graduates were unemployed six months after graduation. In
2006, just 6.7% were. On average, 6% of all graduates were unemployed six months after

In 2001, 9.3% of philosophy graduates were in business and finance roles six months
after graduation. In 2006, 12.2% were. In 2001, 5.3% were in marketing and advertising
six months after graduation. In 2006, 7.3% were.

It is particularly significant that the percentage finding full-time work six months after
graduation has risen, since the number of philosophy graduates has more than doubled
between 2001 and 2006. In 2001, UK universities produced 895 graduates with a first
degree in the discipline; in 2006, they produced 2,040.
And it is so popular with its graduates that many go on to postgraduate study rather than
join the workforce. Charlie Ball, who runs Hecsu's labour market analysis, says: "More
philosophy graduates are being produced, and they are much less likely to be unemployed
than five years ago."

Philosophers have always come in handy in the workplace with their grounding in
analytical thinking. Why, only now, are they so prized by employers?

Open mind

Lucy Adams, human resources director of Serco, a services business and a consultancy
firm, says: "Philosophy lies at the heart of our approach to recruiting and developing our
leadership, and our leaders. We need people who have the ability to look for different
approaches and take an open mind to issues. These skills are promoted by philosophical

Fiona Czerniawska, director of the Management Consultancies Association's think tank,

says: "A philosophy degree has trained the individual's brain and given them the ability to
provide management-consulting firms with the sort of skills that they require and clients
demand. These skills can include the ability to be very analytical, provide clear and
innovative thinking, and question assumptions."

Deborah Bowman, associate dean for widening participation at St George's, University of

London, which offers medicine and health sciences courses, says philosophers are
increasingly sought after by the NHS: "Graduates of philosophy who come in to
graduate-entry medicine, or to nursing courses, are very useful. Growth areas in the NHS
include clinical ethicists, who assist doctors and nurses. Medical ethics committees and
ethics training courses for staff are also growing. More and more people are needed to
comment on moral issues in healthcare, such as abortion."

Being on an ethics committee of the NHS is something Cunningham is looking into. "It
would be a direct application of my skills," he says.

The popular philosopher Simon Blackburn, a professor at Cambridge University, sees the
improving career prospects of philosophy graduates as part of a wider change of public
perception. "I guess the public image of a philosopher has tended to concentrate on an
ancient Greek in a toga, or some unwashed hippy lying around not doing very much," he
says. "I do detect a change in the way the public sees philosophers. I have been pleasantly
surprised by the number of people who come to philosophy events nowadays."

Blackburn can take some credit. The user-friendly books on philosophy that he and other
philosophers such as AC Grayling, Stephen Law, Julian Baggini, Nigel Warburton and
Alain de Botton write have made their way into the mainstream.

Course design
Those in charge of designing university courses have also become sensitive to claims that
their subject has no relevance to the modern day.

Blackburn says: "In the years after the second world war, there was a sort of
Wittgensteinian air about philosophy, which meant practitioners were proud of the fact
that they appeared slightly esoteric and were not doing anything practical. There was very
little political philosophy, and moral philosophy was disengaged from people's actual
moral problems, and that did lead to the subject being marginalised. That has changed.
Political philosophy is a central part of the Cambridge course."

Jonathan Lowe, professor of philosophy at Durham University, agrees that courses'

concern with the real world has accelerated in the past five years.

"It's probably because of the new financial arrangements for students that courses have
had to prove they are applicable to real world issues," he says. "And the teaching methods
have changed. There are more student-led sessions. Students have to argue on their feet
and give presentations. That probably shows at interviews."

News that employers and the public hold philosophers in higher regard should
presumably be cause for celebration? Not entirely, says Blackburn. "It is also slightly
worrying, because people turn to philosophers when they feel less confident and more

the Philosophy of Life

by Swami Krishnananda

Part I: The Foundations of Philosophy

Chapter 2: The Value of Philosophy

The Need for a Theory of Life

Philosophy is generally defined as love of wisdom or the knowledge of things in

general by their ultimate causes, so far as reason can attain to such knowledge. It is a
comprehensive and critical study and analysis of experience as a whole. Whether it is
consciously, deliberately and rationally adopted on conviction or consciously or
unconsciously followed in life through faith or persuasion, every man constructs for
himself a fundamental philosophy as the basis of life, a theory of the relation of the
world and the individual, and this shapes his whole attitude to life. Aristotle called
metaphysics the fundamental science, for, a correct comprehension of it is enough to
give man a complete knowledge of every constituent or content of human experience.
All persons live in accordance with the philosophy of life that they have framed for
themselves, consciously or unconsciously. Even the uneducated and the uncultured
have a rough and ready philosophy of their own. Life without a philosophy is
unimaginable. It is only when we confine the concept of philosophy to the laboured
edifices of academic men that we are inclined to think that only a few in the world
have any philosophy, or study or understand it. Even those who hold that there is no
need of any philosophy have a secret philosophy of their own. They have a theory of
reality, though it may consist only in denying it altogether. They have a theory of the
world, though it may be only one of crass material perception, or of a superstitious
belief in the supremacy of the personalities and forces of myth and fable. We have an
ethics, an epistemology and even a logic of our own, though it may be purely personal
or limited to a certain group of persons of kindred ideas and temperaments. Under
these conditions, it is certainly advisable for us to frame a systematic and intelligent
philosophy for our life, after critically examining and understanding the nature of the
world and our experiences in it, at least so far as it is possible for the powers that we
are endowed with. And if we consistently carry our sincere efforts, with critical
intelligence, to their logical limits, we will find that philosophies are not pet theories
or private affairs of different individuals, but from a science and an art of human life
taken into completeness. We would then arrive at a philosophy, not of this or that
school, but of humanity in general. We would reach a most catholic and flexible
theory of the universe and its contents, acceptable to all men of reason, a universal
philosophy based on experiences that are common to all persons. Difficulties and
problems, however, arise only because of our definitions of experience or of the limits
we set to it. We may limit philosophy to sense-experience, to understanding, to reason
or to intuition. Finally it is only intuition that enjoys the greatest universality of scope
and dives deepest into the mysteries of existence. A perfect philosophy ought
therefore to be one springing from an intuition of Reality.

John Dewey describes the constitution of philosophy as expressing a certain attitude,

purpose, and temper of conjoint intellect and will, rather than a discipline whose
boundaries can be neatly marked off. The Indian sage would, however, add intuition
as forming the foundation of the functions of the intellect and will, which usually
work with the material supplied by the senses.

Philosophy is a complete world-view, a Weltanschauung, a general attitude of

intellect, will and feeling, to life. It gives an explanation of the universe at large, by
appeal to what is discoverable as the deepest of known facts. It is not a mere
description of the details or bits of physical observation. We call an explanation
philosophical when it is broad enough to be harmoniously related to the other views
of life and fulfils the needs of all the faculties of man to the highest degree of
satisfaction, using ultimate principles, and not mere empirical facts, in establishing its

“Philosophy, indeed, in one sense of the term, is only a compendious name for the
spirit in education,” says William James. It is only in this sense of the process of the
education and unfoldment of the spiritual spark in man that philosophy is worth its
name. To teach a doctrine in a dogmatic and forced way is one thing, and to do it in a
rational and appealing way in its greatest fullness is another. The latter is the task and
the way of philosophy. Its value in imparting true culture to man, to make him wise
and useful both to himself and to others is inestimable. Philosophy wakes us from our
‘dogmatic slumber’ and makes us critica1 in our outlook, opening before our eyes
huge vistas of the majesty and reality of the unknown, giving us strength to stand firm
on our own legs and to assert our rightful citizenship of the universe. Our whims,
fancies and prejudices are broken, and philosophy makes us free and catholic in our
attitudes. The philosopher is raised above the usual clinging to immediate practical
needs and is enabled to roam fearlessly in the empyrean of the joy springing from
within. This is the privilege of the true philosopher who gains access to Reality, and it
is not available to those who are sunk in earthliness, bound by material urges and
content with what they see with their physical eyes.

Science and Philosophy

It is often said that philosophy is not as useful as science, that science has made much
progress and that philosophy is lagging behind, that science has its great utility, while
philosophy has none. This complaint comes mostly from partial observers of the
strides of science in making inventions of instruments that save us labour and time
and thus make for comfort in our daily life. But, this, of which man boasts so much, is
applied science, and not science, as such. When we find man at a loss to know how to
use the leisure provided to him by applied science, and how to find time to do what is
really solacing to him in his life, where and of what use, we ask, is the great advance
that science has made in knowledge, with all its Herculean efforts. What about the
morality of man today, and what civilisation and culture is he endowed with? Where
comes the pride of mere applied science when selfishness, greed and jealousy are its
masters, when it threatens to make an end of man himself, and when it tightens the
knot that binds man to the prison-house of misery raised by himself on the basis of
belief in things that only tantalise him and then perish? Man has applied science, but
not philosophy, for his life. And even where science is applied, it is done in the
manner of giving a sword in the hands of a child or of a person shorn of sanity.
Philosophy has really made more progress than science, trying to save man from the
folly of ignorance and misconduct, raising him from the state of the animal man and
blessing him with the light o love, service and sacrifice and making him aware of the
need for the dedication of the self to a purpose lifted above all human needs. The
riches of science, bereft of the wisdom of philosophy, become pernicious possessions,
to be dreaded rather than loved and adored. What advantage can one reap from
scientific inventions without moral, economic, political and administrative wisdom,
without the blessedness of a peaceful and happy life that embraces the universe as its
loving friend, nay, its very self? Let not man pride himself over the advance of
science; it has only invented tools without giving man the knowledge to use them in
the right way; these tools become dreadful monsters when there is none to direct them
with sagacity.

Science can describe the how of fragments of sense-observation; but it is impotent to

interpret and explain the meaning and value of what is thus observed—the why of
visible phenomena. Philosophy is not dry intellectual gymnastics; it is the wisdom of
life reached after careful reflection and investigation, without which life is but a
dismal failure. It was Socrates who said that those who lack right knowledge deserve
to be stigmatised as slaves. And Plato was emphatic when he pronounced the truth
that, unless philosophers become kings or the existing kings acquire the genuine
wisdom of philosophy, unless political power and philosophy are combined in the
same person, there will be no deliverance for cities, nor yet for the human race. Plato
here declares an eternal truth, a truth which holds good for all times and climes;
administrators should first and foremost be philosophers, not merely lovers but
possessors of wisdom.

The renowned scientist, Sir Arthur Eddington, says that our true personality and
consciousness are not parts of observed phenomena but belong to the background of
phenomena. According to him, our deeper feelings are not of ourselves alone, but are
glimpses of a reality transcending the narrow limits of one particular consciousness.
The stuff of the world, to him, is finally a limitless mind or consciousness. We know a
particular world because it is that alone with which the consciousness interacts. He
gives matter, in the end, the character of ‘knowability,’ and regards it as grafted on a
spiritual substratum. Reality is fundamentally spiritual, is general consciousness. And
he further makes the discovery that, where science has progressed the farthest, the
mind has but regained from Nature that which the mind has put into Nature. Here,
Eddington obviously rises from physics and enters the realm of philosophy and
mysticism. This is what all men of deep reflective thinking are in the end obliged to
do. Whitehead would receive nothing into the physical scheme that is not
discoverable as an element in subjective experience. He feels that the poets are
entirely mistaken and that they should address their lyrics to themselves and
congratulate themselves on the excellency of the human mind. Sir James Jeans uses
Plato’s simile and says that science is studying merely a reflection on the walls of the
cave of a play that is being shown outside in sunlight. The substantiality as well as the
objectivity of things is due to their subsistence in the mind of an eternal Spirit. To
Bertrand Russell, mind and matter alike are logical constructions, and the distinction
between the psychical and the physical is not fundamental. The difference between
mind and matter is not in their substance but in their arrangement. Max Planck does
not think that consciousness can be explained in terms of matter and its laws. He
regards consciousness as fundamental and matter as a derivative of consciousness.
Einstein reverently contemplates the mystery of conscious life perpetuating itself
through all eternity and is content to try humbly to comprehend even an infinitesimal
part of the intelligence manifested in Nature. R. A. Millikan says that a purely
materialistic philosophy is the height of unintelligence. And finally we have
Eddington, again, accepting that the absence of the faculty of an intuitive perception
of the divine presence is a kind of mental deficiency. It is enough if we observe here
that the great geniuses of science have felt the need for a higher study and experience
than that provided to man by physical science.

The problem of causality has raised questions that stress the need for philosophy.
Science believes that every event has a cause and resorts to a kind of linear argument,
thinking that to be a cause means just to be antecedent in time. Our movement from
effects to causes leads us nowhere, and we find ourselves landed in a hopeless pursuit.
The question of an ultimate cause cannot be answered by science. The end or purpose
of action is, to it, enveloped in darkness. If the order and method of events in the
universe is determined, not by the way in which we are accustomed to observe cause-
and-effect-relation, but by the laws of a living organism directed by a unitary force,
science cannot but find itself in a fool’s paradise. When there is mutual interaction
among the constituents of the universe, the commonsense view of causality falls to the
ground. We require a reflective higher study, which is provided by philosophy, in
order to come to a satisfactory conclusion regarding the true scheme of things. An
enquiry into the nature of facts observed by science leads us to epistemology and
metaphysics. Our very denial of all possibility of knowing the nature of Reality
implies our rightful claim to know it. It is impossible for us to desist from working for
the noble cause to which philosophy awakens us.

Swami Sivananda and Philosophy

According to Swami Sivananda, philosophy is not merely a logical study of the

conclusions of science or a synthesis of the different sciences. Its methods are
different from those of science, though, for purposes of higher reflection and
contemplation, it would accept the researches of science and its accumulated material.
Swami Sivananda, however, is not inclined to give too much importance to science,
though, for purposes of instructing the modern man in the great truths of philosophy,
he has no objection to taking illustrations from the limitations of science and from the
necessity that modern science feels for accepting the existence of a reality beyond
sense-perception. To Swami Sivananda, the value of philosophy rests mainly in its
utility in reflective analysis and meditation on the Supreme Being. Philosophy in the
sense of a mere play of reason he regards as useless in one’s search for spiritual
knowledge. As a necessary condition of spiritual meditations on the path of Jnana-
Yoga, the value of philosophy is incalculable. It also provides the necessary prop for
and gives the rationale behind the paths of Raja-Yoga, Bhakti-Yoga and Karma-Yoga.
As a staunch follower of the philosopher Sankara, he builds his philosophy on a life of
experience first, and reason afterwards. Swami Sivananda excludes from his
philosophy no theory of life, no canon of religion, no truth of science, no view held by
people, if these will only aid the spiritual aspirant in his effort at Self-realisation. He
accepts the conclusions of all, and regards even inadequate theories as preparations
for a wider view, as steps leading to a greater fulfilment. There are stages in the
evolution of man, and all cannot have the same philosophy of life. Thoughts differ,
temperaments vary and practices disagree with one another, on account of the various
conceptions of the meaning and purpose of life that different people in different stages
of evolution have in their minds. One of the great principles of Swami Sivananda is
not to unsettle the minds of others or disturb the beliefs of the ignorant. His method is
a very peaceful, harmonising and agreeable one; his philosophy is, in this sense,
universal in its scope. His is not any particular system or school of philosophy, but all
systems and all schools synthesised, transmuted, absorbed and transcended. He would
not disagree with anyone completely, but take everyone at the stage he is in and come
down or rise up to his level in order to absorb him into himself and present himself as
a useful and compassionate benefactor of all. To him, men are just phases of the
appearance of the Absolute, and their views, behaviours and practices are but the
natural and necessary stages in the evolution of the universe towards the great
consummation of the self in the Absolute. Hence, his philosophy is all love,
friendliness and joy, not merely a bit of circumscribed logic or a cosy dogma of
personal preferences. Philosophy to him is the technique of right living, of directing
the course of life towards a higher state of existence, whether this is achieved
consciously with the effort of understanding, or by faith, habit and tradition. Life is
common to all, and so Swami Sivananda’s philosophy, as the art of life, is applicable
to all. From the highest rational being to the lowest man moved only by instinct—all
will find the food necessary for their souls in the highly comforting and solacing
philosophy of Swami Sivananda. His philosophy is as valuable as life itself, for, it is
the principle of rational guidance in everyone’s life, and is based on an experience to
which the ordinary man has no access but which every man seeks to obtain, whether
he knows it or not, in everyone of his thoughts and actions.