Simon Blackburn On Philosophy’s Contributions

Simon Blackburn On Philosophy’s Contributions November 6, 2009

In the UK, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills intends to assess “the benefits of postgraduate study for all relevant stakeholders” and “the evidence about the needs of employers for postgraduates.” Philosopher Simon Blackburn answered a request for faculty comments with a letter worth reading in full. A couple highlights:

(1) Our postgraduate philosophy education is primarily vital in ensuring the quality of the incoming stream of future teachers of philosophy. These provide the continuing educational resource for very acute and educated people to flow into very diverse channels of administration, business and other branches of employment, including what used to exist as and be known as “public service”, before that fell into the hands of people unable to conceive of it as anything other than a cornucopia of opportunities for corruption. If these last are your “stakeholders”, then we probably cannot convince them that we are of use to them, any more than music, art, literature or history could.

(2) Our future teachers will, in turn, educate philosophy graduates who can flourish in business: there have been many examples. But we don’t think that you should pay slavish attention to what business people, especially those who believe themselves fit to judge things about which they know nothing, say are their “needs” because we do not have any confidence that without more philosophy than most of them possess, they have the least idea what those needs are. We merely note that conceptions of need that have given us such outstanding examples of business expertise as British Leyland, Rover and RBS seem strange instruments with which to assess institutions that enabled such legacies as those left by Bacon, Locke, Hume and Wittgenstein. We are, to adapt one minister’s words, intensely relaxed about having assisted the country to this filthy rich legacy.

via Leiter Reports

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