I came across this article--"Making Philosophy Matter-Or Else"--in the Chronicle of Higher Education today, and I could not agree more.
A number of years ago I was a philosophy major at Michigan State University (Go Spartans!) and the unfailing question I was asked by those to whom I had just disclosed my chosen field of study was, "What are you going to do with that?"
At the time, I was young and naive enough to believe that the purpose of a university education was to improve the quality of one's thinking, to provide a foundation for a life of examination, and to strengthen one's ability to reason. And while I am still young and naive enough to believe that, I am now old enough and experienced enough to recognize that this is considered, by many, to be a liability rather than an asset. Why spend four (or more) years accumulating enormous quantities of debt in order to get a piece of paper that does not have a job title associated with it? I can understand the appeal of degrees in accounting or finance (in fact, my other BA is in French language, which opens up a great many employment opportunities in translation), but I believed, as did Socrates, that examined lives are, all things considered, preferable to those that are unexamined.
Perhaps it is because I am now in the business of helping people examine their lives that I have never regretted my study in philosophy. In fact, I know that my studying philosophy has helped me in my chosen field and made me a better therapist. When my clients ask questions about purpose or the meaning of life I believe that I am able to engage them in these conversations in ways that I could not if I had not studied philosophy. I want to be clear that studying philosophy is certainly not the only way to educate a therapist! But when I think back at all the times that I was asked to justify my choice in field of study, I can honestly say that I have benefited from my undergraduate work in philosophy, and indeed I use it every day in the practice of my profession.
Back to this article--Lee McIntyre makes a good case for moving philosophy from the realm of the academe and into the popular consciousness, not just for the good of philosophy, but because "[i]t is rather philosophy's historical mission, which is not merely to find the truth, but to use the truth to improve the quality of human life." I agree completely.