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Trevor Hedberg

There might be an alternative solution to this problem. Perhaps those who either no longer love philosophy or never really loved philosophy at all could instead view their graduate and professional experiences in terms of pride instead of love or passion. From this perspective, the relevant question to ask when reflecting on one's career wouldn't be, "Do I enjoy what I'm doing?" Instead, it would be, "Am I proud of what I'm doing?" If you think that what you do is valuable or significant, then it is possible to be proud of what you're doing even if you don't love it or outright dislike it. This might not result in an idealistic, rosy disposition, but it might provide enough motivation to soldier onward despite not having an unbridled passion for the subject.

I doubt that this outlook would work for everyone: you probably have to at least find philosophy tolerable to persevere through graduate school, the job search, etc.; you can't hate the discipline and expect your pride to be enough to sustain you through its gauntlet. But simultaneously, I don't think loving philosophy (particularly in he romanticized way that some folks do) is necessary for a philosopher to carve out a fulfilling and successful academic career.

Marcus Arvan

Hi Trevor: Thanks for your comment! That's an interesting alternative, and it may well work for some people.

One possible concern is this: what if you begin to seriously doubt whether what you're doing is valuable or significant? My sense is that a lot of philosophers go through serious bouts of this (I know I did!), as sometimes philosophy can seem like a mere game of meaningless problem-solving, etc. Perhaps the thing to say here is that these types of concerns should drive one to do the kind of philosophy one *can* be proud of (and, if that's the case, I'm apt to agree).

Axel Gelfert

The whole debate about whether one "loves" philosophy reminds me of this quote by former (1969-1974) West German president Gustav Heinemann who, when asked whether he loves his country, replied (quite sensibly, it seems to me): "I don't love nations; I love my wife, and that's all that needs to be said." (Couldn't resist [re-]posting it here since my comment didn't make it through at DailyNous...)

Marcus Arvan

Hi Axel: I get the gist of the quote, and sympathize with its spirit. I certainly don't love philosophy the way I love my wife (and I think I would be a monster if I did!). If I had to choose between the two, there would be no choice at all: I would drop philosophy in a heartbeat if I had to. Still, for all that, I truly believe it is possible--and wonderful--to truly love other things, such as knowledge, art, music, or philosophy. As a musician, I have known people for whom music was "the love of their life"--and I don't think there's anything wrong with that. It can be a beautiful thing.

Axel Gelfert

Hi Marcus, actually I'm mostly on the same page with you -- and I very much agree with what you said in the main post. Keeping alive a genuine passion for philosophical questions, rather than letting 'professional' aspects determine one's every (philosophical) move, is really important. Sometimes it's necessary to compromise on these things, and sometimes happily the personal and professional interests in doing philosophy coincide, but this can't always be assumed. Also, there are many different ways of 'doing' philosophy -- some people enjoy the dialogical back-and-forth 'thinking on your feet' style (and also the performance aspect of it: think Q&A sessions...), others prefer immersing themselves in texts and arguments, and I think it's important to realize that there isn't just *one* way to do philosophy (just like there isn't just *one* 'correct' way to love someone/something -- so the 'love' analogy is perhaps more apt than I initially made it out to be!)


It's pretty hard to love philosophy, and it's even harder to love the profession. I got into it because it seemed so interesting. But like a crush that you find was shallow and based on sexual lust more than any deep similarities, philosophy is quickly losing its appeal to me. This article sums up how I feel about the profession.


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