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What do philosophers do, anyway?

Lots of people ask me this question. Students. Friends. My mom!

I spend a lot of time with philosophers, so you might think that I have a good answer to this question. Alas, my answer usually sucks. You can find some of my worst answers to this question over at The American Philosophical Association (APA) Blog: “You’re a philosopher, eh? What do philosophers do?

I’ve also shared my general thoughts on how to answer this question in that post. But if you want really good advice on how to answer this question, check out what philosophers are saying in the comments.

Excerpt

Let me be the first to admit that I’m doing it wrong. My philosophy pitch is…well, boring. And my delivery is awful. When someone asks me about what I do, my first (and now-automatic) response is a sigh.

What can I say? When people so reliably respond to philosophy with confusion or condescension, I become a little insecure. Unfortunately, insecurity doesn’t help. It just makes my next philosophy pitch even worse. I need to break the negative cycle.

 

Special thanks to philosopher Skye Cleary for connecting me to the APA blog.

Featured image: “Philosophy” from dakine kaneCC BY 2.0, cropped, adjusted color

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Nick Byrd

Nick is a cognitive scientist studying reasoning, wellbeing, and willpower. When he is not teaching, in the lab, writing, exercising, or relaxing, he is blogging at www.byrdnick.com/blog