Being rejected from a dozen graduate programs is devastating. But not as devastating as the never-ending, pointed question, “what are you going to do with a degree in philosophy?” Hell, even my grandmother joked of sending me a t-shirt that read, “I got a degree in philosophy, would you like fries with that?” So what is it really that philosophers do? To address this question, let’s go back 2,500 years ago.
Any formal course on Ancient Philosophy begins with a group of philosophers from around 600 BC called the Pre-Socratics. As you may have deduced, Pre-Socratic stands for the era before Socrates (470 BC). A study of the Pre-Socratics starts with a man named Thales from Miletus, a philosopher I have come to admire more with time. And no, I do not admire him just because he fell into a well while thinking too hard. Thales is the perfect exemplar of what philosophers are really capable of.
Thales is known for his capacity for natural philosophy and, consequently, his educated predictions. For example, he is credited with predicting the first solar eclipse. Even better, one year he predicted that it would be a very good harvest season in his home town of Miletus. Thales, expecting an exceptional harvest of olives in the coming year, bought up all of the olive presses in the town. Once harvest season arrived, he rented out the presses for an astronomical amount. Not only did this bring Thales riches, which was not his primary objective, but it showed people in his community that philosophers were, contrary to popular belief, in fact useful.
The notion that philosophers are useful is often underestimated. A philosopher undoubtedly does more than sit on the toilet and hold their chin up so that it doesn’t fall off from the weight of their thoughts. Quite the opposite, an exceptional philosopher takes his ideas and brings them into the real world. Philosophers have an interest in all intellectual pursuits, including business and economics. As is shown with Thales, the question goes from being about what he (the philosopher) is capable of to a demonstration of what can be accomplished.
Now, how does this relate to me? Well, without my training in philosophy I would not have had the intelligence, courage or strength to help start, as well as continue, our skincare company. PhiloSOAPhy, to me, is the marriage of my passion for philosophy with my new found love for soap making. It is one of my attempts to show the world that philosophers are in fact useful.
What’s your philosophy?