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How I became a "philosopher" ... and what it tells you about me

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Aug. 8th, 2007 | 12:00 am
mood: pensivepensive

The general masthead for my blog at Radio Userland said: "Writing about computers, life, and society from the perspective of a 'poly Quaker Taoist' living in the Triangle region of North Carolina."  I thought it might be helpful to say a little more about what "my perspective" actually is, when writing about "life" or "society".  There are more facts about me that could help you to understand "where I'm coming from", beyond the fact that I label myself as polyamorous, and as simultaneously a Quaker and a Taoist.

One of those facts is that ... while almost my entire working life has been as a computer professional, of one sort or another ... my academic major was Philosophy. 

In fact, I have three degrees: an "A.B" (Bachelor's) from Cornell, and an M.A. and Ph.D., both from the University of California at Berkeley; and all three of them are in Philosophy, not (for example) Computer Science.

So how does this help you understand "where I'm coming from"?  Well, for one thing, if my writing, despite my efforts to the contrary, sometimes sounds like something written for an academic journal ... this could be why.

But [perhaps] more importantly, I'd like to tell you [at least part of the reason] why I chose this particular major, and pursued it all the way to a Ph.D.

From an employability standpoint, there is, for the most part, only one thing you can "do with" a Ph.D in Philosophy: teach philosophy in a college or university.  There are exceptions, that is, other jobs for which an employer may choose specifically to look at "philosophers", among others, as potential recruits; but, in my experience, they are rare enough to fall into the "exception that proves the rule" category.

As it turned out, I didn't end up having a career in teaching philosophy (and how, and why, that happened is a whole 'nother story).  But at the time that I enrolled in the Ph.D. program, that was the career that I intended to pursue.  So why did I want to do that?  The academic life, in general, appealed to me; but why philosophy and not one of the other subjects which held a lot of interest for me, such as mathematics (my declared major when I first entered Cornell as an undergraduate) or physics?

That's one question, but can be viewed from two sides: the negative side (why not [e.g.] physics?), and the positive side (why [specifically] philosophy?).  I will be addressing both sides of the question ....

... Real Soon Now.

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