Posts tagged with: philosophy

Marco Rubio has inspired plenty of chin-stroking over his recent remarks about welders earning more than philosophers.

“We need more welders and less philosophers,” he concluded in a recent debate.

The fact-checkers proceeded to fact-check, with many quickly declaring falsehood (e.g. 1, 2). Yet the series of subsequent quibbles over who actually makes how much continue to side-step the bigger issue. Though the liberal arts are indeed important and ought not be viewed simply in terms of “vocational training,” mainstream American culture is certainly fond of pretending as much.

The individualistic  dream-stoking rhetoric, inflated expectations, and subsequent angst have become all too nightmarish a cliche among my generation, joined by ever-increasing attempts to secure more government goodies to keep the machine humming along. Surely there are many who approach the liberal arts with a healthy perspective, but at the same time, the jokes about the barista going for his third Master’s degree aren’t exactly jokes.

Rather than approaching each individual as a creative person with unique gifts and educational aspirations, we continue to pretend that one vocational or educational track ought to apply to all. At the same time, rather than approaching the so-called “job market” as an ecosystem of creativity and collaboration, filled with countless human needs waiting to be met, we revert to thinking only of ourselves, self-constructing our preferred vocational destinies while we move through the college assembly line. (more…)

Correction: An earlier version of this post did not examine PayScale’s methodology. The three paragraphs that address it were added, and the text has been lightly edited in other places as a result. If the post now reads unevenly, that is why. Short version: I was a bit too hard on Mr. Bump due to my own lack of due diligence. Mea culpa.

At last night’s fourth GOP debate on Fox Business, Florida Senator Marco Rubio lamented, “For the life of me, I don’t know why we have stigmatized vocational education. Welders make more money than philosophers. We need more welders and less philosophers.” You can watch the full clip from the debate below:

Spirited defenses of philosophy majors were quick to follow this on the internet. Take, for example, Philip Bump of the Wall Street Journal:

Using data from the Web site PayScale, we can look at the introductory and median incomes of both professions. In 2008, philosophy majors started at about $40,000 a year — about the same as what the Bureau of Labor Statistics says first-year welders make.

But over the longer term, philosophy majors make more. Mid-career welders make $22 an hour, according to PayScale, compared with over $80,000 for philosophy majors.

I was a philosophy minor myself, saving my major for just about the only less lucrative option than philosophy: theology. (more…)

"In the Beginning" artist Mako Fujimura

“In the Beginning”
artist Mako Fujimura

The hubby and I were watching TV when a commercial for Fiji Water came on. The voiceover expounded all the wonderful features of this water, and then said something about it being “untouched by man.”

I turned to my husband and said, “Did I hear that right? ‘Untouched by man?'” He nodded.

Indeed, that’s the selling point for this water:

On a remote Pacific island 1600 miles from the nearest continent, equatorial trade winds purify the clouds that begin FIJI’s Water journey through one of the world’s last virgin ecosystems. As the tropical rains fall on a pristine rain forest, it filters through layers of volcanic rock, slowly gathering the natural minerals and electrolytes that give FIJI Water its soft, smooth taste. The water collects in a natural artesian aquifer,  deep below the earth’s surface, shielded from external elements by confining layers of rock. Natural pressure forces the water towards the earth’s surface, where it’s bottled at the source, untouched by man until you unscrew the cap. [emphasis mine]

First, let’s all agree that this is heavy-handed prose for water. Second, the folks at Fiji seem to think they are doing something not only extraordinary, but revolutionary. Sorry to tell you, folks: you’re doing something people have been doing since, well, as long as people have been around: getting water out of a well.

Now back to the “untouched by man” thing. Why is this a selling point? Why is something touched by a human being bad? (more…)

AOTActon offers a wide range of events and educational opportunities suited to a variety of different tastes and learning styles (and if you haven’t done so already, you should check out, which helps you navigate all the different ways Acton can help you learn). But one of the coolest events we put on has to be Acton On Tap, which is an informal (and FREE) gathering of friends and supporters of the Institute, plus anyone else who wants to drop by for a cold drink and some good conversation.

We kicked off our summer Acton On Tap series for 2015 back on June 2 with a presentation by our institute Librarian, Dan Hugger, on the life and overarching ideas of Acton’s namesake, John Emerich Edward Dalberg Acton, First Baron Acton of Aldenham. Acton was a defender of liberty, of free inquiry, freedom of religion, and the broad liberal tradition, and in his address Hugger suggests that Acton, both in his life and writings, serves as a model for thoughtful and passionate engagement with the modern world.

We’re pleased to present the audio of Dan’s remarks below, and invite you to join us at our next Acton On Tap with Jared Meyer, who will be speaking on July 29th on his latest book, Disinherited: How Washington Is Betraying America’s Young. Information and registration for that event are available at this link. We hope to see you there!

NovakToday’s issue of Public Discourse offers a reflection on the life and work of Michael Novak. It would not be an exaggeration to say Novak is a towering figure in the world of free market economics. Author Nathaniel Peters says that while Novak has had his critics, the question that lies at the heart of all Novak’s work is this: “How do we get people out of poverty?”

What economic systems are most conducive to allowing people to exercise their human dignity, realize their God-given capacities, and provide for themselves and their families? When many people think of capitalism, they imagine factory owners exploiting workers. Novak sees a woman with a micro-loan who can now start a business to support her family, or a community of immigrants who have arrived in America—like Novak’s own Slovak ancestors—who through hard work in their local community can build better lives for themselves and those around them. (more…)

thornburyPresident of  The King’s College in New York City and one of this year’s Acton University plenaries, Greg Thornbury, gives his top 5 book picks for today’s college students.

1. Plato’s Dialogues

Plato’s dialogues are good for virtually everything that ails our society. He takes on relativism, skepticism, materialism, and incivility. Gorgias clarifies the difference between truth-seeking and posturing.


Prof. Harry Veryser stars in a new video from ISI that explores some of the lessons about private property, rights, responsibilities, and stewardship that can be gleaned from the thought of Thomas Aquinas.

For a much more in-depth exposition of the connections between and lessons from Aristotle, Augustine, and Aquinas, check out John Mueller’s Redeeming Economics (ISI, 2010). For more, check out a slate of review essays on Mueller’s book published in Research in the History of Economic Thought & Methodology, including a piece by me, “The Economies of Divine and Human Love.”