Do We Need Corporate Philosophers?

You may not know this, but I was a philosophy major. I was a philosophy major for about a year or two of college before I realized I couldn’t get a job in philosophy. But I digress.

Ever since I was a teenager in high school, I was obsessed with trying to figure out the meaning of life. After dabbling in several religions, I moved into philosophy and was seriously thinking for a short period, that I should just become a philosopher. I wondered openly why it used to be a profession, but it seems to have dropped into disuse. Any contemporary philosophers I knew were professors who wrote about philosophy or wrote philosophy itself.

Our high school in Canada was one of the more high-tech schools in Canada. We had the data processing center for our entire suburb in the basement of our school. Our principal was probably a techie as well since we seem to have all the latest computerized gadgetry, even for the 80s. I think we might have also had one of the first computerized career guidance counselors in Canada (or maybe even the world!).

You could go in and sit at a computer and enter both the things you like to do and the profession that you’d want to have. Being the introvert that I was sitting at a computer was much preferable to talking to an actual human being. Plus, I could ask it stupid things like I was about to do and it wouldn’t get ticked off at me like a human might.

I liked sci-fi and computers, so I went in, and I entered “computer programmer” as a career choice and I got a little printout talking about what you need to do to be a programmer, including which college courses to take, which colleges were preferred, and the kind of job prospects you could expect. Of course, the job prospects for a computer programmer were great, as you would expect, and it hasn’t changed much since then.

Then just for fun, I entered “philosopher” as a career choice. While I did get a list of courses and colleges, the job prospects looked dim. It said there was no such thing as professional philosophers anymore, and the most likely job out of a philosophy major was “philosophy professor.” While it did admit that a philosophy major could go into many different fields, like politics, in the end, philosophy majors begat other philosophy majors, who begat more and so on.

It warned that if you study philosophy, you’re probably very likely to teach philosophy because it doesn’t seem to be much need for philosophy or philosophers out there now. Or is there?

One of the schools in philosophy is, of course, ethics. I wonder if VW, Theranos, or United had a corporate philosopher or even a Chief Philosophy Officer, they may have been able to make better decisions. Maybe the time has come for us to think about a corporate position for a philosopher?

If they all had a C-level philosopher, who would be able to handle all those thorny philosophical questions, who knows where they’d be?