I place the question in the context of mainly two factors..
- The foremost one is - this is my fourth year in philosophy. So it is an existential question too.
- The interest in philosophy in the seminary circles (and in universities) in India are generally not so high. Even we could say, it is going down (exceptions are there). But the interest in philosophical studies are growing in many of the foreign universities.
Two commonly used words in the seminary circles is “Context & Relevance”. When a sermon is given on any Biblical passage, the context of the passage and the context of the listeners are extremely important. Finally, we are thinking how it could be applied in our daily life. (This is very much reasonable and relevant). Here I would like to reflect on the word RELEVANCE.
Now this question is extended to many areas, including the philosophical studies. How relevant is it to study the ideas (sometimes crazy) of philosophers, especially those of the old? What is the use of them in the near future? Occasionally I too ask these questions, and struggled with them when I was doing my Bachelors in philosophy. I could apply some, definitely not most of the things. So is it useless to study? [Relevance has been understood as usefulness at some occasion. It is narrowly equated with USE].
I did engineering. I never worked as an engineer. But most of the friends who are working as engineers doesn’t employ most of things that are taught in the college. It is true with mathematics, science, literature or most of the subjects. [Definitely there are large scale changes needed in education, which is a topic in itself. I don’t discuss it here]. Even if I set aside those drawbacks, education do provide a platform (not in terms of degree alone) for these future professionals. Today’s education may not provide everything for the future (not a ready-made solution), but in someway equips them for the future. Though far from desirable, education does equip the students in some way. Thus these subjects reveal that we cant approach education only from the relevance (understood as Use) point of view— how I am going to use what I learned today. Practical application (especially explicit ones) is important, but education can’t be limited to it.
When professional courses can’t be approached only from relevance point of view, it is all the more true of humanities and arts, and also philosophy. When I was attending a conference in Guwahati, I heard one professor saying “Who said that all philosophy should be practical/useful?” It struck a code with me.
Still I ask the question, why Philosophy? and try to make my classes and studies on philosophy “Contextual, relevant and practical”. I look for the practical applications. I look for its use tomorrow. But I can’t and I shouldn’t limit there. As long as you limit there, philosophy will remain useless, waste of time.