Putting Philosophy to Work

How Timeless Wisdom Can Bring Meaning to Our Working Lives

Steven Gambardella

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Many of us feel disconnected from our work. We feel locked in dreary, uninspiring jobs for companies that lack purpose.

We are living with a crisis of purpose as we devote ever more time and ever more effort into making ends meet, let alone finding success.

Prosperity needn’t come at the cost of our collective sanity. The best business leaders understand the need to inspire and motivate their workforces, but traditional business theory is inadequate for doing so. The solution can come from an unlikely source: philosophy.

Yes, you read it right. Philosophy is not exactly a subject you’d associate with business. There are many wise cracks about the poor job prospects of philosophy majors. The subject is seen as the epitome of impractical liberal arts degrees, a qualification in over-thinking and writing jargon.

The reason why philosophy has such a dire reputation, is that it’s seen as a body of knowledge rather than what it really is – a practice. When we understand philosophy is a practice, we can improve every aspect of our lives with humankind’s superpower: wisdom.

Thinking of philosophy as knowledge immediately creates a barrier, it makes the subject seem opaque and even arcane. The history of philosophy we’re taught is, after all, a history of mostly long-dead, rich, white, European men who wrote complicated prose.

Academic philosophy doesn’t help the situation when so many tenured philosophers indulge in the worst excesses of theoretical mumbo-jumbo at the expense of the discipline’s modern-day reputation.

People believe you need an expensive degree to understand philosophical ideas, and an expensive degree requires privilege.

At the other end of the philosophy spectrum, we see philosophers misquoted all over the internet in the service of self-help influencers looking to cloak motivational puff with the prestige — but not the substance — of legitimate philosophy.

Philosophy seems torn between self-help banality on the one side, and overly-complicated — and inaccessible — academia on the other.

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Steven Gambardella

History PhD. The lessons of history and philosophy for your life and work. Writes The Sophist: https://sophist.substack.com/