Monday, October 30, 2006

Philosophy as Peacocking

peacocking (v.): to give off an expensive (evolutionary) signal. e.g. when peacocks maintain pretty feathers to attract females.

According to The Undercover Economist (which attributes this to Michael Spence), pursuing a degree in philosophy is an act of peacocking:

"Spence himself first used his insight to show why students might choose to pursue a degree in philosophy, which is difficult but does not lead to specific career opportunities, like an economics degree or a marketing degree. Assume that employers would like to hire smart, diligent workers but can't tell from an interview who is smart or diligent. Assume also that everyone has to work hard to obtain a philosophy degree, but lazy, dumb people find it particularly troublesome.

"Spence then shows that smart, diligent people can prove they're smart and diligent by going to the trouble of getting a philosophy degree. ... It is merely a credible signal, because a philosophy degree is too much trouble for lazy, dumb people to acquire."