Going back to the basics

Quick! Which type of program had its enrolment grow by 54 percent between 2000 and 2004?

Philosophy is the answer according to an article pointed to us by Stephen Downes. This is quite simply a consequence of a phenomenon described by Paul Graham in some of his famous essays: while the best businessman or engineers work their craft in industry, the best philosophers and mathematicians reside at your nearby university.

My experience dealing with professors from business schools has been that they are not very impressive, on average. I would not trust most of them with my business. Would they make good entrepreneurs or CEOs?

However, your average Mathematics or Philosophy professor can dazzle you with his insights. While they may be out of touch and irrelevant to our universe, at least, they can teach something.

To quote Serge Dubuc, my thesis cosupervisor:

You can do great things with Mathematics, as long as you do something else.

In short, starting with Mathematics and then moving on to applications is a wise path.

I do not want to sound too negative or too critical, but at my school, 40 percent of all students attend the Business School. While some of my business colleagues there are extremely bright (especially the operational research types), I think it is not a good omen.

I am glad more fundamental programs, like philosophy are doing well.

Published by

Daniel Lemire

A computer science professor at the Université du Québec (TELUQ).

One thought on “Going back to the basics”

  1. My PhD is in philosophy. My main interests were logic, philosophy of mind, and philosophy of science. I eventually left philosophy, mainly, I think, because I put more faith in experimentation than in argument. However, I enjoyed my study of philosophy, and there is much to recommend about it. I admire the audacity with which philosophers tackle apparently intractable problems. It makes other fields seem narrow-minded, mundane, cautious, and inhibited.

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