Can Philosophy Be Worth Doing?

Becca Rothfeld at The Hedgehog Review:

Graduate school is psychologically punishing for people in every field, not just for people who worry that their topic is especially ineffectual. The more you read, the more you realize you should have read already. But philosophy’s claim to despair is unique. As Stanley Cavell writes in the introduction to Must We Mean What We Say?, “It is characteristic of philosophy that from time to time it appear—that from time to time it be—irrelevant to one’s concerns…. just as it is characteristic that from time to time it be inescapable.”1 In other words, it is not just the current conditions of economic precarity that render philosophy alternately irrelevant and inescapable—or, peculiarly and more often than not, irrelevant and inescapable at once. David Hume lived two centuries before the horrors of the academic job market kicked into high gear, but that did not stop him from worrying that his philosophical musings remained remote from real life. At the end of Book I of A Treatise of Human Nature (1738), he paused to reflect that the skeptical concerns he had just spent a hundred pages developing were wont to dissipate as soon as he headed to the pub:

I dine, I play a game of back-gammon, I converse, and am merry with my friends; and when after three or four hours’ amusement, I wou’d return to these speculations, they appear so cold, and strain’d, and ridiculous, that I cannot find in my heart to enter into them any farther.2

more here.