Parentage is a very important profession, but no test of fitness for it is ever imposed in the interest of the children.
– George Bernard Shaw, Everybody’s Political What’s What?
Philosophy, its oldest practitioners proclaimed, begins in wonder. Yet the wonder often directed at it appears with a furrowed brow and a patronising frown, a finger tapping against a chin. What is it good for, how will impact on my life? This question seems to dog the pursuits of philosophers sometimes above their colleagues in other disciplines: my physicists friends are rarely asked how ‘their’ black holes could affect the average citizen (aside from destroying you before annihilating you?); my film and art friends rarely focus on the use of film or theatre in a world filled with suffering (perhaps highlighting a powerful portrayal of that suffering so we actually do something about it?). And so we could go on. No doubt there are also some single sentences to counter the claim made at philosophers, but others have done this before; I wish to show something immediate for me. The reader wanting an answer need only search for them from those who are professionals, perhaps starting with Bertrand Russell’s famous final chapter, ‘The Value of Philosophy’, in The Problems of Philosophy (a very boring work aside from its clarity and this final defence), and the first chapters of Peter Singer’s Practical Ethics and Alasdair MacIntyre’s After Virtue (two mostly opposed books on the subject of moral philosophy).
As I said, instead of answering the question directly, I wish to provide a personal demonstration: Philosophy has thoroughly annihilated my children – or rather, stopped me harbouring any thoughts of creating children. It has ceased any joy, wonder, amazement from being created in little human beings with my eyes, hair or smile; it has severed any form of biological paternal ‘duty’. Philosophy grabbed hold of procreation stemming from me and thoroughly buried it beneath reasonable argument. I present to you one of many tombstones of axiomatic acceptance in my life.
How did philosophy do this?