I joke about the uselessness of philosophy all the time. Even among academic disciplines, always mocked for irrelevance to the real world, locked away in ivory towers, philosophy is the discipline singled out for the absolute most ridicule.
(I and every philosopher I know absolutely dreads being asked by a stranger at social gatherings, "So, what do you do?" -- responses to hearing "I'm a philosopher" or "I teach philosophy" range from curiosity (rarely) to confusion (mostly) to outright hostility (not frequent, but more often than you would think).)
That said, as Bertrand Russell pointed out, if two worlds were exactly the same in every respect, but one world had philosophers and had made some progress on philosophical problems, and the other world did not, most would choose to live in the one with philosophy. Which indicates it has some value.
I have former students come up to me and tell them how excited they were by my classes, that it introduced this or that great philosopher to them, or taught them how to think clearly. I think some of them are even semi-sincere.
We teach people how to think more clearly, more consistently, and start to realize what's at stake with the fundamental questions of their lives (of course, it helps when they don't text in class).
If philosophy has a value, and I think it does, it is in a general sort of clear-headedness and enlightenment. Perhaps it is even an end in itself. But no, it will not usually make the trains run on time, or improve worker productivity, or create green jobs.
There has been a recent move afoot in England for academic funding to be disbursed based on "impact." I.e., measurable impact, ideally economic or social impact. Exactly what philosophy does not do. Prominent philosophers (with tenure!) are getting the axe to make way for such socially valuable utter nonsense as "Digital and Visual Culture." There's a nice article here on what practical things might be lost if we insist on funding only practical academics. And an interesting article here discussing how the recent drastic changes in English higher education have reversed the traditional positions of English and American higher education. While (whilst?) English higher education used to put greater emphasis on academics for their own sake, now we find more of that here. But if demanding "impact" from academia is appealing to the Brits, it's hard to see how it would not occur to people here.
Let's hope such pernicious moves don't happen here more than they already have. Due to the economy and state budget cuts, the philosophy job market has never been so terrible as this year. Talented philosophers are leaving the field. If we start insisting, as the British already have, on showing very immediate impact to justify academic funding, we may lose something very valuable in the long term.
Even Rush - Rush says Trump is caving on his border wall.
10 hours ago