The Degree Fallacy -- A Critique Towards Exclusivity
Updated: Nov 25
Those who aspire to be philosophers, specifically, see this article.
Academic degrees are currently one of the most concrete proofs that someone is knowledgeable in at least one or two fields, especially in fields where a degree is either mandatory for professionalism (as in medicine and engineering) or optional but very useful as a credential (as in philosophy or literature).
However, because of how luxurious degrees can be, a certain bias could be created in the eyes of some, when judging one's character and even intelligence. I'd like to call this bias "The Degree Fallacy" because there are still a few things we should remember about degrees, that are, for some, still severely overlooked:
One can become knowledgeable in a field in more unorthodox ways, like by learning things on their own. Because of that, there could be a possibility of finding at least one pair of people who are equally knowledgeable through academia and through independent study.
Academic education is a privilege for many people in most countries. Not everyone is financially capable of such financial dedication, or of enduring the debt that is required for some. While money technically buys a degree, there are far cheaper ways of attaining, theoretically, the same knowledge.
Having a degree doesn't necessarily make you knowledgeable in fields that are not relevant to your expertise. I can tell from personal experience that my counterpoint was once disregarded over the premise someone with... a biochemistry degree, had made. This is despite the fact that biochemistry had nothing to do with the discussion.
Nonetheless, degrees are highly valuable, and there's nothing wrong with that. But when it gives you a higher standing just because you chose the orthodox path to knowledge, that should be unacceptable at times when the other unorthodox methods can be just as practical for others.
That is true in the fields of the humanities, too, where information can be attained and learned independently. Especially when it comes to the humanities, a person can be intellectual even without a single course under their belt.
And obviously, to claim that you are omniscient in the field you did one or more degrees in, is an absurd notion. Why? Because that claim can be proven wrong somehow, someday, by someone.
I used to be a philosophy student, and even though I did well in my studies like I always did as a student in general, I halted it indefinitely in the name of both my savings and my wellbeing.
I don't want to have a degree at the cost of my finances and mental state, when I can be both a philosopher and knowledgeable at a far lower price.
It isn't that I'm greedy, but I earn below the minimum wage, and I cannot work due to my disabilities. I tried taking a job as a writer, but I cannot write when I'm exhausted and/or have nothing to write about at the present moment.
I tried other jobs, including national service, but I became too exhausted to resume. I may have written a lot, but it was only when I wasn't exhausted.
This is just one of the reasons why degrees aren't always obtained, even if you have the means to do so. The fact that we can do things, like murder, doesn't mean we should, even if other examples are good but come at a high price.
Your savings can be used otherwise if the same knowledge can be learned more cheaply.
We should also remember that formal education is only one way of attaining knowledge or even wisdom. Nowadays, that also includes books you can read at the library or order online. The same destination, after all, can have multiple paths, and not every path suits every traveler. If the desired path does not suit you, no one should make you feel bad about it.
I'm not a doctor or a professor, but I know that if I put in the time and effort, I can become just as intelligent as an academic, even if it won't be completely free. So can you, if the academic world is not for you.
On "The Philosopher" page, you will find all the non-academic courses I took online. I chose courses that have no homework or tests (except one) because deadlines stress me a lot.
You can have my word that I listened to each and every one of them without skipping any relevant material. I'm not fond of deceiving my readers.
When you are a public figure, the worst thing you can do is become pretentious. And, when it comes to "pretentiousness", remember that Socrates, who had no degree, was only a stonemason.
Diogenes, as well, was a poor man who lived in a barrel. Therefore, philosophy does not require you to have a degree in order to be a philosopher, even though it would certainly help.
I will summarize by saying this: The academy is no longer the exclusive keeper of knowledge. One of its points is to open you up to more job opportunities via the certificate that is their degree.
I would not trust a physician who has no professional education of any kind, but can we truly say this regarding every profession that can be studied academically?
Socrates had no academic background, for example, and that did not stop him from being regarded as the founder of Western philosophy. You can find examples of other notable, non-academic philosophers, like David Hume, on your own.
While Hume studied law, he gave it up in order to study philosophy and study in general, even outside of higher education. Like me, he did not graduate from university.