top of page

The Degree Fallacy -- A Critique Towards Exclusivity

Updated: May 12

A soldier pointing a gun

Those who aspire to be philosophers, specifically, see this article.

Ms. Tamara Moskal's Synopsis

Academic degrees prove that someone is knowledgeable in a specific field. For some professions, diplomas are a necessity; for others, certificates are optional credentials. "The Degree Fallacy" is a bias in judging a person's character or intelligence based solely on their diplomas. It overlooks that some people can become experts outside academia through self-study.
Also, an academic degree only makes a person knowledgeable in a field of study. A misconception of a scholar's generalized expertise can hinder a productive exchange of ideas by disregarding the valuable insights of a person without a diploma. While degrees are valuable for careers, studies in the humanities, such as philosophy, can be learned independently.
The author became a competent philosopher through self-study. He works with reviewers and summarizers to produce high-quality articles, proving that self-education can be effective and successful.
Getting an academic degree can be too stressful and expensive for some people. If you cannot pursue traditional education, you can always acquire knowledge online. Being a true intellect means constantly learning, with or without a diploma. Philosophers such as Socrates, Diogenes, and David Hume didn't graduate from a university; regardless, they became influential thinkers.

"To deny wisdom/ability on the basis of someone's lack of "official credentials" is the dumbest thing smart people often do" -- Mr. John Duran

The Value of a Degree

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.

  • 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. In other words, our biased understanding towards degrees can hinder a productive exchange of ideas, by disregarding valuable insights over a person's lack of certification. This further demonstrates how having knowledge can ironically serve as a barrier to the learning of further knowledge, as presented by Socrates.

Nonetheless, degrees are highly valuable, and there's nothing wrong with that, by default. 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. This is demonstrated in philosophers belonging to the metaphorical "Sorcerer" faction.

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. Despite of one's mastery in a field, one in theory can never reach omniscience because there could always be more to learn.

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 mental wellbeing. The orthodox way was too stressful. I find myself learning as much as renovating Philosocom articles ruthlessly and researching sources for that effort.

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. I also don't do it entirely alone, as I have reviewers to help me look both ways at the article's subject, and summarizers, thus refining an article even further through the function of combined effort.

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.

We need to use foresight to properly understand the toll of sacrifice we'll have to endure as a result of the activities we choose to pursue. Stress gathers up within our bodies, for example, thus hindering our overall health if we don't do anything to reduce it. Should there be too much stress, we might become fatigued on a more-chronic basis. To better preserve our health we need to understand that health is a capacity which can be reduced the more we ignore it.

Your savings can be used otherwise if the same knowledge can be learned more cheaply. By doing so you save not only money but also much needed health, which can be compromised by increased stress, which leads to fatigue.

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 educated as an academic, even if it won't be completely free. So can you, if the academic world is not for you. You can better understand my educational deviation by reading "The Philosopher" page.

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. A psuedo-intellectual can be one even if they are academic, as ironic as it may sound. Much of being a true intellect has to do with one's relentlessness to learn and even question their own knowledge.

Diogenes, as well, was a poor man who lived in a barrel. He was an intellect worthy of contemplation despite being an eccentric homeless man. A true intellect would know a chance of learning when they see it, and will attempt to seize it. I feature guest posts on Philosocom for a reason.

Therefore, philosophy does not require you to have a degree in order to be a philosopher, even though it would certainly help. We need to make this distinction between necessity and benefit.

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.

Mr. Nathan Lasher's Feedback

To me, education wasn't anything more than an experience. I value the time because, oh, how it applies to me now. The same way I have utilized the university of life. I use it as a basis for understanding. That is all. College got me to learn to think differently about things. I do however see Mr. Tomasio's point that it is a bit useless as far as anything, because my education has never prepared me for any job I have had, it has all been on the job training.
All college does is let people know you are a good learner. Why, unless it's something like a doctor who requires specific knowledge, you don't require a degree for anything you want to do. Like what my education has taught me is how to think more logically about things.
College is pretty much the admissions for specialized career fields. You can however gain such knowledge without college. All college really does is supply you with a career requirement. College's only possess one good application. Don't ever attend college without a game plan. Think of it as preemptive job training for what you want to do. Most higher professions require this start to possessing them with your higher up special training you will learn on the job. All you get in college is a good foundation for the basics.
Most people aren't as concerned with your degree title, exception being doctors or any other high end job like that. They are only concerned with what you attended and your general education supplied you with enough basics which they can use as a basis for understanding.  

167 views0 comments


Tomasio A. Rubinshtein, Philosocom's Founder & Writer

I am a philosopher from Israel, author of several books in 2 languages, and Quora's Top Writer of the year 2018. I'm also a semi-hermit who has decided to dedicate his life to writing and sharing my articles across the globe. Several podcasts on me, as well as a radio interview, have been made since my career as a writer. More information about me can be found here.

צילום מסך 2023-11-02 202752.png
bottom of page