Why philosophy is so popular these days

The viralness of the Reddit post Recent Philosophy, visualized , which got over 9,000 up-votes, is further evidence we’re in a ‘philosophy boom.’ The article Progress in Philosophy, which went viral on Hacker News, also agrees with this trend. There’s a ton of interest in philosophy right now, whereas as recently as 10-15 years ago interest in philosophy was mostly relegated to academia. An article about how to read Kafka also went hugely viral recently. Although not technically philosophy, Kafka’s work lends itself to a philosophical interpretation.

I suspect there is so much interest in philosophy (and also literature) despite the brevity of real-world applications or monetization, because of its signalling value, which is amplified in an increasingly intellectualized society since 2009 and economic climate that rewards (both in terms of social status and financial wealth) being smart (how HBD and economics merge). This trend of intellectualism and interest in philosophy has only accelerated since 2016 in spite of the election of Trump (who is supposed to embody anti-intellectualism), so the result is a sort of juxtaposition of an increasingly intellectualized, cerebral online culture with an increasingly shrill, emotive, and partisan media and political landscape. Even though philosophy does not pay well relative to STEM and has limited or no obvious real-world applications, because it signals intellect (being able to read dense, difficult texts and parse circuitous arguments), is valuable in the eyes of employers and the online community in general (offline, philosophy is valued much less and confers little to no additional social status). Given such intellectual signals and value to employers for signalling competence, I have argued that philosophy is equal to STEM in terms of prestige and can even be considered a STEM subject, but also because philosophy has applications in STEM, such as computer science, neurology, theory of mind, simulation hypothesis, etc.

Regarding the Reddit post, note how it merges STEM (statistics and data visualizations) with philosophy, further compounding the intellectualism and virnalness.

This also ties in with the post-2017 ‘boom’ in postmodernism, thanks mainly to Jordan Peterson. There is a tendency to want to treat philosophy as something that resembles a science. Although science and philosophy can complement each other, it may be more fruitful to study actual science than try to make philosophy more science-like:

But also, there is this belief that by understanding these things, or that by trying to turn philosophy into a science, will somehow unlock to door to some deeper truth, which is related to the trend of philosophy becoming more STEM-like, or how philosophers want to emulate scientists in order to give their field more ‘rigor’ (but I suppose this works better for the ‘analytical school’ than the Continental one). Social science concepts such as ‘deconstruction’, ‘intersectionality’, and ‘postmodernism’ are the humanities’ equivalent of science and physics terms like ‘renormalization’, ‘cohomology’, or ‘perturbation,’ that are supposed to evoke a sort of awe or mysticism, but more importantly, intellectual weight. So when Dr. Peterson equates postmodernism, which is supposed to be this inscrutable science-like concept that gives whoever uses it the intellectual credibility of a ‘real’ scientist (not a social scientist), with just “plain ol’ liberalism”, not surprisingly, people are miffed and there is sort of anticlimactic letdown. It’s like unmasking the Wizard of Oz and seeing it’s a mere mortal. For those who want to understand postmodernism deeper, you’re not really missing out on anything. Instead of trying to turn philosophy into a half-baked science, just go study actual science. There’s no shortage of lingo, terminology, and categories.