I suspect that there are a vast multitude of reasons for the study and/or practice of philosophy. I thought it would be interesting to survey a few of the different approaches. In the comments, feel free to address any/all you would care to, as well as suggest additional motivations that I may have missed.
Those whose motivation is edification believe that philosophy can provide a sort of sustenance, whether for the mind or soul. They pursue it in hopes of an upbuilding, a strengthening, and/or and endowing that stems from their studies. An example of one who believes philosophy to be edifiying is Kierkegaard (who argued that Hegel, for example, was an excellent professor of philosophy but a poor philosopher, because there was no edification through his system).
2. To Discover Truth
Those whose motivation is to discover truth believe that, to quote Muldur from the X-Files (rock on), "the truth is out there". Whether metaphysics or ontology, they believe that arguments can-- in truth-- be sound, as opposed to merely valid, for there are concrete propositions that have a definite truth-value. It is possible to pursue edification but not truth, as I would argue that Nietzsche did. It is possible to pursue truth but not edification, as I believe Hegel did. An example of one who pursued philosophy to study truth is Hegel.
3. To affect policy/habits, and/or to better society.
Those whose motivation is to affect policy/habits, and/or to better society, believe that philosophical study and work can have tangible benefits. They believe that people can be served, and tangible, positive results brought forth, from such pursuits. It is possible to have this motivation but not pursue edification, such as those who disavow the soul but argue that agents can still be held accountable for their actions. Aristotle is an example of a philosophy with this motivation, and his primary concern was to affect social ethics through habituation.
4. To create "truth".
Those whose motivation is to create truth believe that "truthfulness" is intrinsically tied to perception, and one can actually modify the truthfulness of a statement by adjusting the perception of that statement. According to those who pursue philosophy to create "truth", humans define what does and does not have value and what that value/those values is/are. I believe that Foucault and Derrida are examples of philosophers with this motivation, although I only have a basic knowledge of them both.
5. Because it is interesting.
Those whose motivation is to study systems believe that philosophy is worth pursuing because it is interesting, regardless of whether or not it is edifying, a method of revealing truth, or et cetera. Some may pursue systematism, such as analytical logicians, while others may abstractly consider broad metaphysical issues. I might include Lewis Carroll in this category, although I'm sure that will be controversial (both his inclusion as a philosopher and the claim about his primary motivation).
6. To earn income.
Haha... I kid!
Seriously, though, there is money to be made via philosophy. Ranging from research into formal logic yielding jobs in IT to professorship, it's not a bad way to make a living. That being said, it's probably not the most efficient method of earning an income, but it could certainly be a secondary method. Unless you're someone like Saul Kripke, in which case you could probably focus on this and do quite well for yourself.
7. To have something to do.
Honestly, I believe that some people engage in philosophy because it keeps them from being bored. This does not mean that they find it interesting, but it can be used as a tool to abstract themselves away from reality and have one more habit to get through life. Call me crazy, but I have a secret (well, secret no more) hunch that Wittgenstein might fall into this camp. Feel free to reject that association, if you see fit.
Wednesday, October 6, 2010