Take the leap: Why I went from studying Economics to Philosophy



Take the leap: Why I went from studying Economics to Philosophy

Geplaatst op 02/08/2023

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You have just finished school and are looking for a pathway to pursue? Despite many passions you cannot decide what you really want to do in your life to feel a sense of fulfilment and joy? Try to identify your core values.

This is a story about how I overcame my personal challenges.

My name is Marc von der Linde, I am 25 years old and I study Philosophy and Political Sciences at the Johannes-Gutenberg University in Mainz, Germany. Born close to Cologne, I grew up in a town close to Dortmund, in an area more known as the “Ruhrgebiet”.

The search for my own interests

I still remember the words of my high school principal at our graduation. Fully convinced of her own words, she promised her students a rich future full of possibilities: The world was, according to her, now open for us to discover and act in. With our high school diplomas, most of us were eligible for doing whatever we wanted. Whether to study any subject at university or choosing a training in craftsmanship.

But with this freedom, with this world of possibilities also came along a huge challenge that brought a lot of questions for each of us to answer: what do we want to do with our lives? And how do we think we can achieve it? Do we even want to set ourselves up for the path of an ambitious career and sacrifice other parts of our lives for it? Or are we pleased to continue our lives in our hometown? These challenges and the seemingly infinite possibilities overwhelmed me.

In order to find a job that satisfies our needs we must know what truly interests us. Some of us find their passion early in life and decide to pursue it as a profession. Then again, throwing yourself wholeheartedly into a career might impact your work-life balance. An element some of us might find important, too.

In the end, all these questions are leading to very fundamental, existential questions about us as humans: what do we consider to be a life worth living? And what are we willing to do in order to live this life?

At first, after high school, I started studying Business Informatics, a highly promising field with an almost guaranteed job after graduation. It seemed like the perfect fit for me: a combination of using computers, which I had done from my early childhood on, and also learning about the business side of the emerging markets on digital platforms. It was definitely interesting, but it didn’t feed my hunger for knowledge. Business Informatics educates people to be specialists in this field. Therefore it is destined to answer only a certain, limited set of questions about methods and some theoretical background. I know myself better: I have a strong desire to learn as much as I can about the world, and my study choice left me with many unanswered questions. I was missing a home for my desire to explore new areas of knowledge.

Tension between rational thought and the gut feeling

Even though my idea of influencing the world with methods of the economic field had not completely failed yet, I felt an urge to dive deeper. Since Business Informatics wasn’t allowing me to do so, I changed my field to Economic Science. It was still a subject with a close connection to everyday working life that would teach me a lot about practical methods in the field of economics and the area of founding businesses. It did provide me more information about the economical relations between individuals, companies and nations. I was (and still am) convinced that economic relations are a big part of human life – as a description of people exchanging goods and services. But I was still missing a broad outlook, an access to wider forms of knowledge about the world and its inhabitants. Something that we were taught to portray as “Externalities”: The natural wildlife, the rivers, the forests, the birds, the fish - all of life outside of the economical context was to be ignored as externalities, as natural resources. Is this necessarily a problem?

After a couple of semesters, I kept feeling like I still wasn’t where I was supposed to be: I was learning something about economical relations in the world, but it was still very restricted to a superficial, one-sided theoretical outlook on these. And there are a lot more ways to organise our coexistence and view each other and the contribution each and every one is able to give to society.

Why did it bother me so much?

In a broad, ecological context, the issue of externalities in the economy is indeed becoming a problematic topic. But why did it bother me so much?

I was confronted with a perspective on the world that was challenging my core values and beliefs about humans and life: the vision I was presented with portrayed human life as a constant competition, restrained to the concepts of economy. Everything was presented as something to buy and evaluate, to market and sell. There was hardly any room for broader perspectives that allow us to view human life in all its complexity. Even though I knew that these ideas were only models of reality and did not attempt to map it as a whole, it constrained my view on the world in a way that I could not enjoy.

I was raised with a perspective on life that portrayed humans as equals, as subjects that all have the same rights, with the hope that this could be granted to as many humans as possible. I believe in changing the world by being kind to each other, by helping each other out whenever possible and by striving for consensus. These outlooks and attitudes towards a shared life shaped my identity. They guide the way I want to act in and contribute to this world and therefore also my interests in learning. Realising this helped me a lot in finding a way to pursue a life worth living. I integrate these values into the creation of my professional life and in my daily life as well.

Finding out these values and identifying these as essential to my well-being was a long process of separating things I was taught to want and things I truly want.

Bringing together rationality and wellbeing

After diving into the fields of Business Informatics and Economic Science, I was facing an existential crisis: Should I stay and try to find ways to deal with my alienated feeling? Or should I try to find another way - another path to further investigate, to ask more questions and to do the things I truly want to do with my life?

Both options seemed to have clear negative and positive aspects. If I continued on the path of Economic Science, my financial future seemed secured. With my background in information technology, the professional world was open: I could choose whatever job I wanted.
But this financial security would certainly come at a big price. I already felt sick in the study environment. Often before lectures and seminars I had stomach pain and no motivation to study. My body was clearly telling me that this was not the place to be for me. So why would that change after I graduated?

As I was analysing my options, I started considering a whole new direction: Philosophy. It provided me with the openness I was searching for: the possibility to ask questions about everything I could think of and professors that were eager to guide me on my infinite quest of knowledge. The more I was considering Philosophy, the more it felt like a home for my curiosity. Despite the rational side of financial doubts, I chose to study this field.

Today, I am more than satisfied with my decision. Not only did it improve my wellbeing, but the seemingly harder task of finding a job led me to other perspectives. I started considering jobs I hadn’t even thought about, beginning with ethical consultations in a world full of global moral challenges, a career in journalism, public relations, or even the founding of my own business.

In today’s world, it doesn’t always have to be about finding the most secured career. It is possible to find – or create – your own space. A space where you can act according to your core values and fulfil your needs in your professional life. You just need the courage to search for this space and take the leap to go for it. Everything else will follow at some point.

Contact & information: www.marcvonderlinde.de