I Went To See the Doctor of Philosophy

I have attained the degree of “Doctor of Philosophy,” but the meanings of both of those nouns have changed from when this degree was first granted. When it was, the words essentially meant “learned lover of knowledge,” but in everyday English the meaning of “doctor” has narrowed, from “learned in an academic field” to “practitioner of the health sciences”; “philosophy” is now a specific academic field studying “the fundamental nature of knowledge, reality, and existence.” (I have taken exactly one philosophy course in my career, and I didn’t enjoy it very much.)

Yet I still get to wear dark blue on my hood, the color of “philosophy” in the wider sense of the word. I’ve often thought that we need to end this practice: by rights I should have a doctorate of history, and wear a color devised for my particular discipline. But with so many already taken, this is probably unfeasible. (I suppose that I could wear white, the color of the humanities – or golden yellow, the color of social science.)

If there’s one thing I dislike, though, it’s when people who hold doctorates of education wear dark blue on their hoods, or on the velvet panels on their gowns. They should wear light blue, as the code, and common courtesy, dictate.

In a similar fashion, I don’t much care for being “Dr. Good.” This is not because I feel that I’m stepping on the toes of cardiologists or radiologists, but because it’s a historical fluke that my credential comes with a title. Sure, I’ll use it on the job, but not outside of that.