CareerSteer – career test for career choice                                     

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The Eighteenth Century Philosophers

George Berkeley

Berkeley thinks that ideas are formed from the habitual association of sensations such as vision and hearing. But he then feels that all ideas are created independently from reality; this doesn't work as Dr Johnson demonstrated by kicking a stone: "I refute this thus."

What is the relevance of Berkeley to career choice?

When making career choices, beware of either thinking things purely a matter of hard facts or of thinking 'I want therefore I can'. The CareerSteer careers test asks the user to look at facts and reconciles them with attitudes.


Voltaire's has two primary claims to fame. One, his book Candide, is the satirical novel where, in spite of horrific atrocities throughout, Pangloss (essentially Leibnitz) persists with his insistence on the world being the best of all possible worlds. Voltaire, real name Francois-Marie Arouet, also stood up against the religious bigotry, supporting reason at the time of widespread illogic and fanaticism. As is suggested by the nature of Candide, Voltaire became more pessimistic about the human condition and events, seeing events as often arbitrary. He was a deist rather than an atheist; he thought that something had to create the world, even if interventions do not persist.

What is the relevance of Voltaire to a career test?

I prefer reasoning to the claim that 'people are irrational', which allows too much failure to think. CareerSteer allows for feelings in how it teases out career choice preferences, but nevertheless makes a rational structure for the career test itself, which is organised in working out which jobs fit together with which personalities, skills, attitudes and preferences.

David Hume

The great Scottish philosopher, David Hume wrote about human nature, morality and English history. Hume tries to reduce the study of human nature to a set of principles, trying to distinguish between impressions and ideas, and between simple and complex ideas. He is also interested in cause and effect.

What is the relevance of David Hume to a career test?

CareerSteer tries to move away from the superficial impressions of careers as portrayed on the television, yet asks questions of apparent superficiality in order to tap more fundamental underlying personality traits. While the career test in itself is complex, the user's career choices are developed by appealing to simpler lead-in ideas.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau

This prominent Enlightenment figure is a controversial one. His early Discourse on the Sciences and Art argues that progress in these areas goes hand in hand with decadence in society. He develops the idea of the 'noble savage', living a solitary but decent existence of great simplicity; this is the antithesis of Hobbes' brutish state of nature. In his opinion, private property causes the fall from grace. Although a return to nature was unlikely, Rousseau viewed The Social Contract, the name of a later work, as the way forward, with people pursuing their own ends in accordance with a collective, sovereign, will. Emile, his book suggesting that children can be educated like plants being allowed to grow, is the fount of facilitative training and libertarian educational philosophies over the centuries.

Cole Davis on Rousseau

I rather think that the noble savage is rather unrealistic. The existence as private property as original sin is also highly arguable. His general will is a difficult concept, including the abolition of extremes of poverty and wealth, a general will which is accepted by the people in general and an assumption of a common good which may be completely unrealistic. Pluralism is not anticipated. The question of whether or not children will learn without coercion is still asked.

What is the relevance of Rousseau to career choice?

People wanting to make a career choice must of course go their own way, making their own decisions. They can not assume independence from social influence, although a good career test will try to tap personality rather than merely reflecting current fashionable thinking. It is left to the individual user of a careers test to decide upon the pursuit of wealth or of human happiness, assuming the attainability or desirability of either.

Immanuel Kant

Kant's writings are notoriously difficult and I would not attempt to read them. Kant maintains, however, that the mind plays an active role in shaping the world of experience. In this respect, he is a forerunner of the phenomenological psychologists George Kelly and Carl Rogers. He distinguishes between appearances the objects that actually exist. Given the fluidity of the situation, morality can not be a matter of the likely consequences or even conditional actions (if this happens, then do such and such). Essentially, Old Testament style, categorical, moral laws are required: this is your duty, do this and do that.

What is the relevance of Kant to career choice and to a careers test?

The lack of clarity between the real world and what we would have it to be makes career choice a slippery thing to handle, hence the need for careers advisers and career tests. CareerSteer makes the attempt to look at both facts of a type and the feelings of what represents the person. No career test is going to get this exactly right, which makes it both a science and an art, both a usage of the known facts and a guess as to what will appeal to the person making a career choice.

Thomas Paine

Tom Paine's The Rights of Man defended the French Revolution against the criticism of Edmund Burke and did much to assist the American Revolution. His later Age of Reason was a deist book, against both atheism and Christianity: he is deeply opposed to the God of the Old Testament.

Cole Davis on The Rights of Man

Compared to many eighteenth century texts, this is very clearly written. Its greatest importance is its critique of hereditary monarchy. It also, however, suggests that making rules to be carried down without alteration through subsequent generations is not really a matter of social consent.

What is the relevance of Tom Paine to a careers test?

Careers tests need to be designed in an open-minded way.

Jeremy Bentham

Bentham's projects were all aimed at solving problems, be they legal, social or technical. He identified the Principle of Utility, or the Greatest Happiness Principle; right and wrong actions are right or wrong dependent upon their effects on people. This has great influence on the legal system, which takes into account psychological as well as other consequences.

Bentham quantifies pleasure and pain in the hedonistic calculus, in terms of intensity, duration and other factors. But there are dangers in these calculations. If we decide to benefit the whole by making them feel better by identifying and punishing a scapegoat, are we acting morally? To some extent, individuals will suffer, at least in terms of self-restraint, in order for the bulk of society to be reasonably treated. Here, something worthy comes about, although not if one were to follow popular reactions to apparently lenient sentencing of the convicted: an impersonal system must be adopted. The law does not just stand for one person's interests, but all must be subject to the interests of others. Importantly, this means everybody of whatever social status.

What is the relevance of Bentham to a career test?

Career tests are of course gauges of individuals' feelings about what is pleasurable or unpleasurable in career choice. The imposed reality here is not so much the interests of others so much as the likely competition of others.

Edmund Burke

Burke's Reflections on the Revolution in France, was written before the executions of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette and the Terror. He was largely right about the dangers to French society. His other writings, although not organised, are very much the source of much modern political conservatism. He looks at concepts such as liberty and demonstrates their folly in the abstract: "... because liberty ... may be classed amongst the blessings of mankind ... Am I to congratulate the highwayman and murderer, who has broken prison, upon the recovery of his natural rights?

Shared traditions and belief systems are probably more valuable to society to be risked on the outright promotion of natural rights. The former have been hard won over generations and have probably become just and efficient over time.

His rejection of Enlightenment views of human nature, as espoused by Rousseau, is clear-cut. Hobbes is nearer to where Burke stands. Humans are corrupt and capable of terrible things with the removal of the veneer of civilisation (Lord of the Flies, anybody?). "Society requires not only that the passions of individuals should be subjected, but that even [en masse] ... the inclinations of men should frequently be thwarted, their will be controlled, and their passions brought into subjection."

The objection to this is obvious. To perpetuate the status quo, any abuse can be foisted on to people, individually and collectively. Having said that, Burke was not an unthinking reactionary. For example, he was a British parliamentarian protested against the government's coercion of the American colonies.

What is the relevance of Edmund Burke to careers advice?

The better career tests and careers advisers do not merely ask about abstract desires? 'Do you want a lot of money?' or 'How free do you like to be?' are not likely to receive well calibrated answers. Qualified career choice questions are needed to put such ideas in context.

Georg Hegel

Like Kant, another highly difficult writer. His development of the idea of the dialectical method of acquiring consciousness is highly influential, however. Any given phenomena (thesis) has contradictory aspects (antithesis), the study of these contradictions leading to synthesis as progress. He also considers the struggle of ideas between people, identifying a master-slave relationship; one of intellectual mastery and dependency.

The dialectical method was particularly used in the study of history, where Hegel sees history progressing from only despots being free to moves towards Enlightenment, with its violence as an inevitable failure to break with the past in absolute terms.

As will be noted, Marx uses the dialectical approach in his approach to historical progress, from feudalism to capitalism and beyond. Sartre, however, draws more on the master-slave insight in his existentialism. It should be noted, however, that Hegel's speculations tend not to be verifiable and he is probably the last of the great system-creating philosophers. In particular, he is undermined by logical positivism.

What is the relevance of Hegel to career choice?

Only so far as the better methods of career choice tend to allow different concepts to clash with other and to allow the individual to progress in his or her thinking. A career test similarly brings in different, often somewhat conflicting, concepts to allow a developing consciousness of possibilities. An interactive careers test, such as CareerSteer, allows people to make career choices in a developmental way.

Adam Smith

Adam Smith is famous for The Wealth of Nations and its portrayal of the 'invisible hand' of market forces. People pursue their own self-interest, but a society forms around the interchange between the interactions of those people. The market adjusts to demand, supply and prices. Because of such distortions as corporate pressure, the laissez-faire economy does not act in the way Smith predicts and his reputation suffers.

What is the relevance of Adam Smith to career direction?

It is recognised that individuals will have to pursue their own self-interest, some more than others, and the different Holland scales of a career test designed along trait-factor lines will recognise this. Similarly, in an interactive careers test such as CareerSteer, people develop their own identities by examining career choices where they have to consider how much they want particular types of reward.

Mary Wollstonecraft

Wollstonecraft rejected unearned rank and promoted republicanism. Her outstanding contribution, however, was A Vindication of the Rights of Women. Women were brought up to take up a submissive role, intellectually and in terms of relationships; perhaps this rather reflects Hegel's 'master-slave' concept. If they had the same rights, then they would be able to equal men intellectually and morally. Education was seen to be the key to change.

What is the relevance of Mary Wollstonecraft to a careers test?

The mere fact that career tests do not discriminate between men and women demonstrates that Wollstonecraft has made her point. Career choice is less determined by gender than it used to be.

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CareerSteer – career test for career choice