Why Study Philosophy?

Many of us who studied philosophy in college did not necessarily consider the “value” of philosophy beyond the educational experience it provided at the time.  Some of us knew we might continue our education in a post-graduate program, whether that was a graduate program in philosophy or a related field, law school, or even medical school. Other students double-majored with their other major being in an area that could more readily translate into employment, for example, computer science or engineering. Still others saw philosophy as akin to any other degree in the humanities with inherent skills applicable in the real world: for example, philosophy encourages clear writing, creative and robust critical thinking, an ability to form judgments and to reflect on/evaluate those judgments and to see and evaluate ideas from different perspectives.

Many of us were drawn to philosophy at the college level because it had the effect of making sense of everything else we were studying in college. Concerned with idea of the human subject as not only a thinking subject, but a subject that chooses, acts, and feels, philosophy has a way of not only connecting to all disciplines but also helping to make connections between and among disciplines–from science (e.g., What counts as knowledge (or a fact)?) to questions about value (e.g., What ought I do?  What is beauty?).  In the end, philosophy is concerned with what it means to be human–and everything that investigating this question involves.

Photo Credit: Texas A&M University
Photo Credit: Texas A&M University

Although difficult to articulate or describe to those who have not participated in a robust philosophical education, from the inside we recognize our philosophical education as a meaningful and transformative experience–one that helped shape the whole of our college education. For many of us, we studied philosophy because we found in that discipline a space to ask and investigate and ponder the “big” questions–questions that were important to us: questions about who we are, what we should value, and how we ought to act. It was a space where asking for clarification, for definitions, for identifying assumptions, and then asking even more questions were all accepted and acceptable.

More recently, the larger employment community has begun to see the value of philosophy studied at both the pre-college and college levels.  The skills mentioned above that the engagement with or study of philosophy naturally cultivates are recognized as coinciding with the very skills employers hope to find in their future employees.

This page aggregates a number of articles pointing to the significance and value of studying philosophy at all levels of one’s education.  This is not to say that everyone should continue to a PhD–just as not everyone who studies mathematics in K-12, or even in college, will want to continue to the graduate level in that field. Not being an expert in a field–for whatever reason–does not mean that there is no value in studying that field for as little or as much as one wants.

Other links were included for fun or to show the breadth of philosophy’s connections in the larger world–from rock music to science fiction to popular movies.

“I work therefore I am: why businesses are hiring philosophers.”

“For philosophy majors, the question after graduation is: what next?”

“Schools are finally starting to teach kids philosophy”

“Teaching kids philosophy makes them smarter in math and English”

“Why kids–now more than ever–need to learn philosophy.  Yes, philosophy.”

“Teaching philosophy to children? It’s a great idea”

“I think, therefore I earn: Philosophy graduates are suddenly all the rage with employers. What can they possibly have to offer?”

“Can philosophy survive in an academy driven by impact and employability?”

“Why are so many smart people such idiots about philosophy?”

“Hey Bill Nye, ‘Does Science Have All the Answers or Should We Do Philosophy Too?’” (A companion to the above link)

“The Means and End of a Liberal Education” 

“A philosophy degree earns more than an accounting degree” 

“Philosophy: Top Paid Humanities Major of 2016”  

“The Myth of the Unemployed Humanities Major” 

“Philosophers in Fictional Works”

“A Philosophical Conversation with David Bowie”

“Le Guin as Teacher of Socratic Political Philosophy”

“Philosophy saved me from poverty and drugs: that’s why I teach it to kids”

“Who Has a Degree in Philosophy?”