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Why Major in Philosophy?

Eleven reasons for choosing the examined life.

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I am really enjoying doing it and I’m seriously considering pursuing it further; but, what can I do with a major in philosophy? As a philosophy professor, this is one of the questions I get most often. Why should you pick the examined life? Here are eleven reasons.

1. The Examined Life Is Worth It, Regardless

To reflect on the most important principles shaping your conduct and your worldview is one of the most valuable activities you can engage in your life. If you do it properly, no matter what your future will be, you will have built the most essential tools to face it.

2. Creativity

The study of philosophy encourages both oral and written creative thinking. Because of the persuasive character of philosophy, you will be trained to criticize arguments and to come up with alternative proposals. This is but an exercise in creativity, which may be precious to you no matter your future occupation.

3. Better Logic

Philosophy is based on arguing and hence it induces acquaintance with the logic of good and bad arguing. On top of this, most philosophy programs also do require a course in critical thinking or symbolic logic. This is the reason why philosophy students on average are very good at spotting faulty lines of reasoning, such as those on fishy contracts.

4. ... Which Means Thinking on Your Own

If the study of philosophy involves a good dose of creativity, persuasion, and logical rigor, then philosophers will learn how to think on their own. Who would not want that?

5. Fundamental Questions

Philosophy is typically devoted to fundamental questions. Hence, philosophy students will typically be educated to think about the most basic assumptions within the issue they are facing. Again, this skill can be momentous in a vast spectrum of situations.

6. Authentic Writing

Philosophy encourages authentic writing. In a philosophy paper, even if you are analyzing the view of another author, you cannot just past and copy the author’s words: you need to say it with your own voice and come up with your own criticisms. 

7. ... And Speaking

A much analogous reasoning applies to philosophical speech: to discuss philosophy you have to be able to express your opponent’s view with your own words. 

8. Care About Standardized Exams?

Philosophy majors on average have great GRE, GMAT, and LSAT scores; they also have one of the highest acceptance rates to medical school. Here’s a new that may be of interest to your parents too. There are plenty of sources out there confirming this. See for example this statistics:

http://libarts.wsu.edu/philo/overview/grad-admissions.asp

 

9. Ability to Read Critically

If philosophical writing is persuasive writing, philosophical reading is critical reading. When approaching a philosophical text you have to identify the main problem, to devise the arguments in its support, and evaluate them. This is a skill that you can transfer on a wide array of other fields and it is one of the reasons why philosophy major do so well on the job market. 

10. Welcome to the Club!

Philosophy is one of the most spontaneous and profound activities humans can engage into, along with religion, music, crafting, cooking, and few others. Unlike a good number of other majors, philosophy majors typically share a deep passion for the subject with their peers, the professors, and beyond. If you happen to prefer philosophy, you should be proud to join a vast community of people with whom you can share your passion. Throw yourself in, with no hesitation.

11. Care About Employment?

A number of articles have appeared on the news in the past few years praising the performance of philosophy majors in the business world. Here is another new that your parents may be happy to hear about as well. See for example the New York Times, which published a number of pieces on the topic, such as this one: http://www.nytimes.com/2005/11/18/your-money/18iht-mpatent.html

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