Is a Philosophy Degree Useless? A Brief Look at the Merits of Studying Philosophy
Philosophy, understandably, is one of the most underrated areas of study in college today. In a sense, philosophy is the black sheep of the college degrees. Dare to mention to anyone that you are majoring in philosophy, and you will quickly find yourself facing a slew of questions regarding the merits of philosophical study. The most prominent of these questions being, “What are you going to do with a degree in philosophy?” Or perhaps put more blatantly, “What’s the point of philosophy?” Recently, after taking an introductory course to philosophy and being absolutely awestruck by the material, I began contemplating whether or not I should major in philosophy. Like anyone else, my first thoughts regarding the practicality of a philosophy major were anything but positive. Talking it over with family, friends, teachers, and counselors I, myself, was faced with the endless barrage of questions which shun philosophy. In an attempt to defend my new found interest I began doing some research of my own. My cynical view on the merits of philosophical study was changed rather quickly.
Before delving into the worthiness of philosophical study, it is important to understand just exactly what philosophy is. Many people who question the value of philosophical study may not even fully understand the subject in question. But once they find out what philosophy is all about, they may be able to distinguish its merits all on their own. Philosophy is the very broad study of many of life’s most profound questions, implementing intensive rational investigation and literary analysis in an attempt to answer such questions, or at the very least, more clearly define the questions that should be being asked. While one can create hundreds of differing definitions of philosophy, each varying in its complexity, none of them can quite do it justice. In any case, the best way to understand the meaning of philosophy is to take a look at all of its biggest questions. These questions range from metaphysical inquiries such as “What is the true nature of reality?” to ethical issues such as “What is good and evil and how do we determine the difference?” These, along with many other daunting subjects, have been studied for thousands of years and they are essentially philosophy at its core. Once one comes to understand the goals of philosophy, their question of “What is philosophy?” quickly becomes “What is NOT philosophy?”
Aside from acknowledging the go-to questions in philosophy in order to understand the true meaning of the subject, it may also be beneficial to note the various philosophical archetypes. These archetypes include the sage, the dialectician, the spiritual analyst, and the questioner. While each archetype has their own characteristics, they are simply representative of a certain type of thinker. For example, the questioner can be recognized by their skeptical nature and their tendency to challenge convention. By keeping these archetypes in mind while studying philosophy, one can link the great philosophers from around the world and throughout time to understand important issues from a more worldly and inclusive perspective.
As mentioned before, once the subject matter and goals of philosophy itself are cleared up, the merits of studying such material may become quite apparent on their own. Yet many will still argue that the material studied in philosophy is quite impractical when it comes to the “real world”. While this can be argued fairly well, one must understand that it’s not necessarily the material that makes philosophy such a useful area of study, but it’s the skills that studying philosophy helps individuals develop. Philosophy courses often include rigorous texts and require a healthy dose of writing and argumentation. With this, philosophical study promotes analytical thinking and teaches individuals not only how to develop their own views on the important issues of today, but also how to develop strong arguments and communicate their views clearly and concisely through both speech and writing. Quite simply, philosophy teaches individuals how to think effectively for themselves. In everyday life, this is inarguably a priceless ability. After all if you’re not thinking for yourself, who is? Many people fall into the traps of politicians and are lured into marketing campaigns because they lack this ability.
Of course, the skills taught to those who study philosophy also come in handy in the job market as well. In the work place someone can be taught the roles of a specific position within weeks or perhaps even days, but it is much harder to teach someone how to think and analyze, a skill which is often said to be lacking in the workforce of today. It is also no secret that many people today lack the ability to write and speak effectively, a skill which, once again, is thoroughly exercised and promoted in philosophy. Possessing these skills will not only make you a more marketable when looking for a job, but they will also help you to stand out amongst your colleagues and allow you to excel and advance in any field. From a statistical standpoint, a quick Google search will also reveal that philosophy majors consistently score exceedingly well, and often the highest, on the LSAT, GRE, and MCAT exams.
Taking all of this into account, it becomes quite evident to me, and hopefully to others as well, that philosophy is very much worthy of study. As a matter of fact, the skills taught through philosophical study are so invaluable I find it quite difficult to develop an argument against its practicality.
It looks like I’ve found myself a new major.
While I'm not attempting to convince anyone to major in philosophy, I believe that this is a great video that clears up some of the common misconceptions regarding the practicality of a philosophy degree. Particularly interesting for those of you who like cold hard statistics. Thanks for reading and enjoy!