Why Study Philosophy?

Philosophers think deeply about questions that occur to everyone from time to time. In our courses, we address such questions: What is the source of happiness? Can we have knowledge of the external world, ourselves, God? What is the relationship between the mind and the body? What is the proper attitude to have towards our death? By examining various arguments that attempt to answer these kinds of difficult but important questions, philosophers develop the powerful and prized skills and qualities of reasoning, critical thinking, and ability to appreciate different perspectives.

On this page, we have gathered some information about the value of doing a major or a minor in philosophy. Philosophy courses vary tremendously in what they take up; we welcome you to explore whichever themes interest you. In addition, we have listed philosophy courses that relate directly to specific goals and careers.

Firstly...

Job candidates and applicants to professional schools can only be helped by being able to examine both sides of a question, think critically, write cogently, and solve very general abstract problems. And this isn’t just something that only philosophy teachers say. Below are links to articles and posts by many “real world” sources with information for you about how well positioned philosophy students are for admission to graduate and professional schools, for careers in business, and for jobs in general. You might be interested in going on in philosophy itself, but coursework in the discipline turns out to be useful in setting you up for the rest of your life in any case.

These results actually make sense: many employers and professional programs are looking for people who can reason well, articulate a viewpoint, defend their beliefs in writing, and solve very general abstract problems – the very skills that are preeminently developed by a philosophical education. Our former philosophy majors who have kept in touch with the Department have remarked on how helpful their philosophical training has been in developing their job skills. To sum up, although (and actually in part because) we live in uncertain times, philosophy compares well to other subjects of study in terms of giving you skills that will stand you in good stead as you face a variety of new demands in new situations.

For the usefulness of Philosophy for employability in general, have a look at the Salon article by Shannon Rupp’s, or The Guardian, or The Wall Street Journal, or Anders Berg Poulsen’s discussion in Grasp, or The Atlantic‘s article by Matthew Stewart.

Facts about...

…the GRE: National statistics show that philosophy students do exceptionally well on standardized exams. For a physicists’ website showing the success of philosophy students on the GRE’s, please see the Physics Central website. Please see Discover magazine highlighting how well philosophers do.

…the LSAT: Please see the American Bar Association’s website showing philosophy majors second only to math and physics in LSAT scores.

…med school: 1998 statistics from the Association of American Medical Colleges show philosophy majors applying to medical school had a 50% acceptance rate (where Biology students were at 35%, Chemistry 39%, Physics 42%, and Biochemistry 43% ). Please see this article from a journal published by the American Medical School Association about the high proportion of philosophy majors who are accepted.

…the GMAT: Please see this GMAT prep blog post about philosophy majors who perform well on the GMAT exam.

Interested in just trying a course...or a few?

Do feel free to explore anything that sounds interesting to you. You’ll get some of the benefits of doing a philosophy major from all of them, in the course of their exploration of their particular topics. Here is a listing of some philosophy courses that have content directly relevant to certain other interests you might have.

In addition to what we have gathered on this page, you can find further information from the American Philosophical Association: