Why Study Philosophy?

Car ClothingPhilosophy not only helps students gain an understanding of a diverse range of world views, but also aids them in articulating their own well-informed view of the world and their place in it. The questions that philosophers ask and attempt to answer are intrinsically interesting and for many people, this is reason enough to study philosophy.

There are also important, practical reasons to study philosophy. Most philosophers agree that among the great benefits of philosophy is that it challenges us to think critically about our beliefs and to justify them with good arguments. The development of critical thinking skills is something that can help all of us to make better decisions in many aspects of our lives. We can benefit personally because we will make better judgments about what is in our own long-term self-interest. We can benefit professionally because we will be able to think more clearly about decisions we have to make at work.

Philosophy can also benefit both ourselves and those around us by providing us with some of the things that are required to be good citizens. How can we make good political decisions unless we have analyzed the advantages and disadvantages of the various forms of government and unless we are capable of critically evaluating various social policies?

Along with these very general benefits, a background in philosophy can be of great utility in many specific career areas, such as the legal profession, the business world, journalism, science and the medical profession. In law, the prominent role played by arguments and the application of general rules to specific cases is very clear. As a result, most law schools are especially receptive to students who have a philosophical background. In addition, many businesses express a strong desire for employees who have developed the thinking and communication skills emphasized in philosophy. This is not surprising, since business people must be able to formulate and clarify problems, analyze potential solutions, and defend their own recommendations in a clear and rational way. Journalists can also clearly benefit from being able to present clear and rational analyses of various situations. Moreover, philosophical training provides an excellent background for dealing with the ethical issues that arise in any profession, particularly the medical profession, and this is something that is increasingly recognized by medical schools and by various professional bodies.

The existence of many of these benefits is supported by the fact that students with a background in philosophy traditionally do exceptionally well on standardized tests such as the GRE, GMAT, MCAT and LSAT exams. This in itself provides a very pragmatic reason for studying philosophy for those who are interested in continuing their education beyond the undergraduate level. However, these very direct and pragmatic benefits of a philosophical background should not distract us from more general benefits. By engaging in philosophical thought, students develop the intellectual skills essential to meeting the challenges of their chosen professions, the challenges faced by our nation and by the entire human population, and the challenge of cultivating themselves as human beings.

Please take a moment to read "Philosophy’s makeover Why job prospects for philosophy grads are brightening" by Daniel Drolet originally published in University Affairs.  www.universityaffairs.ca/feature-article/philosophys-makeover/