Why Study Philosophy?
There are many reasons to study philosophy, but since philosophy
is not generally studied in high school, you may not know what it
is about, or what students of philosophy do after they graduate.
This page may help answer these questions:
- What is philosophy?
- Why philosophy is the most practical of
- Philosophy as a preparation for graduate
and professional school
- Careers for philosophy majors
- Who likes philosophy
- What our students say
What is philosophy?
Philosophy is concerned with the "big questions" about the
nature of the world and human existence: Is there anything more to
us as persons than our bodies and brains? Do we have a soul that
might survive our body's death? Does God exist? Do we have free
will, or are we merely puppets controlled by our genes and the
environment in which we grew up? What principles should we use to
guide our moral choices? Do moral ends ever (or always) justify
questionable means? And what makes an act moral anyway?
Philosophers study diverse questions and touch on issues in many
other academic disciplines and professions. Philosophy is thus
unified not by its subject matter but by its method. Central to
this method is the careful analysis of concepts and the formulation
and evaluation of arguments. For a philosopher, it is not good
enough simply to "have an opinion" on a philosophical question;
that opinion must be supported by rational argument.
Why philosophy is the most practical of disciplines
A common misconception about philosophy is that it is
impractical. In fact, philosophy helps you hone some very practical
skills. As a philosopher you learn to critically assess information
and arguments-to distinguish between sound reasoning and empty
rhetoric. Philosophy majors learn how to communicate clearly both
in speech and in writing. Philosophy helps you to think carefully
about ethical decisions. Collectively, these are skills that will
help you in future graduate and professional education, and they
are prized by employers. They will also help you to live your life
well, and what could be a more practical skill than that? If you
wonder what philosophy has done for philosophy majors, you might do
well to look at the following
article, reprinted from the NY Times Business section.
Philosophy as a preparation for graduate and professional
You may be surprised to learn that philosophy majors regularly
outscore other majors on standardized tests such as the LSAT and
MCAT, because they do equally well on both the verbal and
analytic/quantitative sections. Philosophy is the only liberal arts
major that specifically teaches both verbal and logic skills. In
addition, the most basic assumptions in law, the sciences, and
other disciplines are studied not in those disciplines but in
philosophy of law, philosophy of science, etc.
Careers for philosophy majors
Few philosophy majors become professional philosophers, but
despite this, most philosophers find rewarding jobs. Many of our
majors go on either immediately or eventually to graduate and
professional schools, but many also find jobs right out of college.
You might be surprised at how many famous people are philosophy
majors. Take a look at the following list of famous philosophy
majors (compiled by St. Mary's College in Texas).
Who likes philosophy?
There's no one type of person who is attracted to philosophy,
and we welcome a diversity of points of view. The only requirement
for studying philosophy is a genuine desire to think. Still, there
are a few sorts of people who seem especially to gravitate towards
philosophy. See if you fit into one or more of these
- Puzzle Solvers
- Philosophical problems are often logical puzzles, and many who
study philosophy enjoy wrapping their minds around complicated
- Philosophical training can be a great aid to those who like to
argue and debate, and philosophical problems (whether they be about
morality, politics, government, religion, or anything else) are
natural problems for debate. If you are passionate about any of
these issues and like arguing about them, philosophy is a natural
place for you.
- If you are the kind of person who liked math
and english and history
and physics, and you can't really decide what you
should study, philosophy may be the perfect area. Philosophy tends
to be interdisciplinary in the issues it tackles, and it uses all
parts of your brain.
- Some people are really engaged by metaphysical
questions-questions about the meaning of life, God, death, the
soul, the good, and the beautiful. Philosophy is their natural
- Philosophical reflection sometimes produces deep convictions
about how the world should be changed. Philosophy students learn to
think outside the box and consider solutions to problems that
threaten liberty, equality and human rights, and some (both liberal
and conservative) become convinced that the point of philosophy is,
as Marx said, not just to understand the world, but to change
What our students say
You might want to read an editorial written for
the College Newspaper by a former Butler University philosophy
major, Kristin Glazner. We're proud of Kristin. After graduation
she went on to Law School at IU, where in her second year she won
the moot court competition.
The subjects philosophy investigates, and the way it approaches
them, are so interesting, that the discussions hosted by our
Philosophy Club almost always get a good turn out - and not
only from philosophy majors and minors.