College of Liberal Arts & Sciences
Philosophy and Religion

 

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:

  1. What is philosophy?
  2. Why philosophy is the most practical of disciplines
  3. Philosophy as a preparation for graduate and professional school
  4. Careers for philosophy majors
  5. Who likes philosophy
  6. 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.

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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.

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Philosophy as a preparation for graduate and professional school

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. 

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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).

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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 categories.

Puzzle Solvers
Philosophical problems are often logical puzzles, and many who study philosophy enjoy wrapping their minds around complicated logical problems.
Debaters
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.
Generalists
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.
Generalists
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 home.
Activists
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 it.

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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-a really big deal!

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.

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