Philosophy is concerned with the “big questions” about the nature of the world and human existence: What can be known, and what is unknowable? Can we be sure that there is a world beyond our minds? Is the past a guide to the future? Is there anything more to us as persons than our bodies and brains? 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 justify questionable means? And what makes an act moral anyway?
Philosophical questions touch on issues in many academic disciplines and professions. What unifies philosophy is not its subject matter but its method. Central to this method is the careful analysis of concepts and the formulation and evaluation of arguments. For a philosopher, it is never enough just to “have an opinion” on a philosophical question; one’s opinion must be supported by rational argument.
A common misconception about philosophy is that it is impractical. In fact, philosophy helps you hone some very practical skills. As a philosophy major you learn to:
- Critically assess information and arguments
- Distinguish between sound reasoning and empty rhetoric
- Communicate clearly both in speech and in writing
- Understand the grounds for ethical decision making
Collectively, these are skills that will help you in future graduate and professional education, and employers prize them. They will also help you to live your life well, and what could be a more practical skill than that?
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.
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. Learn more.
Careers for Philosophy majors
Few philosophy majors become professional philosophers, but almost all find rewarding jobs in business, government, healthcare, education, or the non-profit sector. Some students find a job right out of college, while others apply to graduate and professional schools. We encourage students to do internships to build skills and explore options.