What is Philosophy?
Philosophers have relied upon reason, logic, introspection and tempered experience first to search for, and then to analyze, answers to life’s deepest questions:
- What is the ultimate structure of reality?
- What is good, right and valuable, rather than evil, wrong and worthless?
- What is real knowledge rather than mere belief?
- What, if any, are the limits of human knowledge?
- How is thought and consciousness possible in a material universe?
- What is justice, and how might we achieve it in the presence of deep disagreement over what matters to our societies?
- Are morality, responsibility and freedom even possible if every event is caused in accordance with the inexorable laws of science?
- Might divinity transcend experience, or is all dust to dust and ashes to ashes?
- Could there be purpose, perhaps even meaning, to life?
If these questions keep you up at night, or if you just enjoy sorting through them all, philosophy is the right course of study for you. These and other philosophical questions arise naturally in each individual’s life, and they echo throughout all the arts and sciences. This makes philosophy a partner in every intellectual and academic adventure. Students of philosophy find that it develops their capacities for critical thinking and clear reasoning.
Philosophy is often criticized for not reaching finite conclusions, or never “solving” the questions it examines. For this reason, it is said that philosophy has not made progress or improvement over time.
“Do the practices of philosophy change, and do they improve?"
One of the most potent causes of mistrust of philosophy is that it provides no answers, only questions, so that to many it does not seem to have progressed since its very beginnings in Plato, or even in pre-Socratic Greece (or China or India). Of course, one might similarly ask whether other human pursuits, such as music, literature, drama, architecture, painting or politics, have “improved” (and by what measure this judgement is supposed to be made), and if the answer is at best indeterminate we might query whether this reflects badly on those practices, or whether perhaps it indicates a problem with the question. It may be enough that their practitioners improve as they get their musical, literary and other educations, and that, having improved, they can help to keep some of humanity’s most important flames alive.” -- Simon Blackburn, Mariana Alessandri and John Kaag
What can you do with a philosophy degree?
Oftentimes it is said that the value of a degree depends on the marketability of the degree. This means that professional and vocational degrees have more value, right?
More recent evaluations of the employability and success of recent graduates seems to provide evidence to the contrary. Employers are looking for people, not degrees. Employers want someone who can think logically, find unique solutions to problems, and communicate them to others. Employers are looking for people with skills that translate into running a business.
Remember that job opportunities are developed and fostered by you, not by your degree program. If you have contacts, skills and experiences that make it possible for you to perform the job better than anyone else, you will likely be that employer's top choice.
When you study philosophy, you develop skills in verbal and written communication, problem-solving, clear and disciplined thinking and analysis, along with persuasive argumentation. These are skills that are directly applicable in careers in law, business administration, technical fields, computer programming, politics, entrepreneurship and writing-based professions.
Philosophy differs from most disciplines because, in philosophy courses, students are not taught what to think but rather how to think. Knowing that some problems have multiple solutions—or no solution—is an important skill, and employers recognize the value of hiring people who know how to ask the right questions, analyze issues from many points of view, and assess the pros and cons of competing proposals. This is the business of philosophy.
“The knowledge I use as CEO can be acquired in two weeks…The main thing a student needs to be taught is how to study and analyze things (including) history and philosophy.” Amos Shapira, CEO, Cellcom
Andrew Wicklander, owner of a software company, says that when he is hiring, he looks for people who can identify real problems in the current state of his industry, break them down into manageable bits, and apply new concepts to solve the problem. Business majors typically have “memorized a map of business processes and solutions.” But this is not what he is looking for in his line of work. He wants someone who can, in philosophical terms, ‘perform analytic critical reasoning’ in a fast-changing market.
Source: “The Power of Philosophy”
“Business leaders around the world have told me that they despair of finding people who can help them solve wicked problems. They simply don’t have enough people with the right backgrounds. [They need] people trained in the humanities who…have learned to play with big concepts, and to apply new ways of thinking to difficult problems that can’t be analyzed in conventional ways.” Tony Golsby-Smith, CEO, Second Road Consulting Firm
"In 2013, in a survey carried out by PayScale.com of mid-career professionals, philosophy majors ranked in the top 25 per cent of salaries, ahead of biology, nursing and business." Mariana Alessandri and John Kaag
"And while US philosophy graduates start on relatively low salaries, according to figures from The Wall Street Journal, their salaries more than double by the middle of their careers, putting them among the highest-salaried graduate groups." Mariana Alessandri and John Kaag
Philosophy provides an excellent foundation for Graduate studies:
GRE and LSAT scores of Philosophy majors exceed those of most other majors.
GRE Scores By Intended Graduate Major, 2011-2012
Political Sci 156
Computer Sci 158
Political Science 4.2
University of North Texas economist Michael Nieswiadomy has conducted several studies (in 1998, 2006, and 2008) derived from LSAT data. In the most recent study, Nieswiadomy took the LSAT scores of test-takers for 162 majors, finding the averages of each major. Philosophy ranks second with economics and theology, after math and physics. Here are the rankings of the top ten:
International Relations 156.6
(Rankings of other top 30 majors: Computer Science, 16; Political Science, 18; Accounting, 22; Marketing/Business Management, 26; Pre-Law, 28; Criminal Justice, 29)
Unlimited possibilities await graduates with degrees in philosophy and PPEL. The hard part is choosing what is next. Some of our recent graduates are attending Washington University Law School, the London School of Economics, University of California Hastings College of Law, Kings College in London, Georgetown University, Columbia University, and ASU Sandra Day O'Connor Law School.