What can philosophy teach us? Will it make us think outside the box? Perhaps it will help us make sense of life’s complexities?
If you’re someone who loves the beauty of finding answers to life’s most profound questions, then studying philosophy might be the perfect fit for you.
However, if you’re still not convinced, we’ve gathered numerous reasons why you should study philosophy, according to experts.
Here are their insights:
Dr. Mark M. Causey, Ph.D.
Senior Lecturer of Philosophy and Liberal Studies, Georgia College & State University
Philosophy encourages curiosity and wonder
Philosophy literally means “love of wisdom,” and in these uncertain times of climate devastation, political instability, and pandemics (to name a few of our pressing problems), I can’t think of anything we need more right now than wisdom.
Wisdom is about how best for us to live in these times. So much of our educational system is geared towards knowledge (facts and data) with too little focus on what to do with all that knowledge.
- Philosophy provides the tools to think critically, complexly, and diversely in evaluating our possible responses.
- Philosophy is the discipline that asks the big questions about who we are, why we are here, and what we are to do.
- Philosophy is concerned with what makes for a good life and how to attain it best.
- Philosophy values clear thinking. It challenges our everyday notions and “common sense” answers that function to shut down further thought.
- Philosophy gives us the tools to evaluate competing truth claims and to support our conclusions with sound reasoning.
Socrates, considered by many the father of Western philosophy, once said that philosophy begins in wonder.
It values the questions themselves and never considers any answer to be beyond questioning itself. Philosophy can help us discern which values and ideas are worthy of our time and attention.
Knowing what is truly important helps us keep our focus during times of difficulty.
To study philosophy is to join a great conversation about ideas and values that have been going on for millennia now all over the world. It is a chance to add your own ideas as well.
Dr. Jamie Phillips
Professor of Philosophy, Clarion University of Pennsylvania
You will access potential answers to all the questions you may have about life
Have you ever wondered what the most valuable thing in life is?
What is it that you and every other human being should seek to obtain genuine long-term happiness? Would it surprise you that I already know the answer to this question? The answer is friendship.
Individuals who maintain life-long authentic friendships will be happier throughout their lives than those who do not, even if these others obtain great wealth, fame, or both.
Have you ever wondered whether you—your personality, your memories, your thoughts, your very consciousness—reduced down to certain of your brain states?
That persons are nothing more than their brains (hardware/wetware) or the ‘programming’ their brains are running (software)? Thus, that souls can’t really exist, and there can be no distinction between mind and body, and human free will must be some kind of an illusion?
Would it surprise you that I know the answer to this question, too? The answer is ‘no.’ You are not reducible to your brain.
Thus, you might really have a soul, and your mind may be distinct from your body, and your behavior might actually not be determined at all. You might, in fact, be freer than you realize and a more amazing part of the universe than you ever considered.
Have you ever wondered how to fairly and completely resolve controversial issues like:
- Whether addiction is a disease?
- Whether you are morally obligated to do what your family requires?
- Whether parents should be licensed before they can have kids?
- Whether it is morally permissible to eat meat?
- Whether recreational marijuana should be legalized?
- What is the meaning of life?
Would it surprise you to know that philosophers have answers to all these questions and to nearly any other question you might ask, as well as employing rational and objective methods for generating and testing these answers?
The value of studying Philosophy does not lie, as is often thought, in the fascinating and universal questions it asks but in the concrete answers that it gives to these questions and in the methods it employs to generate these answers.
Related: Why Is Philosophy Important?
When you study Philosophy, especially with the assistance of a professional philosopher, you will access potential answers to all the questions you may have about life:
- What to believe?
- What to desire?
- What to be?
And will learn methods for determining which of these answers are the correct ones—even if they only turn out to be the correct ones for you.
Socrates tells us that the unexamined life is not worth living. That is probably not quite fair. But what is fair is that the examined life, when the examination is done with the help of thousands of years of philosophical thought and consideration, is absolutely and without a doubt a better life.
Patrick Capriola, Ed.D.
Career Educator | Founder, Strategies for Parents
It offers the chance to reflect on and examine one’s beliefs
Philosophy provides the opportunity to reflect on and examine one’s beliefs. In doing so, we evaluate:
- who we are,
- what we believe, and
- how our assumptions impact our worldview
Through digging deep within ourselves in search of answers, we often unearth more questions that allow us to develop further and refine our perception of the world around us.
In its purest form, this path toward enlightenment and wisdom leads to a sense of humility and appreciation for everything we have yet to understand.
Philosophy is the backbone of an informed citizenry
Students well versed in the philosophical underpinnings of liberal democracy are far more likely to have the aptitude for living up to its principles and pass them on to the next generation.
By studying philosophy, students develop deep knowledge that informs their sensibilities and cultivates their understanding of right and wrong.
Further, research suggests that the study of philosophy facilitates both cognitive gains and social benefits.
Among these gains are improvements in:
- persuasion, and
The nature of philosophy demands that the student understand the basic tenets of their discipline and the reasons for them, making the study of philosophy beneficial for specific disciplines as well as general knowledge.
Students who engage in collaborative philosophical inquiry benefit from:
- improved reasoning in justification of opinions,
- increased participation in classroom dialogue,
- improved self-esteem,
- decreased dependency and anxiety, and
- improved social relationships
In short, students who know what they believe and why they believe are better prepared for the real world, which is one of the best reasons I can think of to study philosophy.
Students who study philosophy in college tend to score higher on graduate and professional school entrance exams.
While there is no research to confirm that the major itself is the primary driver of the scores, there are some strong associations with the talent pool.
Brandy M. Miller
International Speaker | Founder, Write Your Book Today
We can learn how to ask questions so we can sort through the answers given to us
Education is a toolbox that each generation hands to the one behind it. Inside that toolbox is everything needed to answer their own questions about life, the universe, and their place in it.
99% of those questions have already been answered by someone else, but not all of those answers are complete, and not all of those answers are correct.
Philosophy provides us tools to use to examine those answers and to examine them through the lens of logic and reason to see whether they are sound. In studying philosophy, we gain insight into how to ask those questions so we can sort through the answers provided to us.
We examine what internal factors may prevent us from considering an answer that is true as a valid possibility or cause us to prefer an answer that is not true and reason through the accumulated evidence to find an answer when no one else provides one.
A commonplace to begin studies in philosophy, for example, is to ask
a simple question: “Am I real?”
Students are then encouraged to provide arguments that prove they are real and reveal how they define what is real and what is not.
Once a question that might have seemed silly to ask, the purpose of it was to force the person asking the question to examine the process they go through to determine whether something is real or not and to look for flaws in their reasoning and weaknesses in their logic.
In today’s world, determining between what is real and what is not becomes even more critical as:
- online bots grow in their ability to mimic human behavior and speech patterns,
- misinformation and disinformation spread, and
- tools to generate images that appear real but are not, have become increasingly sophisticated
Philosophy is broken down into four main branches:
- The study of the nature of reality and how it is ordered.
- The study of what we can know about the world and how we can understand it.
- The study of what we ought to do and what is best to do
- The nature and structure of reasoning and how to separate good reasoning from bad.
By taking philosophy, students are equipped with:
- an understanding of how to reason through things,
- what makes reasoning good or bad, and
- to come to conclusions not only about what the right answer is to their question, but just as importantly, the right actions are to take in light of the answer they discovered
It’s a subject that will evolve and develop with you throughout your life
What most people don’t realize about philosophy is how broad it is. Just Western philosophy spans everything from Aesthetics (the study of beauty), Logic to Metaphysics (the study of being), and Applied Ethics (the study of what is “right”).
And that’s before you get into Theology (the study of God and religion) or start breaking down philosophy from other cultures.
I studied Philosophy at Oxford because I wanted to understand three big questions:
- Why am I here?
- What should I be doing with my life?
- How should I go about living?
Everyone from Sun Tzu and Marcus Aurelius to Winston Churchill and Stephen Covey understood the importance (and benefits) of setting clear, meaningful goals and having strong values.
Answering these kinds of questions is a great reason to get into philosophy because you’ll learn things you can start applying to your life right away.
But the beauty of philosophy is that it’s a subject you can never stop studying. It’s a subject that will keep growing and also keep changing with you as you go through life.
And, as Socrates wisely noted right before they forced him to commit suicide for asking too many annoyingly thoughtful questions: “The unexamined life is not worth living.”
Michael J. Scharen
Owner and Sci-Fi Author, Michael’s Book Corner
It probes the essential core of what it is to be a human
We are each bundled into distinct flesh, and blood packages with unique minds and thoughts which we believe are unique. It is the nature of human beings to consider themselves to be at the center of all things. In a way, this is quite true.
We are each at the center of our own reality.
But, in the aggregate, we have very similar experiences with respect to the world around us. This includes culture but goes much deeper than that.
Our relationships with other humans or our environment have a sameness that cuts across language, geography, education, ethnicity, or any arbitrary factor we use to set ourselves apart.
Philosophy taps the common thread — probing the essential core of what it is to be human.
People from all walks of life in all eras have cause to ruminate over love, hate, nature, pain, pleasure, the meaning of our existence, etc. Natural Philosophy — probing into the physical world — became a separate subject altogether. Today we call it Science.
Philosophy aids us in our own pursuit of greater truths
Studying philosophy shows that though individuals believe their questions are unique, they are not. Others have pondered nearly identical issues in past decades, centuries, or millennia. Though our language or technology may differ, we find we can relate to our ancestors quite easily.
We might compare their musings to our own or gain insights that had previously never occurred to us.
Just as studying math or engineering lets us build upon the past, so does philosophy aid us in our own pursuit of greater truths. This is not to say that all philosophers of the past promulgated the loftiest of advice or held viable or ethical views.
We can learn from bad examples as well as good in any undertaking.
The goal of studying philosophy should be to meld the best of the great thinkers while weeding out the worst ideas. Philosophy, like History, must be studied lest we be condemned forever — doomed to repeat mistakes of the past.
Lawyer and Legal Writer, Lawrina
The most important thing that philosophy can teach you is the ability to think
Thanks to it, you can learn to weigh every argument, not blindly believe, even if the idea comes from a seemingly trustworthy source.
You can go through a lot of ideas and operate on them at the same time.
Therefore, it is important to understand that philosophy is not just about understanding the norms of morality. But also about the development of logic, the ability to think and have an opinion, and not follow the majority because the majority is not always true.
I am currently working as a lawyer, and my background in philosophy suggests that without it, I would not be able to become the lawyer I am today. Even if you knew all the laws and rules well, you would not be able to present your opinions in court so clearly, in a structured and thorough way.
If we take philosophy in a broader sense, we will understand that without it, your life can easily go to a dead end.
You will not understand:
- why you should do this and not the other,
- what is the meaning of your life,
- what you should strive for,
- what goal to go, and
- what means to use to achieve these goals
That is why studying philosophy can save you even from the crisis of middle age, because you will know why you lived, and everything you did before was not meaningless.
Legal Specialist, Adamson Ahdoot LLP
Philosophy teaches you to read critically
If you’re working on a bachelor’s degree and you have aspirations of becoming a lawyer, I would say a focus of study in philosophy would be a worthy choice.
Aspiring lawyers regularly major in pre-law, business, history, English, or anything else that bolsters their research and writing skills. Students achieve that by studying philosophy, but it also teaches them to be critical thinkers, which is a meaningful skill for any accomplished attorney.
Related: Why is Critical Thinking Important?
What makes philosophy unique from other focuses of study is how it teaches you to read critically.
You’re not just reading to comprehend or recite something— you’re reading more deliberately. You’re absorbing the meaning of the text and analyzing the text.
You’re approaching the reading material in a more meaningful way than an ordinary scholar. That is great preparation for anyone who wants to enter the legal profession.
Additionally, at our law firm, we emphasize a commitment to ethics. Philosophy and ethics are very often studied together. Both subjects prepare an aspiring lawyer to make tough decisions based on their interpretation not only of the laws that govern us but also of ethics.
A foundation in ethics is a foundation for informed, reasonable decision-making.
Anyone who has decided early on to pursue a legal career ought to be encouraged to study philosophy as an undergraduate.
CEO and Managing Partner, The Dominguez Firm
To make sense of how the world works
Historically, one of the purposes of philosophical thinking is to make sense of how the world works, given the limited knowledge that people have at the time of its inception.
Thinkers across millennia have used philosophical tools like logic, inference, and theorizing to fill the gaps in human knowledge and make it useful for society.
I believe it retains the same purpose today.
With all the information readily available today, it seems as if we need to “close the floodgates” more than we need to “fill the gaps.” But it’s not access to information that’s the problem. It’s how humans make sense of that information to create sensible trains of thought that are actually useful.
That, to me, is what philosophy helps us achieve. It teaches us not what to think but how to think.
And in this era, when there is as much misinformation as there is factual and useful information, this is sorely needed.
What does philosophy have to offer? Well, for one thing, it can help you figure out what your beliefs are.
But more importantly, that’s how we use our thoughts and feelings as tools when trying to make sense of life — or at least get a little better understanding of ourselves!
Here are the most important three benefits that philosophy gives you:
Philosophy makes you a critical thinker
Philosophy teaches you how to think about difficult problems and see all the possible sides of an issue.
Philosophy is like a compass that never lets you lose your way. You can use it to find the answer to every problem and stay on track with life, even when things get difficult
A philosophical inquiry helps one in their day-to-day activities by aiding them during tough times. This includes analyzing ideas and defining terms or problems more clearly through the debate about ethical theories (and how they pertain).
Examining arguments made against certain positions might lead you to a deeper understanding as well as logical analysis of difficulties faced along your path because each difficulty has its lesson waiting beneath its surface appearance.
Philosophy improves your communication skills
Philosophy is a complex subject that can be difficult to understand.
However, philosophy has many benefits for individuals and society as a whole which make it worth studying even if one does not have time or energy devoted to their study habits right now.
In order words, philosophy helps you communicate better by giving tools such as argumentation strategies, so you’re able to express yourself more clearly than before.
This includes being able to eliminate vagueness from your writing because of how precisely worded every statement should always stay within its boundaries.
In addition, those practicing continental disciplines learn about border-work between concepts.
Philosophy can assist you in getting a job
The ability to think critically and communicate clearly and persuasively with others is a highly valued skill in many careers.
The study of philosophy provides these qualities since it requires an individual’s active engagement on multiple levels at once.
Analyzing data or evaluating arguments; solving problems by developing new ideas based on existing principles while considering various alternatives that may arise from those solutions so you can come up with the greatest possible answer for any problem or scenario before proceeding.
The philosopher trained to think critically and solve big and small problems, making them valuable assets for any profession where an ethical difficulty might arise — such as working at all levels (including medicine, law) and computer science like management positions with large companies like large companies Google.
Senior Editor, The College Monk
To become a master critical thinker
In a world full of manipulation, fake news, and propaganda, being a good critical thinker is an increasingly important skill to have these days.
Studying philosophy will train your brain to:
- look at problems from different perspectives,
- examine ideas to see if they stand up to scrutiny, and
- question everything you’ve taken for granted
Your entire worldview can dramatically shift when you study philosophy, as you quickly realize that nothing is black and white, and most issues depend on context and perspective.
To improve your reading, writing, and speaking skills
Becoming a philosophy student means you will be spending countless hours pouring over fascinating texts, writing influential papers, and debating with your professors and classmates.
You will become an expert in:
- doing research,
- comparing opinions, and
- coming to your own conclusions
You’ll also get a lot of practice learning how to write and structure essays and how to distill complex ideas into comprehensive information.
These are all highly useful and transferable skills to have in any career — and in life in general.
Managing Editor, The Journal of African Youth Literature
Philosophy has a critical role to play in modern society that most people are not aware of. But a philosophy degree is sometimes seen as a “vanity degree” that’s concerned with many very dead Greek guys. That’s short-sighted.
It helps to pose the right questions
Philosophy is all about helping us pose the right questions and ensuring we have and apply crystal clear and relevant terminology. This is critical because we end up on the wrong track when we don’t pose the right questions, no matter what field we are in.
Philosophers and those who take after their methods of inquiry then pursue those questions with unparalleled determination and even at the risk of social rejection and harsh criticism (taking after Socrates and Zera Yacob too).
In board rooms, from marketing to medical research and overcoming the problems of climate change and resource conflict, the people who lead successfully and make real advancements are those who keep reminding us to ask the right questions.
As we pursue those questions, we have to keep ensuring we are aligned with them or revise them as necessary.
We have learned from philosophy not to be afraid of asking unpopular questions and forcing ourselves to face the truth about ourselves and human nature.
The bottom line is that if you want to be a leader and achieve real personal growth, philosophy is one of the most effective ways to do so.
This is an area that has long been neglected or assumed to be in its infancy. This couldn’t be further from the truth. We also shouldn’t think of ‘African philosophy’ as by any means uniform. Africa is not a country, as is often pointed out.
Content and SEO Specialist, VTR Learning
For the love of wisdom
Philosophy is, literally, the love of wisdom — which in and of itself should stand as reason enough to pursue it. However, it’s often seen today as a waste of time and money, particularly if someone chooses to pursue it as a degree path.
After all, there’s not an extensive need for philosophers in today’s modern, 21st-century society — at least from a purely surface-level perspective.
Though, to be fair, the pursuit apparently wasn’t entirely appreciated in Socrates’ time either, since the Athenians condemned him for “corrupting the youth.”
However, that’s only if looking at philosophy from a career-oriented standpoint. Void of having a Master’s or Doctorate degree, it can be difficult to find a viable philosophy-based career path.
So, for the average person to take up an interest, there needs to be some other form of motivation — namely, personal application.
To learn how to reason logically and argue persuasively
When approached from a personally-beneficial standpoint, the love of wisdom is something that all people should pursue in one form or another because it entails learning how to reason logically and argue persuasively.
Of course, in today’s world, an argument often takes the form of spiteful condescension — ad hominem abuses — which is strikingly contrary to how rational discourse should proceed.
Because in a philosophical sense, an argument is for the purpose of calmly and reasonably explaining, dialoguing, and pressing against a viewpoint different from one’s own in order to test its strength and validity.
Furthermore, philosophy informs methods of thinking, acting, and behaving as a member of society to a degree beneficial not only to oneself but also to others.
Philosophy is simply fun
Ultimately, philosophy, at its heart, is simply fun. Granted, it can present extremely difficult situations to think through.
But at the end of the day, having entertained and grappled with difficult ethical, legal, and logical problems can provide a sense of fulfillment not always present in other fields.
So, at its core, philosophy is the drive for individuals to learn how to approach life and others with wisdom — something which is desperately needed in the modern context.
Frequently Asked Questions
What career opportunities are available for philosophy graduates?
As a philosophy graduate, you’ll have a wide range of career opportunities available to you. Philosophy equips you with valuable skills like critical thinking, problem-solving, and effective communication. Some common career paths include:
• Academia and research: Many philosophy graduates go on to pursue advanced degrees and eventually become professors or researchers in their areas of expertise.
• Law: Philosophy is an excellent foundation for law school, as it teaches you to think analytically and construct sound arguments.
• Public policy: Philosophy graduates often work in government or non-profit organizations, contributing to policy analysis and development.
• Journalism and media: Your ability to think critically and communicate clearly makes you an ideal candidate for careers in journalism, broadcasting, or content creation.
• Business and consulting: Companies value the unique problem-solving and strategic thinking skills that philosophy graduates bring to the table.
What are some common topics discussed in philosophy courses?
Philosophy courses cover a wide range of topics, diving into the complexities of human thought, existence, and values. Some common themes you might encounter include:
• Ethics and morality: Explore questions about what is right and wrong and how we should live our lives.
• Metaphysics: Examine the nature of reality, the relationship between mind and body, and the concept of free will.
• Epistemology: Investigate the nature, sources, and limits of knowledge.
• Logic: Develop your reasoning skills by studying the principles of valid argumentation.
• Political philosophy: Discuss theories of governance, justice, and the role of the state.
Can I study philosophy as a minor or elective alongside my major?
Yes! Philosophy is a versatile subject and can be an excellent complement to your major.
Studying philosophy as a minor or elective will not only enhance your understanding of your primary field but also provide you with transferable skills that will be useful in your future career.
Can philosophy be applied to everyday life situations?
Philosophy isn’t just an academic discipline—it can be applied to everyday life situations as well. By engaging with philosophical ideas, you can:
• Develop a more thoughtful and nuanced perspective on current events and social issues.
• Improve your decision-making by considering ethical implications and potential consequences.
• Enhance your communication and interpersonal skills by understanding different viewpoints and constructing well-reasoned arguments.
Are there any misconceptions about studying philosophy?
There are some common misconceptions about studying philosophy, such as:
• “Philosophy has no practical applications”: As we’ve discussed, philosophy teaches valuable skills that can be applied to various career paths and everyday life situations.
• “Philosophy is only for intellectuals”: Philosophy is accessible and relevant to everyone. It encourages curiosity, open-mindedness, and critical thinking—skills that can benefit anyone, regardless of their background or interests.
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