Why Study Philosophy?

The Value of Philosophy:

The ultimate value of philosophical study goes far beyond its contribution to one's livelihood. Philosophy broadens the range of things one can understand and enjoy. It can give one self-knowledge, foresight, and a sense of direction in life. It can provide, to one's reading and conversation, special pleasures of insight. It can lead to self-discovery, expansion of consciousness, and self-renewal.

That being said, the study of philosophy is also valuable in pursuing a vocation. Much of what is learned in philosophy can be applied in virtually any endeavor. This is both because philosophy touches on so many subjects and, especially, because many of its methods are usable in any field.

General Problem Solving. The study of philosophy enhances, in a way no other activity does, one's problem-solving capacities. It helps one to analyze concepts, definitions, arguments and problems. It contributes to one's capacity to organize ideas and issues, to deal with questions of value, and to extract what is essential from masses of information, and to synthesize a variety of views or perspectives into a unified whole.

Communication Skills. Philosophy also contributes uniquely to the development of expressive and communicative powers. It helps one to express what is distinctive of one's view; enhances one's ability to explain difficult material; and helps to eliminate ambiguities and vagueness from one's writing and speech.

Persuasive Powers. Philosophy provides training in the construction of clear formulations, good arguments, and apt examples. It thereby helps one develop the ability to be convincing. These capacities can be developed not only through reading and writing in philosophy, but also through the philosophical dialogue, in and outside the classroom, that is so much a part of a thoroughgoing philosophical education.

Writing Skills. Writing is taught intensively in philosophy courses, and many philosophical texts are unexcelled as literary works. Philosophy develops interpretive writing through its examination of challenging texts, comparative writing through emphasis on fairness to alternative positions, argumentative writing through developing students' ability to establish their own views, and descriptive writing through detailed portrayal of concrete examples.

The Uses of Philosophy for Graduate and Professional Schools

Philosophy can yield immediate benefits for students planning postgraduate work. As law, medical, business, and other professional school faculty and admissions personnel have often said, philosophy is excellent preparation for the training and later careers of the professionals in question. A good indicator of the superior preparation philosophy majors receive for graduate studies are the following links:

Philosophy Performance on the GRE

Philosophy Performance on the LSAT

The Uses of Philosophy in Non-Academic Careers

As recent studies show, employers want, and reward, many of the capacities which the study of philosophy develops: for example, in an interview by New York Times reporter Adam Bryant with Laszlo Bock, the senior vice president of people operations at Google, Bock said that “For every job, the number one thing we look for is general cognitive ability…It’s learning ability. It’s the ability to process on the fly, the ability to pull together disparate bits of information.”  The other qualities Bock said he looks for are leadership, humility and ownership, i.e., “a sense of responsibility.”  The least important attribute he looks for is ”expertise.” More important than expertise in a particular area, says Bock, is a person “who has high cognitive ability, is innately curious, willing to learn, and has emergent leadership skills…” (“How to Get a Job At Google” by Thomas L. Friedman, New York Times, February 22, 2014) Similar reports were published by Forbes on March 4, 2014 and by the Wall Street Journal on March 31, 2014. The vocational value of studying philosophy is reflected in the statistics on median income from amongst all graduates in the Humanities:

Philosophy Majors after College

Wisdom, leadership, and the capacity to resolve human conflicts cannot be guaranteed by any course of study, but philosophy has traditionally pursued these ideals systematically, and its methods, its literature, and its ideas are of constant use in the quest to realize them. Sound reasoning, critical thinking, well-constructed prose, maturity of judgment, a strong sense of relevance, and an enlightened consciousness are never obsolete, nor are they subject to the fluctuating demands of the market-place. The study of philosophy is the most direct route to the full development of these qualities.