Philosophy begins as an attempt to answer certain fundamental questions that arise in life. Is there a reality beyond what we can observe? How do we know what to believe? What is justice? What is the good life? What is good reasoning? And these ancient questions lead to more modern ones. What makes a government legitimate? What ought a physician do to balance health outcomes with respect for patient decisions that might not lead to good health? What makes a study scientific? What makes a painted piece of cloth a work of art? What makes us conscious? All of these questions are philosophical ones.
Anyone can think like a philosopher. But studying philosophy systematically allows you to build on the best and most compelling ideas of the past and of today. To make progress on big fundamental questions, philosophers rely on thinking clearly and logically, imagining new possibilities, challenging old dogmas, and expressing their thoughts with precision. Courses in philosophy teach students to tackle old and new questions with these tools.
Why Study Philosophy?
Have you ever had a big question that you couldn’t shake? Have you ever felt the need to look under the surface of everyday concepts? Do you sometimes feel like you could be making more sense of basic foundations of the world, if only you thought harder? Thoughts and feelings like these are what lead college students to take courses in philosophy: to feed their curiosity and their hunger to understand, at the most general level. Discovering how much clarity and insight is possible when the big questions are approached thoughtfully is what keeps students coming back.
In addition to the intrinsic joy of struggling with big questions, philosophy also trains us to read and write and speak with a new level of care and precision. It rewards imagination but insists that it be followed by its intellectual aides, logic and evidence. Philosophy students learn how to distinguish promising lines of argument from misleading ones. They learn how to systematically organize complex systems of information and synthesize them into careful arguments with well-supported conclusions. They think collaboratively and capaciously, in discussion with other curious minds. And they do it all in service of discovering the truths that await discovery if we can only think hard enough together.
Given the rigor and challenges of philosophical reading, writing, and thinking, our courses will serve you well in any profession you enter. Philosophy majors do better than almost all others when writing the exams that are required for admission into business, law and medical school, in part because of the level of rigor and the combination of creativity and logic it calls for. Because philosophy hones these skills to exceptional sharpness, while also dwelling on some of the most fundamental human questions, it enhances any other major taken in combination with it. It is a popular second major as a result.