Key facts for every prospective Philosophy major
Whenever I tell someone that I’m a Philosophy major, it seems like the response is often quite varied. Some seem to take a genuine interest in what I study and find it to be quite unique in nature. Others will playfully joke about it, perhaps telling those tired old jokes about how you will be asking what someone’s order is at the local coffee shop instead of answering what the meaning of life is after graduation.
In this article, I hope to provide some key facts for those of you considering Philosophy as your major (whatever the circumstance may be). These key facts are things every prospective Philosophy major should know before making the commitment. I also want to say that you will NOT be seeing anything in this article persuading you to avoid Philosophy due to possible problems you might encounter in the job market. What I wish to concentrate on is the here and now during your undergraduate studies.
1. Philosophy is far more than the cliche of having your head in the clouds. It’s reading and writing intensive, requiring you to both internalize and synthesize the material offered in a given course. Most classes require you to follow along with a formula or schema on the structure of your paper, but it’s still up to you to demonstrate knowledge and clarity on a given topic. It’s a delicate balance between your own personal thoughts on a given matter and the arguments presented by a given philosopher.
Yet this is one of the most rewarding aspects of these classes. I can tell you personally that once you write on these topics, your opinions evolve and your knowledge expands in many unexpected ways. All of what I just mentioned is exactly why Philosophy classes are lauded for improving reading comprehension, writing ability, and critical thinking faculties. Not to mention the fact that Philosophy is often under-appreciated in many parts of the US, so your knowledge might really stand out. How many times have you heard an ice breaker involving Socrates and his search for truth in the city of Athens?
2. There are many sub-fields of Philosophy, and you might come to love certain ones, and despise others. It’s also vitally important to take classes pertaining to any sub-fields you think would be interesting. For example, I previously had Philosophy of Mind as my favorite sub-field, but after taking an upper division course focusing on Philosophy of Mind, it simply wasn’t what I expected, and that’s okay. Once you enter your Junior and Senior year (or perhaps even Sophomore), you should explore and discover these classes that concentrate on a particular topic or area of study. I found Philosophy of Religion and Philosophy of Science to be my forte, and I am quite certain of this after taking classes concentrating on said sub-disciplines.
3. Philosophy will likely stick with you well after your time in school. College is known for expanding one’s mind, Philosophy takes all of those skills one step further. As I mentioned earlier, Philosophy expands one’s critical thinking abilities and all the skills associated with understanding/explaining concepts and ideas. These skills will carry on long after your time in school, and will surely help you in whatever job field you end up choosing. One could argue that the skills gained from Philosophy are quite universal in nature, a huge plus in the eyes of employers and anyone reviewing your applications.
I hope that I illuminated some helpful points when it comes to making the choice of possibly becoming a Philosophy major. In my opinion, many colleges have failed to educate individuals on why Philosophy is such a great major. It’s invaluable to discuss all of your concerns and expectations with someone who is (or was) a Philosophy major. And while I do feel many schools fall short on helping one understand Philosophy as a major, I still recommend contacting the given division or adviser (depending on whether it’s community college or university) to discuss the topic. I hope this served as a valuable resource for helping you decide on your educational path. In my next article, I will discuss the benefits of a Philosophy degree in the work field and why the narrative of “Philosophy majors can’t get good jobs” needs to change.