I was talking with some of my classmates the other day and when I started talking about my major they did what everyone always does. “Oh my god, do you read Aristotle?” and “I bet all you’re talking about is the cart problem.” Although both are true, I actually read Aristotle and talk about the chariot problem, but no one really understands why anyone would get a degree in philosophy. The looks I get during the holidays when I say to my distant parents “I’m taking a degree in philosophy”, the unsurprisingly naive question of “oh well… what are you going to do with that? or “so you graduate from Ms?” Contrary to popular belief, philosophy has many real-world applications. So let me just tell you why I am getting a philosophy degree and why you should, at the very least, take a philosophy course in your lifetime.
First of all, one of the main reasons I love philosophy is because it’s like solving a puzzle. Philosophy spends a lot of time debating ideas to find the “right” answer. It’s a lot of people saying what they think and why they think what they think. From there, people look at it, disagree with it, apply it to other areas, etc., but ultimately the idea never stalls. It’s never one person saying “my way or the highway”, it’s a group of people approaching the same subject from different angles and analyzing a concept. It’s really cool to see where the theories start and where they lead. * Fun fact about philosophy: Every science or form of study you can think of (biology, psychology, theology, etc.) started as a matter of philosophy, but once it developed its own methodology, it becomes its own worthy field of study. .
Then, because of what philosophy is, it requires a LOT of critical thinking. Reading the arguments over and over and separating them to find where they go wrong requires a lot of analysis and thought. This critical thinking ability is useful in other areas of my own studies. Not only am I graduating in philosophy, but I’m also graduating in English. Looking for things in these arguments and thinking about them from all angles helps me when I do my English homework. I think it helps me understand the themes and symbolism more easily. Fun fact about philosophy: Philosophy majors have been statistically shown to do better on standardized tests such as the LSAT and GRE.
Finally (for this article, not the last reason why I love philosophy), I feel like it makes me a better person. Specifically, fields like socio-political philosophy and ethics are the branches that talk about how people relate to each other and how we should treat them. I am currently taking a course called “Philosophy of Race” which talks about and analyzes the different ways in which race and ethnicity affect people’s lives and status in the United States. We talk about the origins of racism and how it took the forms we know today. We talk about the physical, emotional, financial, psychological and generational damage that racism and colorism cause. This course and other courses I took in the philosophy department really opened my eyes to the difference in perspective everyone has. Another way I feel like I’ve become a better person through philosophy is because it taught me how to civilly disagree with people. When people disagree on morals and on controversial topics, it can become very difficult to talk to the other side. It can be even harder to get your point across. Philosophy helped me to ensure that “my message doesn’t get lost in my mess”. In other words, I feel like philosophy has given me the tools to talk to people who disagree with me in a productive way. I no longer shut down when I hear a different opinion. I used to think there was no hope in talking with people with different opinions, but it’s not a very productive way to live your life. After taking philosophy classes, I can see where people develop their opinions much more easily. When we talk about things like reproductive rights, don’t get me wrong, I get heated when people disagree with me, my bodily autonomy and my access to care, but I can at least try to change my mind. advice someone with valid arguments rather than telling them they are wrong. I think philosophy made me think more about how I relate to people and how I treat people, which I think helps me become a better person.
In the end, philosophy is great fun, or at least I think it is, and that’s all that matters. I think it’s a lot of fun and I think it’s useful for everyday life. It applies to so many things that people are surprised when I tell them that I take “sexual and reproductive ethics”, “life and death arguments” or “philosophy of psychedelics” because it can really apply to anything. I really shock people when I tell them that my graduation thesis is about the systematic dehumanization of prisoners, undocumented immigrants and ex-prisoners.
Not that anyone asked, but if you want to get into some philosophical reading, I strongly suggest:
- The second sex of Simone de Beauvoir
- What is Philosophy for by Mary Midgley
- Gender Issue by Judith Butler
- The Cultural Politics of Emotion by Sara Ahmed
- Immanuel Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason (but don’t read anything else as he would end up destroying his credibility with his other works if he were alive today)
- Karl Marx’s Communist Manifesto (Controversial I know, but if you read it you’d see why it shouldn’t be)