Why should we study philosophy?
Dr. Priscilla Sakezles
Professor Emeritus, Philosophy Department
“Philosophy can free our thoughts from the tyranny of custom.” –Bertrand Russell.
Too many people go through life believing and doing whatever is “customary” – what they were taught as children, what is promoted as popular, or what their friends approve. Philosophy challenges one to critically evaluate such beliefs, and to think outside the box of custom. In a philosophy class we don’t just memorize facts or study famous theories, but rather learn to think critically by examining our own beliefs and assumptions. Philosophy asks the big questions: who and what are we, why are we here, is there a god, what makes life meaningful, what is the difference between right and wrong? Even if we can’t find definite answers to all these questions, the search itself is rewarding. The search enlarges our mind, enriches our intellectual imagination, introduces new options and new ways of thinking – skills useful in all aspects of human life.
Dr. John Huss
Professor, Philosophy Department
Why study philosophy? If you ask this question in anything other than a rhetorical way, then you are already doing philosophy. Philosophy is the quest for reasons. When pursued well and earnestly, it is liberating, for philosophy encompasses not only reflection on the world as we find it, and life as we experience it, but all possible worlds, even those that lie beyond our actual or possible experience.
Dr. Christopher Buford
Professor of Instruction, Philosophy
There are many reasons why somebody might decide to study philosophy.
Philosophers often tackle questions that, though relevant to other disciplines, are not explicitly dealt with by such disciplines. For example, scientists assume (perhaps correctly) that we can come to know physical laws via empirical observation and experimentation, but, the philosopher might ask, what is knowledge in the first place? And are there any barriers to knowing what the scientist assumes that we do know? For example, the philosopher David Hume argued that we are too quick to accept that the future will resemble the past since it is notoriously difficult to justify this assumption in a satisfactory fashion.
If one is deeply intrigued and interested in dealing with foundational questions of this stripe, then philosophy may be a good choice as a minor or perhaps even a major. Given the nature of philosophical inquiry, an important part of actually doing philosophy involves identifying implicit assumptions and asking whether such assumptions are warranted.
Philosophical inquiry thus often involves engaging with powerful thinkers of the past and present and evaluating their reasons for adopting certain positions. Hence, philosophical enquiry almost always requires identifying and analyzing arguments. It is not surprising then that law school is often a popular destination for Philosophy majors, but the general argumentative and critical capacities strengthened by the rigorous study of philosophy are applicable to many other careers and life in general. In fact, philosophy majors are accepted at a higher than average rate to medical school.