In our current society, the value of philosophy is often publicly questioned, if not outright dismissed. Despite this, we remain firmly committed to the value of philosophy, and here's why.
First, the practical points: philosophy majors overwhelmingly ace, more than any other major, both the GRE and LSAT. Over 50% of philosophy majors who apply to medical school are accepted. Philosophy majors are highly coveted by employers for their ability both to think outside of the box and to recognize long-term consequences of actions. In the job market, ranked by mid-career salaries, philosophy majors do better than all other humanities and social science majors (we are outranked only by engineers and doctors).
But while all of the above is true, philosophy is valuable for other reasons as well.
Philosophy is, at its heart, a discipline composed almost entirely of questions. What is true? Why is it true? What should I do? Why should I do it? Is there a God? Who am I? How do I know what I know? Colloquially, it's the 4-year-old of the academy; it never stops asking why. And this is philosophy's brilliance—it is never satisfied with the two most common answers to the question of “why,” namely, “Because I said so,” and “Because that's just the way it is.” Philosophy rejects these as bad answers; they're uninformative and uncritical, and most importantly, they're not good reasons for accepting anything. And in a world where everyone is trying to sell you something, be it a commercial product or a lifestyle or a religion or a political ideology, it's pretty important to insist on there being good reasons for buying.
This is why philosophy is worth loving; it demands of people that they give good reasons for what they believe and why they believe it. And make no mistake about it, it is a demand; philosophy insists on clear, careful, rigorous, and above all critical thinking. For instance, in a political philosophy class, it is not enough to say that you value freedom; you have to say what freedom is, and why it is so important. In an epistemology class, you cannot simply assert that your beliefs are true; you have to explain the relationship between your beliefs, truth, and knowledge. These are hard questions, don't get us wrong; but we think that investigating them, as well as all of the other philosophical questions studied here in the Philosophy Department at Siena Heights University, are vital to our continued success as a culture and civilization.
Now, that's a bold claim; in classic philosophical fashion, let us say a little bit more in support of it. The answering of these questions is not what's important; what is important is that people continue to try to answer them, because, in so doing, we learn how to reason carefully, think critically, and listen to people who don't share our point of view. We challenge our own and others' assumptions, and work together to arrive at the best answer overall, rather than the answer or argument that we like best. And these traits—reasoning carefully, thinking critically, and listening to others' points of view—are essential, we think, to thriving as a culture and civilization. So that's why philosophy is valuable; it encourages people to act as, as Aristotle called us, rational animals, emphasis on the rational. And that's what's needed to not only survive, but thrive in the world today.
Grandiose claims, we know; but we think it's important to recognize that philosophy is a vital part of the so-called real world. (We aren't living in fairyland, after all!) Throughout your education, people will be telling you that, as Siena Heights students, you can, and indeed should, change the world. Well, as a philosopher, you can be a little more precise; you, in choosing to study philosophy, can put yourself into the best possible position not only to change the world, but to improve it, to make it a place where people think a little more deeply, and a little more carefully, about ourselves, our communities, and our world. written by Jennifer Kling