Why Study Philosophy?

[adapted with permission from "Why Study Philosophy?",
University of Detroit Mercy Philosophy Department]

Philosophy is one of the best ways of enriching your life, even as it prepares you for life.

  • It broadens the range of things that you can understand and enjoy.
  • It makes a substantial contribution to your expressive powers.
  • It enhances your self-knowledge, foresight, and sense of direction in life.
  • It provides special pleasures of insight to your reading and conversation.
  • It can lead to self-discovery, an expansion of consciousness, and self-renewal.
  • It nurtures individuality and self-esteem.
  • It brings you into contact with the most important and fundamental human questions.
  • It helps you to live a more fully human life by demanding that you confront these questions.

    Philosophy's critical skills offer the best defense against foolishness and falsehoods.

  • It allows you to see through cultural and intellectual fads.
  • It protects you from the often empty posturing of politicians.
  • It insulates you from the often inane prattling of media pundits and commentators.
  • It defends you from the slippery claims of advertisers and salespeople.
  • It protects you from foolish opinions and everyday nonsense.

    Philosophy is one of the most practical majors in college.

  • It imparts skills that will be valued by any future employer.
  • It enhances your problem-solving capacities by contributing to your ability to organize ideas and issues, and to extract what is essential from masses of information.
  • Ithelps you to distinguish between different viewpoints and to discover common ground among them.
  • It helps you to appreciate a variety of perspectives so they can be synthesized into a unified whole.
  • It helps to eliminate ambiguities and vagueness from your speech, and enables you to present what is distinctive about your position through the use of systematic argumentation.
  • It develops your ability to explain and communicate difficult material.
  • It enhances your persuasive powers by providing training in the construction of clear formulations, good arguments, and apt examples that allow you to forcefully articulate and defend your points of view.
  • It teaches good interpretive, comparative, argumentative, and descriptive writing skills that will allow you to communicate ideas in a clear and powerful way.



    Philosophy is uniquely well-suited to preparing students for
    law, business and graduate school.

    Philosophy's lessons of analytical thinking, clear expression, and good writing are indispensable to the graduate student in any discipline, including law and business.

    Philosophy majors also do extraordinarily well on the Law School Admission Test (LSAT). Among students taking the LSAT in 2007-8 to enter law school in 2008-9, philosophy majors tied with economics majors for the second highest average score (157.4) among 29 discipline groupings. The highest average score (160) was among physics/math majors.1

    Philosophy students have a long track record of performing exceptionally well on the Graduate Record Examination (GRE), a requirement for pursuing graduate degrees in a wide range of disciplines. According to the most recent statistics provided by the Educational Testing Service, philosophy students have the highest mean verbal GRE score (591) and analytical writings score (4.8) of any major. They also have the 16th highest mean quantitative GRE score (629) out of the 51 discipline groupings, besting even accounting, business administration and management, and the biological sciences.2

    Business schools use the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) to measure potential for success in graduate programs such as those leading to the M.B.A. Philosophy majors typically outscore nearly all other undergraduates on the GMAT, including business majors. In the year 2010-2011, philosophy majors taking the GMAT earned a mean total score of 599, the third highest out of all majors. Only mathematics and physics students did better.3

    1. Michael Nieswiadomy, "LSAT Scores of Economics Majors: The 2008-2009 Class Update," Journal of Economic Education, 41(3), 2010:331-333.

    2. Graduate Record Examinations: Guide to the Use of Scores 2010-11, pp.17-19, http://www.ets.org/s/gre/pdf/2010-11_gre_guide.pdf.

    3. Profile of Graduate Management Admissions Test Candidates: 2010-2011: Five Year Summary, pp.11-15, http://www.gmac.com/NR/rdonlyres/76FC2158-8497-48BA-8AC7-CF689D027B6A/0/ProfileofGMATCandidates_TY200607to201011.pdf .



    Articles and Opinions

    "Be employable, study philosophy"
    Salon, July 1, 2013.
    "The discipline teaches you how to think clearly, a gift that can be applied to just about any line of work ..."

    "Liberal arts majors are very hirable"
    WCF Courier, April 1, 2012.
    "[W]e believe that higher educationís purpose is to further the development of persons by enhancing understanding of human intellectual and cultural accomplishments and by developing skills in the areas of critical thinking and writing. There is a profound difference, even an ethical difference, between viewing persons as recipients of education and as the subjects of training..."

    "The Value of a Philosophy Graduate"
    BOR Academic Advisory Committee for Philosophy, December, 2011.
    "The popular notion that the study of philosophy has little practical or economic value is demonstrably false. This document shows that undergraduate training in philosophy is of great practical and economic value, both to students who earn Bachelorís degrees in philosophy and to the State of Georgia..."

    "Study of Philosophy Makes Gains Despite Economy"
    Philadelhia Inquirer, October 15, 2011.
    "In an era in which chronic unemployment seems to demand hard skills, some students are turning to an ancient study that they say prepares them not for a job, but for the multiple jobs they expect to hold during their lifetimes..."

    "Want Innovative Thinking? Hire from the Humanities"
    Harvard Business Review, March 31, 2011.
    "As Amos Shapira, the CEO of Cellcom, the leading cell phone provider in Israel, put it: "The knowledge I use as CEO can be acquired in two weeks...The main thing a student needs to be taught is how to study and analyze things (including) history and philosophy..."

    "Philosophy Valued At One Community College"
    National Public Radio, January 4, 2011.
    "As state universities cut back on humanities programs in order to deal with budget shortfalls, LaGuardia Community College in Queens, N.Y., is going in the opposite direction..."

    "Philosophy is Back in Business"
    BusinessWeek, January 12, 2010.
    "The financial and climate crises, global consumption habits, and other 21st-century challenges call for a 'killer app.' I think I've found it: philosophy..."

    "Finding Equality Through Logic"
    National Public Radio's This I Believe, August 3, 2008.
    "Philosophy gave me permission to use my mind and the inspiration to aim high in my goals for myself. Philosophy allowed me to dare to imagine a world in which man can reason his way to justice, women can choose their life's course, and the poor can lift themselves out of the gutter. Philosophy taught me that logic makes equals of us all..."

    "In a New Generation of College Students, Many Opt for the Life Examined"
    New York Times, April 6, 2008. "[P]hilosophy is being embraced at Rutgers and other universities by a new generation of college students who are drawing modern-day lessons from the age-old discipline as they try to make sense of their world, from the morality of the war in Iraq to the latest political scandal..."

    "I Think, Therefore I Earn"
    The Guardian, November 20, 2007. "Lucy Adams, human resources director of Serco, a services business and a consultancy firm, says: 'Philosophy lies at the heart of our approach to recruiting and developing our leadership, and our leaders. We need people who have the ability to look for different approaches and take an open mind to issues. These skills are promoted by philosophical approaches.' ..."




    Other Resources

    Philosophy Among Best-Paying Undergrad Degrees
    PayScale.com

    A Non-Academic Career? Information, Resources, and Background on Options for Philosophers
    American Philosophical Association. "[T]hese are absolutely fundamental abilities, applicable to pretty much any kind of work at all. A person who has the philosopher's skills and talents, as well as whatever other training and abilities are required, is to a very great extent that much better fitted to succeed in a career outside of the academy."

    How Does Philosophy Relate to My Career?
    Wilfrid Laurier University. "People today often emphasize 'marketability' when they talk about a university education. ... If marketability means learning what will make you an attractive candidate for employment, then philosophy has a great deal to offer. ..."

    What Can I Do with a Humanities Degree?
    University of Central Florida. "Probably the most common question prospective humanities majors ask is 'What good is a humanities degree? I really enjoy what I am studying, but I need to be concerned about getting a job. What can I do with a humanities degree?' This question looks like one question, but it really disguises several related ones. Distinguishing them will allow us to answer each of them more clearly..."

    Why Study Philosophy?
    University of North Texas. "In recent years, ... such papers as The New York Times have been proclaiming the rediscovery of the philosophy major. Major employers of university graduates are finding that philosophy majors have finely honed analytic skills and problem solving abilities that make them extremely effective in a variety of professional careers...."

    Will Your Philosophy Degree Get You a Job? Studying Philosophy as Part of a Non-Academic Career
    Australasian Association of Philosophy. "Unlike medicine, law or veterinary science, philosophy is not a vocational degree Ė it does not provide automatic entry into specific professions in the non-academic workforce. But your philosophy degree can still be of great benefit when joining the workforce. Studying philosophy will have provided you with an advanced level of generic skills that are immensely useful in a wide range of jobs, in such diverse fields...."





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    This page last updated 7/19/2013.