Why study Philosophy?
Are you familiar with the names of Plato, Aristotle, Nagajurna, Descartes, Kant, Nietzsche, and Wittgenstein? The views of these great philosophers and others have shaped our ways of seeing ourselves and the world. Studying philosophy will make you a more educated person by giving you a fuller understanding of such major figures and their powerful ideas.
As well as big names, there are the big questions, and their many variations and implications. Are there any answers? Maybe there are - or at least answers that convince you, even if they do not convince everyone else. In any case, the careful study of such questions is fascinating, intellectually challenging, and an important part of an education.
What skills do you acquire?
As well as giving us knowledge of our intellectual heritage, and of major issues concerning the nature of ourselves and the world, philosophy helps us to develop our ability to:
- think and express ourselves clearly
- see both (or more) sides of a case
- get to the heart of the matter
- see the implications of a line of thought
- detect bad reasoning, and be confident that our own is good
- detect ambiguity, vagueness, inconsistency, and other weaknesses in the expressions of ideas
- distinguish different types of question, claim or argument, and respond to them appropriately
- distinguish what is relevant to a given issue from what is not
- see ways in which an argument or explanation could be improved
The skills and knowledge gained from studying philosophy will help you to:
- be a better student of other subjects, especially related ones in such fields as politics, history, theology, law, education, mathematics, computer science, etc.
- be a more effective thinker and communicator in life as a whole. Which way shall I vote? How good are the cases for and against, eg. privatisation, drug injecting rooms, legalised euthanasia, In vitro fertilisation (IVF) for single women, etc?
- get a job, and do well at it. Arts degrees usually require some supplementary training in preparation for non-academic employment, but philosophical training provides an excellent base for many careers. Employers in many fields do value philosophical skills.
- teach philosophy to others, at various levels. Some graduates go on to advanced study and teach in universities; some teach secondary students at Victorian Certificate of Education (VCE) level; some teach philosophical skills to younger students in Philosophy for Children programmes or in various informal ways at school or home.
Philosophy is a subject with its own exciting subject-matter. It engages directly with the fundamental questions of existence, knowledge, and value. In doing so, it makes its own unique contribution to human thought and culture. But it also develops methods of thinking, and skills in argument, which can be usefully (and often very profitably) applied in many fields well outside its own boundaries.