Philosophy means, literally, the love of wisdom. The philosophy major teaches more than just content, it teaches how to think about all manner of issues: from spotting logical fallacies in a politician's rhetoric to pondering life's deepest questions. Science and technology may offer us great power, but they don't offer the wisdom of how to use that power. How should we direct that power? What does it mean to be human? What does it take to be truly happy? How should I live my life? These questions, and more, are fundamental to philosophy.
Is a Philosophy Major Practical?
Something is practical and useful to the degree that it enhances our lives. For this question, philosophy operates on many levels. But the level most people have in mind when asking this question is whether it is practical for making a living, for having a career. It often surprises people to find that philosophy majors are often at the top of their chosen fields. This is because Philosophy majors develop valuable skills that help them to excel in just about any field that requires serious, careful, analytical thought. Particular technical training quickly becomes outdated; but thinking skills have enduring value. Employers in business and other fields repeatedly state that it is far easier to teach employees the content of the field than to teach them skills of thinking critically, presenting clear arguments, identifying essential points, and problem solving. They also often complain that their employees lack such skills. More than half of all college graduates wind up working in specialized fields different from their undergraduate majors. Philosophy is the only major that is focused primarily on thinking skills, and hence, is valuable in a quickly changing job market.
Specifically, the major in Philosophy develops and enhances the abilities to:
- Express difficult ideas in clear spoken and written language
- Draw accurate conclusions from confusing data
- Discern hidden relationships and connections
- See and focus on the big picture
- Articulate overlooked alternatives
- Persuade people to take seriously unfamiliar views or novel opinions
- Clarify purposes, principles, and general objectives
Students who major in Philosophy have more options--and more attractive options--than people often realize. There are many fields of study and many types of careers for which philosophy provides excellent preparation. This is because Philosophy majors develop valuable skills that help them to excel in just about any field that requires serious, careful, analytical thinking and writing skills. Some philosophy majors will go on to make a living as philosophers. Other philosophy majors work in industry, government, and education. They become lawyers, doctors, administrators, teachers, diplomats, consultants, stockbrokers, bankers, managers, and business owners. They are accepted and respected in all professional schools and welcomed into management training programs.
Studying Philosophy for Its Own Sake:
We all need to make a living. But is "living" just about income and career? Many people get to the top of their fields and find their lives...empty. This is often called the midlife crisis. The study of philosophy is about the whole person: as physical, social, political, psychological, and spiritual beings. The study of philosophy enriches our perspectives by introducing us to very different ways of looking at, and thinking about, the world and how we live in it. In studying Philosophy, we pursue wisdom, that knowledge which is directly concerned with the highest and most noble aspects of our existence. By studying philosophy, we hope to arrive at a greater awareness of the complexities of our existence, and at best a perfecting of our very humanity.
Recognize any of these names? What do these people have in common?
Woody Allen, Simone de Beauvoir, Stephen Colbert, Harrison Ford, Carly Fiorina, Aung San Suii Kyi, Stacy London, Steve Martin, Ethan Coen, Elie Wiesel, Alex Trebek, Susan Sontag, Philip K. Dick, Iris Murdoch, Mary Higgins Clark, David Duchovny, William Bennett, Sheila Bair, George Soros, Stephen Breyer, Pope John Paul II.
THEY ALL MAJORED IN PHILOSOPHY.
What are some of the job titles held by students who majored in philosophy at UNI?
UNI philosophy majors have pursued and excelled in a wide variety of professions: analyst at the US Senate, professor, college president, school psychologist, owner and president of automobile dealerships, ordained minister, health care agency administrator, manager at John Deere, executive director of a non-profit agency, social security administrator, Head Start Center administrator, director of program for the homeless, social worker, banker, tax accountant, attorneys in many fields, and many others.
Of course, these jobs require additional training in technical skills and specialized knowledge. But these are easily gained by most philosophy majors.
Some professional and graduate schools UNI philosophy majors have attended:
Law Schools at Harvard, Iowa, Drake and Hamilton; University of Iowa MBA; The Divinity School at Vanderbilt, Yale, and Harvard; Graduate programs at UC Irvine, Notre Dame, Michigan State, Kansas, DePaul, Vanderbilt, Missouri, Stanford, Iowa State and many others, including the MA Public Policy Program at UNI and WI, Madison.