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Philosophy In Your Personal Life
- We wonder about who we really are, why we are here, and what the meaning of our lives is.
- We wonder whether God exists. If yes, why do pain, evil, and sorrow flourish?
- We wonder whether science can tell us all there really is to know about the universe.
- We wonder whether there is an after-life.
- We wonder what true happiness, love and friendship are.
- We wonder what a good life is and how we can live a good life.
- We wonder whether we are ever free to make our own decisions or whether we really have free will.
- We wonder why we should be moral; what determines moral rightness -- God, society, or personal taste?
- We wonder whether suicide, abortion, or euthanasia are ever justified.
- We wonder why we are wondering ... and so on.
Philosophy tries to answer those wonders, which shows us that the basic ideas of philosophy
are familiar to all of us, even if we have not yet formally confronted the problems.
In this sense, every rational human being is a philosopher to a certain degree. Watch
yourself in a crisis, or listen to yourself in an argument with a friend. Notice how
quickly abstract philosophical concepts like "freedom", "mankind", "self-identity",
"human nature", "reality", "truth", "morally right", "human rights", etc., enter our
thoughts and our conversations. We all have some opinions about God, about morality
and its principles, about human nature. Philosophy, in other words, is not just in
philosophy books. Your personal life is saturated with philosophy.
The Goal of Philosophy Is Autonomy
Although philosophy begins with wonder and questions, it does not end there. The reason why you are not a philosopher yet is that you have not questioned most of your beliefs. They are merely the assumptions of your thinking. You believe many things without having thought about them, merely assuming them, sometimes even without evidence or good reasons. Philosophy tries to go beyond the conventional answers to these questions that you often take for granted. Philosophy examines these beliefs, not necessarily to reject them but to learn why we hold them and to ask whether there are good reasons to continue holding them. What the study of philosophy does for you is to make your ideas explicit, to give you the means of defending your assumptions, and to make alternative suppositions available to you as well. In this way, your basic beliefs about reality and life become your own beliefs. You thus gain a kind of independence and freedom, or what some modern philosophers call “autonomy”. The goal of philosophy, then, is autonomy: the freedom of being able to decide for yourself what you believe by using your own rationality. Here is an example. Suppose you have been brought up in a deeply religious family and have had a strong belief in God. After you enter college, you are immediately confronted by fellow students, some of whom you consider close friends and admire in many ways, who are violently anti-religious. Your first reaction will be almost like physical illness; you feel weak, nauseous, flushed, and anxious. You refuse to listen, and if you respond at all, it is with a tinge of hysteria. You feel as if the foundation of your life, one of its main supports, is slipping away. But slowly you gain some confidence; you begin to listen. You begin to ask yourself how you came to believe your religion in the first place, and you may come up with the answer that you are “conditioned” by your parents and society in general. After you look into both sides of the arguments for and against God discussed in your freshman philosophy class, for the first time, you can weigh their merits and demerits against each other without defensively holding onto one and attacking the other. After your reflection, you may remain a believer or become an atheist, or you may suspend your judgment for further investigation. Whatever you decide, your position will no longer be naive and unthinking. You have confidence that your position is secure. You gain your autonomy!
Philosophy In Your Academic Pursuits
The answer is straightforward. Ask yourself this question: what do the fields of natural sciences (astronomy, physics, chemistry, geology, biology), social sciences (anthropology, psychology, sociology, criminal justice, economics, business and management, communication, peace and conflict studies), humanities (history, philosophy, English, world languages and cultures, religious studies), and mathematics and computer science have in common? Not much in the way of subject matter, that is for sure. What they do have in common is their dependence on critical THINKING. They all require you to develop the abilities of critical thinking, analyzing and problem solving, effective communication, and skillful persuasion. Philosophy is thinking about thinking. The study of philosophy is the best way to develop and improve those different capacities of thinking: such as the abilities of revealing implicit assumptions, identifying and solving problems, organizing ideas and issues, assessing pro and cons, spotting logical fallacies, engaging in rational argumentation, effectively communicating ideas and agendas, and writing with clarity and with the power of persuasion. These capacities of thinking represent transferable skills that can be effective transferred from philosophy to non-philosophy areas of study.
Besides, study of philosophy can yield immediate benefits for students planning post-graduate study. Professional schools, such as law, seminary, medicine, business, often advise that philosophy is an excellent preparation for their fields. Training in philosophy is indispensable to the students who want to pursue their graduate study in humanities and social sciences. To a certain degree, the importance of philosophy to humanities and social science students is as mathematics to natural sciences students. This is why the students majoring in philosophy usually tend to perform better in other fields of humanities and in any area of social sciences.
To learn more why philosophy is necessary, at least beneficial, to your study in other areas, please read the following links from APA website and other related sites:
- The Uses of Philosophy in Academic Studies (review "General Uses of Philosophy" and "The Uses of Philosophy in Educational Pursuits")
- The Role of Philosophy Programs in Higher Education
- Philosophy students performance on LSAT (top two) and GRE (the best for verbal and analytic reasonings)
- In a New Generation of College Students, Many Opt for the Life Examined, from the New York Times
After Graduating With Philosophy Training
Philosophy Majors After College
"Figures from the Higher Education Statistics Agency show philosophy graduates are in growing demand from employers. The number of all graduates in full-time and part-time work six months after graduation rose by 9 percent between the 2002-03 and 2005-06 school years; for philosophy graduates in particular it went up by 13 percent. The Higher Education Careers Services Unit (HECSU), which also collates data of this kind, agrees philosophers are finding it easier to secure work. Its figures show that, in 2001, 9.9 percent of philosophy graduates were unemployed six months after graduation. In 2006, just 6.7 percent were." (from APA website)
For more information, read the links from APA website and others:
- The Use of Philosophy in Non-academic Careers (Read Section 2)
- A Non-Academic Career? information, resources, and background on Options for Philosophers
- The Wall Street Journal Page on Salaries by Majors (A Philosophy Major Does Give You Earning Power)
- I think, therefore I earn: Philosophy graduate are suddenly all the rage with employers. What can they possibly have to offer?
- What Can I Do with a Humanities Degree? by Bruce Janz
- Philosophy degrees and famous people who have them: how an undergraduate philosophy degree can prepare one for good career other than teaching philosophy
- Be employable, study philosophy: advice for those entering the brave new world of work
- Philosophy, what can I do with this major?