What is it like studying Philosophy?

Philosophy focuses on fundamental questions concerning the nature of reality, knowledge, and values: metaphysics seeks to understand the true nature of reality in general and of humankind in particular; logic and epistemology endeavor to determine valid methods of reasoning and the limits and criteria of knowledge; and ethics attempts to formulate the basic moral norms by which our choices and actions should be governed.  Through the study of philosophy, students can improve their understanding of themselves and the world in which they live; they can increase their command of intellectually responsible methods of establishing and evaluating beliefs and theories; and they can develop more effective ways of determining their moral duties.

In general, the study of philosophy helps to develop the ability to think clearly.  If one understands how to think clearly, one can apply the techniques of critical and constructive thinking to the study of any discipline or to the concerns of any occupation.  The department’s curriculum provides an opportunity for all students, whether majoring in philosophy or not, to be educated in the methods of critical and constructive thought through reflection on the fundamental presuppositions of knowledge in general and of individual disciplines – such as art, law, mathematics, religion, and science – in particular.

Why Study Philosophy?

There is no question that the study of philosophy pays off, and it does so in numerous ways.

Some of the benefits come right away.  You might think of these as personal benefits.  Taking philosophy classes – in particular, majoring or minoring in philosophy – can be one of the most intellectually rewarding and stimulating things you can do while you are a student at Washburn.  Philosophers aim to develop a deep understanding of the world in general, and whatever the topic of the class you are taking, we will be doing our part to make the classes interesting and challenging for you.

Other benefits of studying philosophy become apparent later.  You can call these the vocational benefits.  Taking a philosophy class trains your ability to comprehend complex issues that require careful deliberation and sound judgment.  It also develops your capacity to come to a considered decision about that complex issue and to craft a compelling argument that defends your decision.  And these skills are not just useful in a philosophy classroom.  In an economy that rewards literate, thoughtful, creative people adept at analytical thinking, clear communication, and making careful deliberative judgments, people who study philosophy can thrive.

Some of the most important benefits of studying philosophy are also some of the longest-lasting.  Call these the societal benefits.  Part of the mission of the University is to help students develop into thoughtful, responsible citizens that can participate in the governance of a democratic society.  Successful democracies need well-informed, thoughtful, rational people as citizens.  The habits of mind that come from studying philosophy can be very useful in this regard.

What Are the Practical Advantages of Studying Philosophy?

Perhaps you are now agreed that studying philosophy can be rewarding in a theoretical and abstract sense, but you are not yet sure how it might be rewarding in a practical sense.  It is an important question, and the answer will be interesting to you – regardless of whether you are a prospective student thinking about coming to Washburn, a student currently at Washburn, or the parent of a student thinking about studying philosophy at Washburn.

Although some philosophy majors go on to earn advanced degrees and wind up as philosophy professors, most people who study philosophy – whether they do so with philosophy as their major or their minor field of study – do not go on to careers in philosophy.  Instead, they go on to a wide range of interesting, beneficial, and valuable careers.  There are lawyers, scientists, doctors, entrepreneurs, investors, entertainers, actors, journalists, judges, writers, religious officials, and people in public service who majored or minored in philosophy.

You might be wondering how that is possible.  After all, the obvious career path for a philosophy major is philosophy, right?  In a sense, that is true.  But philosophy majors are well-suited for a wide variety of other career paths.  This is possible because philosophy teaches and promotes basic skills of critical thinking, of clear communication in reading, writing, and speaking, and of rational argumentation.  It encourages and rewards an inquisitive and analytic habit of mind, creative capacities to integrate the results of a person’s careful thinking, and the ability to see non-obvious solutions to complex and difficult problems.  These skills are useful in a wide range of enterprises, unlikely to go out of fashion, and make philosophy majors attractive to potential employers.

If you are interested in going on to obtain a graduate or professional degree, there is not much better preparation than majoring in philosophy.  Philosophy is an intellectually demanding major, and this benefits students who seek to earn advanced degrees.  Philosophy majors are traditionally among the top performers on GREs, LSATs, and GMATs.

GET IN TOUCH WITH Philosophy and Religious Studies Department

Philosophy and Religious Studies Department
Morgan Hall, Room 206
1700 SW College Ave.
Topeka, KS 66621

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