Why Study Philosophy?
For the Greeks "philosophy" meant "love of wisdom". Socrates, Plato and Aristotle made wisdom a practical matter: knowing the right way to live and why it is the right way. To know these things they thought you had, first, to understand yourself. From one point of view you are just another natural object like a stone or a tree. So even for practical wisdom, we need a big theory, one that covers the whole of reality and our place in it.
Philosophy has changed a lot since the days of classical Athens, but modern philosophers still grapple with many of the same kinds of questions; questions such as:
- Is there a God?
- What is the nature of the mind?
- How do we tell which actions are right or wrong?
- How do good arguments differ from bad arguments?
- What is knowledge? How does science work?
- What is freedom? Am I free?
- What is beauty? What is art?
Curiosity about these questions is a good reason to study philosophy. Another is the desire to improve your reasoning skills. The exercise of thinking hard can produce astonishing and paradoxical results, revealing how many things we ordinarily take for granted. Philosophy will teach you habits of rigor, of constructive doubt, and of clear thinking.
Employers are increasingly aware that philosophy equips people with these skills. Consequently, philosophy graduates are in demand in business, government and the media. Studying philosophy is also a route into teaching, now that philosophy has been introduced as a secondary school subject.