College of Arts & Sciences Philosophy

Why Take Philosophy?

Intrinsic Value

GottfriedLeibnizQuoteA major or minor in philosophy represents the finest tradition in university education and will be of lasting value in any vocation prizing that tradition, e.g., law, government, health services, psychology, physics, mathematics and fine arts.

The long-range value of philosophical study goes far beyond its contribution to one's livelihood. Philosophy broadens the range of things one can understand and enjoy. It can give one self-knowledge, foresight, and a sense of direction in life. It can provide, to one's reading and conversation, special pleasures of insight. It can lead to self-discovery, expansion of consciousness, and self-renewal. Through all of this, and through its contribution to one's expressive powers, it nurtures individuality and self-esteem. Its value for one's private life can be incalculable; its benefits for one's public life as a citizen can be immeasurable. 

Transferable Skills

The success enjoyed by philosophy majors occurs in large part because studying philosophy helps to develop skills demanded by employers in a large variety of fields. Some of the skills that philosophy helps to develop are: 

  • Critical Thinking skills, such as the ability to analyze arguments, identify key principles, solve problems, and come to sound decisions.
  • Communication skills, including the ability to write clearly and in a way that summarizes content in an easily understood fashion, also including the ability to verbally express oneself in a clear, concise, and convincing way. 
  • Problem Solving skills, such as the ability to see the central issues that form the basis of many dilemmas, and the capacity to think in an open and informed manner about possible solutions.
  • Organizational skills, such as the ability to see the relations between objects and ideas in a way that allows appropriate and functional ordering.

The importance of these skills is that they are transferable so that they not only make you better at philosophy, but they also make you better at virtually anything you choose to do.

Transferable skills are also amongst the most important skills in today's economy where individuals have, on average, five different careers (not five different jobs, but careers in five different fields).

Preparation for Graduate or Professional Study

The development of transferable skills through studying philosophy is also seen in the performance of philosophy majors on standardized tests for admittance into graduate and professional schools. In a comprehensive study (done by the National Institute of Education and reported in The Chronicle of Higher Education) of college students' scores on the LSAT, GRE, and GMAT tests, students majoring in Philosophy performed substantially better than the average on each of the tests.

  • Students majoring in philosophy had the highest scores on the verbal portion of the GRE, and were the only group in the humanities to score above the overall average.
  • Philosophy is one of the most popular pre-law majors, and students majoring in philosophy had, on average, higher scores on the LSAT than any other humanities major. Amongst all fields, only students from mathematics and economics scored better than philosophy.
  • Students majoring in philosophy had the second highest average scores on the GMAT, bested only by math majors. Philosophers scored 15% higher on average than business students. 

Regardless of whether you plan on continuing your education with graduate or professional studies, philosophy not only provides skills that will be in demand by employers, it also enriches your life and can transform your view of the world.

Scholarships

Many scholarship opportunities are available at USD. For details, see Financial Aid.