I’m Sumeet Patwardhan, a junior majoring in philosophy and minoring in poetry writing – and I’m set to graduate in May 2017.
I first thought about majoring in philosophy after taking Practical Ethics with Professor Douglas MacLean, but I decided for sure after taking Making Sense of Ourselves with Professor C.D.C. Reeve. I loved that philosophy could be so careful, precise, and thoughtful, while still, in some cases, being outright revolutionary, radical, and eye-opening. For me, philosophy comes to life when it helps us to make sense of our own lives: to interrogate our hidden assumptions; to use our deeply-held intuitions to ‘test’ philosophical theories; to better understand the nature of the world, what we can know about it, and how we should act in it. Studying philosophy, more than anything else, has helped me to figure out what I actually mean when I say something. It’s helped me to transform vague musings in my head into valid arguments in my papers. Philosophy has spilled into my poetry, into my everyday conversations, into my style of thinking – it’s honestly changed my life. So that’s why I chose to major in philosophy, and that’s why I’ve stayed in the program.
In my years here, I’ve gotten the opportunity to take numerous classes in diverse areas with renowned professors. Moreover, with the support of the Robertson Scholars Leadership Program, I’ve had the opportunity to live and study at Duke University for a semester, and to work as a research assistant for a philosophy professor at the University of Oxford for a summer. This winter, I plan to apply to Ph.D. programs in philosophy; in the long term, I hope to become a philosophy professor.
If I had to give advice to potential philosophy majors, I’d focus on three points. (1) If you even have the slightest interest in going to graduate school and becoming a philosophy professor, talk to the DUS and your professors about it as soon as you can. They’ll give you valuable advice on the competitiveness of admissions and the job market, and on what you have to do to prepare for and get through the application process. (2) If you ever get a bad grade on an exam or a paper, take a breather for a few days and then go talk to your professor. I have found many professors to be gracious with their time, kind in their feedback, and helpful in improving my work for next time. (3) Make friends with professors, graduate students, and fellow undergraduates. The more I hung around Caldwell, went to office hours, and talked to people before and after class, the more I started feeling like a part of the philosophical community.