Why Study Philosophy?

Why should you study philosophy? This was the question that I was forced to answer numerous times after I switched my second major from statistics, “a practical, hard skill,” to philosophy, which my friends and relatives must think is a wonderful waste of time based on the questions I receive. At that point, my explanation was not much more than “because I love it.” Part of the original impetus for this article was to see if anyone had a better reasoned or more eloquent explanation than me for studying philosophy. Not only did I want an opportunity to dive into my personal motivations, but I also wanted to hear from my peers in the Parr Center to see if their thoughts seemed to align with my own reflections on the topic.

My first introduction to philosophy was a class I took during the spring semester of my first year. I was fascinated with the layers of analysis. I thrived in an environment that promoted and supported deep, concentrated thought. Continuing to study and read philosophy in the fall semester of the next year, I was constantly delighted by philosophers who were attempting to answer the questions I had. So, I decided to take the leap.

In preparation for writing this piece, I asked a few other Parr Center fellows to write about why they study philosophy. Their answers reaffirmed my decision and shed light on other perspectives that I had not previously considered.

Christina Barta, a sophomore studying computer science and philosophy, spoke to the wonder of studying philosophy: “[Philosophy] asks questions about the really important things – the things that get at the heart of the human experience, that get at what is valuable, what is beautiful, and what has meaning. It gives the desire we have to understand ourselves and our world a language.” At its best, philosophy allows us frameworks to consider what life is all about, an incredible gift.

Not only is philosophy alluring as a mental exercise, fellows like Eli Low, a junior biology major, emphasize the practical implications of philosophy. Eli shared, “Studying philosophy enables me to learn how to analyze logical arguments and has helped me be a better advocate for social issues.” The skills learned in the study of philosophy are important and often hard to come by through any other avenue.

Scott Harn, a junior studying philosophy and political science, further describes these tangible benefits, “Philosophy is a tool to help you evaluate your beliefs and how you developed them. This is a critical skill in order to understand the mechanics of how you do moral calculus and gives you the opportunity to be more understanding of how others preform moral calculus as well. Philosophy makes you think about issues beyond the surface level and gives you the tools to look at issues through multiple lenses which allows you to craft solutions to problems that go beyond your own perspective.”

Though I don’t know that I have come to a concise answer about why everyone else should study philosophy, I am now reassured that I made the right choice. If anything that Christina, Eli, Scott, or I said appealed to you, please consider taking a class in philosophy to see if it is the right thing for you because one class was all it took for me to fall for it.

November 5, 2018
Annie Evans