Hello everyone! I'm new here and I am studying Philosophy in college currently and I find myself enjoying it quite a bit. I was wondering if anyone majored in Philo or is currently teaching Philo at the college level? Just looking for some insight.
Hi Wozz! I majored in Philosophy and History and am going on to law school. I think it is great (and very wise) that you are taking the preemptive measure and seeking insight into your major by asking others about their experiences, etc. Since your question is a little broad, I think I can address some of the major points about majoring in philosophy.
---Choosing Philosophy as a Major--------------------------------------------------
Although I am sure you have already determined that you want to major in philosophy, you may want to consider the following things. Is majoring in philosophy the major for you? In my experience there are a lot of people that like philosophy superficially but do not care for the more in-depth academic side of it. There is nothing wrong with this at all. Some people like to get what they want from philosophy and leave it at that and some like to study it as though it were a skill or profession. I think you are the best judge of how your want to operate with the major and the study. Even within your undergraduate college of liberal arts (of which philosophy is most likely a part), you will notice that there are a vast amount of freshman and sophomore level courses in philosophy, but oddly half as many philosophy courses once you get passed the core requirement courses (like Modern Philosophy, etc). At Penn there was a huge drop-out rate past sophomore philosophy courses because the early courses that introduced you to the small steps and let you explore your own opinions essentially dry up and get into the more analytical and historical parts of philosophy. Many people do not like the upper level parts of philosophy because it is very dry, regurgitated, and relies on hard memorization. If you like this method and could stand the more tedious aspects of philosophy, the major may be the right thing for you. In my own case, I majored in philosophy after I had exhausted all my other interests and found that philosophy was actually something I came back to as a default. So just consider these little things if you haven't already (which you most likely have).
---Keeping Philosophy as a Major--------------------------------------------------
If you are intent on keeping philosophy as a major, then you have a lot of ways to approach it. One of the major things to consider is the honors program
. Essentially, what the honors program does is take the basic courses you would get (some of the times a duplicate of the regular course), but the instructor expects more work from you and of a higher quality. However, you need to register for the honors program and qualify for the credits, but after that, should you choose to do it, it is actually very enjoyable. Honors courses (as far as I have experienced them) give you a lot more access to the instructors and their better graces. It is an excellent way to network if you want to continue graduate studies at that particular school as well. Usually, the graduate admissions officer (usually an instructor as well) teaches a fair amount of these classes.
As to standard philosophy classes, I suppose it all depends on what your preferences are and what your specific college wants from you. I am sure you were given a track credit/hour sheet with all of the courses you need to fulfill your major on it. Required courses
are something you are going to have to be careful about though since some of them are best taken with another course to help you get through them. A lot of other philosophy students have passed by on the forum, and what I gather in terms of common required courses are; propositional logic, modern philosophy, at least one international philosophy course (Indian/Arabic, etc.), and a writing intensive senior capstone course. Propositional logic is either a hit or miss. It really depends on how good the instructor is (and how they grade). Modern philosophy is the same way. Modern philosophy is the turning point for a lot undergraduates in philosophy because you have to really get into blunt memorization and conceptual history. If I were you I would attempt this course in your junior year if you had the chance, trying to pick up continental philosophy, etc. courses to better prepare yourself. The capstone course is surprisingly uniform from the people I have talked with on the forum. You get a compendium reader (i.e. twenty questions
) and you have to do abstract analyses and a final paper. Abstracts are a killer since they require you condense 20 pages into one paper of summarization. It's hard, but you really appreciate it afterwards. The reason they demand abstracts from you is because if you do wish to continue into graduate studies, you do abstracts like you do quizzes every day. The final paper (if they want one from you) is not that bad though.
---Cross-Networking Majors (or how to major in a few majors at once)--------------------------------------------------
A trick that I came across later in my college career was overlapping majors requirements
. This is awesome because while you are completing a major in Philosophy, you are also completing a major in a few other subjects. It really depends on the way your college of liberal arts is configured, but suffice to say that any study that is contained within the same college (and when I say college I mean distinct area of study) can include the same courses from your philosophy major. Usually, you can coincide philosophy with history (which I did), political science, economics, etc. Interestingly enough, religion is not part of that equation, at least at my school at any rate. Obviously, this tacks on an extra semester worth of classes to your university career, but it is a neat thing to consider. If you use your electives wisely and gear them towards another major requirement, it is fairly simple to do.
---Fraternities, Societies, and Instructor-Student Relations--------------------------------------------------
You will definitely have access to at least a philosophy society
at your school, if not a national philosophy fraternity
(open to men and women... and keep in mind this is not a "frat" fraternity, but an academic fraternity). I urge you to put up with the occasional meetings and join the society and/or fraternities because it looks very good on graduate applications. The networking you are able to do is also excellent. Societies do not have a GPA requirement, although national philosophy fraternities have a requirement of 3.0 GPA and two volunteer service probationary limits. Penn also required an instructor sponsor, so this is probably where you would get good use out of the honors courses or joining the local philosophy society. Fraternities are very useful even past your undergraduate career because they let you publish your work in their journals. I use my history fraternity phi alpha theta's resources a few times since I have graduated to publish small things. They also have a pipeline open to Blackwell publishing if a books was ever considered. So definitely use the societies and fraternities. I would also urge you to have a good relationship with you undergraduate advisor in the philosophy department. This is the guy (or gal) that ok's you independent study requests, your course selections, and even course requirement omissions. You don't have to do anything big, just shoot them an email from time to time asking questions and they create a file on you.
---What can you do with a Philosophy Degree?--------------------------------------------------
This depends on how you utilize your philosophy degree. Of course, you can teach philosophy with your degree. In the grander scheme of things, the only people that really end up teaching undergraduate philosophy
courses are masters students and professors. If you want to pursue a masters in philosophy, one of the most useful things I can impart to you is the fact that you can cut down your time in a master's program (2 years) by an entire year as an undergraduate. How do you do this? As an undergraduate, you can elect to take masters level courses as part of either your electives or as a substitute for your normal course load. Keep in mind though, this usually works for continuing your education at the school you attend as an undergraduate. But if you want to continue at the school you are at for graduate studies, then this is a very useful thing to consider. But make sure you double check the courses with you graduate admissions officer before doing this. And as an added benefit, this also shows your premeditated intent to go on to masters studies, so you have a few points in that respect come time to apply.
And on the subject of master's and doctorate studies, both require graduate entrance exams
. That being said, you have to invest time during your undergraduate preparing for these tests with English classes, logic classes, etc. The two primary exams are the GRE and the GMAT. The GRE and the GMAT are administered on the computer (in an isolated testing area mind you) and test basic vocabulary, English composition, etc. The GMAT includes all the stuff on the GRE, but also contains basic math problems, but just algebra and geometry. Entrance to a masters in philosophy requires just the GRE. However, many graduate programs also requires that you have a comprehensive language requirement, so essentially you need to complete, for example Italian I through III (usually one more language course than usually required).
But you can also use the LSAT (law school admissions test) in applying to a graduate program in philosophy. If you are very fond of logic and abstract reasoning, then you would not only prefer this but also in case you wanted to do two things at once. Also, you can go to law school and attend graduate courses in philosophy as well.
But other than teaching philosophy, you can do a lot with a philosophy degree. Law, politics, etc. But it depends on how you utilize it. To be safe, I would suggest that you at least do a minor in some practical field, like business or science. Honestly, minors are just as good as majors and though they do not show on your physical degree, they do show up on your transcripts. I think employers look at both with equal weight, so keep all that in mind. Although philosophy is a great major because it encourages abstract thinking, it is best used in conjunction with something practical. I don't think an employer minds their employees acting like stoic philosophers lost in apathy as long as they get the job done. Of course, as a student of philosophy, you are able to conceive better alternatives... aut viam inveniam aut faciam.
If you have any more questions or advice, I am more than happy to help out.