The Top 4 Reasons You Should Never Major In Philosophy
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The Top 4 Reasons You Should Never Major In Philosophy

Run away now, it's a trap.

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So you want to be a philosophy major? First of all, what is wrong with you? What horrible life event led you to be the way you are? I'm not kidding, you're deranged.

Nevertheless, I am approaching the end of a philosophy major, and I never doubted it was for me. There are precious few times in life when you feel like you are really called to do something, but that's what philosophy was for me. I love it, so trust me when I try to convince you to not do it.

1. What are you going to do after graduation?

No, seriously, what are you going to do? Every humanities degree gets this, but philosophy is different. If you're a theater major, there are lots of different things you can act in. If you're an art major, you can be an artist in lots of different ways. Philosophy leads to ONE AND ONLY ONE job. That's being a philosophy professor. If you want to be a professor anyway, hold on. Being accepted to a decent grad school for philosophy is hard. Harder than most humanities majors, actually. It's extremely selective, and it doesn't stop at grad school. First, you get accepted to grad school, then you go through another 4-6 years, then you might get accepted to teach somewhere, then after making mediocre money and facing the constant struggle of publishing for years, you might get tenure. If you don't get tenure, you're out, and you've just spent about 20 years of your life only to have to do something else. Trying to become a philosophy professor is honestly a high risk, low reward scenario.

The most practical purpose of college is to prepare yourself for a career. If you major in engineering, it's not uncommon to have a job straight out of college that is a direct continuation of what you just studied. Philosophy will never get you that.

The Upside

Philosophy actually does prepare you for a career, just not a specific one. The skills you can learn in philosophy about reading and writing critically, logically and succinctly are extremely valuable for a huge range of positions. My recommendation is a double major in philosophy and something else. If you do that, philosophy is actually a huge benefit because it enhances pretty much anything.

2. The Reading.

Many, probably even most philosophers are good at presenting arguments and horrible at writing them. As a philosophy major, you will be reading a lot of the most labyrinthian passages you can imagine. You will wonder how someone like Kant ever got so famous because his work is almost incomprehensible.

"Nothing can be more real, or concern us more, than our own sentiments of pleasure and uneasiness; and if these be favorable to virtue, and unfavorable to vice, no more can be requisite to the regulation of our conduct and behavior." — David Hume

Can I understand what Hume's talking about eventually? Sure. Is it painful? I'd rather beat my fingers with a hammer.

The Upside

You develop an extreme tolerance for awful writing which you will need in any job that involves documents. You also get really good at skimming things are finding the point efficiently.

3. The People.

Philosophy majors tend to have a reputation for being pretentious. That reputation exists for a reason. There are some truly insufferable philosophy students. People that trigger an inner groan whenever their hand shoots up. Also, like my opening suggests, a lot of philosophy students actually do have some issues. Sometimes, you learn a lot more about your peers than your care to know. Something about philosophy attracts people with a few screws loose.

You'll also find yourself in classes with people who don't pick things up as fast as you, and people who leave you in the dust. That's just college, and philosophy classes are no exception. Sometimes I'll hear someone say something and wonder, "How?" Whatever that means.

The Upside

Really, most of the philosophy students I've met range from pleasant to genuinely nice people. Because philosophy is so examination oriented, most of us are very self-aware which can be a welcome change or lead to uncomfortable conversations. Philosophy also fosters a constructive atmosphere, so, while your peers may criticize your argument, it's only making your position stronger when you figure out how to refute them.

4. The Thinking.

Philosophy involves a lot of thinking that you may not do regularly. One of my classes this semester is a healthcare ethics class where I am one of only a few true philosophy majors in the class. Most of the other students are premed or business. I heard a group of people talking about how rough our discussion sections were because all the TA ever does is pose hypotheticals and asks us to talk about them. When I heard that, I got a little sad because I love that. Philosophy is all about thought experiments to try to understand reasons for a position, or why a position isn't logical. If you're not a person who likes 'what if' questions, philosophy is not for you.

Philosophy may also change you profoundly. About a year and a half ago while writing an ethics paper, I convinced myself to become vegetarian. I love meat, but I couldn't justify eating it after examining arguments for and against vegetarianism. Now, I'm questioning my views all over again and wondering where I should go from here. Another example is antinatalism, a position that says it is morally wrong to have children. I find myself more and more convinced by antinatalist arguments which could change a huge part of my life. If you're interested in philosophy, you should go in with an open mind and be prepared to think about things you never thought you'd question.

The Upside

By examining all your beliefs, you become far more confident in why you think a certain way. You can present evidence and reasoning, and find flaws in others' reasoning. You become a better person.

Should you be a philosophy major?

I'm going to come off as elitist, but so be it. Philosophy is not for everyone. It is not obviously practical or useful, and if those are your primary concerns in college then more power to you. Those are smart concerns to have. College is a huge investment, and majoring in philosophy is not a return on that investment. On the other hand, I encourage you to try a philosophy course. I started with an ethics course, and I think that's a good way to go. Try it, and if you hate it, walk away satisfied. If you love, you're stupid and crazy like me.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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