Imagine if you were dropped into an afterlife scenario and found out that perhaps you didn’t quite belong there? What would you do? Would you behave well and manipulate your situation in order to stay, or would you confess? Eleanor Shellstrop, the main character in the popular TV show The Good Place, is faced with such a conundrum. The show draws on real philosophy and theories.
One of the strengths of the show is that it enacts and displays philosophy in action. Philosophy, a term attributed to Pythagoras, is the study of general and fundamental questions about existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language. Such questions are often posed as problems to be studied or resolved. “I think that one of the remarkable things about The Good Place is that it manages to make people feel the pull of these different philosophical positions. It makes people see why [a character] decided to reject utilitarianism or Kant or whatever. And so it does get people to go through some of the steps that lead to arriving at one kind of conclusion or the other, rather than just being told the conclusion,” says Thomas M. Scanlon, Professor of Natural Religion, Moral Philosophy, and Civil Polity, Emeritus, and author of What We Owe Each Other, which was featured on the show.
If The Good Place is your first introduction to the complexities and nuances of the field of philosophy -- moral philosophy is the beating heart of the program, and it has some of the best jokes in moral philosophy that one has ever heard, according to The Guardian -- then you are off to a good start. But you are also just scratching the surface! Here are more reasons why you should follow your passion for philosophy, along with seven exciting careers for philosophy majors.
Why study philosophy?
Philosophy, according to philosophy graduate Abdelaziz Zekkouri, gave birth to the sciences and mathematics due to the fact that “essentially, philosophical questions about the nature of things prompted scientific research to answer these questions.” With a high level of philosophical knowledge and know-how you’ll also find that you will excel and score higher on standardized test-taking such as for the GRE, the qualifying exam for many graduate school programs. Justin Weinberger writes in the DailyNous, “When students are compared by major on how far above average they do on the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE), a standardized test used in many disciplines to assess applicants to graduate programs, philosophy majors come out on top, according to a new look at test score data over the past few years.”
Philosophy can help you all around in academia as it is a very wide-ranging and versatile field of study. It is, after all, the field on which many or all others have their foundations. “Philosophy's aim from the beginning has been to give a general understanding of the universe that could provide a basis for the understanding of life, something on which to build a rational art of the existence of man and society,” writes A. Spirkin, an expert on the subject.
As a philosophy major you will also have ample opportunity to hone and develop excellent critical thinking and writing skills as you will be asked by your professors and teachers to really dig deep and consider larger existential questions and conundrums. You won’t have a problem taking a stance or debating your point of view! One high school principal, Bjorn Paige, has a great attitude towards how he uses his philosophy degree in his daily work: “I’m not saying that I break out Aristotle when I need to decide if a kid should get a free bus pass or we ought to suspend a student for smoking in the bathroom, but I do believe my time as a philosophy major helped me lay a foundation from which I’ve built the approach I take to my work.”
Parlaying your philosophical skills and expertise into a career as a writer seems like a no-brainer. “A person with a philosophy major tends to have among the highest mid-career incomes of any major,” explains Associate Professor Chris Lauer. “This is for some of the reasons that you would expect, critical thinking and writing skills, but some of it is job flexibility -- going in not expecting a career track but being willing to look for opportunities. Philosophy majors don’t expect to get a job in the philosophy factory. They pursue lots of different interests until they find what sticks.”
A writer knows that to make a career out of writing requires a certain kind of entrepreneurial spirit and commitment to being flexible. Writers can make a living as copywriters, editors, freelancers, and more. One could go so far to say that every job requires critical thinking and analytical skills -- being able to articulate thoughts and arguments isn’t just something you do in a college essay, it’s essential basic correspondence in any job.
2. Entrepreneur or analyst
Entrepreneurs and analysts capitalize on their philosophy majors by employing their positive outlook on life and their ability to take things in stride and with perspective on the larger picture of life. “Once hired, philosophy majors advance more rapidly than their colleagues who possess only business degrees” writes Thomas Hurka, Professor of Philosophy at the University of Calgary.
He strongly advises people to think about to consider majoring in philosophy if they want to be successful in business.” Business and philosophy may not seem like a good combination, but you’d be surprised how well they complement each other. Some of the main reasons philosophy majors make good employees who are assets in the business world is that they love debating, can see the big picture, and are “comfortable with the uncomfortable,” writes Nicholas Miller for Entrepreneur.com.
3. Legal specialist
A philosophy major is well positioned to become a legal specialist. He or she will be skilled in writing well, debating and taking a stance on an argument, untangling various problems, and much more. Much philosophical rhetoric is crucial to understanding and grasping the legal system. “Philosophy gave me the analytic skills to develop recruitment processes that were logical, fair, and legally defensible. These analytic skills extend to many other things I have done or continue to do at work, including policy analysis, making policy recommendations and drafting related language, and interpreting legal and quasi-legal documents,” says Kari Middleton, a volunteer coordinator.
5. Human resources
Some might say that having a strong sense of a moral compass and ethics is key to a successful human resources (HR) specialist. Anyone who works in HR might tell you about how much patience and compassion it takes to perform well in a position that requires a high degree of professionalism and a good sense of right and wrong. Philosophy majors are skilled in weighing the pros and cons and considering all angles of a situation. This is an invaluable skill as an HR specialist, someone who is often tasked with being a liaison between the employee and the employer. “In order to build a rewarding employee experience, you need to understand what matters most to your people,” says HR specialist, Julie Bevacqua.
What about becoming a teacher with a philosophy degree? Well, of course! Teachers are deep thinkers and need to be good at conveying complicated terms, concepts, and ideas to their students. A philosophy-trained teacher will be able to articulate and express complex ideas and terms, making almost all subjects accessible and within reach for all their students. “Teaching is a very noble profession that shapes the character, caliber, and future of an individual. If the people remember me as a good teacher, that will be the biggest honour for me,” says A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, a teacher and thinker. Merging ideas with good teaching is an ideal career for a philosophy major.
7. Counselor or mediator
Philosophy and counseling or mediation is also a perfect pairing. “Philosophy teaches you how to think for yourself and how to analyse and communicate ideas clearly and logically,” explains Prospects.ac.uk. A career in counseling or mediation requires you to be a good listener and to be able to parse and decipher what’s really occurring between two or more potential hostile parties. Many philosophy majors come to the profession of counseling or mediation with strong foundational knowledge as well as high morals and ethics, qualities that are essential to working in a field that requires a high degree of confidentiality and tact.
Still wondering if a philosophy major is for you?
You might be surprised to learn that philosophy does pay! It’s definitely not a “worthless liberal arts degree.” In fact, Payscale.com reports a high job satisfaction and an average annual salary of $66,000 US dollars for those holding a bachelor’s degrees in philosophy. Other reports show that over the course of a philosophy major’s career there is potential for huge pay increases!
“The study of philosophy is not merely the study of abstract ideas. In fact, this discipline can teach you how to think critically and clearly present your argument - valuable skills that could set you up for a career as a barrister, solicitor, local government officer or lecturer, to name but a few,” writes Katie Russell for The Daily Telegraph,
A degree in the varied, fascinating subject of philosophy is not limiting: in fact, the skills it develops and sharpens are transferable to a wide variety of jobs and careers. It isn't called 'the mother of all disciplines' for nothing...