Philosophy @ Hanover College

Why study philosophy?

This is a question that most people with an interest in studying philosophy encounter sooner or later. The good news is that there is no reason to be embarassed by it! Here's why ...

There are really two good reasons for studying philosophy. The first and most important reason is that philosophy is one of those things that are rewarding in and of themselves. For many of us, when we see philosophical questions we find them intrinsically interesting. They strike us as questions that ought to have answers and we immediately want to find out what they are. Some of us naturally wonder about these sorts of questions, and thinking about how best to answer them and engaging in conversations with others about them are some of life's great pleasures.

Of course, this answer will not reach people who ask with any urgency why we should study philosophy. They're really asking after the usefulness of studying philosophy. A number of things can be cited on behalf of studying philosophy, including improved capacity for abstract reasoning and general problem-solving, verbal reasoning, effective communication, and so on. But other disciplines will often claim the same things.

It is interesting to note, then, that philosophy majors have a demonstrated track-record of dominating the verbal reasoning and analytical writing sections of the GRE (Graduate Records Exam), and turn in respectable performances on the quantitative reasoning section as well (these are the only three sections of the GRE general test). In recent years, philosophy majors had the highest average verbal and analytical scores of any major on the GRE and their average quantitative scores were topped only by (some) science and engineering averages. (GRE's 2010-2011 Guide to Use of Scores, see pp.17-19 for breakdowns by major). In fact, philosophy majors have historically taken among the highest averages on the GRE, LSAT (Law School Admission Test) and GMAT (Graduate Management Admission Test). (This study by Clifford Adelman was reported by the APA here.)

This second sort of reason is not usually what draws people to major in philosophy. But it can be reassuring to the friends and family members of philosophy majors to know that doing the kinds of abstract, conceptual reasoning and versatile problem-solving that philosophy majors do is also highly prized by admissions committees in graduate and professional schools.

Last Modified: 18 August 2011
Page Author: Jared Bates