I am curious about the concept of logic, and I also want to hone my logical thinking skills.
Studying philosophy is intrinsically valuable — it is valuable in and of itself. Reflection about ourselves and about our place in the world is an essential element of a complete human life.
That is not the only value to be found in studying philosophy, though. Philosophy sharpens and deepens the mind, making us clearer and more cogent thinkers. It also broadens the mind. Adopting a philosophical point of view requires one to be willing to put all of one's assumptions and commitments under the analytical microscope. The salutary effects of such a willingness were memorably and beautifully described by the great British philosopher Bertrand Russell in the concluding chapter of his short book, The Problems of Philosophy:
The [person] who has no tincture of philosophy goes through life imprisoned in the prejudices derived from common sense, from the habitual beliefs of his age or his nation, and from convictions which have grown up in his mind without the co-operation or consent of his deliberate reason. To such a [person] the world tends to become definite, finite, obvious; common objects rouse no questions, and unfamiliar possibilities are contemptuously rejected. As soon as we begin to philosophize, on the contrary, we find, as we saw in our opening chapters, that even the most everyday things lead to problems to which only very incomplete answers can be given. Philosophy, though unable to tell us with certainty what is the true answer to the doubts which it raises, is able to suggest many possibilities which enlarge our thoughts and free them from the tyranny of custom. Thus, while diminishing our feeling of certainty as to what things are, it greatly increases our knowledge as to what they may be; it removes the somewhat arrogant dogmatism of those who have never travelled into the region of liberating doubt, and it keeps alive our sense of wonder by showing familiar things in an unfamiliar aspect.
What is more, Russell observed, the benefits of philosophical reflection extend beyond our minds: philosophy also changes the way we engage with the world around us.
The mind which has become accustomed to the freedom and impartiality of philosophic contemplation will preserve something of the same freedom and impartiality in the world of action and emotion. It will view its purposes and desires as parts of the whole, with the absence of insistence that results from seeing them as infinitesimal fragments in a world of which all the rest is unaffected by any one [person’s] deeds. The impartiality which, in contemplation, is the unalloyed desire for truth, is the very same quality of mind which, in action, is justice, and in emotion is that universal love which can be given to all, and not only to those who are judged useful or admirable. Thus contemplation enlarges not only the objects of our thoughts, but also the objects of our actions and our affections: it makes us citizens of the universe, not only of one walled city at war with all the rest. In this citizenship of the universe consists [humanity’s] true freedom, and [its] liberation from the thraldom of narrow hopes and fears.
Almost anything! Studying philosophy prepares students for any profession that requires rigorous and cogent thinking, reasoned argumentation, and clear and persuasive writing. In a survey of US business and nonprofit leaders conducted on behalf of the Association of American Colleges and Universities, 93 percent of employers indicated that a demonstrated capacity to think critically, communicate clearly, and solve complex problems is more important than a candidate's undergraduate major. So, the question philosophy majors face upon finishing their studies is not, “What can I do with a philosophy degree?” but rather, “Of the many career options open to me as a philosophy major, which one is best for me?”
Yes, they do! As this chart shows, the median mid-career salary for Philosophy majors is higher than that for majors in most of the other subjects offered at NYU Abu Dhabi, including Chemistry, Political Science, Biology, and Psychology. As the Wall Street Journal puts it, a degree in Philosophy is one that "pays you back!"
Absolutely. Many students who hope to go to law school assume that they must major in a subject that has something to do with the law (such as Political Science or Legal Studies). But this is a mistake. Law schools are looking for students who read carefully, who think analytically and critically, and who write clearly and persuasively. These are precisely the skills that students cultivate when they study philosophy. This may explain why philosophy majors do as well or better on the Law School Admission Test (required for admission to US law schools) than students in almost every other major.
The same goes for business school. You don't need to major in Economics to go to business school. On the contrary, philosophy majors perform better on the Graduate Management Admission Test (required for admission to US business schools) than students in most other majors, including Economics.
Majoring in philosophy prepares one for graduate work in almost any field. Most US graduate programs require prospective students to take the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE). Philosophy majors consistently perform better than students from any other major on the verbal and analytical writing sections of the GRE. They also tend to score quite well on the quantitative section.
The benefits of philosophical training extend well past the graduate admissions process. As NYU Abu Dhabi Philosophy alumna Rasha Shraim (class of 2016) explains in this column in Nature, philosophy's emphasis on critical thinking, careful reasoning, and creative problem solving can even make you a better scientist!
Still unsure about where a philosophy degree can take you? Are your parents skeptical? Show them some of these articles from major newspapers and magazines lauding the study of philosophy.
What can you do with a degree in philosophy? Well, you can become . . .
. . . to name just a few possibilities!
Through the greatness of the universe which philosophy contemplates, the mind also is rendered great, and becomes capable of that union with the universe which constitutes its highest good.