What my Philosophy degree has taught me (and why you shouldn’t turn your nose up at it)

It is not enough to have a good mind. The main thing is to use it well.’

-Rene Descartes

When I was picking my A-level options at school, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. I knew I was quite good at most subjects, and was yet to really find my ‘thing’. Whilst all my friends had decided they wanted to be doctors or study business, I was trying to keep my options open just in case something came to me at the last minute. I had already chosen English Literature, Maths and Spanish and needed something to fill my last option, so I decided (on a whim) that I’d take Philosophy and Ethics, it sounded interesting and I thought it could be my ‘soft’ option. (Not too
much like hard work, pretty straightforward, an easy good grade.) Little did I know how wrong I was about it being easy, or that I’d end up studying Philosophy as my degree two years later!

People often turn their nose up when you tell them you study Philosophy, and I cannot even begin to count the number of times I’ve been asked, ‘hmmm, so, what are you going to do with that then?’ Yes, it doesn’t have a guaranteed job title at the end of it, but neither do so many other degrees. I think the importance of studying something because you want to has lost its value, and students seem to be focused on the employment prospect at the end of it all, meaning subjects like Philosophy often get given the cold shoulder.

Practical Skills

Like any other degree, Philosophy has equipped me with many practical skills that are useful and easily transferrable to many different career options. (These ones are good for the CV!)

  • Critical thinking
  • Reading and comprehending complex theory
  • Analysing and constructing sound arguments
  • Clear written and oral communication
  • Presenting ideas convincingly through well constructed, logical, systematic arguments
  • Open minded
  • Creative and analytic problem-solver
  • Well disciplined

The skill-set that Philosophy provides is something that I will carry with me past my academic career and into my daily life. I have already found that my writing style has improved massively from when I was at school, and I am so much better at deconstructing and analysing arguments now than I was in first year. I have also found that the way I approach problem-solving is very different, I am so much better now at having a more objective view, and not thinking that my way is the only way all of the time!

Personal Skills

  • Be open to new ideas and ways of thinking: enlarged my worldview
  • Improved rational faculties
  • Exercise introspection
  • Evaluate my actions and those of others
  • Understand my character
  • Solidified my core beliefs, morals and ethics
  • Be patient and understanding with those whom I disagree with
  • Be transparent about my biases
  • Live more thoughtfully with and in the world

I would definitely say that Philosophy is one of few subjects that can really impact your personal life, and I think this list speaks for itself really. I have been taught how to approach problems, view arguments from multiple perspectives and to really think around different situations. It has refined my communicative skills and taught me to articulate my thoughts in a meaningful way. A lot of what I am taught in the classroom I can take and apply to my daily life, and it doesn’t go unnoticed. My ability to negotiate is very well-developed due to the simple reason that I have a desire and willingness to gain understanding, even if I flat-out disagree with someone. People will respect you for this! It has also allowed me to be more understanding and evaluative of my own actions as well of those of others, something that is definitely character building.

So what have I really taken from my degree so far?

I think the main thing my degree has taught me is that I still have a great deal of learning left to do! Philosophy doesn’t involve learning facts or memorising figures, and so it doesn’t really end when you leave the classroom. It has definitely pushed me beyond what I thought I was capable of, I now know that nothing is impossible to understand, (even Kant!), it just takes time, hard work and discipline.

Although my degree won’t make me specialised to operate in a particular field, I am fortunate to be prepared to understand what it means to operate in the first place. I feel lucky to be studying something which I have grown to be deeply passionate about, and to be in an environment surrounded with like-minded peers and extremely supportive staff. It is great to be able to pop in to an office hour and just talk over something cool you’ve just found out about in class, and the staff are always so enthusiastic and helpful.

Philosophy has definitely made me feel uncomfortable about things I thought I was soooo sure about, but in the best way possible!