Philosophy

Philosophy is Practical

A lot of students take a philosophy class, really find it rewarding, but feel like they can't major in philosophy.  Philosophy is too impractical, they say, and they major in something else, something they like less.

This happens at all colleges, but it is a special problem at CMC.  People feel that if they don't major in government or economics they’re not going to get jobs and won’t become “leaders”.

Now if you love government or economics, good for you -- you should major in it.  But if you love philosophy, you shouldn't stay away from it just because you think it isn't practical.  In fact: philosophy is one of the single most practical things you can major in.

Want proof?  Below are some comparisons with government and economics.  We’re not picking on those departments.  They just happen to be the flagships at CMC, and since everyone else is comparing philosophy to them, we will too. We will cover Business, Law, and Academic Graduate School:

Business and Business School

The GMAT is the test you take to get into business school.  Philosophy majors average 574.2. Government majors average 571.8, and economics majors average 563.8. (Survey by the test designers, the Graduate Management Admission Council, 2000-2005.)

Links:

Law and Law School

The LSAT is the test you take to get into law school. Philosophy majors average 156.0. The only majors with a better average are Math and Physics. Government majors average 154.4, economics majors average 155.3, finance majors average 152.2, and political science majors average 151.6 (Michael Nieswiadomy, “LSAT Scores of Economics Majors,” Journal of Economic Education; summary here)

"In assessing a prospective law student's educational qualifications, admissions committees generally consider the chosen curriculum, the grades earned, and the reputation of the colleges attended. They also view favorably scholastic honors, awards, and special recognition. Solid grades in courses such as logic, philosophy, and abstract mathematics are generally considered a plus. [...] [L]aw schools will respect your pursuit of subjects you find challenging. This is especially true if the courses you take are known to be more difficult, such as philosophy, engineering, and science. Also, look for courses that will strengthen the skills you need in law school. Classes that stress research and writing are excellent preparation for law school, as are courses that teach reasoning and analytical skills." - from "Education," from the The Council on Legal Education and Opportunity,  American Bar Association. Emphasis added. (complete article available at: http://www.abanet.org/cleo/edu.html

"The methods of analytic philosophy and of legal reasoning -- the making of careful distinctions and definitions, the determination of logical  consistency through the construction and examination of hypothetical cases, the bringing of buried assumptions to the surface, the breaking up of a problem into manageable components, the meticulous exploration of the implications of an opponent's arguments--are mainly the same." (Overcoming Law, Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1995, p. 9 by Richard Posner, United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit)  

Academic Graduate School

The GRE is the test you take to for most academic graduate programs.  Philosophy majors average 1811. Government majors average 1663, and economics majors average 1782. ( Survey of GRE data by the Chronicle of Higher Education; see also here)

What to Do With This Information

We don’t recommend picking your major based solely on how it will affect your test scores.  Do what you love, whatever that is.  But you shouldn’t shy away from philosophy because you think it’s impractical, because it’s just about the most practical thing you can major in!  For the right person, philosophy can offer a way to spend your four precious years of college doing the kind of intellectual activity you love, while also setting you up for the career you want in the future.

If you’re interested, read on about the Philosophy Major and the specialty major in Philosophy and Public Affairs.

What to Do With This Information

Government

  • Rudy Giuliani, former Mayor of New York City
  • Thomas Jefferson, U. S. President
  • Robert McNamara, former Secretary of Defense
  • Richard Riorden, Former Mayor of Los Angeles
  • Justice David Souter, Supreme Court Justice
  • Justice Stephen Breyer, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court
  • George Stephanopoulos, former White House Press Secretary

Business

  • Carl C. Icahn, corporate raider and investor
  • Frank Moran, founder of Plante and Moran
  • George Soros, financier and philanthropist

The Arts

  • Wes Anderson, director, The Royal Tannenbaums
  • Pearl S. Buck, Nobel Prize for Literature
  • Ethan Coen, filmmaker
  • Martin Gardner, author
  • Philip Glass, composer
  • Bruce Lee, martial artist and actor
  • Elmore Leonard, author
  • Gene Siskel, movie critic
  • Ken Follett, author
  • Northrup Frye, English scholar and Literary Critic
  • Rebecca Goldstein, Novelist and MacArthur Prize winner
  • Terence Malick, filmmaker
  • Robert Motherwell, painter
  • Barnett Newman, painter
  • Wallace Shawn, playwright and actor
  • Mary Higgins Clark, author
  • Steve Martin, actor, playwright and author

Other

  • Phil Jackson, NBA coach
  • Aung San Suu Kyi, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize
  • Pope John Paul II
  • Albert Schweitzer, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize
  • John Stoltzmann, winner of the World Poker Open
  • P. Michael Spense, Economist and Nobel Prize Economics 2001
  • Juan Williams, NPR host “Talk of the Nation,” writer, journalist