Why Every Student Should Study Philosophy

Many students (or parents) ask the practical question: What can you do with philosophy? Our answer here at UNC Charlotte is that you can do anything with philosophy that you can do without it, but with philosophy you can do anything better. Here’s why.

A philosophy major is perfect by itself because you can learn critical thinking skills and also reflect on big questions in life – in ethics, religion, aesthetics, politics and other valuble subjects.The history of philosophy is a record of people’s attempts to combine these skills and questions in hopes of obtaining some answers. Majoring in philosophy is a chance to enter into conversations with these philosophers and your fellow students with shared interests in philosophy’s relevance to today’s global world.

This combined critical/value course of study is also an invaluable addition to any other field, which is why so many philosophy students are double majors. Which other fields? Almost any other. If you look at the testimonials at the bottom of this page, for example you’ll see how dozens of UNC Charlotte faculty in all sorts of disciplines studied philosophy earlier in their lives and now think that philosophy was vital to their successes. They come from biology, psychology, physics, English and many other subjects and what they all have in common is an appreciation for the value of philosophy.

Another, more professional reason why you should all study philosophy is that it provides perfect preparation for the entrance exams required for law, medicine, business, computer science, or engineering schools, or graduate school in the humanities. Proof of this is that philosophy majors perform among the top 10, often top 5, on most of the exams such as LSAT, MCAT, GRE and the like. So you don’t have to become a doctor of philosophy (a Ph.D) but you can become an ethical lawyer, or an engineer or computer scientist who has better understanding of the world. The combinations are limited only by your imagination.

But why do philosophy majors perform so well on these tests? Well, most if not all have the basic breakdown between math and verbal skills. You’ll certainly do well in math if you’re a math major or well in English if that is your field. But philosophy offers math skills through logic and critical thinking, plus verbal skills because writing and discussing are vital to the study of philosophy. In short, philosophy offers you a unique combination of critical thinking and writing skills useful in almost any profession, starting with the entrance exams.

So, whether you want to read classic or contemporary philosophers because you’ve moved by value questions or recognize the importance of critical thinking regardless of you other major, you should still consider becoming a philosophy major. You have the option of having a traditional or applied concentration, depending upon whether you are interested in more historical or applied issues- its philosophy either way.

Please come to visit us in WINNINGHAM 103, if you are interested in becoming a philosophy major or minor. It’ll change your life–academic and personal.

See also Philosophy is a Great Major.

Testimonials about Philosophy
By Department or Schools of Respondents

We asked the faculty and staff at UNC Charlotte to answer two questions about the value of philosophy in their careers:

1) Did you study philosophy as an undergraduate (major or minor) or graduate student?

2) If your experience was positive, how did your study of philosophy contribute to subsequent success in your current field, whether you’re a Librarian or a Biologist or a Dean or an Artist, or, as they say, whatever?

So far, we have received responses from individuals in the following departments and schools:

Art History

“I avoided Philosophy classes as an undergraduate at Kenyon College because I heard they were difficult and I was afraid. The very few Philosophy students I knew also seemed irritatingly analytical and rather humorless, which didn’t help the situation. However, I have regretted this decision ever since because philosophy has been a constant refrain in my subsequent life as worker, parent, art historian, and general citizen. I have worked hard to learn some necessary philosophical issues and histories on my own and in graduate school, but wish I had taken at least a couple of classes as an undergraduate to ground me and acquaint me more deeply with theories that still reverberate in our lives today. Problem is, until you actually study philosophy, you often “don’t get” just how applicable it is to current life.”

Lili Corbus Bezner, Former Associate Professor of Art History


“Actually, [studying philosophy] has become very important because I often have to delve into issues such as ontology and epistemology to discuss issues of information and knowledge in strategic management. My work seeks to inform managers about how to assess their external environment, and how to deal with the information overload around them. As it turns out, you have to get back to basics, i.e, “What is reality? What is important about reality? How can I know these things? ” I doubt there is any study in the social sciences that does not take for granted that the researcher has adopted a particular philosophical platform, but it is vital that the researcher knows what that platform is.”

Frances Fabian, Belk College of Business

Criminal Justice

“My exposure to Philosophy throughout my education was quite positive. It has helped me enormously in my practical and intellectual pursuits. Perhaps most especially, it enabled me to understand the importance of critical thinking, systematic reasoning, and sound argumentation. This includes examining such human social issues/problems as crime, homelessness, mental illness, the death penalty, chemical dependency, and poverty.”

Bruce Arrigo, Department of Criminal Justice


“I am an associate professor in the Department of Education Leadership in the College of Education. I have a juris doctorate and have practiced law for over ten years before joining UNC Charlotte. I was a political science major as an undergraduate at UNC Chapel Hill and took philosophy courses.These courses have been invaluable in thinking about laws as one element of society and the possibilities and limits of laws in expressing core beliefs. I also am a mother. I thought about Kant yesterday when my child shared with me his school’s fundraising campaign that lures students into participating, not because of the good of the charity, but in order to win prizes.”

Ann McColl, Department of Education

Information Technology

“I’ve often thought that one of the very best justifications for going to college is not that it makes you smarter, but it teaches you to think. Think critically, think outside the box, think about the process of thinking. I don’t think college will really make someone smarter, but it may help a smart person take better advantage of their intellectual gifts, and philosophy is one of the better disciplines at helping people make that transition.”

Jeff Rabon, UNC Charlotte College of Information Technology

Finance (Business)

“Many academic majors equip students with a particular set of skills that can be applied in particular types of professions. For instance, engineering programs produce engineers; business disciplines produce managers, financial analysts, and accountants; education departments produce teachers. In contrast, philosophy is a more of a “meta-discipline.” The student of philosophy learns how to think about complicated issues, to understand enigmatic problems, and to formulate and articulate cogent arguments. In short, the end product of studying philosophy is wisdom, which is applicable in any field.

I am a financial economist. Economics is generally considered a mathematical science since economic issues are examined using quantitative techniques. Yet economic models ultimately describe social phenomena. Abstraction from the social system to the mathematical model, as well as interpretation of the model’s results in terms of the underlying social system, are both usually explained and justified rhetorically. The ability to construct persuasive verbal arguments is just one of the dividends from studying philosophy.”

Steven P. Clark, Ph.D., Department of Finance and Business Law


“I studied ethics as an undergraduate; the writing and debating I did in that course sharpened my analytic skills generally that have served me well for the past 30 plus years. And though I had never anticipated I’d be so doing, before my leave of absence, I was teaching Ethics in the Business School. I continue to draw on philosophy in that course and attempt to demonstrate to students that certain business positions are based on certain philosophical principles that often contradict one another and that understanding the underlying philosophies of different business practices help shape behavior within organizations. There is a certain intellectual discipline that comes from studying philosophy that I did not appreciate as an undergraduate but certainly have come to appreciate. I actually wish I’d studied it more than I did. I was, however, seduced by the apparent power of data and the scientific method.”

Beth A. Rubin, Professor, Depts. of Management and Sociology


“My education in philosophy serves as an important foundation for almost everything I do in my profession. The roots of science and more specifically in my case, psychology, are in philosophy. As a health psychologist, decisions about health practices beg for philosophical discourse. And now I am teaching a course on professional ethics to our clinical psychology students, which I could not do without understanding philosophy. In the complicated world where health and human behavior interact, having the ability to engage in philosophical reflection is essential to conducting excellent scientific inquiry and effective clinical practice.”

Arthur W. Blume, Ph.D., Associate Professor and Director, Health Psychology Program