What is philosophy?
Philosophy is the attempt to understand the truth about ourselves, the world we inhabit, and our place in it. Philosophy asks the big questions: What is the general structure of reality? What makes something good or beautiful? What is knowledge? How should society be organized? What is the relationship between mind and body? Though philosophical questions can seem abstract or daunting, they are deeply relevant to all aspects of human life, since much of what we do and think assumes answers to them. Pursuing philosophical questions requires our thinking and writing to be creative but clear, attentive to both experience and the formal rules of argument, and charitable towards the ideas and arguments of others.
Why study philosophy?
The study of philosophy is both intrinsically worthwhile and an exceptionally rigorous intellectual training. Philosophy students are exposed to important historical and contemporary views that shape our conceptions of ourselves and the world. They learn to think and write analytically, to reason carefully through complex problems, to discover the unstated presuppositions behind arguments, and to see issues in broader contexts.
Because of this, philosophy students are well-placed for success in a variety of professional degrees and careers after graduating. Philosophy students are consistently among the top performers on the LSAT, the GRE, and the GMAT. (For data, see the American Philosophical Association's webpage, Resources for Undergraduates.) Many pursue successful careers in law, public policy and government, business, medicine, and more. Others pursue graduate training in philosophy. Some who earn a Ph.D. in philosophy pursue careers as academic philosophers and university and college teachers. Others who specialize in applied ethics (e.g., bioethics) pursue careers as ethics consultants (e.g., medical ethicists or bioethicists). Still others go on to professional careers in law, public policy and government, and more. Finally, many find that the study of philosophy contributes to their wellbeing long after graduation, and indeed throughout their lives!