Philosophy Degree: We Think Therefore We Study


Many of the great minds in history were philosophers and have helped to shape the way we think and feel about many things. If you’re interested in jumping in the boat with great thinkers like Plato, Aristotle and Socrates, then you’ve come to the right place today! We are locked and loaded to the hilt with information about the philosophy degree process and tons of other information that will hopefully leave your think tank full to the brim!

Philosophy Degree

One of the very best things you can do once you decide that a philosophy degree is the thing for you, will be to study a wide berth of subjects and take advantage of an across-the-board education, if possible. Some of your early studies in physics, biology, computing, social science, mathematics and psychology will be very helpful when studying the philosophy that has an emphasis on logic, mathematics and clarity.

If you are considering taking focusing your studies of philosophy on humanistic studies, you may want to load up on classes in history, literature, politics, law and social sciences. Classes of this nature will help to prepare you for the intense reading and interpreting you will be doing.

Before you jump feet first into a philosophy degree, make sure that it is the right area of study for you first. You can read books about philosophy and about philosophers as well as read online websites that are geared towards regular readers that are interested in the subject. There are also some videos and podcasts available for you viewing and listening pleasure.

If you are still interested in pursuing a degree in philosophy after following through with some independent study, it’s probably time to apply to a school. Definitely take your time figuring out which universities and colleges you want to apply to. Think about what you are hoping to get out of a philosophy department, the faculty and the courses. Go ahead and apply once you find one that meets the individual criteria that you have set in your mind.

It’s definitely important to get as much out of you lectures, seminars and class discussions as possible. This is a subject that really requires you to use the critical thinking and analytical skills that are necessary to really understand the topics that are covered and to pass the courses. You will only get what you put into a philosophy degree, so if you approach it with gusto, you will get a lot out of it. The flip side of this coin also applies here and if you hardly give your coursework and lectures much thought, you will be left scratching your head.

Exercise your powers of critical reading and thinking when you are reading. Try to use a reasoning process and pay close attention to how you came to the conclusions you dd and what evidence you have to support your thoughts. You can practice this by reading anything, really, but having something philosophical to read will be the best way to get your brain firing.

While you are earning your philosophy degree, you will have to do a lot of writing and it will also be a different kind of writing than you may be used to. Philosophy classes are loaded with essay writing assignments and they can be pretty daunting at times making it easy to feel overwhelmed. Use your logic and critical thinking skills to break apart the theories that you will be writing about and include your reasoning along with how you came to that point rather than facts.

All of your new found abilities can be put to good work if you decide to go the distance and earn a Ph.D. You will be able to dominate your dissertation and parlay your skills into a profession that values your skills. Totally ignore all the haters that scoff at our decision to earn a philosophy degree and instead show them how valuable a degree in this area can be when it is in the right hands.

Philosophy Degree Levels

If you aren’t sure how far you want to take your philosophy degree, you might have a better idea once we are done with this section. We found some schools that offer degrees at each level and also lucked out with getting to peak at the courses available at each. We are going to offer up this information now and hope that it helps you on your path to a philosophy degree.

Associate’s in Arts General Studies – Philosophy Track

Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Connecticut has an associate’s degree program that allows students to focus on philosophy if they intend to transfer to a four year school to pursue and undergraduate or graduate degree in the field. Here are some of the classes that are offered at Sacred Heart University:

  • The Art of Thinking: A course for those that may need a bit of help improving their critical thinking skills. You will work on learning inferences, patterns, critical thought processes and how all of these things pertains to arguments, logical soundness, the type of argument and the relationship between everything as a whole. You’ll more than likely walk away from this class with the ability to analyze arguments and engage in a debate coming from a place of reason.
  • Introduction to Philosophy: This is a good class to follow up The Art of Thinking Class. It will give you the chance to work on your skills and examine the topics covered in class more effectively. During the Intro to Philosophy course, you will approach many of life’s questions from a place of knowledge that is based upon moral obligation, human significance and the nature of reality.
  • Philosophy of Science: In this course, you will learn the difference between science and pseudoscience along with the cause of refutation and explanation, antirealism and realism in terms of scientific concepts and of course the conflict between science, religion and law will be covered in great detail.

Bachelor’s Degree in Philosophy

If you’re interested in pursuing a philosophy degree at an undergraduate level, the University of Oregon has some great classes to offer and the drive to push students to succeed. UO does suggest that potential students put their noses in a book to prepare for the hard work ahead. Bases upon the course listings we are going to agree with that sentiment and second the importance of being prepared. Take a look at some course options at an undergraduate level:

  • Ethics: An ethics class approaches morality issues from a philosophical standpoint. You’ll use concepts like ethical relativism, justification of moral judgments, concepts of duty as well as right and wrong.
  • Feminist Philosophy: The description of this course is pretty self explanatory. Feminist topics and how they are impacted on a philosophical level will be examined in great detail.
  • Philosophy & Pop Culture: This class takes an inside look at pop culture and puts a philosophical spin on things like movies, music, graphic novels and sports.

Master of Arts in Philosophy

There is a Master of Arts in Philosophy degree at Boston University that allows students to focus on areas like natural science, cognitive science, mathematics, medicine, psychology, economics and other social sciences. This is a time when you will lock in the areas of study that you would like to write your thesis statement on. BU requires MA students to take at least 5 courses out of 8 in a semester in philosophy and here are a few options:

  • Medical Ethics: There has has been a connection between philosophy and medicine for a really long time and the growing medical field brings many ethical questions into play. In this class you will examine the role that ethics plays in health care, research, euthanasia, abortion, death and disease as well as reproductive technologies
  • History of Ancient Philosophy: This course takes a close look at philosophicalconcepts that date back to the classical Greek era. You can expect to get to know Plato and Aristotle really well in this class.
  • History of Medieval Philosophy: Mysticism, Jewish and Islamic philosophies are discussed in great length in this course with a special focus on the religious aspects of each topic There will be many reading on Hebrew and Sufi poetry along with an examination of the Kabbalah and the Bible.

Ph.D. In Philosophy

Finally, the very last step that can be taken in earning a philosophy degree is a Ph.D. By the time you hit this stage, you are going to be super skilled at thinking critically and breaking down arguments from many different angles. You will work really hard at knocking that dissertation out that we talked about early when you are in the final stages of earning this degree. Just remember that you’re in the home stretch and there’s a job and a fancy diploma at the end of this very long tunnel!

Different Branches of Philosophy

philosophyimageDid you know that there are several branches of philosophy to study? Some are branches all on their own and some have interesting little sub-branches too. We’d be here all day if we broke them all down for you, so we will only focus on a few today. If you are going to earn a philosophy degree, it might be a good idea to know what they are and which one floats your boat. Let’s get right into it and see what it all means!

Aesthetics

Yes, this is an actual philosophical study! The study of beauty and taste comes from the Greek word “aisthetikos”, which means “of sense perception”. Aesthetics is a sub-branch of the larger philosophical branch, epistemology.

Epistemology

The philosophy branch known as epistemology is the study of nature and grounds of knowledge. This area of study hones in on the ways knowledge is aquired and is known for the debate that is held rationalism and empiricism along with whether or not we can gather knowledge “priori” or “posteriori”.

Ethics

Moral standards and the “proper” way to conduct oneself comes from the philosophical branch of ethics. It’s essentially a break down how what is good or bad, how one should behave and why along with what is considered to be right or wrong.

Logic and the Philosophy of Language

Logic and language are most often treated as separate entities, but in the philosophy world they are siblings and lumped together. The study of logic uses reasoning and argumentation to examine the topic and the study of language delves into how language can impact ones thinking.

Metaphysics

The study of why something exists, what it is and how we can understand it all come from metaphysical philosophy. It’s pretty common for some to think of metaphysics in only in the confines of a altered reality behind the physical world that we can see, but this is actually somewhat of a fallacy. Metaphysics is actually the study of everything in reality, whether it is visible or invisible.

Who Knew These Folks Were Philosophy Majors?

This section is something that you can think back on when someone gives you a hard time about earning a philosophy degree. There are a surprising amount of right brain, philosophy minded folks that have made major names for themselves in the big time. So, when someone pokes fun at you and jokes that they hope you enjoy serving coffee, toss out a few of these names and tell them to zip it!

Peter Theil

We know that you are probably wondering who he is and why we mentioned him, but hear us out before you think we are nuts. Peter Thiel’s name may not ring a bell off the bat, but his hand in some of the biggest companies around today sure will. You may have heard of the little companies Paypal, Facebook, Yelp, Spotify, Yammer and LinkedIn…and if not, well it’s time to come out from under that right, dear friend! Theil is a super successful (obviously) hedge fund leader, venture capitalist, philanthropist and philosophy degree holder.

Ethan Coen

Ethan Coen and his partner in amazing movie making crime, brother Joel Coen are responsible for some of the best movies ever. If you’ve ever watched Fargo, The Big Lebowski, O Brother, Where Art Though and No Country for Old Men – you have Ethan Coen to thank. It’s really not that surprising that he earned a philosophy degree from Princton University in 1979. The dialogue in the movies coupled with their offbeat tone totally jives with the brain of a philosophy student.

Angela Davis

One of our personal heroes, Angela Davis, is a rocking feminist, Black Panther and communist. Davis switched from her original French major to philosophy where she studied under Marxist Herbert Marcuse. Her time studying philosophy left an indelible mark upon her and greatly influenced her at time controversial work as a social activist and philosophy professor. Davis campaigned hardcore for issues that she felt were unjust like racism, capitalist inequalities, sexism and anti-LGBTQ issues

Steve Martin

We all think of funny man Steve Martin from his days on SNL and in classic comedy movies of the 1980’s and 1990’s. How many of us knew that beyond his comedic, musical and writing talent dwelled a philosopher with a degree California State University? Martin has a particular interest in philosophy that centers around logic and language. Doesn’t this little factoid make you want to go back and rewatch his old movies to see if his love of philosophy touches his work?

Bruce Lee

Long before he was kicking butts and taking names on the big screen, Bruce Lee was busy earning a degree in philosophy at the University of Washington. Lee credited his time in school as a major influence over his acting chops and commitment to athletics.

Ricky Gervais

The sharped tongued funny man and creative mind behind awesome shows Extras and The Office majored in philosophy at the University of London. He is doesn’t say one way or the other if his time studying philosophy impacts his comedic work, but we’re going to guess that it does because his cutting humor always aims for the heart of the matter effortlessly.

They Did What? Crazy Things Philosophers Have Done

There have been some pretty wild philosophers over the course of history and some of them made it their mission to shatter the image of what we usually think a philosopher to be. Calm, wise and cautious these philosophers were not. Take a look at some of the crazy things that have been done by some of the greatest thinkers we know of.

  • Rene Descartes slept in an oven: Big daddy of Western philosophy and the creative mind behind one of the most quoted ideas (“I think, therefore I am”) ever used to sleep in a giant stone room that was used to burn fire. The room would rise in temperature when the extra heat was needed for cooking or to keep warm. It most certainly was not made for anyone to sleep in, but Rene Descartes didn’t seem to pay much mind to that. His crazy sleeping arrangements are said to be responsible for some of his philosophical thoughts…We wonder if his brilliance was a side effect of heat stroke!
  • You can’t do that in public: Diogenes may have been one of the world’s greatest philosophers, but he definitely seems like he was a few cards short of a full deck. He is said to have taken up residence in a barrel right in the middle of a public square. Most people crave privacy, especially when it comes to certain acts of “self-love”, but this was of absolutely NO concern for Diogenes. He had no issue with dropping trough in his barrel and taking care of business. When he was confronted by people that were understandably offended by his actions, he would merely say that he wished it was “as easy to relieve hunger by rubbing an empty stomach.” We don’t really know what to say about this, but rest assured we have the giggles.
  • nietzscheIt’s all down hill after you hug a horse: A lot of us know of Nietzsche, but not many of us know the details of his life. Apparently, things took a downward turn for old Friedrich when he left the place he was residing on January 3, 1889.When he stepped outside, he saw a horse being brutally whipped by a cab man and decided to run to the horse’s aid. We can’t say we wouldn’t do the same…well except that we likely wouldn’t dissolve into tears while embracing the horse and ultimately collapsing in the street. This incident seemed to mark a downward trend for the philosopher and his life continued to spiral from there on out.
  • Hide and Seek: Jean-Paul Charles Aymard Sartre was a well-known and highly thought of existentialist and political philosopher in the 1960’s and 1970’s. He was awarded a Nobel Prize in Literature in 1964, but turned down the honor because he didn’t want to be associated with the committee forever. Well that clearly worked out the way he wanted it to, huh! Sartre hightailed it to his sister-in-law’s apartment in and attempt to escape the attention of the press. They were completely fascinated with by the fact that he actually turned down something as coveted as a Nobel Prize.

To Watch a Video or To Not Watch a Video…That Is the Question

We think that you should definitely watch the video! We found a cool and relaxed video from a real live philosophy student and he lays it all out on the table. If you still have lingering questions about whether or not you should earn a philosophy degree, definitely spend a handful of minutes watching it. You won’t be sorry, we promise!

Sources and Recommended Reading

Here are some of websites that have great information about philosophy and obtaining a degree. Feel free to take a closer look at some of the information that we gathered for you. Happy reading!

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