Is Philosophy the Most Practical Major?

A recent article in The Atlantic suggest that this is the case:

…  [philosophy] is a tool (like history and religious studies) for thinking about everything else, and every profession from law and medicine to motorcycle maintenance.

The article in The Atlantic comments on another recent article, this one in the Philadelphia Inquirer, about the recent increase in popularity of a major in philosophy:

Shannon Maloney had already earned a degree in mechanical engineering, but she returned to Lehigh University for a fifth year to complete a second major she knows will make her more employable:


Yep, philosophy. …

In an era in which chronic unemployment seems to demand hard skills, some students are turning to an ancient study that they say prepares them not for a job, but for the multiple jobs they expect to hold during their lifetimes.

“It’s teaching me to see the big picture and to think about things in a different way,” said Maloney, 22, of West Chester. “Not only can I do the math and figure out how to design something and build something, but I can see it in the context of a business plan.” …

Thomas Jefferson had a philosophy degree. So did martial-arts specialist Bruce Lee, Supreme Court Justice David Souter, activist Angela Davis, and NBA coach Phil Jackson.

Proponents say it teaches analytical skills that enable students to succeed in everything from running businesses to practicing law to operating nonprofit agencies. …

… to recognize that some problems have multiple solutions – or no solution. To think critically, write clearly, and argue cogently. …

Brian Karalunas, a three-time all-American in lacrosse, graduated from Villanova with a philosophy degree in the spring – and in September was drafted by the Minnesota Swarm of the National Lacrosse League.

He thinks his major has helped his playing. The ability to make logical decisions, to explore several possibilities for the best option, comes directly from philosophy, he said.

“It helps you to think slowly in fast situations,” said Karalunas, 22, expected to debut as a pro in January.

He never planned to major in philosophy, but found that early courses “cultivated critical thinking and spurred imagination. Those life skills, I thought, were the most valuable I could get.”  …

Steven Occhiolini is an accountant in the Blue Bell office of LarsonAllen L.L.P., a national accounting firm.

He always wanted to be an accountant, but became captivated by philosophy as a freshman at La Salle University. He graduated in 2008 with a double major.

At LarsonAllen, he’s found that philosophy helps him produce more descriptive, better-written reports.

“It really makes your brain work in a different way,” Occhiolini said.

One of the most common misconceptions about the study of philosophy is that it is not useful.  However, the skills that are emphasized and developed in philosophy courses are some of the most essential skills to have, regardless of one’s career path.  Philosophy would be interesting and worth studying even if it were not useful, but it is nice that in the case of philosophy we don’t have to choose.

One thought on “Is Philosophy the Most Practical Major?

  1. Pingback: Is Philosophy the Most Practical Major? « Puget Sound Philosophy | Best Life

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