These questions fall into three traditional categories:
- Axiology: The theory of value. Characteristic questions include:
- What is good or right?
- What is evil or wrong?
- What is a just society like?
- What is beautiful?
- Epistemology: The theory of knowledge. Characteristic questions include:
- What is knowledge?
- What is truth?
- Can humans know anything? If so, how?
- Metaphysics: The theory of being. Characteristic questions include:
- What is real?
- What basic kinds of things exist (e.g. physical objects, souls, God)?
- Are human actions determined by factors outside human control?
The liberal arts and sciences
What are some general considerations with a BA in Philosophy? Understandably, you may be focused on getting your first job after graduation, but here are some reasons for taking a longer view:
- Vocational training may lead directly to a job, but will it give you the best skills for success and for advancing to leadership roles? Also, bear in mind that in today’s marketplace people often change the type of job they do several times during their working lives.
- None of the traditional liberal arts and sciences (philosophy, English, history, art, physics, biology, etc.) leads directly to a specific sort of job. What the traditional liberal arts and sciences can do, however, is provide you with a set of skills that will enable you to succeed in many different types of work.
- Students who major in one of the traditional liberal arts, such as English, history, and philosophy, have excellent records of success in the workplace. Many employers value the broad vision and critical thinking skills characteristic of students who major in these disciplines.
Preparation for graduate school
The Philosophy major is excellent preparation for graduate school. As a group, philosophy majors have a remarkable record of achievement on such standardized tests for graduate school admission as the GRE, LSAT, and GMAT.
Also, as a group, students who major in philosophy are curious and many go on to graduate studies of some kind. A Philosophy major is especially good preparation for law school, for seminary, and of course for graduate work in philosophy.
Preparation for life
Obviously, there is more to life than work. And the value of philosophy goes well beyond its contribution to preparation for a career.
Philosophy can deepen your understanding of many aspects of life. It can enhance your sense of wonder at many things people tend to take for granted. It can greatly increase your enjoyment of conversation and discussion. It also tends to increase self-knowledge.
In general, to devote oneself to philosophical studies is to adopt a way of life that involves looking beneath the surface of things, becoming more aware of (a) the assumptions humans tend to make (especially our own assumptions!), (b) the strengths and weaknesses of various systems of belief, and (c) the connections between disparate fields of thought such as science, morality, and religion.
With their flexible skills, students who major in philosophy wind up in a wide variety of careers. As noted earlier, they often seek advanced degrees, and go on to careers in law, medicine, and higher education. Those who do not hold graduate degrees find work in many different fields such as technology, public school teaching, publishing, sales, youth ministry, university admissions counseling, criminal justice, and various types of managerial work.
The excellent skills in communication and problem-solving provided by the study of philosophy greatly increase the likelihood of advancement once one enters any field of work.
In many cases, good students can readily fulfill the requirements of two majors. So you do not necessarily have to choose between philosophy and some other major. In fact, you may want to consider double-majoring in order to get the most out of your experience at Seattle Pacific University. (If it’s too late to double-major, consider earning the minor in philosophy.)
PHI 4899, the Senior Capstone course, is designed to provide philosophy majors with some vocational direction as well as to help them to organize and integrate the various aspects of their philosophical training.
You owe it to yourself to contact SPU’s Center for Career and Calling (SUB, second floor). The Center helps SPU students make the transition between the university experience and world of work.