Why Study Philosophy?
To answer that, imagine a woman, Maria, aged 85. Maria has just been told by doctors that she has about 24 hours left to live. What would she likely think about in the time left? She might think about family and friends. She might possibly revisit regrets, choices she wished she had not taken. She would surely remember the years as an immigration attorney helping to fight for justice in the lives of those most vulnerable, and being a mentor to young lawyers (especially women). Amidst her thoughts would be many questions: what was the purpose of her life; did she make a difference; would people remember her; why did she live so long; had she been a good role model to her children and fellow attorneys; was she a good citizen; did she work hard to reason well for her clients; why was she born Hispanic? Even broader questions would occur to her: why is she dying now; what happens after death; is there a God; if she has a soul, does it live on; what will happen to the earth; where does her life fit into the universe? She might wonder if such answers can even be known.
It is worth noting that nearly every question Maria asked had centered on philosophical topics. They are ethics (mentor, role model, choices, relationships), metaphysics and belief (soul, God, dying), logic (reasoning well), politics and government (citizen, justice, law), gender (women), epistemology (what can be known), the environment (the earth), and race and ethnicity (being Hispanic). At the end of her life, in contemplating the full range of her years, it was philosophical questions and concerns that dominated her thoughts.
But what if these questions were instead asked at a young age? What if a college student could consider the profound questions of human existence? What if there were a discipline that might produce in a young person a sense of wonder and humility concerning the universe and its possibilities? And that that discipline would give her the tools to think critically, to make distinctions, to reflect meaningfully on the world around her, to work toward global justice, and introduce her to some of the greatest minds who ever lived? In effect, what if a student could encounter ideas that might later affect positively the life she led? If there were such a valuable discipline—one that concentrated on the art of living well—then surely any student should be encouraged to study it. And yet there is; it is philosophy.
Over the past decade, teaching awards are of abundance in the department
How faculty and students in philosophy are using virtual reality to make thought experiments a little more real.