Introducing the Philosophy Major at a Fair

Some talking points we used today:


- If you have to, it is useful to substitute the word "philosophy" with "critical thinking" to provide a non-academic appreciation of what the major involves.

- Broadly, the nature of the skill set pursued in the Philosophy major relates to the determination, D, of truthful sentences. The reason this is broadly applicable is, because all other fields are discussed in terms of sentences. (We don't need to introduce the distinction between propositions and sentences to pre-students of the major).

We can separate a philosophy program syllabus into:

  1. "critical thinking tools," which typically include at least one course in logic (predicate calculus / the algebraic treatment of natural language) [tools, T for pursuing D]
  2. - the "application of critical thinking tools to specific subjects," which for example, could be courses in "philosophy of science," "philosophy of mathematics," "philosophy of eating meat," etc. [the applications, A, of T to various domains]
  3. - the "history of the development of the tools, and the history of the application of the tools," which we can generally refer to as courses in the history of philosophy [the histories, H of T, and H of A]

Context of the major

- The Philosophy is a liberal arts major, in the same way that the Mathematics major is a liberal arts major: there are no/few commercial jobs in pure mathematics, but many commercial jobs employ the skills used by mathematicians, and many commercial jobs employ the skills used by philosophers despite there being no/few commercial jobs in philosophy. [Optional definition of a liberal art in the Greek sense.] For the purpose of this discussion, "commercial," refers to the "non-academic domain," whereas it is a fact that academia itself is in certain ways commercialised.

- Research opportunities in philosophy per se are largely academic, whereas certain commercial bodies, such as hospitals, may explicitly employ ethicists. Skills of philosophy may be applied to research in other less abstract fields, just like skills of mathematics. Likewise, the incentives to pursue graduate study in philosophy are mainly academic fulfilment, whereas commercial bodies will have a high variance in valuing a graduate degree in the liberal arts for the purpose of determining employee compensation in a commercial setting.

- In the USA, certain individuals will study philosophy as a precursor to law, whereas law is a precursor to government service, given given the model of three branches of government requires an understanding of how laws interact with each other across each branch. The skills from the Philosophy major therefore set scholars up for statesmanship, in a similar fashion that the Philosophy, Politics, and Economics major does in the UK. This may come as a surprise to people who are used to living in countries without rule of law, as the dominant function of lawyers there is litigation between private parties. But in most countries, it is well understood that the study of law is also a precursor to commercial tactics. (We can leave out discussions of philosophy as a precursor to STEM, because that requires the audience to brain STEM (lol), and that can't be imposed upon a general audience. Maybe this avoidance is too conservative, and should be developed.)

- Philosophy programs in top-100 US undergraduate programs (including colleges and universities) may be judged along an axis of quantitative rigour. The schools which treat language with more quantitative analysis are in what is called the Analytical tradition, whereas the schools which treat language with less quantitative analysis are in what is called the Continental tradition. (Let's leave out Eastern philosophy, and American pragmatism out of it for now.) Therefore when picking a program, it is advantageous to examine the degree of analyticity applied by the faculty of the program - this can be done roughly via reputational assessment. A more technical student might prefer a more Analytical approach, a more soulful student might appreciate a more Continental approach.

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