Each professor in this department would give a different statement of the reasons for being a Philosophy major. But Professor Paul Bloomfield has said it as well as any of us would, and so we are letting his statement speak for us all.
Why Major in Philosophy?
by Paul Bloomfield
After taking a philosophy class, many students say they liked it and would major in philosophy, if only it were "more practical". Parents often think it won't help their kids get jobs. This is understandable from people who have only passing familiarity with the subject. The situation is more complicated, however.
There are many articles noting how pre-law students majoring in philosophy do best on the LSATs. Undoubtedly, there are reasons for success; many concern the lessons one learns in studying philosophy. The articles typically do not say, however, that philosophy majors are, in a sense, a self-selecting population who would do well on the LSATs regardless of their major. What is not in doubt is that philosophy majors are willing to enter into a discipline, a difficult one, that will actually improve how they think if studied correctly. Philosophy helps people succeed.
Philosophical thought is prized for clarity, objectivity, and precision. Learning to think this way will help in every possible profession. Philosophy majors can walk into job-oriented situations knowing that they spent a great deal of time working on the most sublime problems that human beings will ever consider. If a person can do philosophy well, business or law should be a cake- walk.
Philosophy is something that people do. It is an activity, a skill. Regardless of how much natural philosophical talent people have, everyone can do it better than they do it now. Pablo Picasso had to learn to paint like the classical masters before Guernica was possible; Michael Jordan sank 100,000 jump shots before he did it reliably in the clutch. Most likely, readers of this essay (author included) won't be the next Socrates or Kant, but we can all think more clearly than we do, and it will not happen by accident.
Five years after graduating from college, most people realize that not much they learned in school helped a lot in the "real world". Most people learn how to do their jobs "on the job". So, the real question concerns how the task will be approached. Will you think through the problems you will inevitably face in a clear and lucid fashion, or will you bumble through them? Will you know how to identify the salient issues and problems, be able to explain articulately why they are salient, and devise creative problem solving strategies?
Some philosophy is good for all students. Being a philosophy major is not. As noted, philosophy majors are a self-selecting bunch. The question comes to this: do you know what is good for you? If you know the answer, and it is philosophy, then sign up to be a major. If you don't know, then maybe taking a philosophy class will help you figure out what is good for you.
If you like, you may print this and give it to your parents, or forward to them this link. If they like, they may contact me, Paul Bloomfield, at email@example.com. I'll be glad to communicate with them.