Millikin University - Decatur, IL
Why Philosophy?
Philosophy, B.A.

The Millikin philosophy major is designed to meet the requirements of four classes of students:

(a) those who have no professional interest in philosophy but who wish to approach a liberal education through the discipline of philosophy;
(b) those who want a composite or interdepartmental major in philosophy and the natural sciences, behavioral sciences, humanities, or the fine arts;
(c) those who want an intensive study of philosophy preparatory to graduate study in some other field, e.g. law, theology, medicine or education;
(d) those who are professionally interested in philosophy and who plan to do graduate work in the field and then to teach or write.

Students with a professional interest in philosophy are urged by the Department to give early attention to courses in the history of philosophy sequence, logic and ethics.

The Value of Philosophy

There are numerous resources on the web that speak to questions like “Why study philosophy?” and “What can I do with a philosophy major?” Simply go to a search engine and enter a query like “Why philosophy” or “What to do with philosophy major.” The following are representative of the kinds of answers you will find.

Helpful Links

 

Interesting facts***

  • LSAT scores for philosophy majors rank third among the twenty-two undergraduate majors represented by examinees. Only mathematics and economics majors score higher, on average.
  • GMAT scores for philosophy majors rank second among the nineteen undergraduate majors represented by examinees. Only mathematics majors score higher, on average.
  • GRE/Verbal scores for philosophy majors are the highest among the twenty-four undergraduate majors represented by examinees. (Mathematics majors rank fourteenth.)
  • GRE/Quantitative scores for philosophy majors are ninth among the same twenty-four majors, ranking higher than business majors, all majors in the social sciences, and all other majors in the humanities. And consider the majors that rank higher than philosophy: physics, mathematics, engineering, computer science, chemistry, other sciences, economics and biology. These majors include extensive training in quantitative thinking, philosophy relatively little.

 

If we consider these four tests cumulatively by summing the respective rankings by major, philosophy majors come out on top (15), followed by math majors (18). Examinees majoring in chemistry (26), economics (30), and engineering (30) round out the top five; no other major is even close.

Conclusion
: if you want to develop a broad range of skills that prepare you for a wide variety of intellectual challenges, you should seriously consider becoming a philosophy major.

***Based on standardized test performance by undergraduate major between the years of 1977 and 1982, where rankings were calculated by average mean differential. The data were reported in Clifford Adelman's The Standardized Test Scores of College Graduates. Despite the fact that such a detailed compilation of recent data is for the most part unavailable, all evidence suggests that current performance is practically identical to that of Adelman's study.

 

Philosophy and Law School

Undergraduates who plan on attending law school should seek an undergraduate major that will develop the skills that are necessary for success in law school and for success in the practice of law. Among the most important of these skills are analytical and logical reasoning, persuasive argument writing, and research skills. The Law School Admissions Council provides the following description of law school pedagogy. This discription is accurate and makes self-evident the value of philosophy as the ideal undergraduate major for those interested in law school:

Most law school professors employ "the case method" of teaching. The case method involves the detailed examination of a number of related judicial opinions that describe an area of law. The role of the law professor is to provoke and stimulate. For a particular case, he or she may ask questions designed to explore the facts presented, to determine the legal principles applied in reaching a decision, and to analyze the method of reasoning used. In this way, the professor encourages you to relate the case to others and to distinguish it from those with similar but inapplicable precedents. In order to encourage you to learn to defend your reasoning, the professor may adopt a position contrary to the holding of the case. The case method reflects the general belief that the primary purpose of law school is not to teach substantive law but to teach you to think like a lawyer. Teachers of law are less concerned about rules and technicalities than are their counterparts in many other disciplines. Although the memorization of specifics may be useful to you, the ability to be analytical and literate is considerably more important than the power of total recall. One reason for this approach to legal education is that in our common-law tradition, the law is constantly evolving and changing; thus, specific rules may quickly lose their relevance.

Law is more an art than a science. The reality lawyers seek in analyzing a case is not always well-defined. Legal study, therefore, requires an attentive mind and a tolerance for ambiguity. Because many people believe incorrectly that the study of law involves the memorization of rules in books and principles dictated by learned professors, law schools often attract those people who especially value structure, authority, and order. The study of law does not involve this kind of certainty, however; complex legal questions do not have simple legal solutions.

For the full description, see The Juris Doctor Degree.

 

Federal Appellate Judge (and former law professor) Richard Posner also notes the connection between philosophy and legal reasoning:

[T]he methods of analytic philosophy and of legal reasoning--the making of careful distinctions and definitions, the determination of logical consistency through the construction and examination of hypothetical cases, the bringing of buried assumptions to the surface, the breaking up of a problem into manageable components, the meticulous exploration of the implications of an opponent's arguments--are mainly the same. (Richard A. Posner, Overcoming Law [Cambridge and London: Harvard University Press, 1995], 9).

 
 
Millikin University - Decatur, IL
 
Millikin University - Decatur, IL