Philosophy 101: Breaking Down Stereotypes

When I was 11, I remember being asked about my life philosophy. I had no idea what I wanted for lunch, much less what witty ten-word quote I thought encompassed the very essence of my life. It wasn’t until I was around 14 that I actually understood that philosophy was as an individual topic. My brother was in his first year of college and had recently switched his major from computer science to philosophy. When he came home for the first time we all joked that he was going to grow up to wear togas and never have a job. People would ask me about his future plan, and I'd shrug.  All I could think was, "what is there to do with a philosophy degree?" The universe must have been cackling at me then because four years later, I’m now majoring in philosophy.

I’ve heard every comment under the sun about being a philosophy major (because I was saying it all). From Tik Tok-ers thinking their jokes about philosophy majors never getting jobs are clever to people asking me if philosophers still exist, I’m here to debunk some rather pesky stereotypes about the subject.

I can't find a job as a philosopher on Handshake, but that doesn't mean they're extinct. Enriched and deeper thinking is the objective for most philosophers. In fact, Socrates — one of the forefathers of Western Philosophy — would wander around Athens asking people questions. He was later put to death for “corrupting” the youth. This “corruption” was critical thinking misinterpreted by the leaders of ancient Athens. No one would have called Socrates a philosopher if they saw him on the street, but that doesn't change that he was. It also doesn't change that anyone and everyone dabbles in philosophy.

That’s right, anyone at any moment can be a philosopher. If you’ve ever uttered the words, “I don’t get philosophy, it’s too hard!" (or confusing or stressful or…you get the idea) then you are beyond wrong. Philosophy is the foundation of many modern subjects. Plato's student, Aristotle, was well-known for helping establish the system of observing and collecting data in Biology. Aristotle also helped the astronomers take strides in their field.

If you’re like me and nothing science-related makes much sense, I might have something more your speed. When your teacher asks you thought-provoking questions and you answer them, you’re actually partaking in the Socratic Method, something Socrates created. According to data compiled between 2011 and 2014, the American Philosophical Association found that philosophy students scored best or near best on graduate admission exams. They scored best in both verbal and analytical sections of the exams and the top 20 in quantitative sections. And for all you fellow English majors/buffs, the plethora of topics we learn in English wouldn’t be possible if not for French Philosopher, Jacques Derrida who helped bring French Theory to America in 1967!

So, what’s the big idea? I don’t expect anyone to immediately leap from their seats and rush to an advisor to switch their entire college plan just because I lay out some facts. Everyone can be a philosopher but learning philosophy isn’t for everyone, I get that. Trust me, I was told anyone with a hypothesis could be a scientist back in fifth grade, but you don’t see me jumping at the chance to learn organic chemistry. The idea is to spread knowledge in an accessible way. To broaden horizons without feeling like our brain is melting out of our ears. Philosophy, like the air we breathe, is everywhere! It doesn't have to end with an existential crisis and it doesn't have to be hard (unless that's more your speed).

Images: 1, 2, 3