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Critical Thinking in an Era of Information Overload: Why Everyone Should Study Philosophy

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at York U chapter.

When I enrolled in University, I did so as an English major. I knew deep down I wanted to study philosophy, but I dreaded one question: “Why?” I knew the answer to this question: philosophy is our most valuable discipline. I also knew that it would be unsatisfactory to the person asking it. After all, the question is really asking, “What are the material benefits of a philosophy degree?” But I changed my major anyway, and I couldn’t be happier with my decision. 

Studying philosophy has allowed me to dedicate countless hours and several thousands of dollars to (kinda) solving problems that don’t matter. Aristotle would say philosophy’s material uselessness makes it valuable, but it is difficult to explain its worth to people who do not already value it. Ultimately, whether the soul is separate from the body or we live in a simulation has no consequence for how we live our lives. Still, I believe that philosophy is more important now than ever. 

We live in an era dominated by technology. While technology provides us with a surplus of information, it cannot process it for us. Scrolling through endless headlines and opinion pieces with conflicting information can be overwhelming, and it is more often than not difficult to know what to think. This is especially stressful given the social pressure to have strong opinions about everything. Philosophy helps with that. 

While asking questions that only lead to more questions doesn’t exactly pay bills, it cultivates an invaluable systematic type of thinking that can’t be measured. Philosophy teaches us how to ask good questions, construct a good argument, and build a body of knowledge that allows us to compare and evaluate new information. Sure, contemplating Plato’s theory of forms probably won’t improve our lives, but the skills we build doing it will. 

Philosophy is unavoidable. We all practice it in one way or another, even if not as a formal discipline. Whenever you ask yourself, “What is the right thing to do?” “how do I know I’m not dreaming?” “is my job meaningful?” you are asking a philosophical question. Doing philosophy is inevitable. Doing it well takes practice.

While arguments presented in the media generally intend to persuade us to agree with one side of a particular issue, arguments in philosophy are not about winning; they are about discovering truth. Philosophy forces us to examine the origins of our beliefs and admit when we don’t know something. Acknowledging the complexities of the principles we take for granted helps us understand how little we really know, and this makes it easier to disregard the extreme opinions the internet has to offer, which are often lacking in nuance. 

A lack of philosophical contemplation leads to discourse that is ultimately unproductive and polarizing. While it is often tempting to assent to whatever is currently in front of us, it is important to ask ourselves why we think the way we do. The arguments we make should seek to contribute substance to a conversation, not boost our social status. Philosophy teaches us that most questions do not have simple answers, even if infographics say otherwise. 

So, next time you’re choosing courses, choose philosophy! You’ll probably forget the content once exams are over, but the skills philosophy offers are life-changing. Whether your major is business, engineering, or liberal arts, philosophy helps us all. We are all forced to engage with it on some level, so we may as well do it well.

Chance Garratt-Dahan is a part-time writer at Her Campus at York University. She writes about topics concerning students such as entertainment and academics. Chance is a second-year philosophy student with a minor in political science at York University. In her free time, Chance enjoys reading fantasy novels, watching stand-up comedy, and caring for her two dogs.