Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Philosophy at DU...

When we were reading Aristotle in my seminar class, my professor asked if any of the students had taken philosophy courses or was a philosophy major. Only one student raised their hand - I'm not sure if he was a Philosophy major or minor - but the fact that he was the only one who had taken some philosophy courses sparked my curiosity.

According to the Undergraduate Bulletin, philosophy is one of the core curriculum requirements. I remember taking a Business Ethics course my freshman year to satisfy the philosophy requirement. I wasn't expecting it to be as worthwhile as it turned out to be. We had a take- home exam for the final, which involved addressing a business ethics issue based on what we had learned in class. I was surprised to actually enjoy doing the assignment. Considering it was the final and I was ready to start my winter break, it was a nice change of pace to have a final that made you think critically, but not feel bored while doing it (and wishing it was the weekend already).

I'm not too surprised that I don't know many who are Philosophy majors or minors at Dominican. The impression I get is that it's not exactly a popular major choice. I may be wrong. Just considering how today's society is all about actively doing something fast and efficiently - philosophy seems to be synonymous with slow - just sitting there thinking critically and who knows how long it may take for a reasonable answer to come out as a result.

I don't think today's technological, fast-paced society gives philosophy a chance to prove itself. I'm sure some think that Aristotle, Socrates, Plato and other philosophers of the past have settled the issue of philosophy. Why do we need philosophers today? And what is the incentive to be a philosopher/study philosophy?

What is the point?

Though I think that philosophy can be a headache-inducing activity because when you think about the big questions - sometimes it's like you're going around in circles. There never is a right answer, it seems, to philosophical questions. But maybe that's what so interesting about philosophy - it makes you think and gives you room to make a conclusion with the knowledge that you can change your mind. My professor for seminar did mention how one ancient Greek philosopher didn't like writing his ideas down because he thought that if they were "set in stone" through writing rather than circulating in his head and told orally...that that would prevent him from changing his mind.

We're so focused on making sure everything is recorded on paper today that this idea reinforces why we do it. We want things set in stone - we want to have a transcript of what someone said so that we have written proof if the person changes their mind in a later speech, for example.

So, I just wanted to know what persuades students at Dominican to decide on philosophy as a major or minor? What do they plan to get out of it? Do they ever find themselves asking the question, "What is the point?"


  1. I think "analytical" philosophy (logic, fallacies) have a very practical application in almost anything. The rest of it is probably for fun. :)

  2. I agree with my grad school friend, Rich.

    I did not major in philosophy at Dominican and do regret that. While my two journalism degrees have helped a LOT in the newsroom, I often feel that I am at a disadvantage to journalists who studied the humanities in undergrad rather than how to write an inverted pyramid.

    My editors have actually laughed at the fact that I had not one, but two degrees in journalism. Many of them majored in subjects like history, Russian, English or philosophy. They picked up the tools of the trade during internships and at their first jobs.

    I'm not saying we should drop "technical" degrees like journalism or business. But what about insisting that students taking these degrees double major in a humanity? Dominican is first and foremost a liberal arts college, is it not?

  3. I learned this year in my Fundamentals of PR class anyone who majors in journalism, English, philosophy, communications, or humanities can go into PR. I never thought anyone could actually DO anything with a philosphy major besides teach, but I guess this is not always the case.

  4. I personally find it refreshing to get away from the rigid, set-in-stone facts of my journalism major and history minor. I feel discussing some of the philosophical concepts in seminars and other philosophy classes greatly contributes to my own ability to develop convincing arguments and individual thoughts.

    I've always considered philosophy to be critical to learning how to ask questions about the world, and that's what journalism is all about, right?

    I think having some sort of background experience (however limited)with philosophy makes me a more skeptical person and a stronger journalist.

  5. Philosophy....not so much my thing. Although my smeinar this semester required us to read Aristotle, the book itself was so hard for me to read. His message, however, was great and challenged me to think about life and the way we/I choose to live. I'm not an outside-the-box box thinker, but the class discussions we had after each assigned reading really helped me better understand philosophical thinking. Thanks Prof. Triggiano!

  6. “Just considering how today's society is all about actively doing something fast and efficiently - philosophy seems to be synonymous with slow - just sitting there thinking critically and who knows how long it may take for a reasonable answer to come out as a result.”

    The process through which one learns philosophy is exactly what you claim philosophy doesn’t do – learning philosophy teaches how to actively engage in thinking as effectively and efficiently as possible. The concepts learned in philosophy are quite difficult to understand, and the difficulty of discerning and ‘drawing out’ the core arguments of philosophical texts trains how to produce texts of a similar nature.

    The length of philosophical texts is not a result of inefficient thinking; rather, the length is the result of the complexity of the issues at hand and illustrates how long it takes to effectively describe the arguments discussed.

    Thinking critically is a part of all aspects of education – without it, one does not fully comprehend the education that is being given to them. Since philosophy is the epitome of critical thinking, and of ‘drawing out’ of long, complex arguments to fully understand the logical steps of the arguments, I think you may now see more clearly the importance of philosophy and of a philosophy major.