Philosophy is the systematic study of ideas and issues, a reasoned pursuit of fundamental truths, a quest for a comprehensive understanding of the world, a study of principles of conduct, and much more. Every domain of human experience raises questions to which its techniques and theories apply, and its methods may be used in the study of any subject or the pursuit of any vocation. Indeed, philosophy is in a sense inescapable: life confronts every thoughtful person with some philosophical questions, and nearly everyone is guided by philosophical assumptions, even if unconsciously. One need not be unprepared. To a large extent one can choose how reflective one will be in clarifying and developing one's philosophical assumptions, and how well prepared one is for the philosophical questions life presents. Philosophical training enhances our problem-solving capacities, our abilities to understand and express ideas, and our persuasive powers. It also develops understanding and enjoyment of things whose absence impoverishes many lives: such things as aesthetic experience, communication with many different kinds of people, lively discussion of current issues, the discerning observation of human behavior, and intellectual zest. In these and other ways the study of philosophy contributes immeasurably in both academic and other pursuits.

The problem-solving, analytical, judgmental, and synthesizing capacities philosophy develops are unrestricted in their scope and unlimited in their usefulness. This makes philosophy especially good preparation for positions of leadership, responsibility, or management. A major or minor in philosophy can easily be integrated with requirements for nearly any entry-level job; but philosophical training, particularly in its development of many transferable skills, is especially significant for its long-term benefits in career advancement.

Wisdom, leadership, and the capacity to resolve human conflicts cannot be guaranteed by any course of study; but philosophy has traditionally pursued these ideals systematically, and its methods, its literature, and its ideas are of constant use in the quest to realize them. Sound reasoning, critical thinking, well constructed prose, maturity of judgement, a strong sense of relevance, and an enlightened consciousness are never obsolete, nor are they subject to the fluctuating demands of the market-place. The study of philosophy is the most direct route, and in many cases the only route, to the full development of these qualities.

Prepared by the American Philosophical Association's Committee on the Status and Future of the Profession (Jaegwon Kim, Chair, 1976-1981; Robert Sleigh, Chair, 1981-1986), and Committee on Career Opportunities (Robert Audi, Chair, 1984-1985).

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The Uses of Philosophy in Non-Academic Careers
Traditional Subfields of Philosophy
Special Fields of Philosophy
General Uses of Philosophy
The Uses of Philosophy in Educational Pursuits

Table of Content    

The Field of Philosophy
  • Introduction
  • Traditional Subfields of Philosophy
  • Special Fields of Philosophy

2. The Uses of Philosophy

  • General Uses of Philosophy
  • The Uses of Philosophy in Educational Pursuits
  • The Uses of Philosophy in Non-Academic Careers

3. The Philosophy Curriculum

4. Conclusion

5. Appendix: Facts About Philosophy Majors