Why Study Philosophy?

Dr. Dan Mittag addresses a class of philosophy students.

The skills that a study of philosophy develops are useful in all walks of life. Analysis of arguments, clear and precise expression of one’s views in both verbal and written form, and the ability to understand complex systems of thought will serve a person well no matter what career they choose.

Law and Government

Those students considering one of the professions such as the field of law, for example, have found our courses in Logic and Critical Reasoning (107) invaluable in preparation for the Law School Entrance Exam (LSAT). However, this and Philosophical Issues in the Law (335) are only the most obvious class choices for the aspiring law student. All philosophy classes emphasize rigorous argument, and students can hone their analytical reasoning skills in all of the courses we offer. This makes philosophy an excellent major for those interested in going to law school. Advice from the American Bar Association reflects this:

“Contrary to popular belief, law schools do not favor political science, criminal justice, and government majors over others. Choose major and elective courses that you will genuinely enjoy, instead of those you were told were required for pre-law students. You are likely to get better grades in a field you find interesting. And even if you don’t, law schools will respect your pursuit of subjects you find challenging. This is especially true if the courses you take are known to be more difficult, such as philosophy, engineering, and science. Also, look for courses that will strengthen the skills you need in law school. Classes that stress research and writing are excellent preparation for law school, as are courses that teach reasoning and analytical skills.”

The value of philosophy as a “pre-law” major is reflected in the performance of philosophy majors on the LSAT.
Philosophy majors consistently outperform most other majors on the LSAT.

Those students interested in careers in government will find Social Philosophy (202), Leadership Ethics (302), and Ethics and Public Policy (304) particularly useful.

Graduate Study

Of course, those students with an interest in philosophy can also choose to pursue philosophy at the graduate level, and Albion has a strong track record at getting our majors into good programs. Yet there is some reason to think studying philosophy is helpful for pursuing most graduate degrees. Philosophy is a difficult subject, and becoming adept at understanding difficult philosophical texts and thinking through complex philosophical problems will help you to solve problems in other areas, as well. Again, the results of standardized tests are consonant with this. Philosophy majors consistently outperform all other majors on the Verbal Reasoning and the Analytical Writing sections of the Graduate Record Exam (GRE). They also outperform all other Humanities majors on the GRE’s Quantitative Reasoning section.


Students who are interested in business can also benefit from the study of philosophy. All employers value the sorts of skills the study of philosophy instills, and businesses are certainly no exception. For those students with an interest in business, the courses we most highly recommend are Ethics (201) and Business Ethics (303), but, again, those who find they have a passion for philosophy are encouraged to pursue it. Many will be surprised to discover that, on average, philosophy majors outperform all business majors (including economics majors and management majors) on the Graduate Management Admissions Test (GMAT).

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Those interested in a career in the medical professions will find Biomedical Ethics (308) particularly appealing, but many will also want to take other courses that appeal to their interests—e.g. Philosophy and History of Science (220), Ethics (201), or Philosophy of Mind (318). Again, we want to emphasize that those students who find they have a particular interest in philosophy should pursue it. The Association of American Medical Colleges writes:

“Entrance requirements at most medical schools include completion of course work in biology, mathematics, chemistry, physics, and English. But a liberal arts education is a key ingredient to becoming a physician, so it’s important for your college experience to be well-rounded. Taking courses in the humanities and the social sciences will help you prepare for the “people” side of medicine. The ideal physician understands how society works and can communicate and write well.”

“It should be strongly emphasized that a science major is not a prerequisite for medical school, and students should not major in science simply because they believe this will increase their chances for acceptance … For most physicians … the undergraduate years are the last available opportunity to pursue in-depth a non-science subject of interest, and all who hope to practice medicine should bear this in mind when selecting an undergraduate major.”

In connection with this, it’s worth noting philosophy majors have among the highest acceptance rates to medical school. It is true that few pre-med students choose to major in philosophy, and this can help to explain why philosophy majors have a higher acceptance rate than biology majors, but the point here is not that pre-med students should study philosophy in order to help their chances of getting into med school. Rather, the point is that it’s a mistake to think that those interested in the medical professions should not also pursue another of their academic interests. Indeed, quite the opposite is true.

The Sciences

Philosophy often explores the conceptual foundations of other disciplines. Philosophy and History of Science (220), for example, examines the basic concepts and underlying logic of scientific method and theory. Knowledge, Truth, and Reason (315) considers fundamental questions about knowledge and justified belief, and Philosophy of Mind (318) critically investigates theories of consciousness and the conceptions of the mind underlying psychology and cognitive science. Neuroscience and Ethics (306) and Environmental Ethics (301) examine connections between science and ethics. These natural affinities make double majors very attractive and are encouraged by the department.