What is Philosophy? A weird and abstract subject for people of a certain age who think a lot? Why do people even take this up as an academic course? Why are the cut offs so high for Philosophy Honours in DU? What do students go onto do, after studying Philosophy? If these questions have puzzled you, or if you are contemplating studying Philosophy professionally you’ve reached the right place!
For beginners, philosophy can best be explained as the subject that studies the general and fundamental nature of existence, reality, mind, language and values. It is an innate feature of Philosophy to question everything around yourself. Studying a course like Philosophy requires extensive dedication in reading, analyzing and re-interpreting the traditional knowledge and notions that have existed. The subjects are somewhat different, both in content and approach, from what students might be used to studying in school. For example, a subject in the DU syllabus for Philosophy is Logic, which goes way beyond the layman definition of what ‘logic’ entails, but explores ideas regarding how it is built, and how vast the term in itself is.
After talking to several students and teachers of the subject, the writer of this piece, realised that about one in every four students end up studying it for it is offered in many colleges of repute. And the writer can personally testify for the same, as his elder sister ended up studying Philosophy Honours, without the slightest clue of what the course entails, simply because she got to study in Lady Shri Ram College for Women! But there are many who choose it because they earnestly like the subject and want to explore it further. Many also end up studying Philosophy because mentors, teachers and guides encourage them to take it up. However, the students who end up passionately studying the subject unanimously want to understand how human thought has evolved throughout generations while some wanted to learn how best to live or simply wanted to learn a skill in order to systematize the knowledge that they have gained.
But studying Philosophy goes way beyond what might be brushed off as ‘just’ thinking. For starters, the term ‘Philosopher’ has its own baggage (At least my parents put my sister on a higher pedestal simply because of the intense and deep course she was studying!) But, contrary to the popular notion, there are several fields to explore after an undergraduate Philosophy degree. Philosophy can help one develop several analytical, intuitive and deduction based skills, which come handy throughout life. Also, it helps to develop some soft skills like argument formation, logical reasoning, communication, articulation etc. In essence, a person equipped with these skills, can easily fit in any type of creative job or profession. The writer of this piece knows a lawyer who majored in Philosophy, and explained, that students in the west consciously take up Philosophy before pursuing law, for it helps them tremendously in skill and knowledge building. This is just one example, but people with a sound base in this subject have immense scope in developmental work, creative fields like writing and performing arts. What’s more, they are always just a degree away from getting a corporate job, for they already have the soft skills required to enter the profession.
Those who opt for a master’s degree in the subject go onto do different research projects and make contributions to the way people perceive things. All in all, Philosophy students are a part of the growing yet rare breed, who dare to venture beyond the ‘safe’ and ‘secure’ career options, and put their weight on the knowledge and learning from a subject, rather than learning a ‘skill’ to do a job. The subject and its students remain of critical (yet undervalued) importance, for they provide us with alternative narratives, and find a way to explain complex situations through the lens of human nature. Talk to the students in your college who are studying it, and read up more on what the course entails, and it is bound to appeal to you curious human nature. It is not a course that fits everyone’s ambition, but those who take it up, never see the world in the same perspective again!