Opinion | Take a philosophy course

Philosophy courses help develop useful skills and knowledge, so students should take at least one class on the subject.


Kyle Tristan Ortega, Opinions Contributor

When one thinks of philosophy, they may think of the profound questions the discipline seeks to answer, such as “what is the meaning of life?” or “does free will exist?”

Though these questions encompass a large part of the subject, philosophy is more than just questions, as studying it provides several benefits. In addition to broadening horizons, philosophical inquiry develops one’s ability to argue, think critically, write clearly, and communicate effectively.

So, it is well worth your while to take a philosophy class.

In regard to arguing and thinking critically, research shows that students with prior philosophy experience possess significantly stronger argument-recognition and argument-evaluation skills than students with no prior experience. As evidence, in a test about arguments, the sample with prior philosophy experience did 7 percent better overall than those with no experience.

This is because students in philosophy courses are taught — and expected — to reconstruct arguments in such a way that even those unaware of the topic can understand. They are also expected to be objective, as this trait is necessary to fairly evaluate even the most outlandish-seeming contentions in search of truth.

These expectations necessitate the development of strong argumentation skills, which are beneficial in an academic setting and in the real world.

In terms of writing and communication, the discipline’s attention to arguments translates to one’s ability to write clearly as well. By constantly studying argument structures in passages or readings, it becomes clearer what a well-structured statement looks like. Thus, philosophy is particularly beneficial when it comes to learning how to write and communicate coherently.

However, it is important to note that regardless of the useful real-world benefits philosophy provides, it is most known for its personal benefits.

Ali Hasan, University of Iowa philosophy professor, believes philosophy classes are the most ideal place for inquiry.

“Philosophy classes are one of the few places where you can raise all sorts of questions that would be either out of place or awkward or not relevant in other classes or contexts,” Hasan said. “What is our nature? What is the nature of the world? Do we have free will? It’s a place where you can ask big questions that could potentially transform your perspective on life and what you find valuable in it.”

In addition, Hasan believes philosophy provides more than just skills and methods of thinking.

“Philosophy, when practiced well with others, can teach us a lot of good, not just skills, such as open-mindedness and humility,” Hasan said. “Through time, we come to acquire these habits of careful listening, careful thinking, and considering views that are not necessarily comfortable to you.”

Every student should take at least one philosophy class because it is beneficial not only in terms of skill-building, but also virtue development.

The courses under this discipline vary in content and focus. Nevertheless, they all teach the same skills and virtues one would need to succeed in class and in the real world.

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