Studying Philosophy

Palm Trees lined El Paseo de Ceasar Chavez with Window Effect

Philosophy offers the tools to think well and deeply about questions of enduring importance. Studying philosophy can help you:

  • Understand things you take for granted (art, science and technology, time and space, law, culture, friendship) at a deeper level.
  • Examine the assumptions that shape how you see the world, as well as learning where these assumptions came from historically and culturally.
  • Understand reason and passions, logic and empathy.
  • Understand and appreciate the views of others.
  • Be able to defend — and to challenge — your own point of view.
  • Understand your responsibilities as a citizen of the world.

 

The Department of Philosophy at San José State University offers courses that focus on philosophical problems — How should one live? How do we know what is right or wrong? Do we have free will? Is human nature basically good or selfish? What makes a society just? Is knowledge possible? What is the nature of reality? Is there a God? — and courses in the history of philosophy focused on particular thinkers or traditions.

Through the history of philosophy one encounters thinkers and ideas that shaped civilizations. For instance, in learning about Confucius or the Buddha one gains insight into Eastern philosophy and culture. Reading Greek philosophy provides an understanding of the roots of Western philosophy and culture. In studying philosophers such as Locke, Hobbes and Rousseau, one learns more about contemporary issues, such as how social contract theory shaped social and political institutions in Western democratic states. Other examples from the history of philosophy include Adam Smith, who provided the intellectual rationale for capitalism, and Karl Marx, who redrew the map of modern political thought.

The discipline of philosophy is not so much about acquiring information as it is about honing a method of critical thinking. One learns to raise questions, engage in in-depth analyses, and develop well-thought-out arguments. Philosophy provides rigorous training in formulating one's ideas. It dramatically improves one's writing and presentation skills, and it opens the door to life-long learning.

 

"What is that good for?"