The roots of the word "philosophy" (philo (love of) sophia (wisdom)) reflect the essence of the discipline. Philosophy is the activity of examining the world, especially human practices and institutions, in an effort to gain understanding or wisdom. Any field or activity, including philosophy itself, is subject to such an examination, which typically involves careful scrutiny of the basic concepts and assumptions of the practices or institutions. The examination sometimes results in the conclusion that the grounds of the activity are unjustified.
Throughout history philosophy has played a major role in bringing about changes in thought that have enabled modern science, religious toleration, and social and political reform. Even when the examination produces the conclusion that the grounds of a practice are justified, it provides an advance in understanding what the world is like and what we human beings are doing in it. So one way to respond to the question, "Can you afford the luxury to study philosophy?" is with another question, "Can you afford not to?" Periods of history in which philosophical inquiry was banned or restricted have proven to be truly dark ages. Even a single course in philosophy can open one's eyes and one's mind to the value of examining the grounds of what we take for granted.
Benefits of Studying Philosophy
The most widely accepted current day methods of doing philosophy involve the careful and precise analysis of language. This requires both the application of logic for the construction, analysis and evaluation of arguments, and detailed awareness of and sensitivity to the historical and cultural setting for the language under scrutiny. Thus, in the course of examining such intrinsically interesting and important questions as "What are the grounds of right and wrong?", "Does God exist?", "What is it possible to know?", one will at the same time be developing the skills to analyze carefully difficult and complicated problems and to express oneself clearly and precisely in writing and in speech. Moreover, philosophy typically employs the method of dialectic (interactive discussion). In using this method one will learn how to discuss difficult and sometimes controversial issues in an atmosphere of intellectual openness and tolerance, where the emphasis is on learning and justification rather than slogans and persuasion. Finally, because of the necessary historical and cultural sensitivity required to appreciate philosophical arguments, one acquires an awareness of alternative ways of viewing and valuing the world and human activities.
Philosophy Honor Society, Phi Sigma Tau
The SC Delta chapter of Phi Sigma Tau, the national honor society for philosophy, was installed at USC in April 2005. Phi Sigma Tau was founded in the 1940s to recognize and encourage excellence in the study of philosophy. Phi Sigma Tau publishes a journal, Dialogue, containing student essays in all areas of contemporary philosophical research and also produces a newsletter three times per year containing news of local chapter activities. USC's chapter is the 140th in the nation.
Career Opportunities for Philosophy Majors or Minors
It is hard to think of a career or profession that does not reward the skills that one learns in philosophy: the ability to think and write clearly and to work out successful resolutions of problems in committees or groups. Career options that are directly related to philosophy include: administrator, advertising executive, bank officer, computer systems analyst, congressional staff member, consumer protection agent, development manager, diplomat, editor, educational tester, insurance executive, intelligence research specialist, investment broker, grant developer, management analyst, policy and planning consultant, professor, public information specialist, technical writer, and many others... A major or minor in philosophy is widely regarded as excellent preparation for law, medical, or divinity school.
Advisement in Philosophy
The Department of Philosophy is committed to providing high quality advising. Each student majoring in philosophy is assigned a faculty advisor who works with the student to make certain that academic programs are completed in a timely manner and to assist the student in making informed choices about life after graduation. However, the ultimate responsibility lies with students to keep track of their courses and to make sure that their programs satisfy departmental and college graduation requirements. Students are also responsible for making an advisement appointment in the Fall (usually the advisement period begins late October or early November) for Spring term course selection and in the Spring (usually the advisement period begins late March) for Fall term course selection.
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