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Why Study Philosophy?

Valpo philosophy students explore and analyze the views and research methods of humanity’s greatest thinkers, from both Western and non-Western traditions. In doing so, they come to understand how ideas about the meaning of human life, the sources of value, human freedom, the nature of knowledge, and so on, have shaped history and culture. They also become better able to recognize and grapple with the ideas that shape life today, and to devise creative alternatives to them. Apart from the intrinsic interest of the subject matter and the humanistic values served by mastering it, there are strong practical reasons to study philosophy.

My studies in philosophy helped me prepare for law school. Philosophy gave me the critical reading and analytical skills needed to understand the case law and statutes that I have to read.

– Laura Wagner ’07, First-year student at Marquette University School of Law

My studies as a philosophy major at Valparaiso University changed my life, improved my writing, sharpened my thinking skills, and exposed me to the most important questions that can be asked. Philosophy prepared me for demanding coursework at Concordia Seminary, Saint Louis. I am a better pastor than if I had not majored in philosophy, and the skills acquired through philosophy will augment performance in any vocation.

– Pastor Christopher Jackson (’01), Saint John’s Lutheran Church, Lexington, Ky.

What Can I do with a Philosophy Degree?

It is a myth that a degree in philosophy only qualifies someone to teach philosophy. That’s one option, of course, but it’s an option that usually requires an advanced degree in philosophy (M.A. or Ph.D.). A degree in philosophy is excellent preparation for further study and/or a successful career in many fields. In fact, the general reasoning skills that enable philosophy majors to do so well on standardized tests are so broadly applicable that the real challenge isn’t to think of fields in which they’re crucial, but to think of fields in which they aren’t. Thus, Jordan Kotick says the correct response to the question “what can you do with a philosophy degree?” is “absolutely anything you want.” And Kotick should know. After earning a bachelor’s in philosophy and economics and then a master’s in philosophy, Kotick landed a job as vice president and technical market strategist at J.P. Morgan Chase. He is now Global Head of Technical Analysis at Barclays Capital.

I attribute a lot of my success [as a USAF Air Battle Manager] to my philosophy training at Valparaiso University. Philosophy and being in the midst of battle may not seem to go together, but the ability to think clearly under pressure is crucial to saving the lives of our military personnel. The technical nature of my work lends itself to an engineering background, but the study of philosophy makes me a better problem solver than my peers. When teaching my students how to handle life and death situations, I find myself relying on my philosophy training, not my understanding of radar.

– Shannon M. Bachman ’01, Capt. and Air Battle Manager Instructor, USAF

What Kind of Impact does Philosophy Have?

Philosophy students regularly perform better than every other major on the verbal and analytical writing sections of the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) and perform better than any other humanities major on the quantitative reasoning section. Philosophy majors are also among the highest-scoring groups of students on the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) and the Graduate Management Admissions Test (GMAT), regularly outscoring students from other majors that are often thought to be “the right majors” for people wanting to go into law or business.

I can say without any doubt that the philosophy department at Valpo was a crucial part of my formation as a clear writer, a serious thinker, and a passionate debater. These skills have been tremendous assets to my pastoral ministry and to my professional writing. While I don’t often find myself explaining the intricacies of Aristotle or Kant to Bible study classes, the rigor of my philosophical studies at Valpo ensured that I have an extremely solid intellectual foundation from which to teach, preach, and counsel.

– Steven Zittergruen ’02, ELCA Minister and writer for Augsburg Fortress Press