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Is it better to have a STEM degree than having a Humanities one? Most people

Is it better to have a STEM degree than having a Humanities one? Most people today seem to think the Humanities are basically useless, and that the only thing worth doing is STEM. Do you have any opinions on this matter?

good, and timely, question. of course you're asking a bunch of humanities folks, so you might expect a not entirely unbiased answer. :-) On the other hand, it is probably the humanities folks who would be best equipped to speak to the value of a humanities degree. but just for a brief start of an answer -- 'better' is obviously a many-meaninged termed. Better with respect to what? If your only goal in life is to get a certain kind of job, then you need to figure out which degrees are best for that job. But if you don't know what kind of job you want? Or it's not actually clear which degrees would lead to that job? Moreover, you must factor in who YOU are -- what interests you, what you WANT to study -- it is probably more desirable to find something you love and throw yourself into it than to force yourself into studying something because of vague speculations about how 'useful' it might be toward some future you currently think you want .... (Keep in mind that whatever you study will also change you -- you may THINK you want a certain job now, but as you study your very interests, values, desires may change ... ) My own particular, very limited, anecdotal advice is this: your college years are a very unique time in your life. Unless you have very specific, very firm ideas about what life you are pursuing, spending those years throwing yourself into what interests you the most is a very good thing to do that you will not regret -- perhaps a few years down the line you'll develop a specific career idea, at which point THEN you can begin specific training toward that career -- but while you're young, unformed, relatively free of responsibility, then throw yourself into whatever excites you and you won't regret what happens afterward ....

for what it's worth!

hope that's helpful

Andrew Pessin

good, and timely, question. of course you're asking a bunch of humanities folks, so you might expect a not entirely unbiased answer. :-) On the other hand, it is probably the humanities folks who would be best equipped to speak to the value of a humanities degree. but just for a brief start of an answer -- 'better' is obviously a many-meaninged termed. Better with respect to what? If your only goal in life is to get a certain kind of job, then you need to figure out which degrees are best for that job. But if you don't know what kind of job you want? Or it's not actually clear which degrees would lead to that job? Moreover, you must factor in who YOU are -- what interests you, what you WANT to study -- it is probably more desirable to find something you love and throw yourself into it than to force yourself into studying something because of vague speculations about how 'useful' it might be toward some future you currently think you want .... (Keep in mind that whatever you study will also change...

Hello everyone. I am a sophomore starting a philosophy club at my high school.

Hello everyone. I am a sophomore starting a philosophy club at my high school. No other high school in the district has one. To get straight to the point, I need a clever acronym for the club's name. Although this isn't really a philosophical question, can you please take your time and possibly give me a good, witty name? We cover all fields of philosophy.

Good for you! .... There's also this organization you might want to check out, interested in promoting philosophy in high school: http://plato-philosophy.org/lesson-plans-2/pre-college-course-material/ What you clearly need is a slogan and a t-shirt. How about "Philosophy: It's What You Think"? Andrew Pessin

Hi,

Hi, I'm a high school student and I am interested in philosophy. I intend to study philosophy on my own (it's not taught at my school), but this subject is so vast and rich that I feel a bit lost and don't know where to begin. Could you give me some advice on how to study philosophy on my own?

Those are great classics, and worthwhile reads. And there are lots of introductory philosophy books out there (just google that phrase and see what comes up). But perhaps I might recommend a couple that aren't classics (but are hopefully worthwhile), and also by me (if you'll excuse the self-plug): "The 60-Second Philosopher: Expand your mind on a minute or so a day!" and "The God Question: What famous thinkers from Plato to Dawkins have said about the divine." The first one consists of a collection of very short essays, each one of which is presenting one interesting, challenging, provocative philosophical idea or argument; the second does something similar, but focuses (obviously) on God. More info on my website: www.andrewpessin.com.

And as Gabriel said -- if questions arise as you read, then come back to this site!

good luck,

ap

Those are great classics, and worthwhile reads. And there are lots of introductory philosophy books out there (just google that phrase and see what comes up). But perhaps I might recommend a couple that aren't classics (but are hopefully worthwhile), and also by me (if you'll excuse the self-plug): "The 60-Second Philosopher: Expand your mind on a minute or so a day!" and "The God Question: What famous thinkers from Plato to Dawkins have said about the divine." The first one consists of a collection of very short essays, each one of which is presenting one interesting, challenging, provocative philosophical idea or argument; the second does something similar, but focuses (obviously) on God. More info on my website: www.andrewpessin.com. And as Gabriel said -- if questions arise as you read, then come back to this site! good luck, ap

I am about to finish my third semester of college. (Switching majors now, wouldn

I am about to finish my third semester of college. (Switching majors now, wouldn't be a big deal.) I am currently majoring in Mass Communications/Journalism. (I want to eventually become a sports columnist.) However, I also plan on writing numerous books (sports related as well as fiction). Would you recommend majoring in Philosophy instead? My journalism courses are too restricting (forcing me to write in a straight-jacket) and I have currently gotten very much into philosophy and it really amplifies my writing.

Seems like you've answered your own question! ... My own view (for what it is worth) is that while it's useful to use your college education to prepare you for a career (esp if you're pretty clear what career you're after), it's also valuable to use it to pursue your interests, intellectual and otherwise -- and the sheer fact that you find philosophy interesting or appealing is reason enough at least to take more philosophy courses. (That it ALSO contributes to your ultimate career goal, writing, is a further bonus.) As far as majoring -- well if your career trajectory requires (say) going to graduate school in journalism and that that would be helped by majoring in communications etc., then you've got a pretty pragmatic reason to stick with your major (while perhaps trying to squeeze in extra philosophy courses). But you yourself seem to be suggesting that your broader interests would be better served by the philosophy major -- so both your intellectual interests and your pragmatic concerns are served by majoring in philosophy. (See what I mean? You answered your own question ... :-) ) ... One other thought -- perhaps you should get in touch with a number of sports columnists and see what THEY think -- in particular I know there have been a couple who also wrote fiction (names escape me, there is/was a NY columnist who wrote novels, I'm sure you can google the info), so they'd be good people to consult with as well ...

Incidentally -- I'm a philosopher (majored in philosophy, then got a PhD), and in addition to writing a number of philosophy books for the general reader I've just published my first novel -- The Second Daughter, under the pen name J. Jeffrey. (Various reasons for the pen name.) I personally can vouch that my training in philosophy was extremely useful in the writing of this novel. (That doesn't mean the novel is any good -- that's for others to decide! But I at least found the philosophy useful ...) If you're interested have a look, via www.theseconddaughter.com.

ap

Seems like you've answered your own question! ... My own view (for what it is worth) is that while it's useful to use your college education to prepare you for a career (esp if you're pretty clear what career you're after), it's also valuable to use it to pursue your interests, intellectual and otherwise -- and the sheer fact that you find philosophy interesting or appealing is reason enough at least to take more philosophy courses. (That it ALSO contributes to your ultimate career goal, writing, is a further bonus.) As far as majoring -- well if your career trajectory requires (say) going to graduate school in journalism and that that would be helped by majoring in communications etc., then you've got a pretty pragmatic reason to stick with your major (while perhaps trying to squeeze in extra philosophy courses). But you yourself seem to be suggesting that your broader interests would be better served by the philosophy major -- so both your intellectual interests and your pragmatic concerns are served...

As an aspiring applicant to grad school I am often encouraged to apply to the

As an aspiring applicant to grad school I am often encouraged to apply to the top 20 or so ranked philosophy departments.However, I am interested in studying continental philosophy among other things and there seems to be very little opportunity for to engage myself in such study; indeed some departments like Rutgers seem entirely analytic. Are there good options out there for me which will provide me good training in both the analytic and continental traditions? Thank you

well, the general go-to site for such questions is probably this one:

http://www.philosophicalgourmet.com/

lots of people question the modes of rankings etc., but there is plenty of useful information there to help you answer the question.

best,

ap

well, the general go-to site for such questions is probably this one: http://www.philosophicalgourmet.com/ lots of people question the modes of rankings etc., but there is plenty of useful information there to help you answer the question. best, ap

I have been reading discussions on this site about the Principia and about Godel

I have been reading discussions on this site about the Principia and about Godel's incompleteness theorem. I would really like to understand what you guys are talking about; it seems endlessly fascinating. I was an English/history major, though, and avoided math whenever I could. Consequently I have never even taken a semester of calculus. The good news (from my perspective) is that I have nothing to do for the rest of my life except for working toward the fulfillment of this one goal I have: to plow through the literature of the Frankfurt School and make sense of it all. Understanding the methods and arguments of logicians would seem to provide a strong context for the worldview that inspired Horkheimer, Fromm, et al. So yeah, where should I start? Do I need to get a book on the fundamentals of arithmetic? Algebra? Geometry? Or do books on elementary logic do a good job explaining the mathematics necessary for understanding the material? As I said, I'm not looking for a quick solution. I...

1. I don't think there is any reason to suppose that learning about mathematical logic from Principia to Gödel will be any help at all in understanding what is going on with the Frankfurt School. (The only tenuous connection I can think of is that the logical positivists were influenced by developments in logic, and the Frankfurt School were concerned inter alia to give a critique of positivism. But since neither the authors of Principia nor Gödel were positivists, it would be better to read some of the positivists themselves if you want to know what the Frankfurt School were reacting against).

2. Of course, I think finding out a bit about mathematical logic is fun for its own sake: but it is mathematics and to really understand I'm afraid there is not much for it other than working through some increasingly tough books called the likes of "An Introduction to Logic" followed by "Intermediate Logic" and then "Mathematical Logic". Still, you can get a distant impression of what's going on by following links on Wikipedia etc. And on Gödelian matters, Hofstadter's long book is entertainingly illuminating and somewhat annoying in about equal measure. Goldstein's book, though, is hopeless as a guide: see http://math.stanford.edu/~feferman/papers/lrb.pdf for an authoritative demolition (which indeed pulls its punches). If I was going to recommend one book on Gödel as a way in for the non-mathematical, it would be Torkel Franzen's Gödel's Theorem, an Incomplete Guide to its Use and Abuse.

lucky you, with so much time on your hands and with such interesting interests! there are numerous secondary expositions of Godel etc. -- I personally love Douglas Hofstadter's way of explaining it (in Godel Escher Bach and also his more recent Strange Loops) ... but Rebecca Goldstein has a recent book on it (haven't read it, can't speak to its quality) -- http://www.rebeccagoldstein.com/books/incompleteness/index.html good luck ap

Somewhat late in life, I have come to the conclusion that I should have studied

Somewhat late in life, I have come to the conclusion that I should have studied philosophy in college - not as a career mover, but as a means of improving my mind and developing greater insight into fundamental questions that all of us deal with, to some extent. Recently, I have begun to do some reading on my own, and I am wondering whether there are particular readings or other resources that you might suggest to a serious beginner with a strictly amateur, part-time interest. Thanks to Peter Smith's recommendation, in response to a previous question I posted here, I am currently reading and enjoying "Philosophers Without Gods". Previously, I have read and appreciated Peter Singer's Practical Ethics". These reflect particular interests, but I'd like to start a broader study. Any suggestions? Thanks again. Neil

Another relatively recent, good, general introduction to a variety of philosophical issues is Thomas Nagel, What Does it All Mean?, which I myself read in my first year of graduate school and found most illuminating. Bertrand Russell's The Problems of Philosophy is a classic from relatively early in the twentieth century.

You might also consider reading some of the canonical texts of Western philosophy (in my ignorance, I don't know Eastern philosophy, and so am not in a position to recommend any works of Eastern philosophy): a good place to begin is with Plato's 'Socratic' dialogues, the Apology, Euthyphro, and Crito; if you like those dialogues, you might move on to the Republic, which treats many of the problem areas of philosophy, including epistemology (the nature of knowledge), metaphysics (the nature of what there is), ethics, and aesthetics, among other areas; a couple of more 'modern' works that you might consider are Descartes's Meditations on First Philosophy (which focuses on issues in epistemology and metaphysics), and Kant's Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals, which tries to lay a foundation (hence the word in the title translated as 'Groundwork' by certain translators) for morality and hence treats ethics; if you want to grapple with some twentieth-century philosophy from the 'Continental' tradition, you might start with something like Jean-Paul Sartre's Existentialism and Human Emotions. This is just a short selection, of course--other panelists would of course suggest other works!!

it's never too late! ... I would recommend any of Simon Blackburn's more popular books -- "Think" (or is it "Thinking"?), "Truth" -- just google him and you'll find a few titles -- if you enjoy philosophical reflection on God you might try my own recent book 'the God question' -- or of course read Daniel Dennett's recent book on religion "Breaking the Spell" -- happy reading! Andrew

I just graduated from college with a philosophy degree. I don't think that I

I just graduated from college with a philosophy degree. I don't think that I want to get a Phd in philosophy (though, you never know...) but I remain excited by many philosophical questions, particularly in philosophy of mathematics and ethics. How can I keep philosophy a part of my life?

let me supplement Eddy's fine response by noting that you will probably have to be very pro-active in making this happen! not only will you get distracted (reasonably) by life, but so will most of the people you're hanging out with, who may not have any initial interest in philosophy anyway! so you'll have to take charge -- for example, start a book club or discussion group at a local coffee shop ... check out 'socrates cafe' on that score ... find organizations that have public events of philosophical import so you can meet more like-minded folks (if you're in NYC you might look up 'socrates in the city') -- make sure your local NPR station carries the program Philosophy Talk (look it up!) and then be sure to listen to it ... organize a lecture yourself -- for example, i recently gave a talk at a bar in New York City that has a tuesday evening literary series ... find such a thing, or start one yourself! .... so don't count on others keeping your philosophy bug alive, you'll probably have to do it on your own initiative ...

good luck!
AP

let me supplement Eddy's fine response by noting that you will probably have to be very pro-active in making this happen! not only will you get distracted (reasonably) by life, but so will most of the people you're hanging out with, who may not have any initial interest in philosophy anyway! so you'll have to take charge -- for example, start a book club or discussion group at a local coffee shop ... check out 'socrates cafe' on that score ... find organizations that have public events of philosophical import so you can meet more like-minded folks (if you're in NYC you might look up 'socrates in the city') -- make sure your local NPR station carries the program Philosophy Talk (look it up!) and then be sure to listen to it ... organize a lecture yourself -- for example, i recently gave a talk at a bar in New York City that has a tuesday evening literary series ... find such a thing, or start one yourself! .... so don't count on others keeping your philosophy bug alive, you'll probably have to do it...

I am a junior in high school and am already well into the college process. I

I am a junior in high school and am already well into the college process. I would consider myself to be smarter than average, but will not hesitate to admit that I am not of the most elite caliber (some would say I am more 'street smart' than 'book smart'). During the college process I am looking at schools that would be considered tremendous stretches for my academic profile, however, connections I have at these schools may make up for this gap and allow me to coast on in. Should I feel guilty that I am receiving all of this help? What if I really do like the schools that are outside my profile? The whole point is to end up at the best school you possible can, right? Is there a difference between my possible best and the possible best of myself and connections combined?

Hm, are you asking an ethical question here? (ie it might be wrong to use your 'connections' to get into a 'better' school than you 'deserve'? I put all that in scare quotes because I think a lot of work would have to go into posing that question clearly, as an ethical question.) Or are you really asking the more practical question, "what would be best for me overall"? Re: the latter, I'd say get into the "best" school you can legitimately (ie ethically) get into -- for being surrounded by very bright people, not only faculty but especially your peers, would stretch you as far as you are capable of being stretched ... Of course you can get an excellent education in lots of different places, esp. if you are motivated and dedicated and go out to acquire it yourself -- but unless you are the type to be cowed by very accomplished peers, to feel diminished by them, then you ought to surround yourself with the best you can in order to become the best you can ....

Hm, are you asking an ethical question here? (ie it might be wrong to use your 'connections' to get into a 'better' school than you 'deserve'? I put all that in scare quotes because I think a lot of work would have to go into posing that question clearly, as an ethical question.) Or are you really asking the more practical question, "what would be best for me overall"? Re: the latter, I'd say get into the "best" school you can legitimately (ie ethically) get into -- for being surrounded by very bright people, not only faculty but especially your peers, would stretch you as far as you are capable of being stretched ... Of course you can get an excellent education in lots of different places, esp. if you are motivated and dedicated and go out to acquire it yourself -- but unless you are the type to be cowed by very accomplished peers, to feel diminished by them, then you ought to surround yourself with the best you can in order to become the best you can ....

Is it possible that a person of modest intelligence could learn the whole

Is it possible that a person of modest intelligence could learn the whole history of philosophy, in terms of knowing every notable philosopher (from Thales to, say, Rorty), having read a few of their books or at least knowing and being able to expand upon their positions ... or is it simply outside the scope of a person, any less than a genius to have the time to gain such knowledge? It seems to me that there is not more than a couple of hundred such philosophers, and as such could be accomplished, at least superficially. Or is it more efficient to decide outright to miss some philosophers out?

Great question! By the way you pose the question (Thales to Rorty) I assume you mean western philosophy. Yes, I think you can carry out such a project, reading a bit of each of the major philosophers and then relying on a good history as a guide. I would highly recommend Anthony Kenny's multi-volume Oxford University Press books as lively and engaging. Copleston's history of philosophy is perhaps less engaging but it is reliable and a good companion. Speaking of Companions, Blackwell, Oxford, Cambridge, and Routledge each have massive Companion series that would also be helpful in filling out your reading. You might want to set as a goal an overall grasp of the history of philosophy and then dig in to a few areas and thinkers so as to deepen your understanding of philosophy and also to engage more in the practice of philosophy (wrestling with arguments and counter-arguments) in reference to a specific area or philosopher.

Well, I'd say philosophy is pretty infinitely deep -- there could be no such thing for any ordinary mortal to learn "the whole history of philosophy" -- not least because there wouldn't be agreement on just who the "notable" philosophers are (so you'd have to study EVERY philosopher to learn the "whole" history), and also because there's no clear distinction between who counts as a "philosopher" and who doesn't (so you'd have to study every thinker in every field ....) -- in fact what's most important is to recognize that philosophy is a process or activity, it's the act of philosophizing itself, and so it's not all that important to learn the "whole history" as to engage in the process -- and that you could do by studying, in depth, even just one or a few great thinkers .... spend your life studying just Plato (say), and you will be well-served, and probably end up being a better philosopher (and better served philosophically) than someone who has read hundreds of books by hundreds of different authors ....