I believe that if one's education in public school did not include some attention the world religions (a study of their history, teachings), then one's education would be profoundly incomplete. I think that it would be impossible to claim to be well educated in the history of Europe, the near and middle East, Asia, the Americas, Africa without some knowledge of Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, etc. One might be well educated in math, physics, chemistry, biology without such a background, but once one comes to terms with history, culture, art, philosophy, anthropology, sociology, psychology, medicine... I propose that it would be very difficult to avoid "a brief history of the principles [and history] of the world religions." You asked about the principles of philosophers as well as religion and, on that point, I also think it would be hard to claim to be well educated without some exposure to the philosophical principles that underlie a culture's history and governance. In my country, the United States, being self-aware about the history of the USA would, I believe, require understanding the philosophical principles behind the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the causes behind the Civil War, and so on.
I think that the philosophy in the first instance should be learned by engaging with the puzzles that it discusses. It is only after one has got into a sense of the puzzles and how philosophers tackle them that it really makes sense to study the chronology or schools of philosophy. I think this is because at the heart of philosophy is philosophising, doing philosophy rather than studying philosophy. Philosophy is about making sense of ourselves and our situation. To do philosophy is to approach the goal of making sense in a particular way, to engage in a certain kind of practice of enquiry. Philosophical questions aren’t solved by empirical investigation (though that doesn’t mean such investigation is irrelevant), there is a particular emphasis on conceptual clarification, many distinctive marks of philosophizing derive from the enquiries of Socrates, such as an unwillingness to sit with easy or superficial answers, a careful attention to language, the insistent development of a point in both depth and breadth, the giving and challenging of reasons, the uncovering of assumptions, the consideration of counterexamples and implications, and so on.
Philosophy in universities is often described as a “continuing conversation” with the famous dead. (This cannot be exactly right, not least because the cultural significance and context of the views changes.) As in any conversation, we must understand what has been said (history of philosophy) and contribute our thoughts in response. To join a conversation that already exists, to work with the products of an ongoing enquiry, there is much that will need to be learned. And this forms the basis of what university students of philosophy study. But it is central to following the conversation that you understand first what drives it.
So I would recommend a aspiring philosophers start with books that discuss puzzles, rather than books that lay out the development of philosophy through time. I think once you are really into philosophy, and have a good sense of what it is to do philosophy, then the latter kind of book can be very useful. So in the first instance I would recommend, e.g. Stephen Law's The philosophy gym or Julian Baggini's The pig who wants to be eaten. These are more conversational books and so may help with learning how to talk about philosophy with others. Plato's dialogues - and there are many - remain paradigm examples of philosophical discussion; personally, I'd recommend the 'early dialogues' for more balanced conversation in the text, e.g. Crate, Laches, Protagoras, Gorgias. I don't think that there is a special trick to talking philosophy. John Campbell says that philosophy is thinking in slow motion and I agree.
You are in luck: the internet is densely populated with philosophical texts. Good places to start are:
www.gutenberg.org (also, they have a small set of recommendations in their 'philosophy bookshelf' but it represents only the tip of an iceberg!)
and Google books has hundreds of pdf scans of old volumes.
Now, there are three problems with these sites: for the most part, they present texts without commentary or explanation; often they use old editions or translations (because they are out of copyright); and finally, for the same reason, they tend to emphasize philosophy from times past. Recent philosophy is more difficult to come by, but not impossible. Certainly useful introductions can be found at the Internet or Stanford Encyclopedias; also, university teachers often put their lecture notes up on the web.
Entirely! Philosophical training is an excellent complement to scientific training. Indeed, I wish more scientists had received it (see this response). The sciences abound with interesting questions for the philosopher.
A philosophy/science double major can be logistically challenging because of all the lab hours required by many science programs. But if you can make it work, I highly recommend it.
Excellent question. I have found it extremely helpful either to type out or to write out by hand key claims and arguments. For almost 40 years I have carried around 5 by 7 inch cards in which I have written out parts of different texts that I update and go over continuously. I regularly cull the cards as I approach new texts or arguments, on top of which I keep journals of philosophical ideas. I also suggest sometimes re-reading multiple times parts of philosophical texts almost to the point of memorization. I still remember vividly the first text that I felt I "mastered" or practically memorized, and that was Richard Taylor's book Metaphysics, especially the chapter on God. I found (and still find) his writing lucid and engaging. On the assumption that you might still use old fashioned hard copies of books, I recommend marking them up, filling the margins with comments, counter-points, and the like.
I hope some of this might be helpful.
If your main interest is in philosophy of mind, then a really good grounding in cognitive science is very important. Interdisciplinary research is where it is at now.
Let's start with a distinction. We may say that a situation is evil if it's sufficiently bad, whatever it was that brought the situation about—even if no one intended it. But we don't usually say that a person is evil unless they have evil intentions.
Start with evil people. In the kind of case that comes most easily to mind, ignorance isn't the issue. Sadly, there are people who just don't care. If what they do hurts someone else, it doesn't matter to them. In fact, some people take pleasure in other people's pain. I'm not sure that this kind of indifference and evil intention has much to do with ignorance. It's possible to know that something is wrong and not care. Plato may have thought otherwise, but it's not obvious that he's right.
It's pretty clear that the first kind of evil—objectively bad situations—can come about for all sorts of reasons, including sheer bad luck. Putting it down to ignorance is sometimes reasonable, but often isn't. And even when the bad situation comes about because of someone's ignorance, it may not be reasonable to expect the person to have known what they didn't know. But it seems a good bet that if people are ignorant, they may end up bringing about bad consequences simply because they didn't know what they needed to know to make things turn out better.
So maybe the thing to say is this: ignorance is one source of evil, but by no means the only one. It's plausible that if people are better informed, then various sorts of bad consequences will be less likely, though truly evil people can put knowledge to evil ends.
Addressing your last question first: Although some of my colleagues will probably disagree, I think that on the whole philosophers tend to be (by training and disposition) quite adept at distancing themselves from their own convictions and are pretty good (sometimes excellent, sometimes just so-so) at seeing any given issue from multiple points of view. No philosopher can possibly only work from the standpoint of her or his preferred position (argument or framework) because, historically and today, we all know that (for example) a Kantian approach to ethics or metaphysics is not the only viable alternative or that Wittgenstein has said the last word on philosophical methodology or .... There are some exceptions to the vast majority of philosophy professors who are aware the diversity of reasonable positions worthy of deep consideration on almost every topic. I met a recent graduate from a Ph.D. program who roared with self-confident laughter when I mentioned the possibility that human persons have free agency (libertarian freedom). This is highly unusual. Most philosophers realize that there are reasonable determinists, reasonable compatabilists, etc... I have heaps of philosophical convictions but I do not think any of them are obviously right, nor do I think that those who disagree are unreasonable (or deserve derisive laughter!). In my own classes, I tend to give extra-credit to those who disagree with what they think is my position insofar as they display independence of thought and insightful criticism.
I encourage you to be true to your convictions and argue the points you deem most convincing. When you refer to "arguing for the sake of arguing," I suppose you might have to use some practical wisdom. In a class in which no student challenges a professor you might be facing a rather boring enterprise, but you will need to use your own judgment about when you or others are only "arguing for the sake of arguing" or you and your peers are raising important objections and counter-arguments.
As to the worry about whether marks or grades will be a function of a student's agreement with the professor's point of view, I suggest you send your professor a link to our exchange on askphilosopher and ask him or her for a response. After all, the submission of your question / issue is anonymous, and the professor will not have any way of knowing it was you who submitted the question. If you do this, I would be fascinated to get an email from you on your professor's response.
Yes. And 100%.
OK, perhaps those answers are too short and uncreative.
But yes, I think reading philosophy, thinking about philosophical questions, and trying to come up with and write about philosophical issues can stimulate creative thinking and improve one's creativity (perhaps not artistic creativity but new ways of thinking about things, new ideas, etc.). I think philosophy students tend to become better at imagining different options and solutions and at writing new types of arguments. I'm allowing my current senior major students to do a creative project to engage with the topic we're discussing (death and the meaning of life), and we'll see what they come up with, but music, drama/dialogues, short films, and video games are possibilities.
And it's 100% because original thoughts happen all the time. Each one of us experiences things in ways no one else has. If you meant original answers to philosophical questions, well, then it's probably much lower, but those are not so easy to come up with.
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