Are you a student seeking the easiest ways to study philosophy? If yes, you are in the right place. If you are new to philosophy, you may find it challenging to understand what philosophers do. Most people believe that studying philosophy is very difficult. But that’s not always the case. With the right guide, you can successfully walk your way around studying philosophy. This article contains everything you need to know about philosophy as a discipline before stepping into it. Read on to find out more.
What is Philosophy All About?
The term philosophy means “love of wisdom.” It is an ancient discipline whose origin can be traced back to early human civilization when humans sought knowledge of all things on earth and in heaven. Today, philosophy has metamorphosed into an activity that people undertake to understand fundamental truths about themselves, the world they live in, and how they relate to each other and the world they live in. When looked at as an academic discipline, philosophy mostly focuses on the same areas. This is why philosophy students continually engage in asking, answering, and arguing about life’s fundamental questions.
Understanding philosophy requires that you move beyond grasping its subject matter to understanding its methods too. In western philosophy, the method used to obtain knowledge is rooted in the philosopher’s ability to form and evaluate arguments. Philosophy generally requires practitioners to think critically; to be precise, clear, truthful, well organized, and handle objections well.
What is the Purpose of Studying Philosophy?
Most students study philosophy for the numerous great benefits it brings them. The tools taught by philosophy can be of great use in further education and even searching for employment. Despite the seemingly abstract nature of questions asked by philosophers, many philosophical tools are still being highly sought-after by employers. Therefore, it’s not surprising that studying philosophy often puts people ahead in the employment market. However, beyond that, there are many other reasons to study philosophy. Here’s a review of some of them.
To develop general problem solving skills
There’s no doubt about the ability of philosophy to enhance a person’s problem-solving capacities. Over time, while studying philosophy, you’ll develop your intellectual capabilities to analyze concepts, arguments, problems, and definitions logically. The knowledge from studying this subject can contribute to your capacity to organize issues and ideas while extracting what’s essential from a large volume of information. It’s a known fact that studying philosophy helps to distinguish the subtle differences between different views while establishing a common ground to analyze opposing positions.
Development of top communication skills
Philosophy typically contributes to the development of communicative and expressive powers. Students of philosophy can be guaranteed to acquire some of the essential tools of self-expression. For example, skills like the use of systematic and well-organized arguments to present ideas. As part of the skills picked up from philosophy, students can express their unique views, even in areas where such opinions are not common. Therefore, it’s not surprising that most students can eliminate vagueness and ambiguities from their speech and writing.
Development of unique persuasive powers
Perhaps one of the most significant benefits of studying philosophy is the persuasive powers it helps students acquire. The knowledge picked from studying philosophy allows students to construct clear formulations, appropriate examples, and good arguments when the need arises. These are all qualities needed when trying to convince people about an idea. The study of philosophy typically helps us to learn how to develop and defend our views on issues. It also helps us to appreciate opposing arguments and to indicate why we think our opinions should be accepted ahead of others.
Prepare for success across different careers
Philosophical studies help students develop reading, writing, reasoning, adapting, rethinking, organizing, dialogue, and learning skills. With the business and technological environment experiencing radical changes, most workplaces are now looking out for applicants with unique skills to stand them out. Thankfully, the skills picked from the study of psychology are timeless. They’ll stand you out in the labor market, giving you a headstart across different industries.
What Skills Do You Need to Study Philosophy?
Before applying to study philosophy, you need to know that philosophy students do a lot more than sitting in a room and sharing big thoughts. Besides being strong readers, students must also be excellent writers and so much more. In case you are wondering, here are some of the top skills to acquire before applying to study philosophy.
Critical Thinking and Problem-solving Skills
Philosophy involves studying to be better at “logic,” which is knowing how to look at a problem and reasoning through it. This is why philosophy students spend so much time learning about the numerous ways to find solutions to significant life issues.
In addition to tackling broad and abstract questions, these skills will also help students solve the world’s problems, which is what philosophy is about.
Reading and Writing Skills
Like in many other disciplines, philosophy students often find themselves doing a lot of reading and writing. Most philosophical courses are designed to challenge your reading abilities, especially because you’ll be tackling several older texts that are mostly translated from other languages. Thus, not being able to read and understand quickly may slow you down when studying for tests and exams.
Apart from being able to read and understand, philosophy students must learn to communicate their thoughts. This is a subject that deals with trying to convince people to accept your arguments on complex issues. Therefore, it’ll do you a lot of good to be able to articulate your opinions and deliver them as effectively as possible.
Public Speaking Skills
Most philosophy graduates get employed into positions where they’ll need to communicate their thoughts to a large audience. To help you succeed in such posts, some philosophical classes focus on motivating students to give their thoughts out loud to fellow students and professors. Such presentations require confidence in your ideas and willingness to hear from others. And because you can be required to make presentations at any time, you’ll have to ensure adequate preparation before heading into class.
Is Philosophy Hard to Study?
Many people find philosophy hard to study. Two common features of philosophy are uncertainty and counter intuitiveness. These are two features that are rarely found together, and a combination of the two makes philosophy somewhat difficult. The mathematical part of philosophy makes it counterintuitive. Students of philosophy degree courses face mathematical topics like pi and imaginary numbers. However, these topics operate according to rules, and learning the rules in philosophy for beginners will help make the counterintuitive things begin to make sense.
The literature part of philosophy is often as fuzzy as most other arts subjects. However, students are generally interested in this part because it involves discussing reasonably obvious things like plot, text, characters motivations, cultural contests, etc.
Of course, philosophy contains several counterintuitive ideas. This is why philosophy students can switch from the idea that truth isn’t a meaningful concept to the notion that nothing exists at all within a short time. However, most philosophical concepts are not popular facts, making it a subject where fundamental logic prevails over laid-down rules.
All these can combine to make philosophy pretty difficult for some people. But the next section contains tips that you can easily incorporate to study philosophy successfully.
5 Ways to Study Philosophy
Considering how difficult philosophy is as a subject, you may be wondering how to study philosophy as a beginner. Thankfully, there are several methods that you can adopt to learn and become better in philosophy. Here, take a look at some of them.
Reading multiple philosophical works
This is perhaps the most common way to study philosophy. Most students have to read through a series of philosophical books to understand the subject. Most big book stores sell philosophy study guides that you can use to create your self-study philosophy reading list. As you advance in studying philosophy, you’ll discover study-systems that work for you. However, starters will benefit from reading each book several times before moving to another.
Researching and Writing
It’s a known fact that philosophers are researchers. Philosophy students typically need to do a lot of writing, and except you know the in-depth of what you are writing about, you may find this aspect challenging. Therefore, you must learn to research supporting and opposing arguments of each concept before taking a stand. Philosophers are known to be logical thinkers, and nobody can have rational opinions without looking at the details of all opposing arguments. You can start by understanding the purpose of each argument before clearly stating and supporting your thesis. This way, you are getting your mind ready to understand philosophical concepts.
Engaging in Philosophical Dialogues
Nothing beats having friends that share common goals with you. Apart from supporting your ideas, they’ll be able to provide creative criticisms that will help put you back on track when you deviate. Your philosophy teachers will organize group discussions and class presentations where you can share ideas with other philosophy students from time to time. Beyond class discussions, however, you should meet up and discuss with friends from time to time. Be open to intellectual arguments as this can help shape your mind on matters you do not know much about. You should also bear in mind that not everyone will have the same idea. Therefore, approaching each argument with respect while expecting conflicting views will put you one step ahead.
Get a Philosophy Degree
Another common way to acquire knowledge in philosophy is by applying for a degree. At the undergraduate level, philosophy students get to study several different philosophies from the theoretical and historical perspectives. It’s at this point that students get to form opinions that will mostly last them a lifetime.
Reading several philosophy books would indeed help you learn and become better in philosophy. But the numerous blocks of texts can easily become confusing, and that’s why you need to combine reading with visualizing knowledge. There are several picture books and practical guides that can help enhance your philosophical experience. Beyond that, you can choose to take field trips to historical sites related to certain philosophical concepts to learn more about them.
Why is Philosophy Important Today?
Philosophy has come a long way, offering explanations to concepts across different fields. Wondering how this ancient study of nature, reality, and existence remains relevant in our modern world? Read on to find some of the reasons why philosophy is just as important as ever before.
Philosophy asks the important questions
To date, no other subject is as obsessed with asking big questions as philosophy is. Whether it’s pondering on human existence, figuring out how government can be better, or justifying human existence, philosophy has always been known for being able to steer curiosity among humans. From its inception, philosophy has always been about exploring thought processes while analyzing how humans think at each time. Philosophers believe that no question is too small or too big, and that’s why they’ll go the extra length to learn about each concept.
It helps to enhance critical thinking and reasoning
Apart from being inquisitive, philosophy is also about redefining the thought process. This is why critical thinking and reasoning will always remain an essential part of the discipline. For years, philosophers have been debating on how different thought-systems should be categorized. The debate is expected to continue. However, adopting a philosophical mindset and learning to analyze ideas and statements from a critical point can make anybody a better thinker. It puts you in a position where you can tell whether an idea is worth the time you’ll probably put into it or not. This is a skill that can make every other aspect of your life better.
It teaches problem solving
We will always encounter problems as long as we are alive. However, you’ll need to learn to build resistance to these problems. This is where philosophy helps. With philosophy, you’ll learn techniques like logic, observation, and intuition. All these are techniques that can help you break down problems to their essence while developing relevant solutions. Philosophy has always been useful for solving problems irrespective of size.
Application to different disciplines
Irrespective of the subject you are dealing with, there’s always a philosophical aspect to enhance your learning experience. Philosophy is one discipline that forces you to ask relevant questions like “why?” and “what?” These are questions that are relevant to every discipline. Therefore, we can say that it’s the philosophical elements of these disciplines that make you ask questions like:
- What is the essence of the topic?
- Why does it even matter? etc.
Philosophy helps you to become a better thinker, which is a vital skill in every discipline.
Wrapping Things Up: How to Study Philosophy
There you have it, a detailed look at philosophy as a discipline. Philosophy is a challenging course with many confusing details, but with the right study materials, you should be able to pick up relevant knowledge on philosophy. Thankfully, there are so many other ways to successfully learn philosophy beyond classroom tutoring. This article discusses some of those methods in detail. It also highlights some of the importance of studying philosophy in modern times. You can refer to our philosophy study guide for the best philosophy textbooks and resources to help make your philosophical studies easier.