Beacon Opinion: Come to the soirée now in progress

By Dr. David Horkott
Assistant Professor of Philosophy

Sure, this appears to be a newspaper article. Don’t be fooled. You are reading an invitation. You are welcome to join me and others on campus who seek wisdom about the most important issues in life and who desire to practice conscious living.

You are invited to a party. The theme of this party is the intelligibility of the universe. If you are skeptical or apathetic toward the intelligibility of the universe, then consider attending for the sake of amusement. Interest in intelligibility is catching on.

Media pays homage to philosophy

Two fairly recent articles showcase the increasing value of a philosophy degree. The first article appeared in the New York Times in April 2008. The headline of Winnie Hu’s article read: “In a New Generation of College Students, Many Opt for the Life Examined.” This article was first brought to my attention by our very own philosopher, Dr. Craig Hanson.

According to the NY Times, the number of philosophy majors is growing at colleges and universities across the country at an impressive rate.
At the time the article appeared, Rutgers University’s overall enrollment was down 4 percent while the number of philosophy majors was up 100 percent from the previous year.

At the City University of New York overall enrollment was up 18 percent in the last six years while the increase in philosophy majors was up 51 percent over the same time period.

There are now twice as many philosophy majors at Amherst as there were in the 1990s.

The NY Times article posed the question, “What explains the fact that a new generation of college students is increasingly choosing to study philosophy?” After interviewing students and administrators at several east coast institutions, Hu found the answer: “Students are drawn to the age-old discipline because studying philosophy enables them to make better sense of today’s world.”

The second article alluded to appeared in The Guardian in November 2007. This article was written by Jessica Shepherd and carried the banner: “I think, therefore I earn.”

According to this United Kingdom publication, “Philosophy graduates are suddenly the rage with employers.” This article is full of empirical data supporting the claim that those versed in Plato, Descartes and Kant are popular with employers in the business world.

Students: philosophically speaking

At UK universities the number of philosophy graduates has more than doubled between 2001 and 2006. During the same time, the number of philosophy graduates finding full time work increased 76 percent. Indeed, philosophy graduates in the UK are approximately 40 percent more likely to find employment within six months of graduation than graduates in general. Why is this?

Advantages of a philosophy degree

According to the article, philosophy students learn to argue on their feet and this shows at interviews. Philosophy graduates have an advantage given that employers at top companies want open-minded, free-thinkers who have the ability to look for different approaches to solving problems.

Palm Beach Atlantic University’s philosophy department offers small, personalized classes that afford rare opportunities for exploring intelligibility.

You can discuss the proclamation “God is Dead” in Nietzsche’s writings with me. You can also discuss the irrationality of human behavior with Dr. Hanson (who authored a book entitled “Thinking About Addiction”). You can also learn political philosophy from Dr. Raeder (a published J.S. Mill scholar.) Be sure to speak with Dr. Francisco Plaza, whose area of expertise is Jacques Maritain studies.

The philosophy department is active. The Philosophy Club has already had a social mixer at my house. This student run club often hosts special evenings with guest speakers. This fall, Dr. Caroline Gould from Florida Atlantic University will be visiting our campus to speak to students.

Another sign of philosophical life on campus: Dr. Hanson is leading a group of philosophy students to the Ethics Bowl (an intercollegiate competition held this year in north Florida). In December two seniors will travel to New York City with me to attend one of the largest gatherings of professional philosophers in the world.

In addition to an accomplished faculty, small class sizes and opportunities to engage in philosophical activities, PBA now offers a streamlined program that encourages interdisciplinary study. By setting the required number of courses at a minimum (10), philosophy majors can easily pursue a double-major. A minor in philosophy is even more accommodating to your other academic goals.

The world we live in is constantly changing. You need a mind equipped to handle the onslaught. Your ability to learn quickly, write clearly, and evaluate complex ideas is more important than ever.

Specialized vocational training can become obsolete overnight. Let’s face it: Predicting what specialties will be in demand in the future is risky. But you can count on the intrinsic merit of learning philosophy and the lifelong skills such thinking brings.

Philosophy is especially helpful for those considering a career in law. Philosophy majors consistently out-score other undergraduate majors on the Law School Admission Test. The philosophy department at PBA has forged a partnership with the pre-law program. We have made it much more efficient for a student to add a philosophy major or minor to their pre-law program.

If you are considering graduate school or seminary, then you would definitely benefit from philosophical training. Philosophy teaches students to plumb the depths. Philosophical thinking lies at the core of just about everything we do.

A concluding question: “What is the aim of knowledge?” Is it power? Are you convinced that the aim of knowledge is to control nature? Is the purpose of knowledge fulfilled in reconstructing society? Is the aim of knowledge to build space stations, high speed railways, or find cures for cancer? Is there any room in our industrialized society to say that the aim of knowledge is understanding?

I say, “Let’s make room.” Let’s call it the party room. In this room partygoers can direct their revelry toward the wonder of the universe. Do you seek to understand yourself and your world? Well, come join our gala event.

Will there be party favors? Of course! Here is a party favor in advance (compliments of Aristotle): the highest power a person can exercise over the world is to understand.



Filed under Opinion

2 responses to “Beacon Opinion: Come to the soirée now in progress

  1. David Horkott

    I wish I had gotten my French accent marks right!
    I am embarrassed by the title’s imperfection.

  2. David horkott

    A big Sailfish “thank you” to the person who fixed the accent mark in the title of the article. I feel so much better.

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