5 Practical Applications of Philosophy
1st October, 2019
If you haven’t studied it before, Philosophy might seem like a subject that bears little relation to the real world. Students are sometimes apprehensive to study it, viewing it as “wishy-washy” and choosing a more career-oriented subject instead. However, the truth is that philosophy graduates are incredibly valuable to employers, due to the transferable skills that the subject provides.
Here are some areas where philosophy becomes relevant that you might not expect:
Unsurprisingly, most philosophy students do not go on to become philosophers - the list of famous philosophers (Descartes, Socrates, Aristotle...) hasn’t changed much in the past few hundred years! Instead, philosophy equips students with the tools to progress to a wide range of careers. Philosophy graduates are trained to think, analyse, problem solve and express themselves concisely and effectively, both verbally and in writing. These skills make them particularly ideal candidates for follow-up study in law - and as well as this, the study of philosophy allows students to examine many of the current political, legal and moral issues currently of interest to those in the law profession, but with extra philosophical context.
Learning To Learn
“The unexamined life is not worth living” - Socrates
Philosophy can increase your self-awareness by forcing you to question yourself and your beliefs. Indeed, by studying the principle underlying thought and knowledge (known as epistemology) it's hard not to apply this to yourself. Philosophy doesn’t teach you what to think, but how to think. This can come in useful throughout your general academic life; working out how you learn best is known as metacognition, and is widely agreed to help you plan, monitor and evaluate your learning. This allows you to identify any weaknesses and plan your work and revision in a way that’s most effective for you.
Finding the Facts
Studying philosophy provides you with a “logical toolkit” - a set of skills that lets you deconstruct arguments. This is especially useful when entering any scientific field as it enables you to distil facts and spot fallacies. There’s a reason why many famous philosophers were also eminent in scientific fields. However, this is also important in daily life, when scrolling through social media or watching the news. The ability to spot fallacies will help you stay aware of fake news - or “alternative facts” - and ensure you don’t fall prey to them.
In fields where empathy is important, such as nursing, caring and social work, a field of philosophy known as “phenomenology” comes into play. Phenomenology is the study of consciousness, and involves understanding how other people feel and experience things. This is something that a nurse caring for a patient with a condition, such as cerebral palsy or locked-in syndrome, will need to utilise to connect with their patient, and give them the best care.
Living an ethical life is becoming increasingly important in today's environment, as we face worldwide issues such as climate change, poverty and pollution. It can be tempting to bury your head in the sand, but by making changes to your personal lifestyle it’s possible to make your own small difference in combating these issues. Studying ethics as a part of philosophy can give you the tools and awareness to do this, helping you to live a more fulfilling life. It’s also useful in careers where ethical questions play a significant role, such as medicine, genetics and politics.
Overall, it’s clear that philosophy does have practical applications in real life - so don’t let a fear of not being employable keep you from studying it if it’s a subject you’d be interested in. We normally run Philosophy seminars on the summer school, alongside career talks. You can find out more about these here.