Information compiled by the GradSchools.com team - last updated December 2010
Philosophy is a field focused on the systematic examination of basic concepts such as truth, existence, reality and freedom. Graduate philosophy courses allow students to follow in the footsteps of some of the greatest thinkers of all time and gain invaluable skills for their careers. Graduate philosophy curriculums challenge students to examine the ideas of the past and compare them with those of the present, and perhaps even establish the ideas of the future.
Studying in the field
Philosophy philosophy curriculums involve the exploration of the nature, causes and principles of reality, knowledge or values, based on logical reasoning. They encompass the philosophy of science, language, mathematics, literature, politics, religion, law, education, ethics and the mind.
Philosophy concentrations include the five main branches of philosophy: metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, politics and aesthetics. Metaphysics is the study of existence, while epistemology is the study of knowledge. Ethics is known as the philosophic study of action, politics as the study of force and aesthetics as the study of the arts.
The word “philosophy” means “love of wisdom” in the Greek language. Philosophy courses emphasize a disciplined reflection about the self, others and the world at large. Students of philosophy learn to critically analyze fundamental assumptions or beliefs, and are taught how to think rather than what to think. The aim of a philosophy graduate curriculum is to explore the nature of inquiry and to generate viewpoints and improve life through what is learned.
Students will gain an understanding of modern and ancient philosophies, and philosophers including Socrates, Aristotle, Plato and Kant. Other philosophers covered will likely include such names as Locke, Hume and Nietzsche. Students will learn the beliefs of these great minds regarding biology, evolution and culture.
Research constitutes an essential aspect of philosophy graduate curriculums. Students can expect to research topics such as human nature, globalization, imagination and various ethnic philosophies. They may also research mysticism, hedonism, deconstruction and empiricism. Students’ research of socialism will lead them to topics including materialism, postmodernism and contemporary cultural issues.
Graduate philosophy courses may include mathematical logic, laws of nature, and realism and anti-realism. Some courses may focus on personal identity and self, morality, social science, and promise and assertation. Skepticism, truth, reason and argument are some key topics in the study of philosophy on a graduate level. Other important topics may include critical theory, Asian philosophy, phenomenology and existentialism.
The concepts of free will, semantics, utilitarianism and value theory are included in most graduate philosophy curriculums. Problem-solving and the relationship between right and wrong are at the crux of the field. Transcendentalism, naturalism, semiotics and pragmatism are additional subjects that play large roles in philosophy graduate curriculums.
Through their philosophy courses, students will enhance their communication, analytical and critical thinking skills. They will develop powers of reasoning, as well as the ability to critique the views of others, and to organize thoughts rationally and present them in a clear, concise manner. The skills and abilities students hone from study in a philosophy graduate curriculum can help them in future endeavors in fields such as law, education, psychology, language, technology and science.
Job opportunities in the field
Graduates who hold a Masters or PhD degree in philosophy will not find for themselves a traditional niche in the workplace, but they will find no shortage of philosophy careers available. The New York Times recently reported that “philosophy, in the last 20 years, has taken a more marketable turn as the issues faced in industry and the professions have grown more complex.” In philosophy graduates curriculums, students learn skills that can improve performance and success in nearly any career path.
The analytical, problem-solving and communication skills that philosophy students gain translate well into a number of different philosophy careers. These students come equipped with the ability to look at things from multiple viewpoints, to think questions through and to think, write and speak with intelligence. Those who hold masters or PhD degrees in philosophy possess sound reasoning skills, and research has indicated that they also tend to score highly on professional tests.
Philosophy graduate curriculums enhance self-knowledge, foresight and sense of direction in life, all important attributes to have in most careers in general. Graduates are able to see the big picture, as well as to extract meaning from readings and to concentrate on difficult material for long periods of time. The ability to organize ideas and issues, assess pros and cons and cope with change can provide philosophy graduates with philosophy-related careers in the fields of law, medicine, government, business, journalism, education and ministry.