Philosophy is an activity. It is the attempt to understand the general concepts and principles that lie behind the various aspects of our lives. There are various branches of philosophy. Metaphysics seeks to understand the nature of ultimate reality. Political Philosophy inquires into the ideas of justice and equality. Ethics seeks to understand what we ought to do, as well as what kind of persons we ought to be. Epistemology studies such concepts as truth, certainty, and knowledge. Simply put, philosophy involves thinking hard about life; it asks the ‘big’ questions. One of the most distinctive features of philosophy is that philosophers and students of philosophy attempt to answer these ‘big’ questions, primarily, through reflection, by thinking clearly and rigorously about difficult and important questions. The study of philosophy is valuable because it can help us examine our lives. Engaging in philosophy can provide us with a clearer sense of direction, personal priorities, values, and meaning.
Traditionally, students majored in philosophy to prepare for teaching positions in institutions of higher education. Currently, more and more philosophers are pursuing non-academic careers. In addition to teaching, philosophers can now be found in business, computer-related fields, education, engineering, science, math, and government. A solid philosophical education can function as the cornerstone of virtually every other career preparation path.
Students who intend to major in Philosophy and have not yet decided on the senior college that they will attend should meet with their Palo Alto advisor and follow Palo Alto’s generic degree plan for Philosophy.