To Be or Not To Be a Philosophy Major, that is the Question Bobcats Face

July 25, 2018

According to a recent Forbes magazine article, tech companies throughout the U.S. have discovered something universities have known since they began: Liberal arts thinking makes employees stronger.

Students who choose the new philosophy major at UC Merced — officially launched in the spring— will emerge with the broad foundations employers are seeking, including critical thinking and data analysis skills.

“In developing this major, we combined the best features of classical philosophy with cutting-edge approaches to applied philosophy,” Professor Jeffrey Yoshimi said. “That is a particular strength of this program.”

The six main philosophy faculty members and two affiliates have research backgrounds in philosophies of the mind, of science, of action, morality, politics, entrepreneurship, literature, language and ethics, as well as neuroscience, game theory, phenomenology, ancient philosophy and history of philosophy.

To make sure students can apply what they’ve learned, Yoshimi and the major’s co-developer, Lecturer David Jennings , included a capstone course for seniors, to check comprehension and fill any gaps in understanding before students graduate.

"Philosophy is a vital field of study in its own right, of course, but students may be less aware of how a major in philosophy can prepare them for a variety of careers. The understanding of human nature and the specific skills that students acquire by studying philosophy — logic, critical thinking, and argumentation — are essential for success in law, politics or business,” School of Social Sciences, Humanities and Arts Dean Jill Robbins said. “At UC Merced, where the important philosophical questions about how we engage with the world and one another are embedded within cognitive science, majors may also go on to careers in science, medicine or psychology.”

Philosophy graduates often pursue careers in law, but are increasingly finding jobs in the tech sector, for example as programmers or data scientists, Yoshimi said.

“The reasoning skills associated with philosophy naturally transfer to those domains. A philosophy major is also associated with strong salary outcomes and high scores on standardized tests for graduate studies,” he said.

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