Why study philosophy?

To Think Deeply and Think Broadly

Philosophy is a very specific sort of activity. Literally translated as “love of wisdom,” philosophy is the pursuit of knowledge and understanding of the human condition, and it involves deep and sustained reflection on fundamental questions about our actions, our identities, our values, and our history. It also involves deep and sustained reflection on the relationships we share with others and with the world in which we live.
Because of the enduring questions that philosophy aims to answer, study of philosophy’s history and training in its major subfields continue to be essential to a liberal arts education. Given the broad scope of philosophy’s concerns, it also continues to be relevant to a wide range of disciplines in a university curriculum. Our philosophy major programs have been designed with just this in mind.
Students completing a B.A. in Philosophy study key periods of the history of philosophy and receive training in major subfields such as Asian Philosophy, Ethics, Epistemology, Metaphysics, and Social-Political Philosophy. Our students may choose to take elective courses that span these various subfields. But they also have the opportunity to curate a program of study that fits their broader academic and professional interests.
For example, students wishing to earn a more specializing understanding of themes in Asian Philosophy, Political Theory, Psychology, Social Philosophy, or Social Justice Studies might fulfill the 300- and 400-level elective requirements for the Philosophy Major by grouping together recently offered classes such as the following.

Asian Philosophy

  • PHIL 426: Buddhist Ethics
  • PHIL 426: Buddhist Philosophy of Social Justice
  • PHIL 426: Yoga Philosophy
  • PHIL 454: Comparative Metaphysics
  • PHIL 457: Spinoza and Vasubandhu
Philosophy and Political Theory
  • PHIL 371: Classical Social and Political Philosophy
  • PHIL 372: Modern Social and Political Philosophy
  • PHIL 381: Philosophy of Law
  • PHIL 426: Buddhist Philosophy of Social Justice
  • PHIL 441: Philosophy of Race and Racism
  • PHIL 442: Marx's Capital, Vol One
  • PHIL 458: Philosophy of Violence & Nonviolence

Philosophy and Psychology

  • PHIL 454: Sense and Possibility
  • PHIL 455: Philosophy of Mind
  • PHIL 468: German Idealism & Psychoanalysis
  • PHIL 468: Marxism & Psychoanalysis

Social Philosophy and/or Social Justice Studies

  • PHIL 341: Feminist Philosophy
  • PHIL 426: Buddhist Philosophy of Social Justice
  • PHIL 441: Philosophy of Race and Racism
  • PHIL 457: Philosophy of Education
  • PHIL 458: Ethics of Hunger
  • PHIL 458: Philosophy of Violence & Nonviolence
  • PHIL 458: Contemporary Feminist Philosophy

Philosophy students interested in Comparative Literature or Critical Theory find the English-Philosophy major especially attractive. Students completing this 15-class/45-credit hour major program need not complete a minor, and they have several degrees of freedom in choosing the English and Philosophy courses that they can use to complete the major. Students could, for instance, elect to take recent Philosophy courses such as the following.

Comparative Literature and/or Critical Theory

  • PHIL 442: Sartre and Camus
  • PHIL 466: Continental Aesthetics
  • PHIL 467: Philosophy of Art and Aesthetics
  • PHIL 469: Critical Phenomenologies
  • PHIL 486: Derrida
The requirements for all three of our major programs can be found on our Major Programs page. The worksheets for the Philosophy Major, the Philosophy Pre-Law Major, the English-Philosophy Major, and the Philosophy Minor highlight the flexibility that students have in completing their chosen degree programs. The classes listed on our Course Archive page highlight the variety of elective courses that the department offers.
Students thinking about how to design a focused program of studies while completing the major are encouraged to consult with our Facutly Advisor and Staff Advisor for recommendations about which classes might best fit their broader interests.

To Hone Skills for Any Career Path

The training our students receive make them well-positioned to pursue graduate work in Philosophy and in fields such Law, Education, Political Science, and Theology. It’s also the case that our students develop analytical reading and writing skills that give them an advantage in the workforce, no matter their chosen career path.
In regard to reading, Philosophy students learn how to effectively understand the reasoning that is presented in a text, and they sharpen their ability to identify and critique the assumptions that an author uses to support a position. In regard to writing, Philosophy students develop the invaluable skill of writing in a clear and structured way, and in completing their coursework, they are constantly pushed to explicitly state and persuasively defend their own evaluation of a text or argument.
This sort of critical reading and analytic writing is the hallmark of doing Philosophy, and students who complete our major programs can and have put these skills to good use in a number of professional fields including Medicine and Software Development. The value of a Philosophy degree in the workforce has been more widely acknowledged during the recent decade, as highlighted on the web site Philosophy is a Great Major.
The skills gained by completing a Philosophy major also turn out to be incredibly valuable when taking the standardized tests that are commonly required for entrance into graduate programs and law schools. In both the Verbal Reasoning and the Analytic Writing sections of the Graduate Record Exam (GRE), Philosophy majors earned higher average scores than students from any other major. On the Quantitate Reasoning section of the GRE, Philosophy majors also did very well:  Their average score was higher than the average scores by students in all other Humanities discipline, and it was also higher than the average scores earned by students majoring in Accounting, Business Administration, and Political Science. 
The results are just as impressive for the LSAT, which is the entrance exam for law school. Philosophy majors earned an average score higher than students majoring in any other discipline.
This information comes from the Educational Testing Service and the Law School Admission Council, Inc., and it is nicely summarized in charts and graphs here.
Also noteworthy is that, according to a 2015 analysis completed by payscale.com, Philosophy majors earned a higher mid-career salary than students completing any other non-STEM major.  They estimated that the mid-career salary of Philosophy majors was almost $85,000, which is significantly above the mid-career salaries of those who majored in Religious Studies ($70,000), History ($73,000), English Literature ($76,000), or Political Science ($78,000).  According to a 2014 report in Forbes.com, the result of earning this higher mid-career salary is that Philosophy majors can expect to add $658,900 to their lifetime earnings.
The data about scores and salary is nicely summarized in charts and graphs here.

Contact Us

Students interested in our major or minor programs are invited to contact the department’s Faculty Advisor and Staff Advisor to discuss the role that Philosophy might play in their programs of study at UNM and in the professional endeavors they plan to pursue after graduation.