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Philosophy

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Philosophy addresses the fundamental issues of human life, including the nature of reality, the secret of beauty, the criteria for knowledge and truth, and the difference between right and wrong. Philosophy classes generally use the Socratic method, which encourages students to develop and express their own views on philosophical questions and to critically analyze and discuss the views of others. The study of Philosophy builds critical thinking skills, which are useful in any job or profession requiring logical reasoning and responsible decision making. The Department of Philosophy at UH Hilo offers the full range of courses approved by the American Philosophical Association for a Bachelor’'s degree with a major in Philosophy.

Degree Requirements

See undergraduate education in the UH Hilo Catalog for a detailed listing of the:

Mission

The mission of the undergraduate degree program in Philosophy is to enable the students to understand the role and importance of philosophical inquiry, and to develop skills in its use. The program is designed to provide exposure to the philosophical perspectives of great thinkers, past and present, and to help students increase their abilities to think clearly, logically, and critically both about philosophical issues and about issues in other fields of learning.

Goals for Student Learning in the Major

Students who successfully complete the major in Philosophy are expected to:

  • Be able to think critically about philosophical issues and express philosophical ideas in an articulate and well reasoned manner
  • Be able to recognize valid and invalid inferences expressed in ordinary language, and to recognize a range of formal and informal fallacies of reason
  • Be familiar with the range of philosophical ideas within traditional as well as contemporary Western Philosophy
  • Be familiar with the range of philosophical ideas within traditional as well as contemporary Eastern Philosophy

Training in Philosophy will enable a student to appreciate the points of view of others. Philosophy students gain skills in understanding arguments, including complex arguments, and in expressing their own opinions in clear and accurate ways. Evidence of superior reasoning skills can be seen from the fact that Philosophy majors have among the highest overall scores of any major on entry exams for graduate schools, even for specialty areas such as law school that have no direct relation to the subject matter of Philosophy.

Prospects for Philosophy Graduates

The Philosophy major prepares students well for further education toward such careers as teaching, law, and medicine. Moreover, in both government and business, positions for Philosophy majors are often jobs that involve the exercise of careful judgment, fairness, in-depth thinking, and sensitivity to the needs of other persons. These include jobs in administration, human resources, public information, community relations, advertising, manpower planning, manufacturer’s representation, technical writing, editing, benefits analysis, immigration, and many others.

Recent UH Hilo graduates have found work in these jobs:

  • lawyer
  • entrepreneur
  • teacher
  • doctor
  • beekeeper
  • horticulturalist
  • human rights advocate
  • manager
  • chef
  • art buyer
  • graduate student
  • Maunakea guide
  • clean energy contest organizer

According to a recent study by PayScale.com, philosophy majors have the highest mid-career median earnings ($84000/yr.) of any major outside of engineering, the natural sciences, and business. This is less surprising than it might seem when you consider that philosophy majors are better equipped to enter a world where few careers come with pre-set “tracks.” In an information economy, any job that relies on a specific set of knowledge can now be performed much more cheaply by computers, so any job for which you can be taught everything you need to know in school is already on the way to becoming obsolete. High-paying jobs usually require employees who already have a wide range of skills and can rapidly learn more as the landscape changes.

In other studies that account for the fact that philosophy majors tend to attend graduate school in larger numbers than most other majors, philosophers do even better. For the past several years, philosophy majors nationwide have had the highest cumulative GRE scores of any major.

But philosophy is also a great choice for those who do not plan to attend graduate school. The average person today will have three distinct careers and many jobs over the course of her life. In the same payscale study cited above, philosophy majors only ranked a little above average for median beginning salary ($40700/yr.). Though there are a few billionaire exceptions, very rarely do students graduate with philosophy majors already knowing what their path to success will be. Philosophy majors know that they don’t have to be interchangeable cogs in a machine and have the insight to know their strengths and embrace new opportunities as they come along.