Philosophy is classically defined as the love of wisdom (Greek, philein – “to love” + sophia – “wisdom”), and over the millennia in the West, it has developed into an academic discipline that seeks to know as much as possible using human reason about the nature and structure of reality. This search for universal wisdom involves several steps. The primary task of philosophical reflection is to explore reality and its fundamental principles, including the nature and ends of the human being. How one understands reality then becomes the foundation upon which informed judgments are made regarding what actions are good and just. The tool used to explore and judge is human reason, and because no tool can be intelligently employed unless it, too, is thoroughly known, philosophy also considers how the mind works and seeks to identify the criteria of sound reasoning. Once the intellect is habituated to such general principles, the discipline of philosophy can turn its attention to more specific objects of study, such as the human person, law, art, science, and God.
Grappling with these perennial questions in a formal, academic setting does require the exercise of abstract reasoning, but as the American Philosophical Association points out, there are many practical benefits in the long run.
Philosophy teaches students how to think well, a quality prized by many employers. Philosophers are good at:
- Summarizing and logically organizing complex information
- Prioritizing questions and issues
- Evaluating opposing views
- Determining the morally relevant features of situations, actions, and policies
- Taking principled approaches to problem-solving
- Thinking of alternative approaches and solutions
- Writing in a clear, focused way
- Reasoning persuasively, both in writing and orally
- Offering and accepting criticism without personalizing it, and tolerating uncertainty.
(“Appendix to Board Minutes,” Proceedings and Addresses of the American Philosophical Association, 82:5, 101-102)