Philosophy Is Sexy

Commenter glory points me to this NYT piece from a few days ago on the vogue in studying philosophy:

Once scoffed at as a luxury major, philosophy is being embraced at Rutgers and other universities by a new generation of college students who are drawing modern-day lessons from the age-old discipline as they try to make sense of their world, from the morality of the war in Iraq to the latest political scandal. The economic downturn has done little, if anything, to dampen this enthusiasm among students, who say that what they learn in class can translate into practical skills and careers. On many campuses, debate over modern issues like war and technology is emphasized over the study of classic ancient texts.

Philosophy is the one field in which you really learn to reason, and not just about one thing. Formal logic helps you see the structure in natural language arguments. Studying great texts helps you learn to recognize argumentative patterns that arise again and again in public deliberation about all sorts of issues. And the naturalistic turn has made philosophy training more useful and directly applicable. It is possible to study philosophy of x as a truly useful complement to the study of x. The best student I ever had as a TA was interested in philosophy of mind and went on to study medicine — she hoped eventually brains — at Hopkins. Of course, there is a great deal of substantive wisdom that helps life seem both richer and more comprehensible.

Of course, there is also this:

Jenna Schaal-O’Connor, a 20-year-old sophomore who is majoring in cognitive science and linguistics, said philosophy had other perks. She said she found many male philosophy majors interesting and sensitive.

“That whole deep existential torment,” she said. “It’s good for getting girlfriends.”

Interesting, sensitive, deep existential torment. Irresistible. It works for ladies, too. I remember how excited I was when I first met Kerry by the fact that she’d been a philosophy major.