Going to university without studying philosophy is like going to Italy without visiting Rome. Like Rome, philosophy is a vibrant blend of the very ancient and the very modern, a place where inquisitive people from across the generations gather---in spirit, if not in body---to exchange ideas, match wits, and occasionally poke fun at one another. Here we find Socrates, whose formidable intellect prompted the rulers of Athens to execute him rather than face him in debate. Next to him stands Confucius, who wisely opted to change the system from inside. Stick around and you may meet Leibniz, the brilliant metaphysician who invented calculus in his spare time, or Aquinas, expounding his five proofs of God’s existence, or Nietzsche proclaiming that God is dead. The streets of philosophy are crowded with colorful characters, some meditative, some hilarious, some deeply enigmatic. They are all here for the same reason: to satisfy their hunger for intelligent conversation about topics of enduring human interest.
When you first come to philosophy, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by all the bold ideas and logical wrangling. But soon you’ll find yourself eager to join the conversation. And before you know it, you yourself are part of the lively crowd, voicing your own ideas, advancing your own arguments, and revelling in the thrust-and-parry of philosophical debate. You might find the lifestyle so stimulating that you decide to settle into philosophy for good. But even if you are only here to visit, you will leave with a lifetime supply of food for thought.
WHY MAJOR IN PHILOSOPHY?
The best reason to major in philosophy is that you like philosophy more than other subjects. Human nature being what it is, you are more likely to work hard---and therefore get better grades, and therefore graduate with a higher class of honours---if you major in a subject that you genuinely enjoy, than if you major in a subject that you do not enjoy so much. Obviously, if your dream is to become an economist or a chemist, you ought to major in economics or chemistry (assuming you have an aptitude for those subjects). But if you take more pleasure in philosophy than in economics or chemistry or anything else you are studying, you should seriously consider majoring in philosophy. A good degree in philosophy is more impressive than a lackluster degree in some other subject.
Philosophy is also a good choice for a second major or a minor. This is because many philosophy modules complement study in other fields, including, but not limited to, economics, history, mathematics, physics, political science, and psychology.
WHICH MODULES SHOULD I TAKE
The natural place to begin is PH1102E: Introduction to Philosophy. This module acquaints you with most of the major areas of philosophy, through discussion of selected topics such as freedom of will, moral responsibility, God, consciousness, personal identity, artificial intelligence, and the ultimate nature of reality. From here you can branch out into higher-level modules that focus on a single topic (or cluster of topics) for more detailed investigation. The Department offers historical and theoretical modules in most major subfields, and in three major traditions (Chinese, Indian, and Western). The Department’s instructors are happy to provide individual guidance on which modules to take, based on one’s personal interests. For a breakdown of modules by area, click here.