We recently completed an anonymous survey of IUP Philosophy alumni as part of a self-study of our program. Here are a few of the questions and responses:
How has the Philosophy major at IUP changed your views about yourself and the world?
“Even though the department itself is small in number, I feel that the professors are diverse and of great assistance. Beyond that, as a woman, I am so happy to have female professors who are brilliant and (as corny as it sounds) a positive influence
in my decisions as a student in philosophy. I always feel comfortable in the philosophy classrooms and that I can consult my professors for assistance or more information. I suppose, quite simply, it’s opened my mind up to so many ideas that I had longed
to discover, and I feel a great sense of enthusiasm to keep learning more after I graduate.”
“On a conceptual level, the Philosophy program at IUP offered an opportunity to consider carefully and systematically myself and my perception of the world. I learned to question assumptions and evaluate arguments, especially regarding the relationship
between the world and the way I think about it. On a practical level, the work required for completing the major is difficult, and the students are appropriately held to high standards. It is a valued fact that this program taught me to meet deadlines.”
“One thing I learned is that careful, critical consideration of my beliefs, and the many presuppositions underlying those beliefs, can show you that some of your deepest commitments are often no more than mere prejudices. How did philosophy do this?
That’s what philosophy does—it teaches you how to critically engage any and all claims no matter the discipline. In particular, I found the most ‘esoteric’ areas of philosophy to be the most helpful in teaching me how to think critically about extremely
difficult and abstract concepts. If you can think and write clearly in a metaphysics class, then you can think and write clearly on almost anything.”
“I don’t think I can even begin to explain why and how philosophy has changed my views without devolving into generic answers that don’t really do justice to what studying philosophy really means to me. It has changed my views about everything and in
the deepest of ways, and this is just because it asks the most basic of questions about everything. Nothing can escape its domain.”
List ways you have grown or developed as a result of IUP Philosophy.
“For me, what always appealed to me most about philosophy was searching for an understanding of ‘the good life,’ trying to look into things as closely as possible in order to figure out how best to live our lives and just to have a better understanding
of what are lives are. At first I had dreams of discovering some grand ethical theory that would give a definitive course of action to be followed for any situation. The more I studied philosophy, the more I began to feel that it was more about recognizing
the limits of our understanding rather than coming to any absolute conclusions. Sometimes unlearning the things you thought you knew can be more beneficial than learning things you don’t know. In spite of the limits of our understanding, we still have
to act, so ethics is still important; but life is much more nuanced than words on a page could ever be.”
“My Philosophy major is something that I am extremely proud of, and I feel as if I am able to think critically and logically about every instance in my life and career. Philosophy has given me a great launch into leading group discussions and being able
to articulate my own views quickly and effectively. Most importantly, philosophy has made me a generally happier person because what I learned applies to everyday life and everyday situations.”
“One, I am a much clearer thinker and writer than I was before going through the Philosophy program. Two, I learned that kindness and encouragement can coexist with strict and uncompromising intellectual standards. Three, I learned to never (initially)
be certain that my intuitions or beliefs are correct. That is, I am a much more humble, open person than I was before taking philosophy.”
“(1) I can formulate arguments to support an assertion more readily. (2) I actively engage in the exploration and analysis of arguments that disagree with my own, rather than presume their falsity, and am able to formulate effective rebuttals. (3) Relevant
to (1) and (2), I have developed a level of mental dexterity that I never imagined I would achieve in college.”
“I have developed in the following ways: (1) I’ve become much more critical, but also more humble; (2) I’ve become much more aware of myself, the world, and others. In other words, I’m not on autopilot; and (3) the philosophical education I got at IUP
has had its most significant and long-lasting impact on my growth and development in that it has allowed me to ‘become who I am.’ Studying philosophy has made me more autonomous, more passionate, and it has given me the tools to find meaning and purpose
in my own life and to develop myself in the ways that express who I really am and who I want to be.”
“I’ve actually noticed (recently, in fact) that there are things I want to accomplish now that I did not see as priorities before. I think these priorities are of a more ethical nature and inspired by philosophical ideals. I’ve also been doing more research
politically to make sure I understand the upcoming election and don’t vote haphazardly . . . I think philosophy has influenced me to become more responsible for my opinions and how my decisions could effect others, as well as my potential to be a better
“I have learned how to find the main points of an argument or idea and the assumptions that underlie the idea. I can now do that with any idea, which helps me to assess and effectively interact with the statements in any discipline or in daily life.
As I said above, I have also grown a lot in confidence about my own abilities as a thinker! So I don’t need to shy away from hard or technical texts wherever I encounter them. I have learned how to ask good questions. All of these things will benefit
me for the rest of my life in any field of study and in daily life.”
How has IUP Philosophy helped prepare you for your career?
“I think you teach some of the only skills that will help any
career path: critical thinking and self-reflection. These are methods of examination and inquiry, rather than mere bundle of facts or statistics. I would say that any student hoping
to enter a creative field in which problem solving is a requirement (engineering, business, teaching—anything, really), you better have a damn strong ability to think critically, question the ideas of others as well as yourself, and recognize how some
decisions, actions and positions are either tenable or untenable.”
“I am confident that my hypothetical future career as a physician will involve cases that I am not going to be prepared for. The dexterity and nimbleness that is being fostered in my mind as a result of pursuing Philosophy coursework will, in my opinion,
translate well into the field of medicine, because I will be able to respond quickly and appropriately to unforeseen problems, and also because discussions in the classrooms will better prepare me for discussions with patients.”
“Philosophy, more than many majors, teaches you skills that make you an incredibly flexible employee. If you have the ability to think critically and clearly (which philosophy trains you to do), then you’re in good shape no matter where you go.”
“I believe the Philosophy Department has taught me the most important skill any person could develop—how to think. This is done by coming alongside the greatest minds in history and learning to think like them and ask questions like them. How could this not help
me in my career path, whatever it may be? Beyond the ‘career path,’ this is a skill essential to living a better life!”