Why study philosophy? From one of our Reading philosophy alumni

I can’t think of a better degree than philosophy for anyone who wants to stretch themselves, learn to form cogent arguments and to think big picture. The beauty of philosophy is that it encourages you to dig a bit deeper, think a bit more widely. And ultimately, it teaches you to argue properly; philosophers aren’t really too worried about whether a chair exists or not – the discipline is really about proving that it does, knocking down the various arguments that suggest it may in fact be a dream, that your senses are deceiving you, that something else is happening to make you think the chair is real when it isn’t. I went on to be a journalist, where written argument is incredibly important, but I suspect it would be a great degree for prospective lawyers, too. Philosophy is also great for anyone interested in leadership – you literally have to see the woods and not just the trees. I worked as a senior civil servant a few years ago and I’m convinced that my philosophy helped me think more strategically. And, of course, most importantly for me at least, my philosophy degree stimulated the ideas that eventually led to me writing a series of best-selling and award-winning novels: The Declaration, which questions our obsession with ageing, The Returners, which questions free will, The Killables, which asks whether eradicating evil would really improve the world, and The System, which asks whether we are currently creating our own version of Orwell’s Big Brother with our obsession with updating our status, tweeting, asking strangers’ opinions on what we eat, what we wear, how popular we are… It’s not just me, either. When I was at Reading, I remember learning about Robert Nozick, a philosopher who asked how we could know we existed and were not, in fact, simply brains in a vat being manipulated to believe we are real. Someone else must have been studying the same thing because a few years later, The Matrix exploded onto our screens. So it’s not just a degree for lawyers, journalists, novelists and business leaders. It’s the perfect grounding for Hollywood scriptwriters too đŸ™‚


Gemma Malley




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