Flirting with Philosophy

I flirted and fell in love

When I arrived at Clark University, I was overwhelmed by the amount of bizarre classes I could take. I can study the evolving culture of sports and learn about Iraqi refugees??? WHAT?!? Coming from a place where studying natural sciences is the norm, disciplines like philosophy and sociology sounds so…foreign and exciting. So naturally I wanted to try it :D

(Let me tell you, I took a lot of Biology in high school and I abandoned it as soon as I arrived to the States. No regrets!)

Clark is a liberal arts institution and that means they require students to take courses in at least eight different departments = gaining at least eight different perspectives of the world. For my “history perspective”, I took “History of Ancient Greek Philosophy” in my first semester. I felt apprehensive at first because the act felt so rebellious. So impractical to dedicate at least 10 hours a week to a class which I perceived to be ultimately useless in the long run. Oh, I was so wrong. And I fell so in love with that class.

Throughout the semester, we would spend at least two weeks poring over dialogues by Socrates like the Apology, Euthyphro and Crito. There were some excerpts by Ancient Greek Sophists and a bit of Physics by Plato & Nichomean Ethics sprinkled here and there. Looking back, I remember I was so happy in every class. The language in the dialogues was crisp, sarcastic and original. Each string of words tickled my brain (really!) and made me laugh. Before this class, I honestly thought people from ancient times only thought about sex and religion and how to make one bad for the other. But damn, Socrates proved me wrong. He really sure know how to stir up emotions. Cool dude. I also didn’t know that I would enjoy deconstructing and building arguments.

I ended up taking two more philosophy classes. They were History of Early Modern Philosophy (god fucking dense — ugh. Honestly, reading Spinoza was painful) and Metaphysics (which I dropped out half way lol). There were two more courses on a similar trajectory that I took and they were history of US films and a course on Buddhism, Daoism and Confucianism.

If I had not taken that philosophy class in my first semester, I would have continued my life not knowing the wonders of ideas and the art of asking important questions. I shiver at the very thought of it.

Why am I telling you this? Here it comes. The one question that I come across when I mention that I study philosophy is whether I really should be taking philosophy courses due to its “impracticality”. This post is a response to this question.

I’d like to take step back here. First, I will impose some restrictions on my discussion by establishing a basic assumption. I am going to talk specifically about taking a college philosophy course. Now I ask you, ‘what is your purpose of taking college courses?’. This will help us take the next step of determining the degree of practicality of taking a college philosophy course.

If your purpose is to take college courses to secure a job immediately after graduation, then ok, majoring in philosophy might not be the best option. I can agree with that. Especially if you don’t go to a well-known school. But if your purpose for college is to open yourself up to new ways to comprehend the world OR immerse yourself in the stories of men and women, whose bold ideas shape our world today, then philosophy will become a ‘sensible choice’. (I acknowledge that this is a choice of luxury but it doesn’t have to be. Keep reading)

I enjoy philosophy because it encourages me to question the status quo and refine my ability to ask better questions. It also shows me the way people have approached questions that have puzzled and preoccupied humanity. I mean, have you not once thought about the reason of our existence? Since I was not aware that studying philosophy was a choice before I came to Clark, taking some college courses to explore this area seems reasonable to me.

On the other hand I personally believe that taking a college course in philosophy is a luxury. The trade-offs exist and can be too much. Instead of taking a philosophy class, one could be taking a class to learn hard skills that will increase one’s chance of employment after graduation. If one’s well-being depends on employment, then taking a philosophy class will be out of the question. Or one can dedicate more time into fulfilling major requirements that will help them obtain better opportunities for employment and therefore, achieve better material living standards.

One can also argue that taking a college-level philosophy course is not the only way to enjoy philosophy. One can also point out that taking a college philosophy course might not be the correct way to learn philosophy as the trade-offs show that this will disadvantage future monetary gains.

I still want to persuade my reader to try out philosophy. If you are keen to get a taste of what I am raving about, there is a way. There are so many websites and Youtube channels dedicated to teaching philosophy in fun, bite-sized chunks. For example, Existential Comics, School of Life, and etc. If you’re up to the challenge, the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy has original texts of many many philosophers.

My name is Mya Juliet Kyaw (Juliet). I’m a student at Clark University, majoring in Economics. But my interests are definitely not one-dimensional (hence my handle name: Juliet>1). If you want to give some advice/chat/ or network with me, feel free to contact me on my Twitter or LinkedIn.

(ႀကိဳက္ရင္ 💚 ေလးကိုႏွိပ္လိုက္ပါ။ ဒီလိုဆိုရင္ သင့္ရဲ႕သူငယ္ခ်င္းေတြလည္း ဂ်ဴးလိယက္ေရးထားတာ ကိုျမင္ပါလိမ့္မယ္။ 🙂)

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