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Going back to school to study philosophy?

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Hi everyone,

I'm writing to get some advice or perspective on going back to school to learn philosophy, part time.

In the past, I focused learning and reading with topics that were mainly political. It was a long journey and I eventually found Objectivism. I'm no expert, but it helped turn me onto philosophy and I've really enjoyed the process - especially over the last year and a half - as I've really spent more time reading. I've had the time to digest some of Rand's non-fiction, but I've also was able to read other aspects of philosophy (like checking out the reading at MIT open courseware for various courses).

It's interesting. I find that my thinking is becoming much sharper. I feel like when I do have a position, that I have a far better argument for it with much better reasoning.

Anyway, I'm an electrical engineer and already work in an industry I enjoy. Now philosophy isn't exactly an after-work type of 'career development' course you find at schools. I do happen to have the flexibility to attend a class or two a semester, without issue with work. The cost for a class or two isn't a big deal either.

I've asked various groups on the subject whether they think this would be a good move. I've asked a forum on philosophy and well, they were very pro the idea (surprise surprise). I also asked a personal finance forum I talk on, and well, it's the worst idea ever - philosophy is useless and paying for such things is ridiculous. Plus I asked people in my life, which (I assume with reluctant support) suggested that maybe I should just read some books.

My reasons for going to school is a class provides deadlines, discussions, perspectives and, in a way, forces me to read/work/write/explain/debate when I probably never would. I know there are certain works I probably wouldn't invest the time in, and even if I did, it could never be in depth like a course would push me into.

The reason I wanted to ask OOF is that most people here aren't necessarily philosophical scholars, but there is a respect for philosophy that most people in society don't seem to have.

I realize that no one can answer this question for me, but I'm more looking for thoughts on the idea. 

Thanks in advance.






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You don't say where you live, but many big schools have extension or continuing education classes, usually at night, where you can take rigorous courses. Where I live, Stanford and Berkeley do this; in LA, UCLA.

I expect that courses in individual philosophers or the history of philosophy would be heavier on philosophy and lighter on indoctrination.

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The one college course I took in philosophy featured the most disorganized and anti-conceptual material I was ever exposed to (and was taught by a creep named Stephen Gardner who wears the trappings of an Aristotelian), and the TA blatantly singled me out with an utterly ridiculous accusation of plagiarism after I asserted my Objectivist views in several papers. I would not want to study philosophy, even non-Objectivist, in such a setting ever again. The only reason I would be willing to put up with it would be if I was planning to pursue a degree and career as an intellectual. Otherwise, I would stick to self-study. If you can't find the discipline to study a subject on your own, does the knowlege really fit into your life? 

Edited by happiness
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  • 3 weeks later...

Sorry for the late reply. I totally spaced on it.

Thanks for the link Reidy.

I hear what you're saying happiness. It's a fear of mine that there's dominant narrative that is off base in philosophy departments. At least in Canada, I've yet to meet anyone who majored in philosophy that isn't far left politically. But I've also noticed this from people who went to university and didn't take hard science (aside from economics) - they all come out very left wing. I realize this is just an observation and I could be really off base.

At least with regards to philosophy, I don't know if my observation is based off of what they're taught versus the culture of society.

When it comes to my own personal (limited) study of philosophy, I've been finding it very interesting and valuable to me. I know I'm thinking clearer about things in my life. I'm unsure whether a formal approach (school classes) will help with that or my own independent study (reading books, doing MIT Opencourseware courses as best I can, etc).

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Leonard Peikoff and Barbara Branden are Canadians who majored in philosophy (though neither finished a degree at a Canadian school).

You'll find the same political range (i.e. very narrow) in American philosophy departments.

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  • 2 years later...
  • 1 month later...

You could consider sitting in on a class instead of taking one for credit. Most philosophy professors will let you do this, although I've heard that it's hard for people to stick with a class without the incentive of the grade. Some universities also have a philosophy club that you can join.

When you're deciding which class to take (or sit in on), the primary consideration should be the quality of the professor teaching the course, not the subject matter of the course.

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