Business majors take note: Philosophy is simply the coolest


All the cool kids are doing it. When I enrolled at CSUN, I decided I was going to follow in the footsteps of the hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of students before me, and become a bona fide, certified, business major. When I told people I was a business major, they would nod in approval. “Business? That’s a good major. You can get rich with a business degree,” they said.

To this day, I don’t really know what a business major does, except learn business. And I have no idea what it means to learn business, except that there is usually a suit, an adding machine and some sturdy handshaking involved. No worries. Give me 7 years of undergraduate education, 3 years as an MBA, two years on the job market and then Big Business, here I come. There’s nothing like a tedious 12-year struggle that culminates in my big-shot career being a $60,000 a year cog in a multi-billion dollar machine.

Ah, business.

I was sure this was the future my grandfather was paying $6,000 a year for until I took my first philosophy class. It was Social and Political Philosophy with professor David Shoemaker, and it literally changed my life. When we started reading the texts, I found I was actually studying the works of those old Greek guys like Socrates and Plato, who everyone likes to pretend they know about. Only I actually knew about them. Do you know how much smarter you sound when you are at a party and you actually know what you’re talking about? I still don’t, but I’m getting there.

More importantly, I loved school. I loved the other students and the professors and the texts and the arguments. I loved writing papers and reading outside of class. It was then that I realized this is it. These are my people. This is my calling. This is what I have to do for the rest of my life. I am going to be a philosopher.

I decided to leave business, and I changed my major to philosophy a year later.

Of course now, when I tell people I am a philosophy major, the response I get is “Oh. Philosophy.” And then, as if to suggest I am a little bit mentally unstable, they ask me, “What are you going to do with philosophy, honey?” Before I can answer, I usually get, “Oh don’t worry dear; you can get into law. Philosophy is good for law. You can get rich with law.” Problem solved.

Let me tell you, the problem is far from solved. Of all the things I could do with a degree in philosophy — you know, philosophy or law — law is definitely not at the top of my list. Instead of mentioning the possibility of a lucrative career in fast food, I keep my mouth shut. But in reality philosophy is way cooler than law.

For one, philosophers are smarter than lawyers. All lawyers have to do is convince 12 people too stupid to get out of jury duty that there is the smallest possibility somebody besides O.J. could have done it. A good philosopher would be able to convince you that you could have done it.

Also, all lawyers do is get a set of alleged facts and make those facts fit into a predetermined set of guidelines so that their clients get what they want. If you’re a lawyer, the truth is incidental. Philosophers, on the other hand, get to make up a bunch of hypothetical situations saying that what really happened doesn’t even matter any more.

For example, let’s say a man driving a car hits and maims a pedestrian. A lawyer representing the man will try to convince a jury the man should pay minimal damages because the pedestrian was outside of the crosswalk.

A philosopher will tell you it may have been morally right to hit the pedestrian, if that pedestrian had in fact been the next Adolf Hitler. Hell, a philosopher might even try to convince you that the driver had no choice in hitting the pedestrian at all, because our brains are physical, and subject to the laws of cause and effect, and as such, all our actions are predestined.

With that logic on my side, I’d take a philosopher over a lawyer any day.

As a lawyer, everything you do, everything you say, every argument you posit is in some way done to insure that you get paid, integrity be damned.

Philosophers, on the other hand, are a noble bunch. I hear that before a person gets his or her Ph.D., the individual has to take a sacred vow of poverty. As such, all a person has left is integrity. Philosophers spend their entire careers struggling to maintain the balance between publishing in reputable journals and avoiding buckling under the pressure of dissertation advisers. Publish or perish.

In conclusion, philosophy is the coolest. You get to learn how to read complex material. You get to learn how to think critically and properly articulate your ideas in a logical and cogent fashion. In other words, philosophy teaches people how to start an insipid argument, and win. And really, isn’t winning at all costs really what it’s all about? Yes.

Jes Bohn is a senior philosophy major and president of the Student Philosophy Society.