Gain a Thoreau understanding of existence and knowledge.
Know thyself. Um, okay. Hi, we're Shmoop, and we speak student.
We're sure Socrates is rolling over in his grave. "Know thyself" was pretty much his personal slogan. This phrase inspired him to devote his entire life to philosophy, and it helped him understand the most important thing he could possibly know: That he doesn't know anything.
Yep, Socrates was all about pointing out his own (and everyone else's) ignorance. How do much do we really know, anyway? Are you really reading this or is it all in your imagination? As you can probably imagine, Socrates' need to constantly remind everyone that they didn't actually know anything didn't win him any popularity contests.
In fact, he made a lot of people very angry—so angry, in fact, that they ordered him killed for corrupting young people and not worshipping the gods (it's unclear how seriously those charges were), but that's essentially what the study philosophy is all about.
No, not accusing people of horrible crimes, but thinking about who we are, how we exist, and where we came from. It's all about those earth-shatteringly deep, serious, life-altering questions that people have been asking for at least the past three thousand years.
Don't worry, you don't need to write some philosophical opus or diss all of your friends to join in. One of the most important things about Plato and Socrates' descriptions of philosophy is that it's a lifelong, ongoing process of questioning everything. All you need to do is be open-minded. Well, you also need to be ready to have some of the most fundamental truths you hold dear—justice, goodness, and freedom—radically challenged.
Philosophy wants to be challenging. It doesn't want to secretly ruin your life, it wants to show you that the challenges of reading and thinking can empower you, change your perceptions, and even alter your world. This Plato dude really believed that the power of thought could completely change the world.
After college, philosophy grads head out to the world to do just that—change the way we think. Some become professors, while others work in fields of journalism, law, and politics. There's no stopping these over-analyzing, ever-questioning minds.
Enough from us, though. In true Platonic spirit, why don't you check out what all the fuss it about?
Famous People who majored in Philosophy
- Steve Martin
- Alex Trebek
- Phil Jackson
- Bruce Lee
- Ricky Gervais
Percentage of US students who major in Philosophy:
Stats obtained from this source.