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How does philosophy compare to other subjects?

Most people who study philosophy will agree that it is very different to most other things they have studied! It is not easy to generalize about what makes philosophy different, but here are two ways in which philosophy at least typically differs from other disciplines.

First, philosophers focus on somewhat different questions than are addressed by other researchers. In particular, philosophers are often concerned to find out the truth about the foundations of our knowledge or our practices. Some of the most important philosophical questions to have been studied are: What is the nature of consciousness? and could a machine be conscious? Is there an objective basis to morality, given that there do not seem to be any moral truths to be discovered in the natural sciences? Is there a compelling rational argument for or against the existence of God? Are space and time fundamental? How can we be sure that we have knowledge of an external world, given that it is possible that we are dreaming?

Second, philosophers use methods and approaches that can appear a bit different from other disciplines. In particular, because philosophers are interested in providing the strongest possible arguments for their views, they sometimes use techniques borrowed from formal logic to help formulate their ideas. But not all philosophy is like this. Some philosophers work closely with scientists in empirical disciplines such as psychology or neuroscience; others focus on historical approaches; and yet others draw inspiration from art and literature. In virtually all cases, however, philosophers are careful to make their reasoning and methods explicit, and this partly explains why philosophy is so useful for developing critical reasoning skills.

Why study philosophy?

There are lots of good reasons to study philosophy, and we cannot hope to survey all of them here. We think the best reason to study philosophy, however, is a very simple one: because you enjoy it.

If you are lucky enough to be studying in a Faculty as diverse as the Arts Faculty at Monash, you can choose between a wide array of subjects. All of them are intellectually rigorous and will develop your ability to think critically, to weigh evidence, to write and to communicate. Given that, why not develop these useful abilities doing something that you are passionate about, find challenging, exciting, and interesting?

Philosophy at Monash

Perhaps you won’t be surprised to hear that philosophy is one of the most popular first-year units offered in Arts at Monash. And perhaps you won’t be surprised to hear, as well, that philosophy is a very popular major with Arts/Law students… or that the philosophy department is one of the main departments involved in the cognitive science program at Monash… or… and so we could go on!

We hope that you too will find in the vast array of philosophy units available at Monash a challenging and stimulating course of study, a course of study that will contribute in a fundamental way to your overall program of study at Monash.

Many units you take at university will teach you interesting and important facts. But it is the nature of facts that you sometimes forget them. Though philosophy too will teach you some facts, it will primarily teach you a way of thinking to which you will have recourse for the rest of your life.

Have a chat to the Undergraduate Coordinator via email arts-philosophy-enquiries@monash.edu