Philosophy means "love of wisdom" in Greek, and this discipline indeed dates back to the classical philosophers of ancient Greece like Plato and Aristotle. These great thinkers created frameworks of reasoning and logic that we still use today to understand the most important questions of existence: What is human nature? How do we live a moral life? What is the meaning of happiness? and more.
Of course, philosophy didn't stop evolving in the 4th century B.C. Thinkers throughout the ages have built upon this tradition - and, at times, radically questioned it. From Enlightenment giants like Immanuel Kant, to German idealists such as Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, to influential postmodernists like Jacques Derrida, philosophers have continued to push the field in new directions that have inspired political and artistic movements around the world.
Even if your goal isn't to become a world-renowned philosopher yourself, the skills you can develop through the study of philosophy can be invaluable. Knowing how some of the greatest thinkers in history understood the world can provide a powerful lens for analysis that can be applied to questions in your personal life, in your understanding of the world, and in a wide range of careers.
Even if you don't know any professional philosophers, you might be surprised to learn how relevant an education in philosophy is. Despite the seemingly abstract nature of this field, the skills of logic, close reading, and concise writing that are at the core of philosophy have very concrete applications in virtually any field that requires critical thinking and communications skills.
Many lawyers major in philosophy before going to law school. The skills of argumentation and debate that characterized the very earliest philosophers are still extremely relevant in the courtroom, as evidenced by the enduring relevance of the Socratic method in many law schools.
The expertise of philosophers in understanding the root of human desires and how they are communicated also lends itself to commercial applications. For example, marketing researchers might draw on courses in philosophy to better understand the underlying drivers of consumer demand. Similarly, strategists at digital or advertising agencies might draw on the wisdom of the ages to come up with messaging that resonates.
Of course, if you are deeply passionate about your perspectives on the discourse of philosophy itself, you may wish to go into academia and become a professor in this field. For all the reasons above, philosophy remains a popular subject with students - and a satisfying topic to teach.
Absolutely! Coursera's online learning platform gives you the experience of learning at a top-ranked university from anywhere in the world, on a flexible schedule, and, often, at a lower cost. Importantly for philosophy students, learners on Coursera also get access to video lectures and live office hours with faculty, giving them the opportunity to learn through the same types of engaging discussions that have always been at the heart of this field.
Coursera gives you access to courses in popular topics in philosophy ranging from ancient Greek and Roman philosophy and mythology to the role of social norms and ethics in creating change in society to the shifting definitions of facts and subjectivity in the postmodern era. And the ability to learn from prestigious institutions like the University of Pennsylvania, Wesleyan University, and the University of Edinburgh ensures that learners on Coursera can take advantage of the benefits of online education without sacrificing the quality of their education.