By Erica Greathouse
There are many subjects that college students can earn a minor in at Auburn University at Montgomery. One in particular is philosophy. If you are a student at AUM looking for a minor to pursue and you are curious about philosophy, then this is for you. A degree in philosophy helps students develop critical thinking skills, communication skills, and argument-based writing skills they can use in any field of work or graduate school.
To minor in philosophy here at AUM, students are required to take at least twelve credit hours (four classes) in the degree. There are a lot of classes to choose from, ranging from “Logic” and “Applied Ethics” to “Issues in Bioethics” and “Philosophical Theology.” Although a lot of these classes are only offered at certain times, some classes are offered during each semester.
You may be thinking, why would I minor in philosophy? Why not minor in something like psychology or sociology, as they all have something to do with learning about people? Well, Dr. Aaron Cobb, a professor in the philosophy department, had some very interesting things to say about why students should minor in philosophy. Cobb is currently focusing his research on moral and intellectual virtue, the virtue of hope, and perinatal palliative and hospice care. Although as a student he originally studied psychology, Cobb changed to philosophy when his interest developed into wanting to know more about what it is to be a person rather than just learning about personality. Philosophy gave him the chance to ask questions that went beyond the standard that other areas of study did not.
“Philosophy offered me an opportunity to think about foundational questions. What is it to be a person? What does it mean to live a good life? What is necessary for happiness? What is necessary for meaning in life?” Cobb said. He found that these questions could not be answered for him by just studying one discipline and that philosophy opened the doors to look at these deep questions.
Cobb said helping students see the complexity of the issues was both the most rewarding and challenging part of teaching philosophy. It is rewarding because they take the issues more seriously by seeing how complex and gray they were. It is challenging because it is hard getting students to see that the easy answers are often unsatisfying and to embrace the fear that they may be wrong and if they are right, then it is more complex than they thought. He also feels it is rewarding to see students develop needed skills throughout the classes and to engage with students with debate in a classroom.
He also offered some advice for students interested in pursuing the degree at AUM, saying that while it is a small program at AUM, they should pursue it because “it is very rare in your life that you will get a chance to think about these hard questions before you are in a situation where you have to commit to something. These are real life questions and real-life situations.” Cobb added that pursing the minor gives students the opportunity to think about what matters free from the constraints of a job while in school. For example, learning to thoughtfully consider questions about what is morally right or wrong might help them later on should they face a hard situation or ethical dilemma in their personal lives or career.
One final question students might have is whether employers care about a minor or whether they value a philosophy minor in particular. The answer is yes. Cobb says that philosophy enhances the value of other degrees by creating skills that can be used in any part of work or career, giving an advantage over those who cannot build arguments or lack good writing skills. One such useful skill he says the study of philosophy helps develop is the ability to evaluate others’ ideas with respect instead of being rude, shutting down someone else, or assuming the worst about that person. “It teaches us how to bring light to a conversation or argument instead of just heat,” Cobb said.
For all of the reasons stated above, philosophy would likely be a wonderful minor for many students to pursue. If you want to think about the deep questions in life, enhance the value of other degrees, and develop distinct advantages over others, then you should consider a minor in philosophy. It can help students develop skills they will be need to further their education in graduate school or start their career in their chosen field.