Philosophy as Major

It may well be that going to graduate school is a bad investment just now, but if you are interested in it, it turns out that philosophy is a pretty good preparatory course for the usually-mandatory GRE. It is the top major for results in analytic and verbal scores, and ranks with the hard sciences in the quantitative as well.

Is the GRE a good predictor for success in other fields? Probably, if GRE scores are linked to IQ, as is sometimes assumed. Insofar as IQ measures something that is of general applicability, raising your IQ -- which is linked to learning to think about "complex relationships, elaborate systems or difficult problems" -- is a good way to raise your utility across the board. Philosophy regularly deals with all three of these things, or at least the more rigorous schools of it do.

That would suggest that it was practical exactly where it is assumed to be least practical: in asking you to struggle with arcane and abstract systems, whose applicability to the everyday is not obvious. Well, now perhaps it is obvious. It just isn't direct.


Eric Blair said...


I actually went and found my GRE scores and did that website's GRE score conversion to IQ.

I didn't know it was *that* high.

Gringo said...

Regarding the high GREs,there are at least two things going on. First, philosophy requires you to THINK. Second, by requiring students to THINK, many lazy and/or not so bright students self-select out of philosophy courses.

Back in the day, I knew a Philosophy major from Occidental who owned a small company selling agricultural equipment. Currently I know a Philosophy major who is a schoolteacher. He enrolled in one of those "get certified in 3-6 months" programs. Is a Philosophy major "irrelevant?" Heck, no.

I would agree that there is a link between GRE and IQ. However,years ago, I took a look at that "linked to IQ" link, and concluded that, based on my GRE scores and what I know of my IQ, that particular link is not all that accurate. It gave an IQ based on my GRE that is much higher than what I know of my IQ.

Disclaimer:I took only an introductory philosophy course.

Grim said...

Well, if you read Grim's Hall and engage in the discussions here, you've had more of an introduction than most. We don't do it every post, but there's occasionally some real philosophy debated here.

douglas said...

and we thank you for it!

Grim said...

You're welcome!

douglas said...

I just found out the other day that my freshman architecture students didn't understand what we wanted when we instructed them to "develop a strategy for a site intervention". In talking to them about it, they didn't even really understand what a strategy is. Good lord, with no basis in logic and structured thought, how an I to teach them architecture? How can they run when they can't walk?