October 26, 2012, by Stephen Mumford
Why study Philosophy?
It was love of the subject that led me to study philosophy. I doubt I could have done well at university without that. Although I didn’t understand exactly what philosophy was, I had a sense that it was interesting and important. The world seemed full of fundamental mysteries and it was only in philosophy that there was hope of solving them.
I graduated from Huddersfield Polytechnic in 1989, looking still fresh-faced and like a prototype for a certain J. K. Rowling character. My ambition to become a professional philosopher seemed far-fetched so I kept it secret for a long time. I am very pleased it became a reality.
My philosophical training has helped me in so many other areas of my professional life. As well as being Dean of the Arts Faculty now, I also serve on a number of other university committees and working groups. Others look to me to identify problems, work through them logically, and come up with solutions. I use the analytic, rational skills of philosophy in so much else, not just my research and teaching. Good thinkers are needed in all professions and the skills are useful in every task. This is why employers realise philosophy students are among the most skilled and independent thinkers.
I wasn’t too career-minded when I first came to Nottingham but I soon got a good sense of our graduates doing well. One very able student was snapped up by a major firm of consultants and started on a higher salary than mine! I gather he is now a barrister. I was very pleased to see recently that in a Daily Telegraph survey philosophy graduates came out with the eight best employment rates, higher than in mathematics, physics and engineering.
I think the idea of Study What You Love sends the right signal. Passion for a subject area is the best way in which to excel. In so doing, you will acquire all sorts of skills that can take you forward even in a career you didn’t anticipate.