I am a philosophy major. My workspace, wherever it is this time (my favorite is a bench on campus on a cool day), generally resembles a nuclear test site. Papers are strewn about and books are piled up, as I feverishly flip through their pages. I pound away at my keyboard, devising arguments for and against contemporary and classical philosophers, perhaps carefully cutting-and-pasting symbols from the “symbolic logic” page on Wikipedia, in the name of aesthetics and professionalism.
For some people, this could sound like anything from drudgery to insanity. If I come off as a complete nerd or try-hard, you would be completely right. My friends make sure to give me a hard time about it, so at least I’m self-aware. But for me, this is one of the most pleasurable parts of my life, and I couldn’t imagine doing it anywhere but Franciscan University of Steubenville.
For me, becoming a philosophy major at Franciscan University was in a sense inevitable. My father is a retired professor of philosophy here, and my name is very familiar to past generations of Franciscan alumni. I was raised a philosopher and fell into the trade. At the same time, one need not grow up hearing lectures on Kant as bedtime stories (they didn’t work, I stayed up and listened) to love what Franciscan University has to offer in its philosophy department.
We have a diverse faculty, a mix of analytic, continental, and Neo-Scholastic thinkers. There is something for every budding philosopher here; I know students in the department with radically different interests and specialties than my own. As for myself, I represent the analytic and Thomist factions, but for those of a more continental persuasion, we have our existentialists and phenomenologists. We also have some notable Catholic scholars in the department, such as Dr. John Crosby or Dr. Patrick Lee.
The department is very supportive of students and always been willing to help me when I needed help in class or with my philosophical interests and ambitions. I am intending to enter graduate school in philosophy, and the 4+1 program offered by the department is a great asset and stepping stone for me. I will stay an extra year after completing my undergraduate work to earn a Masters in philosophy, which will give me an edge. My advisor, Dr. Logan Gage, has also been greatly assisting me in preparing to apply for doctoral programs, explaining the tricks of the trade and working with me to develop a suitable writing sample.
There is of course, no need to become a professional philosopher with a philosophy degree. Sometimes I wonder if I’m completely insane for it, but I try not to think about it too much. Majoring in philosophy hones your professional writing skills like no other major; one must not only learn to write with clarity and precision, but also to think and argue logically. This is a skill that applies to every profession, including those outside of the liberal arts. What good is a scientist who cannot clearly explain his discoveries?
Majoring in philosophy at Franciscan University has been a tremendous opportunity for me and developed my academic and professional skills in ways I did not even consider as a freshman. If you are interested in liberal arts but cannot decide what to study, or are an aspiring scientist or businessman who finds a need to be well-rounded, I wholeheartedly recommend majoring or minoring in philosophy. Not only because of the professional skills it will teach you, but also as Socrates taught, “the unexamined life is not worth living.”
Mark Spinnenweber is a senior Philosophy and French major and native of Steubenville, Ohio. When he is not being a philosophical workaholic, he enjoys pretentious foreign films (particularly French and Japanese cinema), craft beer (he recommends Trappist ales), fancy socks (he just bought a dozen pairs of Argyle socks), studying languages (he knows six if you use the word “know” generously), and traditional liturgy. He plans to become a professional philosopher but nonetheless strike it rich when the economy collapses and wealth is determined by the number of memes saved on your phone.