Philosophy encompasses the whole field of life, yet how many take it up as a serious academic pursuit?
Wikipedia describes Philosophy as the study of general and fundamental problems, such as those connected with reality, existence, values, knowledge, reason, mind and language. But, how many really pursue a study of philosophy? And how many colleges have a department dedicated to philosophy? Some would pursue philosophy as a career; and they make it either to teaching profession or to personnel management. Many pursue philosophy for the sake of fulfilling a passion; in fact, those who find philosophy as a passion will do far better than those who pursue a professional goal. But how much of it is actually relevant today and does it really have any future? Are there enough takers in universities and what are the career options available for students?
Some of these questions sparked off a discussion between students and teachers from different universities across the country who feel that the subject holds good even today.
Nishant Deshmukh, I year M.A., Mumbai University, Kalina, Mumbai
I have completed my graduation in economics. But for the last one year I’ve been interested in philosophy. I have been reading on Buddhism and a couple of light reads like Monk who sold his Ferrari. Then I moved on to Osho and that’s when I started getting serious about it.
I have been reading extensively about Osho and I still am. I even went to Mcleod Ganj and stayed in a monastery and learnt a little about Buddhism. Reading the book Immortals of Meluha by Amish sparked my interest in Shaivism. For me it just boils down to my passion for the subject. However, Philosophy can never be irrelevant as it gives you a certain outlook on life and it is through that that one functions in the world. I have seen tremendous changes even in me over the last one year. It broadens your outlook; helps improve your interpersonal relationships, etc. And if you ask me the reason colleges have closed down the Philosophy department all I can say is the number of students aren’t sufficient. Philosophy might not get you a very high paid job or a flamboyant lifestyle.
C.S.R. Shankar, St. Stephens College, Delhi
When I began the course I was under the impression that philosophy is about the nature of our existence and the world around us. A naive thought, to say the least but in some sense or the other it remains to my mind one of the accurate definitions.
I started studying this course by a mixture of chance and interest. Chance because I suddenly found that economics — the subject that I was interested in at the end of school — is taught in a very boring manner in college. And because my aunt’s friend is a teacher of philosophy in Stephen’s. He contacted me and asked me to see if I wanted to join philosophy. I read up more on the subject and found it very interesting.
As far as social relevance goes, philosophy helps you to gain clarity. Philosophy forces us to look at things from multiple perspectives and thus allows a liberal mindset to develop. It also makes you see that your own viewpoints (morality, ethics, etc.) have no ultimate basis and are contingent on our socio-political background. This is an important realisation as it ensures non-violence.
It is a pity that people are closing down philosophy departments in some universities, for it is a sign that we are moving further into the capitalist hole which propagates only material indulgence and pleasure.
I do know that there aren’t many career options. But teaching in colleges and universities or working in NGOs or with the governments on socio-political issues or becoming an IAS or a journalist doesn’t sound too bad.
M. Gabriel, HoD Philosophy, Madras Christian College, Chennai
The students of Philosophy are very strong in group dynamics, in presentation and in test of reasoning. They have been successful in all these fields. Some appear for Civil Services and State-Level examinations. The postgraduate students are more focused and they opt for special courses and after the completion of the course they go for research leading to M.Phil or Ph.D. and settle for teaching. Of course there are only a few colleges and universities offering Philosophy. That is the drawback. Otherwise they are able to find jobs in the government and public sector.
Opportunities are plenty. It all depends on how the students compete.
There are takers for Philosophy. At least I have seen that Madras Christian College has been able to attract students. Our B.A. M.A. and M.Phil. Courses are full. If the undergraduate course is a broadbased liberal arts course, the M.A. Programme is a specialised course that would prepare them for further courses and jobs.
The future of the Philosophy course depends on how we make it live. If every graduate student in every school, college, and university including those in professional courses like the Engineering and Medical, is asked to do one course in philosophy, then the scope for Philosophy and as a matter of fact of our educational system would be excellent. Philosophy provides a base for critical and imaginative thinking and it gives one moral wisdom to make a good living and to richly contribute to the general good of the society.
Prof. Dr. Saju Chackalackal CMI, Professor, Department of Philosophy, Christ University, Bangalore
True, professional assurances are important to persuade anyone to undertake the arduous study of philosophy, especially when it comes to high-end research in philosophy. In fact, this is one reason, why we do not have many coming up for studies in philosophy. It is sad that the Indian educational system has very little scope for philosophy. Although many educationists maintain that philosophy should become part of any discipline, practically, no policy decision has been taken yet. Introducing young minds at least to a few systems in philosophy will enhance their ability to think better and be more sensitive to the thoughts of other people and systems.
The trend is not very promising in India. For example, Bangalore University, which had a Department of Philosophy, closed it down. In India, what is promising is the fact that students from science and mathematics streams show more interest.
I know that there are a few opportunities open; we look forward to the best students to come and grab them. I am so glad to note that at least a few IITs have opened up avenues for research in philosophy. Merely pursuing an undergraduate degree does inform the candidate, but need not necessarily equip him or her to do genuine philosophising.
Dr. Deepti Gangavane, Assistant Professor and Head, Department of Philosophy, Fergusson College, Pune
Career opportunities in Philosophy primarily belong to the field of academics, that is, opportunities in teaching and research. The students of Philosophy can also opt for competitive examinations for the civil services at the State and Central level or enter the field of business administration with specialisations in areas such as Human Resource Development. There is also a possibility of taking up professions such as journalism, creative writing, etc., where you need to have a way with words as well as a very good grasp of abstract ideas and thoughts and sharp analytical skills.
I am personally quite optimistic about its future. It is true that in today’s world with its cut throat competition and commercial outlook, students are apprehensive about choosing Philosophy as a special subject for it does not promise lucrative placements. But with payscales of professors and fellowship amounts of researchers being increased, these career options become quite attractive. More importantly however, it’s the nature of Philosophy as a fundamental inquiry with an open minded, critical and yet a very receptive attitude that gives a qualitatively different job satisfaction (which includes a lot of intellectual pleasure) to those who opt for it.
Kanchana Natarajan, Associate Professor, Delhi University, Delhi
I find the youngsters interested in analysis, debates and genuine understanding of social/political/religious and others issues and they find philosophy providing the necessary tool. Every year we get a number of good students who are career-oriented.
The subject as well the as the students have a great future. The subject will be alive and kicking as long as humans do not lose the faculty of questioning, thinking and debating. Relevance of philosophy and relevance of the thinking faculty are mutually dependent. The methodologies that philosophy offers are absolutely important to the civil society.
The space to argue and debate is the need of the human at all times and philosophy provides the necessary tools for that. It must be a political ploy to shut down the Philosophy departments in many universities and this needs to be seriously condemned. Imagine to raise a whole generation of students who will grow up without hearing anything of Plato or Kant or Wittgenstein! This is unacceptable.