Beyond giving us a greater understanding of our intellectual heritage and particular issues concerning ourselves and the world we live in, philosophy and critical thinking help us to develop the ability to:
• Think more clearly
• Express ourselves articulately
• See the implications, application and consequences of a line of thinking
• Detect weaknesses such as ambiguity, vagueness or inconsistency in how ideas are expressed
• Distinguish what is relevant to a given issue from what is not
• Differentiate various types of questions, claims or arguments, and determine what an appropriate
response would be to any of them
The study of philosophy or critical thinking also helps in becoming a better student of other subjects, as well as becoming a better thinker and communicator as a whole. The honing of analytic skills and problem solving abilities enables greater success in many fields. The Times of London (August 15, 1998) writes of philosophy in America:
"The great virtue of philosophy is that it teaches not what to think, but how to think. It is the study of meaning, of the principles underlying conduct, thought and knowledge. The skills it hones are the ability to analyse, to question orthodoxies and to express things clearly. However arcane some philosophical texts may be…the ability to formulate questions and follow arguments is the essence of education."
It can also be studied at many levels. In the U.S., where the number of philosophy graduates has increased by 5 per cent a year during the 1990s, only a very few go on to become philosophers. Their employability, at 98.9 per cent, is impressive by any standard. Philosophy has always been a good training for the law; but it is equally useful for computer scientists. In this country, the Higher Education Statistics Survey puts philosophy of science right up with medicine in its employment record for graduates.
Philosophy is, in commercial jargon, the ultimate 'transferable work skill.'