What is the next best thing to studying philosophy at an undergraduate level? I had wanted to study philosophy for a long time — but I've decided to go another path. I'm disappointed, because I think the transferrable skills from philosophy are absolutely amazing. (This is on top of the fact that I really just enjoy philosophy.) For instance, if you look at GRE scores based on the subject majored in, those who studied philosophy were the number one in verbal reasoning and analytical writing, and pretty high up in the quantitative reasoning. People have told me that the only way to experience the depth and breadth of philosophy is to actually study it full time for a number of years. But is there a way to at least develop some of the skills that philosophers have in bucket loads without actually doing it for a degree? I am doing a law degree.

I think that many disciplines, and law is one of them, encourage precisely the same sort of reasoning processes as does philosophy. In fact, one could go further and say that virtually everything that people do relies on the ability to reason and argue, to solve problems and resolve difficulties. I was watching a carpenter yesterday working on my deck and he was constantly working out ways to get out of problems that the structure was asking him. I have often noticed that tradespeople are very good at that sort of reasoning whereas someone else who does not have their practical skills cannot do it at all.

So some of the reasoning skills are readily available whatever one trains to be or studies. On the other hand, as the most abstract form of representing those skills philosophy stands alone. Whether it operates with a tougher set of concepts as compared with other disciplines, I tend to doubt. In some ways it could be argued that it is harder to work out conceptual issues when they are combined with practical tasks, since that involves at least two different sorts of thought, not just one.

I agree with Prof. Leaman that philosophy hasn't cornered the market on good reasoning about difficult issues. But I'd caution anyone against thinking that even the best law schools, for example, generally attain the level of conceptual precision and logical rigor demanded by serious training in philosophy. I've been a student in law school and in a philosophy graduate program, and I think that Brian Leiter, a professor of both philosophy and law, has it right when he remarks as follows in his Philosophical Gourmet Report:

"Unfortunately, a great deal of what passes for 'philosophy' in law schools -- even at some excellent law schools -- is sophomoric. Students thinking of getting a legal education, but who want to keep their philosophical interests alive (or perhaps even pursue a career in legal academia), must pick their schools carefully.... Students should bear in mind that intellectual standards in law schools are not the same as in philosophy departments. A good deal of work at many top law schools would be considered sub-standard by scholars in the cognate disciplines, including philosophy.... [P]hilosophy majors have repeatedly told me about their surprise and disappointment at some of what goes on in the classroom at leading law schools."

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