Why is it important to study logic in philosophy? One answer might be that logic teaches you correct reasoning, but that is not something that is unique to philosophy, as it's important in other fields as well (e.g. history, economics, physics, etc.), and those usually do not include any explicit study of logic.

In my experience, philosophy courses take the explicit, self-conscious formulation and evaluation of arguments (i.e., reasoning) more seriously than any other courses of study, with the possible exception of those math courses that emphasize proofs. Moreover, the breadth and depth of philosophical problems exceed those encountered in math. Therein lie the advantages of philosophy courses as compared to, say, math or economics courses. If you pursue philosophy, I think you'll discover that the standards of argumentative rigor expected in philosophy courses surpass -- sometimes by far -- the standards of rigor expected in any courses outside of math, and again they're applied to a much more varied, and often deeper, set of questions.

How compatible is a double major between philosophy and one of the natural sciences?

Entirely! Philosophical training is an excellent complement to scientific training. Indeed, I wish more scientists had received it (see this response ). The sciences abound with interesting questions for the philosopher. A philosophy/science double major can be logistically challenging because of all the lab hours required by many science programs. But if you can make it work, I highly recommend it.

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 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...

I love reading the Qs and As on this site, and a recent post recommended a book "The Elements of Moral Philosophy" by Rachels. I got the book from my local library and really enjoyed it. What would be a good follow-up book on these topics? I have a hard time slogging through the original basic philosophy works, so I really value a book like this that is serious but not too technical for a layperson. Thanks.

In the category "serious but not too technical for a layperson," I'd include Russ Shafer-Landau's short paperback Whatever Happened to Good and Evil? . It concentrates on metaethics (the fundamental nature of ethics) and moral epistemology (how we might know moral truths, if there are any) rather than normative ethics (particular theories of right and wrong). It's clear, accessible, provocative in places, and enjoyable.

What I remember from my philosophy courses is the spirited debate, lively dialogue. For me this site is too question-and-answer, like the Stanford Online Encyclopedia that is often pointed to in the responses. Is there a place on the web where I can find a more dialogue-based form of philosophy?

I second Professor Smith's reply. I haven't participated in philosophy chat rooms either, but I've commented on blogs by non-philosophers who post on philosophical topics. I've found the quality of thinking in those totally unregulated forums to be so bad it's scary. There are people in the blogosphere who are allowed to drive and vote who couldn't reason their way out of a wet paper bag. Philosophy is a discipline, one that takes hard work to acquire. Would you want to discuss medieval history, or quantum mechanics, or set theory in a dialogue format with just anyone out there? I wouldn't. Philosophy is like those other disciplines except that its problems are harder and more fundamental to our intellectual lives. Why do so many people think that being competent at it takes no training at all?