Philosophy Student Perspectives

"When I started college, I knew that I enjoyed reading and pondering classic books, but I had not yet decided on a major. When my adviser recommended a philosophy class, I found myself immediately hooked: the ideas about which we were reading and discussing were the most exciting and challenging things I had ever learned. As I progressed through the major, that excitement continued. By studying philosophy, I continually discovered new ways of seeing the world around me and finding richness in everyday experience. Along the way, I developed complex skills in analysis, interpretation, reflection, and communication that continue to serve me well in almost every area of life."

Joshua Kerr, philosophy major, 2007

"I majored in Philosophy not because I planned to, but because it drew me in. After taking one class in the subject, I was fascinated by the field's scope and the breadth (and depth) of its topics. Its methods and approaches were unlike anything else I had seen prior, allowing new and exciting ways to approach familiar subjects. Throughout the course of the program, I have found my views on life, art, society, education, religion, and more all challenged and examined in interesting ways. As a result, how and what I thought about those topics changed, and I found my life experiences changing accordingly. Studying philosophy opened up possibilities and ideas I had never thought about before, and in doing so, helped me become a deeper thinker and a more open-minded individual." 

Kyle Tanaka, philosophy major, 2015

"I first became interested in philosophy when I was required to take a critical thinking class for my Liberal Studies Degree. I found that philosophy was such an important subject that was often overlooked and that made me want to explore it more. The subject intrigued me because so much of what I learned in the classroom began to collaborate with my life outside of lecture. I had little experience in this subject previously, so when I met with Dr. Jason Winfree, I had several questions for him. I was worried that this wouldn€™t be the best fit for me as a Liberal Studies major, but he immediately eased my concerns and I could sense that he was passionate about his work. Right away I knew I was making the right choice and I prepared myself for the challenge. While choosing my concentration, I contemplated what would benefit my future students and myself. Philosophy courses have taught me how to think critically, be more open-minded, and have offered me a well-rounded educational experience€”all of which are resources that I will use to be effective as a future educator. I desire to offer my students the means to be successful citizens of the world, and because of philosophy, I now have the necessary tools to do so." 

Racquel Zamora, liberal studies (philosophy concentration), 2013

€œ'The journey is the destination,' says Dan Eldon.  This is perhaps never more true than within the context of the philosophical sojourn. Unlike other disciplines that place a great emphasis on arriving at a specific destination or attaining a specific goal, philosophy as the love of wisdom is all about the unfolding, the passionate pursuit, of something as amorphous as it is beautiful. The philosopher seeks not supremely to grasp, dominate, or fetter but rather embarks upon a grand journey toward a deeper understanding of and relationship with that which is beloved. Philosophy is a process, a blossoming, a act of becoming, it is a thrilling adventure to yet unknown realms of understanding... it yields new ways of seeing and interpreting the world.

Like many of the best things in life, my journey with philosophy began in a quiet and unassuming way. When I switched majors after being encouraged to investigate the philosophy program by a professor, I expected to be challenged to grow and learn through my individual effort. I expected to develop my own way of thinking and become better at articulating myself, and I did, but I also discovered that philosophy, like life, is best done and most enjoyed within the context of community. If you're looking for a major that will spur you on in analyzing and articulating what you believe, and desire to wrestle with the grand questions of life as you simultaneously enjoy being engaged in a community of professors and fellow students who truly care about you, then the Philosophy department at CSU Stanislaus is the place for you.

My journey with philosophy began with the simple encouragement of a professor and will continue through the rest of my life as new horizons become clear and new depths appear." 

Cheyenne Knox, philosophy major, 2013

"Being a major in philosophy has helped me in so many ways.  It has granted me the ability to see things from many different perspectives, helping me engage in conversations on a wide range of topics with many different kinds of people. The group discussions, which were a regular part of my philosophy classes, helped me gain skills in conversation and argumentation that are priceless in today€™s world. My grasp on ethics also changed dramatically due to my journey in philosophy, and I use my insights to make decisions and learn about new ideas every day. To me this is important because it not only shapes how I see the world, but how I understand myself.

Because the major asks its students to read from the perspectives of so many different thinkers, I have learned to assess ideas and push them to their limits, learned to think within the parameters of a thinker€™s writings and beyond. I also learned the ins and outs of argumentation. The improvement in my critical thinking skills has been substantial, and this not only helps me in daily life, but is a highly marketable skill. Through my study of philosophy, I have learned and developed the irreplaceable skills of verbal and written communication.

I find myself thinking of and using my studies in philosophy every day.  I enjoy jumping in and out of perspectives on certain areas of controversy and just generally using my skills both for practicality and for my own curiosity.  I absolutely love the skills I learned by studying philosophy. They are immeasurable. From interviews to everyday conversation, and from reading and writing to pondering and thought experiments, I use philosophy every single day.  On top of everything, the faculty members are wonderful.  Any help with understanding or writing, they were there for me and all my peers.  Class was a joy and I really felt a part of a community as a philosophy student."

Brittanee Liukkonen, philosophy major, 2012

"At first I became a philosophy major because I wanted to teach high school English and I thought philosophy would be a more "interesting choice" as a major. I know that reasoning doesn't make complete sense, but that€™s what went through my head. Going into it, all I cared about was getting my BA and becoming a teacher. After two semesters, I found that I was not only enjoying the readings, lectures and papers, but that I had actually become invested in these things on a deeper level. Though this sounds like some sort of spiritual revelation, the philosophy department had radically shifted the way I approached all aspects of my life. This includes my relation to my academic, religious/spiritual, social and even family life. I was constantly confronted with new aspects of life that I had either never thought about or cared to think about. About the faculty and the institutional quality of the department - The faculty is full of knowledgeable and passionate instructors who not only teach courses at CSU Stanislaus, but are relevant within the field. After experiencing this level of academic rigor I was inspired to pursue graduate studies. I love the community aspect of the philosophy department; the instructors interact with the students on a level that cultivates intellectual passion and academic discipline." 

Kevin Whiteside, philosophy major, 2011
Currently completing an MA in Interdisciplinary Studies (concentration in Philosophy)

"My time at California State University, Stanislaus seems like a lifetime ago, it is hard to believe that less than a decade ago I was sitting in a room with the head of the philosophy department discussing whether I should become a major. At the time, I didn€™t know what I was doing in college let alone what I wanted to make of my life. All I really knew was that I had a lot of questions. I felt like I needed to know the answers to big questions (What does it all mean? Is there a God?  Are people good or evil? Where do I fit it the grand scheme of things?) so that I would be able to answer the little ones (What career should I pick? Who should I vote for? Who should I marry?).

The irony was when I met with Jim Tuedio (who was head of the philosophy department at the time) and told him that I was interested in becoming a philosophy student, the one thing I remember him telling me was, €œI hope you are not looking for answers because in philosophy you are not going to find any.€ And I suppose it was partly my defiant teenage brain and partly my curiosity that made me think, €œYeah, right! Thousands of years people have been around and nobody has the answers!? Challenge accepted!€ Somehow during that meeting we both agreed that the philosophy major was good fit for me. I like to think Jim saw something in me that reminded him of a young Plato but more likely he was just trying to save the other departments from having such a dreadful student. But thank goodness for Jim because it was the best decision I€™ve ever made.

The skills I learned in the program have been invaluable. I learned to be unafraid to read complicated texts, to dissect arguments and discuss their merits or flaws, and to write better. All of which prepared me well for law school. And no matter how difficult the material, the atmosphere of the program was always one of positivity and togetherness. If anyone struggled, both faculty and students were committed to helping that person succeed.

Sometimes my beliefs were pushed to their limits. I found new resolve for some beliefs and others I left behind. I learned tolerance for other ways of living. Perhaps most important of all I experienced that truly diminishing feeling of knowing how little you really know. How many college programs offer not only valuable academic training but allow us the opportunity to study the most important questions humanity has ever asked? It felt like getting away with something.

Perhaps my favorite consequence was an unintended benefit of our small major. I made the deepest and most rewarding friendship of my life in the program. No topic has ever been too large or too small because of our similar background in philosophy. Even though life marches us on, sometimes in different directions, we are still as close as ever.

My second favorite part of the philosophy major at Stan State was the faculty. Easily some of the most intelligent and compassionate people I€™ve ever known. I cringe whenever I dredge up an old paper from my €œIntro To Philosophy€ class because of how poorly I wrote then. Any and all improvement was due solely to the careful guidance and support of the philosophy program faculty. Best of all, we had fun. We may have been discussing heavy topics on morality but we€™d be darned if we didn€™t break down into laughter with a well-timed joke at Nietzche€™s expense. All of it was an experience I would gladly relive and one I wouldn€™t trade for the world.

Years later I€™ve just graduated from law school, I€™m studying to take the bar exam at the end of the month, and it all seems like something from a fairy tale. I know for certain that I wouldn€™t be here if not for my time in the philosophy department at CSUS. I think about Jim Tuedio€™s words and I know they were very true.  In studying philosophy€™s canon, I didn€™t find answers, but I did start to find out which questions were the ones that mattered to me. Seeking the answers to those questions led me to law school and continue to lead me through life. And these questions are ones I€™m still seeking the answers to."

Daniel Patrick Neisess, philosophy major, 2010
Phoenix School of Law, 2013

"Thought derived from careful consideration will demolish prejudice. This lesson, if nothing else, is the core of what I have learned from studying philosophy. That idea has instilled in me a constant awareness of the limits of my own understanding and the understanding of everyone else. In many ways, philosophy has offered for me a framework to realize that I am always outside of myself. I form thoughts with this language, but this language is only had in my exchanges with other people. The thought that I am not wholly separate from the next person has driven me to better understand the next person. In so doing, I come to better know myself. In my life and work, this thought of interconnectedness guides my logic and reasoning. Knowledge is never complete in me or anyone else. Rather, knowledge is an activity and exchange between people. No matter what level of education I achieve, I will always be a student of others. My experience is not the end of all experience. I chose philosophy as a major in order to challenge my reading and writing skills. Above those ends, however, philosophical thinking has become a habit that increasingly challenges me as a person." 

Jeffery Glenn Edwards, philosophy major, 2007
MA Interdisciplinary Studies, 2013

"I desired the rigor and challenge that philosophy presented and I'm grateful each day that I was afforded an opportunity to learn how to think. My degree in philosophy has opened many doors for me. After graduating from CSU Stanislaus I was accepted into graduate programs in philosophy, English literature, education administration, and teacher education. I scored in the 89th percentile on the analytical writing section of the GRE, which benefited my application for graduate school. The close reading skills developed while studying philosophy allowed me to excel in my graduate literature and teacher education programs. I've had no shortage of career opportunities and believe that my degree in philosophy has set me apart from other applicants. I've held student service positions at both Stanford University and San Francisco State University, taught in the public school system, and currently teach at an independent school in Palo Alto. This is to say nothing of what philosophy has done for my life. Philosophy is reflective education and prompted me to examine my life and the world I live in. Students that find themselves uninterested in simply learning rules and the application of those rules will find solace in philosophy." 

Brian Johnson, philosophy major, 2005
English Teacher, International School of the Peninsula in Palo Alto, CA