General Question

dopeguru's avatar

Should I study sociology or philosophy?

Asked by dopeguru (1907points) February 10th, 2019

I want to found a company that encourages more women to be thinkers. Go into philosophy, be more open with debates, not base value on looks as much, etc. I am about to do my masters and not sure what direction I should go for. Which would be most useful, sociology or philosophy?

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35 Answers

ragingloli's avatar

“Philosophy” has no use outside of academia.

RedDeerGuy1's avatar

You don’t need either. You can learn independently on your own at your own pace. Thereby saving time and money. You only need a masters or better if you are going to teach or need a licence. All you need is cash. Not even a MBA.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

Neither, those qualify you for almost nothing. If you want to found a company go for something buissiness related.

Zissou's avatar

TLDR: Philosophy, but only if you are really fired up about it.

I can’t remember if you are American or not. My answer is based on the assumption that you are operating within the US higher educational system.

First of all, I’ll tell you what a wise woman professor told me when I was considering grad school: don’t do it unless you are passionate about the discipline. You should not pursue a graduate degree in the humanities or social sciences to find yourself or just to get a credential. You should be fired up about spending most of your day studying, doing research, and teaching that discipline. If you really can’t decide between sociology and philosophy, you probably are not ready for graduate work in either.

Second, if you want to help women be thinkers, philosophy is clearly the best way to go. The way to do that is not to found a company but to become a philosophy professor. You will help your students, male and female, critically evaluate the bullshit that comes their way on a daily basis in this society, including that which emanates from sociology departments (a philosophy professor named Harry Frankfurt even wrote a book called On Bullshit). Women are grossly underrepresented in US philosophy departments, so if you are even barely competent, you can expect to get a tenure-track job after you complete your Ph.D (an MA will not be enough). You will also be a role model for young women if you go this route. But again, don’t do it unless you are passionate about the discipline of philosophy.

Third, sociology does not promote critical thinking in general. Sociology departments tend to promote a particular ideology; philosophy departments are somewhat more heterodox. But if you get a degree in sociology, you will learn statistical methods that can be useful for research purposes if applied correctly, and a degree in sociology probably has a wider range of applications as a credential.

If you want to set up some sort of non-profit organization that promotes a certain kind of feminist ideology, a degree in sociology might be better. But if you actually want to help young women become thinkers, and don’t mind also helping young men become thinkers while you are at it, then philosophy is the way to go.

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Jeruba's avatar

What field is your bachelor’s degree in? I’m guessing here, but I think it would be hard to start a master’s program in philosophy if you majored in something else as an undergrad.

I read an article (in an actual newspaper) a few years ago that covered which majors employers were seeking. There were statistics on a recent trend: an increasing rate of calls for philosophy majors in various professions. Employers in certain fields said that they were best off hiring people who had learned how to think, and that pertinent content and process knowledge could come on the job.

As I recall, it also expressed how frustrated employers were with people with pragmatic degrees such as business because they didn’t know how to think about things logically or creatively outside their range of knowledge and generalize from one area to another.

Obviously this approach would not do for all professional careers, but one specifically mentioned was law, which was the path my son took: philosophy major, law degree. The article said that two fields furnished optimal preparation for law school, and one of them was philosophy.

You do have to be prepared to read a lot, and some of it isn’t pretty.

rebbel's avatar

Because you think women do not think enough (as it stands)?

Zissou's avatar

@Jeruba It’s actually not that hard to get into an MA program in philosophy with an undergrad degree in something else, provided the applicant has a minor in philosophy or at least has taken several courses in it as an undergrad. It’s not unusual for people to come to philosophy from other disciplines, and they are actually better equipped to do the job if they have some breadth in their background. I would think it might be harder to get into sociology without some kind of social science degree that included statistics.

I like to say that nobody should major in philosophy (pre-law and divinity students being possible exceptions), but everyone should minor in it.

Glad you brought up those articles about what employers are looking for; I wanted to, but didn’t feel like looking them up, and my last post was already too long.

@ragingloli My standard response when people say philosophy is “useless” is to point out that all the permanent members of the UN were ruled by some kind of absolute monarchy 400 years ago, and all have had revolutions since then, but their subsequent developments have been very different. Why? There are many factors, but philosophy is part of the answer—the prevailing philosophies associated with those revolutions, and also the extent to which people could freely discuss and debate those philosophies. Ideas have consequences.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

I’ll say @Jeruba has a valid point. If I had to choose between someone with no college education, philosophy or sociology degrees I would go right for the one with philosophy because they have been taught to think rationally and will be trainable. I’d take the person with no education over the one with sociology or another liberal arts degree to be honest. I would not have to pull that person back to reality.

stanleybmanly's avatar

It appears that you are hell bent on a life of penury with the probable bonus of a mountain of student debt. Wise up. Jump in a frozen lake to shock yourself back to reality. Climb out and concentrate immediately on the pursuit of marrying rich.

dabbler's avatar

The success of “a company that encourages more women to be thinkers” will have a lot to do with management style established from the top down, especially listening and inclusiveness.

Your personal growth, however, can easily benefit from studying philosophy, IMHO, and that might make you a better manager.

Sociology is all over the place in terms of practical value, the PhD sociologists I hung out with for a while had no sensible answer for what they were going to do with what they learned, except one honest and practical guy who said “marketing”.

dopeguru's avatar

@Jeruba I’d love to read the article, do you think it is also online?

@Zissou To be honest I’m extremely passionate about learning these areas as I think thats the point of life/my life BUT I’m not interested in doing it in order to become a prof. I want to found a company where I can use the knowledge learned… So I can make some social impact big or small through it. I’m not a very academic minded person as my writing shows. I am more of a creative!

dopeguru's avatar

@rebbel Well its more about being comfortable with it. I personally was raised shy and was told not to speak up whereas my younger brother would engage in conversations, so thats I’m passionate about it. Also something is wrong if all of my female friends care more for boys, social media and make-up and I’m having hours on end philosophical conversations with male friends.

rebbel's avatar

I totally get where you’re coming from, @dopeguru.
Kudos to you and your plan.

Jeruba's avatar

@dopeguru, I don’t know. I probably read it in the San Jose Mercury News. A quick search online found this, which probably came out around the same time:

It was linked from here:

Search term I used: employers seeking philosophy majors

I will still maintain, though, that your education is not for a job but for your life. Long-lasting personal enrichment is more likely to come from the “soft” subjects than from, let’s say, a degree in business or engineering.

Creativity, however, needs training and discipline. Splatter-assed idea-hatching and experimentation may be fun, but ideas are cheap and easy to generate, whereas the ability to execute an idea takes something more than a vision.

dopeguru's avatar

@Jeruba Thank you for the insight and link. I love this article…

Would it be best if I got a business masters?

JLeslie's avatar

I don’t have an article, but my gut reaction between the two choices is sociology. Sociologists learn how to analyze statistics, understand research methods, and study groups I’ve r time. My dad was a sociologist with a minor in psychology, and he wound up working for the government approving grants to universities for psychology studies. In society today I think understanding the scientific method and being able to analyze statistics is very important, because statistics are constantly thrown at us regarding everything from health, politics, you name it.

It seems to me psychology would help your goal also. Understanding a woman’s perspective, really listening to people, and understanding psychological impact, learning methods to help people overcome fears would be useful.

I guess the big question is, how are you going to attract women to your company? What exactly are they being encouraged to think about? Life? Is this a think tank where the women are paid? Or, is this some sort of help for women to expand their horizons?

elbanditoroso's avatar

How will this company that you plan to create make money? What service will you sell?

I would spend more time on something practical – developing a product or a service – than on philosophy or sociology. They’re adjuncts – they may help you provide some additional service going forward, but you have to have the basics FIRST.

So my answer is NEITHER sociology or philosophy. Figure out your business approach first, and then work philosophy into it.

LostInParadise's avatar

You should study what is of greatest interest to you. How dreary to study something solely for pragmatic reasons.

Your idea for a company is laudable but a bit vague. What exactly does it mean to be a thinker?

ltoban's avatar

What is the end goal in pursuing your studies? Remember, as you continue to pursue your education you are investing your time and money. Ensure what you are doing will bring you closer in obtaining your goals. So, define what you want do with the education you receive, whether it be sociology or philosophy.

Zissou's avatar

@Jeruba @dopeguru Yes, education should be for life, but if you’re only doing it for personal development, you don’t need the stress of a degree program. You can do self-study, free online courses, non-credit courses, audit, etc. Graduate school is for professional development, not just personal development; if you don’t want that, don’t go to grad school. You’ll just stress yourself out and take a spot from someone who might really belong there.

gorillapaws's avatar

Philosophy is incredibly valuable, but it’s incredibly intense. People often dismiss a Philosophy degree as worthless and you’ll have to face that stigma to some level. The good news is that people who think a Philosophy degree is worthless are wrong. Philosophy majors score the highest on the LSATs for example, and many Lawyers have philosophy degrees. The skills taught are all about critical thinking and analysis which are great for running a business.

@dopeguru “I’m not a very academic minded person as my writing shows. I am more of a creative!”

That’s a big concern. Philosophy is very difficult and rigorous. You may be mistaken about how it works. Check out this simple example of symbolic logic. It’s more like mathematical thinking than artistic.

dopeguru's avatar

@LostInParadise The idea is to encourage girls not to buy into the stigma that they should be full time gossipers whose value is primarily their youth and beauty. I want to impact women so that they are excited to grow older. I want to focus on the mind and philosophy for this reason. A shift of focus from the superficial to valuable and related to the human existence in a greater sense. Its still vague but like, I dont know… I’m really passionate about it, I just need to figure it out!

dopeguru's avatar

@Zissou I also think the degree would look good on my resume as my undergrads were in a sh*t school

dopeguru's avatar

@gorillapaws I’m in love with that mathematical thinking but I dont want to make it my profession. Like what use is it if I dwell 24/7 in my room and take exams? What good would that do to me or the world?

When I’m doing my masters will I have time to work on my company and do artistic things?

gorillapaws's avatar

@dopeguru “What good would that do to me or the world?”

The idea is that you’re sharpening your mental skills. It’s like an athlete saying “what good would lifting weights and running laps do for me?” It’s training for critical thought.

I’ve never taken philosophy classes higher than an undergraduate level, but if I extrapolated from some of the high-level philosophy courses I took as an undergrad, I would think that you would not have much free time—especially if your undergrad education in philosophy wasn’t up-to-par.

dopeguru's avatar

@gorillapaws yeah but what do I do with the critical thought… if I won’t have time to apply it to something else and have a social impact for example.

Isn’t masters education less intensive than undergrads?

gorillapaws's avatar

@dopeguru Out of curiosity, how many credit hours of Philosophy have you taken as an undergrad?

dopeguru's avatar

@gorillapaws I’d say I took about 8 3 credit phil courses in total.

Ltryptophan's avatar

If you want to be a lawyer, take philosophy.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

“Isn’t masters education less intensive than undergrads?”
I can only speak for STEM but yes, it is in certain ways but not others. By then they know you can do the coursework and while there is a lot of it too you will be moving into a mentor/mentee relationship with a professor or two and will be learning how to do research and large projects. You may be leading undergrads on their projects as well as teaching coursework. It can be very time consuming.

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Kardamom's avatar

What will your company actually do? Will it provide a service(s)? Do you have capital? Do you have a business plan? Insurance? Are you aware of all of the legal ramifications and tax liability for running a company? Are you prepared to devote most of your waking hours to developing, building, and maintaining a company?

mrainer's avatar

I disagree with this statement: Philosophy has no use outside the academia. On the contrary, earnest philosophical pursuits are actionable. In fact, that they are actionable is what makes them earnest. A course in Ethics or Moral Philosophy is bound to be useful for anybody. John Rawls’s veil of ignorance, for instance (an example of what students are introduced to today in such elementary courses) is globally applicable, even in the context of young democracies. In addition, Moral Philosophy courses also focus on the Feminist Standpoint Theory, a body of work that has challenged the dissociation of science from ethics and questioned the universality of scientific objectivity. In short, Philosophy will be extremely useful for you if you take it seriously.

Sociology is also equally useful. You have to know what kind of sociologist you want to be, though. At the very least, you should know what kind of Sociology you want to practice. There’s the statistics-oriented quantitative method and the more qualitative approach made famous by Max Weber. An introductory course will help you with this decision. You can also take a look at the textbooks listed in this Sociology page to make an informed decision. You don’t have to read the textbooks, but a critical reading of their synopsis should help. At the same time, be sure to read more about the quantitative-qualitative methodology divide.

All the best!

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