|languages||English, German, Greek, Latin|
Experience: 12 years
I majored in philosophy, went to graduate school for philosophy, and started several philosophical organizations. My experience with what is philosophy is very extensive and I could continue writing about my experience though I'd rather not. Instead, I will just give a general description of what philosophy means as a discipline for which you might seek tutoring; this description comes from the American Philosophical Association's report (http://apaonline.org/?major) on what the philosophy major should be and most often is. “Philosophy”? In our colleges and universities, philosophy is one discipline—and one undergraduate major—among many. Its place among the disciplines and majors is not easily specifiable. In its concerns and ways of pursuing those concerns, it differs not only from the natural and social sciences but also from the humanities disciplines with which it is commonly grouped. Yet it is related in significant ways to all of them. […] The study of philosophy serves to develop intellectual abilities important for life as a whole, beyond the knowledge and skills required for any particular profession. Properly pursued, it enhances analytical, critical, and communicative capacities that are applicable to any subject matter, and in any human context. It cultivates the capacity and appetite for self-expression and reflection, for exchange and debate of ideas, for life-long learning, and for dealing with problems for which there are no easy answers. In doing this, a good philosophical education also strengthens the ability to participate responsibly and intelligently in public life and the tasks of citizenship. The Major in Philosophy: Four Models The primary purpose of the major in philosophy is better conceived as a valuable and indeed paradigmatic "liberal education” major. The historical model emphasizes the history of philosophy. As applied to the major as a whole, it usually begins with the Presocratics or Socrates and Plato. It traces and critically discusses the views, problems, and methods of these and subsequent important philosophers, often with attention to their wider cultural setting. The field model stresses coverage of central fields and various subfields of philosophical inquiry. They generally include metaphysics and the philosophy of mind, the theory of knowledge; logic; and ethics and value theory, together with the history of philosophy. Beyond these central fields, attention may further be given to such areas of special inquiry as social and political philosophy and the philosophy of science, language, religion, and art. The problems model [emphasizes] understanding major philosophical issues, such as the nature and existence of God, the mind-body problem, the nature of knowledge, and the challenge of skepticism, the free will issue, and the problem of objectivity in ethics. The activity model On this approach, "doing philosophy” is primary. Methods and approaches are stressed, and the main focus is on ways of dealing with philosophical problems of various kinds. Here the process of inquiry is considered more important than the results or particular conclusions reached. Central Elements of a Major in Philosophy Even though they may agree on little else, philosophers of the most disparate interests and persuasions are united in their common recognition of philosophy’s intimate relation to its own history. The history of philosophy is neither a chronicle of past error gradually replaced by present truth nor a repository of sacrosanct masterworks. It is rather a changing variety of questions posed and responses offered to them, to be understood in context, applied to current concerns where appropriate, and challenged by argument. In the course of this history, certain texts and issues have attracted particular attention, affording philosophers of any orientation a means of common discourse and communication even if they know little of one another’s specific traditions.  Prominent Figures: ... [T]he writings of certain philosophers whose historical importance is beyond dispute, such as Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, Hume, and Kant.  Main Kinds of Inquiry: … various problems central to the major areas of philosophical inquiry, pertaining to the world’s and our own nature and existence (metaphysics), the knowledge we may have of them (epistemology), sound reasoning (logic), and human conduct (ethics). These  prominent figures [and 2] main kinds of inquiry … should be encountered in any philosophy major. They can be studied in courses organized in a variety of ways (e.g., historically, or by problems, or by fields) … These courses commonly begin with a general introduction to philosophy, and include additional basic courses in ethics and in symbolic logic or logical reasoning, together with survey courses in the history of ancient and early modern philosophy. … A particular course of study might go on to emphasize one or another general area or inquiry, historical period, or tradition; or the relation of Western to Eastern thought; or applied philosophy (e.g., applied ethics); or the interface between philosophy and some other discipline or interdisciplinary study (e.g., religious studies, cognitive science, legal studies, literary theory, or feminist theory); or the history and philosophy of science. History of Philosophy … Students should have the opportunity to become acquainted with the Stoics, Epicureans, and other late ancient philosophers; with medieval thinkers such as Augustine and Aquinas; with nineteenth-century philosophers from Hegel to Nietzsche; with the main philosophical developments of the twentieth century, including those both in Europe and in the English-speaking world; and with the philosophical traditions of other cultures. Ethics Courses in the history of philosophy may deal with the ethical thought of the figures considered as well as with their treatments of problems of knowledge, mind, and reality. It is common, however, for ethics and its history to be dealt with separately. In either case, it is desirable for the major to include at least one course dealing specifically with problems of ethics. Students should also have the opportunity to pursue the study of applied ethics and related matters such as social and political philosophy, value theory, and aesthetics. Problems Whether through courses dealing in depth with important figures or in separate and more advanced courses, students majoring in philosophy also should be provided with opportunities to pursue the study of the problems of knowledge, mind and reality, and other issues that they may first encounter in their introductory and historical survey courses. They should be encouraged to take several relatively advanced courses in which such problems are dealt with intensively. In many programs a variety of such courses bearing the names of the related areas of inquiry are offered: e.g., metaphysics, epistemology (or theory of knowledge), and the philosophy of mind, of language, of religion, and of science. This is not the only way of accomplishing this objective, however. A program structured primarily around the study of historically important figures and works may serve the same purpose. Logic Logic may be studied in a number of different ways. No one of them is essential to a sound major in philosophy, but a course of some sort dealing with the principles of logic and logical reasoning is highly desirable. One version of such a course is an introduction to symbolic logic, which may be supplemented by more advanced courses. Another is an "informal logic” or "critical thinking” course, emphasizing the study of forms of sound reasoning, inference, and argument. For students who choose philosophy as a good "liberal education” major and do not intend to pursue its study beyond the undergraduate level, the latter may be sufficient. Those who intend to take advanced courses dealing with contemporary treatments of philosophical issues in the central areas of the discipline, however, will find familiarity with symbolic logic very helpful; and it is indispensable for those who contemplate going on to graduate study in philosophy. [...] Structuring the Philosophy Major … Introductory work should cultivate the abilities to recognize philosophical questions and grasp philosophical arguments; to read philosophical texts critically; to engage in philosophical discussion; and to write philosophical papers involving interpretation, argument, and research. These skills can be developed in courses organized historically, by problems, or by field. They require contact with original sources, not merely textbooks; opportunities for discussion as well as lectures; and experience in writing papers, in addition to examinations. Beyond the introductory level, intermediate courses may offer students the opportunity to become acquainted with various periods of the history of philosophy and areas of philosophical inquiry. Courses dealing with matters of interest to students majoring in other subjects also are often placed at this level—e.g., courses concerned with philosophical perspectives on religion, science, history, law and politics, the arts and literature. Advanced courses may then deal with issues and texts of all of these sorts, and with important figures in the history of philosophy and areas of philosophical inquiry, in more detail and with increasing sophistication. … Moreover, while there can and should be no strict rule, it is common practice in many departments to suggest a general pattern that might usefully be recommended to students seeking guidance in the planning of their studies leading to a major. First two years: a general introductory course in philosophy and first courses in ethics and logic. Second year: survey courses in the history of ancient and early modern philosophy, and one or two intermediate-level courses in areas of interest to the students. Third and fourth years: further intermediate courses and a number of advanced courses, including several in central areas of philosophical inquiry as well as others of interest to the student. Fourth year: Several advanced courses in which the student has close contact with faculty members, possibly including a senior seminar, independent study course, or honors thesis. […] Philosophical Development An undergraduate major in philosophy should be characterized both by breadth of acquaintance with the history, areas and problems of philosophy, and by depth or intensiveness of study and reflection. … The major in philosophy emphasizes effective and critical reading, writing, and speaking; and the study of philosophy deals with the interpretation of texts, the balanced exposition and examination of issues, the construction and appraisal of arguments and explanations, and the criticism of doctrines and things commonly taken for granted. Through the consideration and discussion of well-selected readings and problems, and through writing assignments that are carefully and constructively criticized, philosophy majors can and should develop all of these capacities. Particularly as they advance in their studies, they should be asked to read and reread, to write and rewrite, to question and to develop arguments pro and con. Discussion opportunities in small classes and lecture course discussion sections are indispensable if these aims are to be realized. As the level of philosophical study becomes more advanced, more can and should be expected of students. In introductory and intermediate courses, they may appropriately be expected to master basic skills of philosophical thought, to understand philosophical arguments, analyses, theories, and texts, and to grasp one philosopher’s critique of another, e.g., Aristotle’s of Plato, Kierkegaard’s of Hegel, or Nozick’s of Rawls. In advanced courses students may further be asked to develop their own critique, positions, and arguments in support of them, and to place texts or problems in wider historical and conceptual contexts. Students in advanced courses should also be encouraged to reflect on the nature of the discipline itself and on the varied paradigms and methods that challenge one another. After completing a philosophy major, students should possess developed skills in formulating questions, reading philosophical texts, constructing and evaluating philosophical arguments, and discussing philosophical ideas. They should have a reasonably extensive knowledge of at least some important figures, fields, and problems; and they also should have engaged in some self-conscious reflection on philosophical inquiry itself, its methods, and its role in human life, culture, and society. … A major in philosophy should develop the capacity for such thinking in at least three respects. One is the practice it affords in criticism—e.g., thinking of counter-examples to questionable generalizations, drawing out consequences entailed by a claim that reduce it to absurdity, and discerning the costs and consequences of practices and policies. Another is responsiveness to concrete cases; imagination is needed to give discriminating and illuminating moral and phenomenological descriptions of experience, to appreciate the thinking expressed in a text or theory, and then to discern is limitations. A third is interpretation and theorizing, which involve constructive justification and relating positions in one area of inquiry to those in another. ….