Why Study Philosophy-Psychology?

Current Developments
The division of academic subjects tends to reflect history rather than current research; as the editors of the Encyclopedia of Unified Science express it: "The universe does not follow the division of the departments of a university." At the present time, after a period of academic isolation, philosophers and psychologists are beginning to recognize fully the mutual relevance of their disciplines and the benefits of inter-disciplinary work, resulting in developments that include the recent formation of the Society for Philosophy and Psychology and its Southern counterpart, as well as the publication of new interdisciplinary journals such as The Behavioral and Brain Sciences, Cognition, and Behaviorism.

Now it is even possible to pursue full-time graduate studies in this area with the advent of the master's program in the History and Philosophy of the Social and Behavioral Sciences at SUNY Binghamton. Moreover, the recognition of the importance of studies in this area is reflected in the fact that joint majors have burgeoning opportunities for employment after graduation. SUNY Oswego is in the forefront of meeting student needs in this area by having developed the joint major and by having sponsored during the past few years a wide range of internationally known speakers on topics relevant to the joint major. The following are some of these speakers and their subject matter:

Richard Herrnstein (Harvard)..........Nature Versus Nurture in Behavior
Peter Machamer (Pittsburgh)......Recent Philosophical Work on Cognition
Donald Meichenbaum (Waterloo)........Cognitive Modification of Behavior
David Premack (Pennsylvania) and
Paul Churchland (San Diego)........Thought and Speech Among Chimpanzees
Irving Thalberg (Illinois)...................The Nature of Human Action
Walter Weimer (Pennsylvania State)......Modern Philosophy of Psychology
Edward McGuire (Pittsburgh).......The Historical Background of Science
Richard Boyd (Cornell)............................Language and Concepts

Dual Career Prospects
Despite the fact that philosophy and psychology have obvious mutual relevance, it remains the case that the joint major in Philosophy-Psychology at Oswego is unique to New York State and probably to the whole of the United States. This is a real advantage to the graduating major because the nature of the curriculum not only opens doors that a degree in Philosophy alone would open but it also opens even more doors. Thus, e.g., one might go on to graduate study in either Philosophy or Psychology or one might contine interdisciplinary studies in the History and Philosophy of Social and Behavioral Sciences. Employment prospects are likewise enhanced because the graduating joint major has the special competence for occupations that call upon both philosophical and psychological skills. Just as the work in the area is expanding, so are the employment opportunities, and the Oswego graduate is in a unique position to take advantage of them. Moreover, a student who has mastered inter-desciplinary work is better prepared for those positions which call for team work with specialists - positions which are becoming more common with the increasing complexity of modern institutions. Because they have had little exposure to philosophy before going to college, few students realize just how extremely valuable a background in philosophy can be when it comes to qualifying for a job. Moreover, the joint major provides an exceptionally good foundation for the counseling and psychotherapeutic professions, as it is becoming widely recognized that a strong philosophical education is a necessary condition for effective therapy.One way to see the wider variety that the joint major opens up is to look at the careers that our former graduates are pursuing:

  • Ph.D. program in philosophy
  • Administering a governmental program for relief of the poor
  • Management in manufacturing industry
  • Graduate program in counseling
  • Developing a career in dance therapy
  • Graduate work in parapsychological research
  • Counseling emotionally disturbed adolescents
  • Graduate work in school psychology and counseling

The occupations of graduates are wedded to the basic nature of the problems that the curriculum addresses. During the next few decades these problems will pervade our society and there will be ample scope for our talents to investigate them. The nature of artificial intelligence, the development of operations research, the improvement of psychotherapeutic services - all areas in which joint majors may well make contributions, - will be investigated by various organizations, whether graduate schools, research institutes, industry, or departments of human services. Because the problems are so central to the nature of human existence, we can expect that progress in their clarification will help to ameliorate the human condition.