Tutor profile: Samuel S.
If I am not going into an academic field, why do I need to learn how to write well? If I will never have to write essays, why does it matter?
The ability to write cogently, precisely, and persuasively is essential in a world that is saturated with all kinds of communicative media. Academic writing—i.e., writing essays for particular classes—is one of the ways in which one can hone his or her skill in written communication. In other words, learning to write well in the academic context can translate well into one's communication in other arenas of life. Also, learning to write well also assists one in learning how to think well (and vice versa!)—because in order to write well, one has to be able to organize, synthesize, and externalize his or her thoughts.
Why is it important to study philosophy? Is philosophy really a useful discipline?
What the person asking this question may not realize is that he or she has—ironically—just asked a philosophical question. To be a philosopher, or to engage in philosophical thinking, one does not have to be a cloistered academic who sits in his or her office all day thinking about abstract questions. Actually, whether one knows it or not, the actions one commits on a day-to-day basis stem from the way that one thinks about one's own life, place in the world, and the meaning which can characterize one's life. Such questions as, "What makes life worth living?" are exactly the questions to which philosophy seeks to develop answers—and this pursuit is, indeed, practical.
How does reading great literature allow us to see the world differently?
Great literature is often considered to be great precisely because it probes to the depths of the human condition, and shows us both the triumphs and the failures of human effort that occur around us every single day. For example, when one reads Homer's "Odyssey," one isn't just reading about the exploits of the great mythical hero Odysseus. Rather, one is led to consider how he or she is on a long and winding journey toward "home"—all the while unsure that he or she will find it as he or she remembers or hopes it will be. When one reads Charles Dickens' novels, one doesn't just find stories that contain a particular moral regarding how one should share the wealth he or she has acquired (e.g., in "A Christmas Carol"). One also sees that these lessons have to be learned within and through the vicissitudes of human life—in Dickens' context, the harsh realities of child labor during the Industrial Revolution in England. In short, great literature is great because it does not simply present us with narrative or information. Great literature is great because it leads us to ask deeper questions not only about the world around us, but about ourselves, as well.
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