A Humanities Major

When I was applying to college, I knew I wanted a liberal arts education. I applied to be a Computer Science (CS) major, but in colleges with curricula that would allow me to study the humanities as well. Cornell offers the CS major in both its College of Arts and Sciences and in the College of Engineering. I applied to Arts and Sciences. Because I hadn’t studied any non-STEM subjects in 11th and 12th grade, I was quite lost on what exactly I wanted to study in the “humanities”. So I took courses in English, Philosophy, History, Spanish and Urban Studies to get a sense of the social sciences/arts.

Now that I’m nearly done with the CS major, I’ve decided to delve deep into one of those humanities subjects – Philosophy. Last year, I took my first two Philosophy classes at Cornell- “Foundations of Mathematics” and “Introduction to Modern Philosophy”. The first one was really a class on axiomatic set theory, and the second one was a survey of important works from the 17th and 18th centuries. I was drawn to logic, social, political and moral philosophy. Higher level logic was closely related to Computer Science; Some of the foundations of Computer Science can be traced to logic. Social and political philosophy entail critical thinking about the larger human-systems we live and participate in but often take for granted. And ethics, which seeks to explore/resolve conflicts in human morality, is probably something that is on everyone’s minds at some point or the other.

So last semester, I affiliated with Philosophy as my second major. Right now, I’m taking two classes in Philosophy. Phil 3203 – Aristotle and Phil 2621 – Minds and Machines. My assignments now include dense readings and writing 1500 word essays focusing on just two pages of Aristotle’s works. It’s a welcome change. However, I’m slightly disappointed that the study of Philosophy doesn’t allow for as much creativity as History* does. Maybe this will change as I take higher level classes in Philosophy.

P.S.: Part of the inspiration for this combination of majors comes from a degree program at Oxford.

* I absolutely loved the History class I took last semester.