What were your favorite philosophy courses at UCLA?
Wittgenstein’s TLP (taught by Prof. Hsu), David Kaplan’s course “On Denoting” by Bertrand Russell, Tyler Burge’s intro to philosophy of mind, Prof Rescorla’s Logical Positivism, Philosophy of Space & Time
Are there any philosophical issues, readings, or topics that have stayed with you since graduation?
Although I was very interested in analytic philosophy while pursuing my degree, I find myself most interested in politics, political philosophy, and foreign affairs after graduation. I guess most of all, a degree in philosophy has made me see the meta dimension to essentially every topic and I find this most interesting when looking at international relations for example. Take the example of Trump’s tariffs imposed on China in 2018. Economists will tell you that these policies are unquestionably more detrimental than positive for America’s national interest due to the microeconomic theory that validates protectionism as a failed economic policy. But that’s just one perspective on the matter. Philosophy has taught me more than anything to think about the ends of certain actions before making judgements. Is the Trump administration’s end a net positive for the American economy? I think most certainly not, as the arguments against protectionism are pretty objectively sound. However, sometimes policy is used not for its own sake but rather as a means to an end. It seems more to me that the justification for the tariffs is purely to serve a geopolitical end to impede China’s momentum and economy especially with the proliferation of a global Chinese footprint with the belt & road initiative.
What lessons or skills from philosophy do you use in your career?
As a budding entrepreneur with my own startup that I started running in the last quarter of my degree, philosophy has been incredibly valuable in many aspects. It’s interesting because many famous entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley were philosophy majors (Peter Thiel (Palantir / PayPal), Reid Hoffman (LinkedIn), Stewart Butterfield (Slack) ). Analytic philosophy pairs very nicely with computer science and as someone with no coding / software development background, I find myself being able to easily understand software from at a high-level.
For example, at the moment my development team has been restructuring our product’s database and back-end infrastructure. Without any background in coding, I’ve been able to make suggestions to my developers about how, just from thinking purely logically, the branches in the database could be more efficiently organized to make the front-end work less when making calls to the database. I’d encourage philosophy majors to consider majoring or at least taking classes in computer science and urge the department to try and create a combined major (Stanford offers this track).
From a sales standpoint, being able to sell something, regardless of the product / industry, is really a matter of persuasion through compelling argumentation. Here a background in philosophy is ostensibly incredibly valuable.
Lastly, without a background in law, a close understanding of language (via the philosophy of language) and logic has helped me tremendously in drafting and reading over legal contracts and agreements. Thinking about the consequences of using conjunctions versus disjunctions, for example, comes into play very often. Also, there have been instances when I’ve talked to multiple attorneys and gotten conflicting opinions about what course to take. A robust reasoning capacity (with a background in philosophy) gives you the confidence to make executive decisions when you might not have all the facts or when the law might be somewhat of a gray area.
Do you have advice for current students or recent graduates about how to take advantage of and continue their philosophical education?
Tech is a vertical that loves philosophy majors, however, there doesn’t seem to be much awareness about this at UCLA. Philosophy encourages innovative thinking through a dialectical method and I encourage students and recent graduates to network with like minded people in this sphere. As I mentioned in a previous answer, I encourage philosophy majors interested in logic to take classes in computer science as there is significant overlap as well as the capacity to translate robust logic into functioning programs / applications / interfaces. I am always reachable and happy to help students looking to get into this space at email@example.com.