In a wide-ranging discipline that stubbornly resists restriction to any subdomain of human inquiry, the only thing that all philosophical questions have in common is that they are hard. My goal for my students is that they learn how to think, write, and talk about hard questions with clarity, charity, and courage. With clarity because making it several steps down difficult arguments requires familiarity with philosophy’s most important tool, thinking slowly. With charity because real engagement with other thinkers requires understanding them on their own terms before offering a response. And with courage because it is daunting to ask with sincerity “How should we live?” or “What can we know?”, and it’s easier to give up on hard questions than to persevere in answering them.
I aim to create an encouraging, accessible, and charitable classroom environment and believe that, properly executed, this increases academic rigor rather than detracting from it. My Guidelines for Student Discussion articulate my goals and expectations for seminar discussion practices.
The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: This should be your first stop if you encounter a philosophical term that you don't know or if you want to understand the basics of a philosophical thinker or position. For an encyclopedia, SEP errs on the side of comprehensiveness. This occasionally makes it frustrating as a pure introduction to a concept, but for the same reason it rewards careful reading even when you know a fair bit about the topic already.
PhilPapers: By far the easiest way to search and find philosphy papers and authors, PhilPapers will be your best friend when writing a research paper. I highly recommend taking the (approx. 2 minute) tour (the button under "Welcome to PhilPapers" when you click the link above) and connecting PhilPapers to the university's proxy server (the tour will show you where to do this). The minutes it takes you to familiarize yourself with the site will save you hours of work over the course of your philosophy degree.
MAP: Minorities and Philosophy "aims to examine and address issues of minority participation in academic philosophy." MAP is an excellent resource to learn about opportunities for students from under-represented populations in philosophy and to identify a supportive community for thinking about and working to improve the contemporary philosophical climate.
Philosophy Compass: Philosophy Compass publishes articles that explain the latest state of a subfield in an introductory way to non-expert but philosophically literate audiences.
Guidelines on Writing a Philosophy Paper: We'll talk a lot in our class about how to write a good philosophy paper. Jim Pryor's Guidelines are concise and will help you avoid common bad habits. David Bain's tips are useful too. If you've managed to avoid The Elements of Style by Strunk and White, stop managing it. Nowhere else will you be told not to "dress words up by adding -ly to them, as though putting a hat on a horse."
APA: The American Philosophical Association's website provides information, research, and guidance about the profession of philosophy. Spend time here if you are interested in what it would be like to be a professional philosopher.
The Splintered Mind: Schwitzgebel's entire blog is interesting, but I post it here mainly because his posts on getting into grad school help demystify the process. His take is frequently (and justifiably) pessimistic—getting into a good graduate program and then getting a job as a philosopher is hard, and anyone considering graduate school should know that upfront. There's also good news though: not everyone knows that most philosophy PhD programs in the US waive tuition and pay graduate students a modest but (usually) livable wage.
The Philosophical Gourmet Report: I post this with reluctance because there's good reason to think that the prominence of such rankings makes philosophy a less diverse and less collegial place. I tend to think reports like this do more harm then good. But the prestige bias that it both tracks and calcifies is real, and, as Schwitzgebel notes above, there's a high correlation between the prestige of the school where you do your graduage study and your chances of getting a job. If you're interested in entering the philosophical guild then you deserve to know what the relative reputations of various programs are.
Will I Get a Job as a Philosophy Major?: I think that the main reasons to study philosophy are not financial. But financial security is important, and philosophy has a bad reputation as a degree that won't lead to a job. While it's true that, unless you go on to teach philosophy, majoring in philosophy doesn't put you on the fast-track for any job in particular (although see the titular link), the evidence suggests that majoring in philosophy is a good financial investment. Philosophy majors make more on average, in the short and long term, than any other major in the humanities. While precise rankings vary from year to year, philosophy majors typically score at or near the top for total GRE scores and LSAT scores, and near the top for the GMAT, making philosophy an excellent preparatory major for careers in law and business. There is, of course, some ambiguity about how best to interpret the data. Does philosophy better prepare people for, e.g., the LSAT or do people already predisposed to do well on these kinds of measures self-select as philosophers? Does the relative lack of diversity in philosophy skew the data? The causal story is no doubt complicated, but the evidence at least suggests that majoring in philosophy is a positive factor for financial success.
Just for Fun: Because sometimes when you don't know what to feel, all you need are random pairings of Nietzsche quotes with Family Circus cartoons.