Thoughts on choosing a major

cancel2 2022

I came across this, which is funny and with more than an essence of truth, especially the observations on sociology.

Here is a very important piece of advice: Be sure to choose a major that does not involve Known Facts and Right Answers.

This means you must *not* major in mathematics, physics, biology, or chemistry, because these subjects involve actual facts. If, for example, you major in mathematics, you're going to wander into class one day and the professor will say: "Define the cosine integer of the quadrant of a rhomboid binary axis, and extrapolate your result to five significant vertices." If you don't come up with *exactly* the answer the professor has in mind, you fail. The same is true of chemistry: if you write in your exam book that carbon and hydrogen combine to form oak, your professor will flunk you. He wants you to come up with the same answer he and all the other chemists have agreed on. Scientists are extremely snotty about this.

So you should major in subjects like English, philosophy, psychology, and sociology -- subjects in which nobody really understands what anybody else is talking about, and which involve virtually no actual facts. I attended classes in all these subjects, so I'll give you a quick overview of each:

ENGLISH: This involves writing papers about long books you have read little snippets of just before class. Here is a tip on how to get good grades on your English papers: Never say anything about a book that anybody with any common sense would say. For example, suppose you are studying Moby-Dick. Anybody with any common sense would say that Moby-Dick is a big white whale, since the characters in the book refer to it as a big white whale roughly eleven thousand times. So in *your* paper, *you* say Moby-Dick is actually the Republic of Ireland. Your professor, who is sick to death of reading papers and never liked Moby-Dick anyway, will think you are enormously creative. If you can regularly come up with lunatic interpretations of simple stories, you should major in English.

PHILOSOPHY: Basically, this involves sitting in a room and deciding there is no such thing as reality and then going to lunch. You should major in philosophy if you plan to take a lot of drugs.

PSYCHOLOGY: This involves talking about rats and dreams. Psychologists are *obsessed* with rats and dreams. I once spent an entire semester training a rat to punch little buttons in a certain sequence, then training my roommate to do the same thing. The rat learned much faster. My roommate is now a doctor. If you like rats or dreams, and above all if you dream about rats, you should major in psychology.

SOCIOLOGY: For sheer lack of intelligibility, sociology is far and away the number one subject. I sat through hundreds of hours of sociology courses, and read gobs of sociology writing, and I never once heard or read a coherent statement. This is because sociologists want to be considered scientists, so they spend most of their time translating simple, obvious observations into scientific-sounding code. If you plan to major in sociology, you'll have to learn to do the same thing. For example, suppose you have observed that children cry when they fall down. You should write: "Methodological observation of the sociometrical behavior tendencies of prematurated isolates indicates that a casual relationship exists between groundward tropism and lachrimatory, or 'crying,' behavior forms." If you can keep this up for fifty or sixty pages, you will get a large government grant.
It's unfortunate but I would advise not getting a degree in chemistry unless you plan on going for a PhD and an academic career. A BS in chemistry used to have a similar income potential as engineering and god knows it's as tough a major but with the advances in technology, outsourcing and consolidation of production facilities there are not that many job opportunities any more. Even in my field, hazardous materials management, engineering and life science graduates are preferred to chemistry majors. Go figure?
Well, I'm probably going to pick up a BA in History....maybe one in law...fuck it, learning is fun.
PHILOSOPHY: Basically, this involves sitting in a room and deciding there is no such thing as reality and then going to lunch. You should major in philosophy if you plan to take a lot of drugs.

Hmmm, Bertrand Russel in particular was a heavily math oriented philosopher, and his school of philosophy (analytic philosophy) heavily dominates in Anglo-American philosophy. If you major in philosophy today, expect to learn a shit ton of math. The days when you can just be a Nietschze or Heidegger, and just ramble on endlessly with esoteric sounding statements, are pretty much gone. You will be learning things like first order logic - the intersection of the set of all things in the universe and the set of things that are more fun than first order logic is a set of consisting all things in the universe besides first order logic. Continental philosophy will allow you to, to some extent, but its primary effect in America has actually been on literary criticism and such rather than philosophy itself. In fact, the school of literary criticism that is constantly trying to deconstruct things in implausible and nonsensical ways (deconstructionism, of course), which this post unknowingly refers to and seems to conflate with the entire field, was founded by Derrida, a continental philosopher from France. You can do literary criticism in other ways, and, in fact, deconstructionism is sort of on its way out.