Why PER? (Philosophy, Ethics and Religion)

I personally think that any degree is relevant, as long as you apply the skills and knowledge you have learnt accurately.

For me, a degree in philosophy and ethics was a no brainer. I have always thoroughly enjoyed studying philosophy and ethics, I think they fit together so perfectly, constantly intertwining but also teaching you different ways of thinking, analysing and arguing. Only, when I began my search for places to complete my degree, I could not find anywhere that offered just philosophy and ethics, most degrees came with the religion part added on to it. For me, I had never really enjoyed studying religion like I did philosophy and ethics, I hadn’t learnt the true value of understanding religion and was reluctant to change this. As soon as I went to the Leeds open day and fell completely in love with the city and university of Leeds, I applied and got my place.

One of the most frustrating parts of my degree is the questions and assumptions that come with it, mainly from those who have not been to university or have not studied my subject areas. I get an abundance of ignorant questions such as ‘where are you going to take that degree?’ ‘what job is that going to get you?’ or the best (most irritating) question, ‘are you going to be a priest then?’ All of which are incredibly frustrating, but I know that it is simply due to a lack of understanding for my degree and the many avenues it opens you up to.

For me, it was obvious that I would never have applied to do a course that I wouldn’t love doing. I knew that if I had gone to university to study a degree such as politics, whilst it would have been very beneficial cv and career wise, I didn’t adore the subject like I did philosophy and ethics, and I fully believe that you cannot stay motivated and excel at something that your heart is not in. Whilst I could have easily gone to a university and done psychology, or criminology or something that ‘leads’ to a specific career, why would I want to? Why would I want to limit myself on what options I have, what job roles I could fill and what avenues I could explore later on in life? I have learnt that my degree is so useful for so many areas of life and work, and if I had to decide on a degree again I would most definitely choose the same degree.

In this post I want to talk you through why I think that PER (philosophy, ethics and religion) is such a useful and relevant degree and why it suits me so well. First things first, I wanted to talk you through some of my top interests (if you haven’t worked them out by now) and why they link so well to my degree.

My first major interest is fashion, it literally rules my life (and my bank balance). I am massively driven by the longing for a career in fashion, and it’s obvious to me that fashion cannot run without ethics. If I were to go into a career within the textiles industry I would have ethics at the forefront of my priorities. Ethical fashion to me, means ensuring that all workers are looked after, not exploited, materials used are obtained via fair trade and all work completed does not impinge on the state of the environment. Today, we are surrounded by the the acceptance of ‘throw away fashion’. With technology improving and the ability to grow cotton cheaply and quickly, customers are able to shop high street fashion for very low prices. However, this is unsustainable. With the waste coming from disposable fashion and values around the longevity of trends and garments, the real cost is being paid by those who create what we wear. The cheap fashion that is on the market opens up the possibility for worker exploitation, due to competition between high street retailers and the greed coming from those that own them.

Ensuring ethical behavior within every aspect of textiles is a necessity the values and skills the ethics part of my degree teaches me are so valuable within this trade. I found a couple of reasons for why, using the Victoria and Albert website.

  • Due to the demand for low cost clothes, suppliers are having to cut costs elsewhere, but this it at the expense of those who make the clothes. For example, child workers, they are being vulnerable to violence such as unhygienic working conditions and being forced to work overtime alongside being paid extremely badly.
  • Cotton being one of our most used fabrics, but growing it has devastating side effects because of it using 22.5% of the worlds insecticides and 10% of the world’s pesticides, meaning its growth is very bad for the environment.
  • The throwaway fashion means landfill sights are full of clothes, the UK alone throws away over a million tonnes of clothing every year.

Secondly animal welfare is a huge aspect of my identity, being a vegan (and an animal obsessor) I am incredibly passionate about animals being treated as they deserve and this compassion has only been intensified since becoming aware about veganism and the exploitation animals face for our taste and convenience. It goes without saying that animals and ethics link together, generally animals are given less moral status due to their lack of ability to communication or reason. The lives of animals are seen as commodities and simply a means to our own ends, having their place within the world undermined. I have studied thoroughly the rights of animals and if//when it is acceptable to undermine their rights.

I am cautious that I have talked about ethics and its application to the ‘real world’ for too long so I’ll just briefly explain how religion and philosophy links to any area of life. Religion is one of the most powerful tools in the world, having the ability to dictate, motivate, unite and divide people. Whilst I myself am not religious, studying religion at a deep level has made me realise just how crucial an understanding in it is. Whether or not you are religious yourself, religion will affect parts of yourself regardless, be that in work, school, anywhere. Religion is such a complex and diverse thing, that has persisted over time and I don’t see that changing anytime soon! Incorrect stereotypes and prejudices can be seen everywhere, but they do nothing but spread negativity. Surely understanding the true meaning of religions and their goals will allow us to eliminate the incorrect beliefs of others that we hold? The easiest example of wrong stereotypes being the idea that Muslims are violent, bad people. This stereotype stems from the actions of a minority group of Islam extremists, yet those with no understanding of religion fail to see that there are extremists of all religions and denominations. Islam teaches kindness, respect and love, but by choosing to the listen to the media instead of investing time to understand what Islam really teaches, the ignorance continues to fuel stigmas and hatred. I used to think that the hijab and burka worked to oppress the women within Islam but studying religion has enabled me to learn that in most cases, it works to empower them.

Finally, philosophy. I am sure most people see this subject as an easy, unstimulating and waste of time. But this subject does not limit you to a specific area of knowledge, instead of teaching you information and facts about a time in history or chemical structure it teaches you skills that are applicable in every career or area of life. Philosophy teaches you how to reason, argue, think critically, problem solve and more. These skills can be transferred to enable you to thrive in any profession (there’s a reason why PPE, the ‘degree for Prime Ministers’ includes philosophy!).

So the general aim of the post was not to put down any degree that is not PER, nor to claim that this is the best degree out there. What I wanted to do was to simply show that any degree is great, providing you’ve chosen something you love. You need to be passionate about your degree, because it is a lot of work and if you choose something you think you should do for the sake of a career at the end of it, you may find you struggle to stay motivated. Every degree will teach you transferable skills, but I particularly believe this about my degree (bias? Me? No!!)

I hope this was food for thought for you and has even potentially eliminated some stereotypes that you had around philosophy and religion degrees. I am absolutely loving my degree and would not change a thing. I hope you enjoyed reading!! I found an article by the times (its old but still applies), so give that a read if you fancy, https://www.mcneese.edu/f/c/e44e57f6/WSPLondonTimes.pdf .

Until next time!

Megan xx

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