Grad School Statement of Purpose

If any of my readers have any experience applying to graduate schools, I’m looking for advice and feedback on my statement of purpose.  Highlighted sections are areas that I think may need some work.

One of the things that I believe most firmly is that the world would benefit from having more philosophy.  I am a philosophy student, and philosophy is an integral part of my life.  I write a philosophy blog, I read philosophy books, and I attend philosophy discussion groups.  It’s most pervasive influence however is that it has become the lens through which I view life.  For though philosophy is, in a sense, in the metaphorical lens manufacturing business, I think in many ways the main benefit of philosophy is that you get a feel for the nature of the lenses themselves.  To a certain extent philosophy helps us get outside of ourselves; something which I believe is invaluable, not just in academic study but also in our personal lives.  I want philosophy to be my life’s work, but by this I do not just mean that I want to study philosophy academically – I am also interested in cultivating the philosophical mindset in society and government.  I am applying for the London School of Economics Masters in Philosophy and Public Policy because I believe that its interdisciplinary program will supply me with the knowledge and skills that I need to pursue every angle of my interest in philosophy.
I think the factor that has played the biggest role in my philosophical development is my interdisciplinary education at Quest University Canada.  The philosophical courses that I took were excellent, but I think I got far more out of them then I otherwise would because they were situated in a broader context.  My understanding of freewill was shaped by Kant and Dostoyevsky, but also by studies in molecular biology.   My understanding of human nature was informed by Heidegger and evolutionary psychology.  To learn about politics I’ve studied Plato, and I’ve also studied governmental systems and modern media theory.  I have found that all of my studies’ have been mutually supportive, and that the most valuable contribution of philosophy is the critical mindset that it fosters.  My opinion of the value of this mindset was reinforced to m by my experience working as a peer tutor at Quest.  I edited papers from a wide variety of fields, including economics, ecology, biology, and many others.  What I continuously found was that clarity of thought was the essential differentiating factor between good and bad papers, and that often the best way to help the other student was to try to draw them into a critical analysis of their own thoughts.
My specific field of interest for academic study is ethics and phenomenology.  My undergraduate thesis, On Humility, was a phenomenological theory of knowledge in which I propose that the way to be knowledgeable is to have an epistemically humble demeanour.  In working on this project I increasingly found that my epistemological project was also inseparably an ethical one.  I want to continue this line of research.  Drawing on the works of philosophers such as Heidegger and Levinas, I want to explore the idea that the constitution of our phenomenal world is ultimately ethical.  I think that we fundamentally experience the world as a normative question, and that our essential nature lies in perceiving and answering the question. 
Public policy is thoroughly intertwined with my philosophical interests, because work on policy is first and foremost an ethical project.  I am inclined to think that all research is ultimately ethical in nature, but public policy is one of the fewer fields that studies ethics explicitly.  The project of public policy, informed by many other fields of research, is to determine both how we think the world should be and how to change it to match our vision.  I am interested in public policy because I have an ethical project, and I believe that I would be well served in a public policy program because of my philosophy and interdisciplinary background.
In the end everything comes down to ethics.  We must all struggle with the question of what we should do with our lives.  I think that one of the most fascinating aspects of the question is that the question itself can also be a subject of study.  What is the question?  Are there right answers?  Can we answer the question for others?  It is, in a sense, the ultimate question of human existence.
I have researched many different programs, and I have concluded that the London School of Economics MSC in philosophy and public policy would be an excellent fit for me.  The program will allow me to continue my research on ethics in an interdisciplinary environment, while also providing me with the practical skills and the theoretical background to excel in many potential careers.  I intend to broaden my ethical background by taking the core Morals and Politics Philosophy course, while increasing my knowledge of the social scientific method by taking Philosophy of the Social Sciences.  Since LSE is a centre of public policy debate I will also be exposed to many valuable opinions and contacts.
The philosopher who has had the greatest impact on my life is Martin Heidegger with his work Being and Time, specifically with his examination of authentic being towards death.  Being and Time made me realize how important it is to think about what I want to do with my life.  The answers I’ve come up with are simple, at least in theory.  I want to study philosophy, I want to enjoy my work, and I want to fall in love.  I believe that attending LSE would both embody these goals, and put me on the path to maintaining them throughout my life.  I will get to study philosophy, while gaining qualifications for interesting work, in the company of interesting like-minded people.  I believe that the London School of Economics’ interdisciplinary Philosophy and Public Policy program will supply me with the knowledge and skills that I need to pursue every angle of my interest in philosophy.

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One thought on “Grad School Statement of Purpose

  1. Pingback: Statement of Purpose | The musings of an optimist.

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