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Philosophy

The School of Athens, Raphael, 1510-1511.

Philosophy at Cambridge

Philosophy is the most ancient of academic disciplines, and Cambridge is an excellent place to study it. The so-called 'analytic' school of philosophy originated in Cambridge in the early 20th century, when Russell, Moore, and Wittgenstein were here. Today, the Philosophy course is among the most rigorous and rewarding in the world, and the Cambridge Faculty is ranked among the very best Philosophy departments in the UK for both teaching and research.

If you read Philosophy at Cambridge, you'd take one or more parts of the Cambridge Philosophy Tripos, probably the most rigorous undergraduate Philosophy course in the world. The Tripos is run by the Faculty of Philosophy and you would attend the same lectures, seminars and discussion groups, and sit the same University exams as students from all other Cambridge colleges. In addition, each college provides individual tutoring through the supervision system. The main focus of the supervision is an essay which you'd submit in advance, to be marked by your supervisor. The supervision itself is devoted to a critical discussion of the essay topic. As a Philosophy student at Cambridge, you'd normally have one supervision per week, either individually or in a pair.

Full details are provided on the Faculty of Philosophy website, and summarised in the University Undergraduate Prospectus.

Philosophy at Churchill

Churchill has a tradition of excellence in Philosophy going back to the earliest days of the College. Edward Craig, until 2006 the Knightbridge Professor of Philosophy, has been a Fellow of the College since 1966. Simon Blackburn, until 2011 the Bertrand Russell Professor of Philosophy, started his career as a Junior Research Fellow at Churchill in 1967. Since then, the College has been host to a number of highly successful Fellows in Philosophy who have gone on to hold prestigious positions both in the UK and elsewhere.

Today Philosophy at Churchill stands out for its diversity and its focus on developing the academic potential of each individual student. Our undergraduates come from a wide range of educational backgrounds, both in the UK and abroad. What they all have in common is a desire to excel academically, and an understanding that working hard is an essential prerequisite for doing so.

The current Director of Studies in Philosophy is Dr Louise Hanson. Other philosophers at Churchill include Professor Matthew Kramer, who is a Fellow in Law and Director of the Cambridge Forum for Legal and Political Philosophy.


Admissions

Churchill currently admits two or three philosophers a year (though we set no maximum number and an exceptional field of applicants could result in us taking more). If you're a qualified and interested candidate, whatever subjects you may be taking at school, we invite your application.

When we review your application, we'll consider your academic achievement and potential, as measured by a combination of your exam results, reference, personal statement, written assessment, and interviews. What matters is not so much your current knowledge of Philosophy, as your aptitude for it and your motivation and depth of interest. We are looking for people who are both creative and logically disciplined, who care deeply about what they say and think, and who have the sincerity, tenacity and humility without which real depth in Philosophy is impossible.

Subject pre-requisites

Essential Highly desirable/useful
No specific subjects An arts/science mix is useful

Standard entry requirements

Written assessments

Cambridge University uses a system of common format written assessments, specifically tailored to each subject. These give us valuable additional evidence of your academic ability, knowledge base, and potential to succeed at Cambridge. For more information about written assessments in this subject, click on:

Written assessments

Written work

We will ask you to submit two examples of teacher-marked written work on any subject.

Interviews

Most applicants are invited to an interview at Churchill. If called, you will normally have two interviews with academic Fellows from the College. During these, we will engage you in an informal discussion about a philosophical topic that is relevant to the course, and see what you can do with it — whether you understand the problem at hand, whether you can see the point of objections and challenges, and whether you are able to make progress with a given line of thought. In many ways, the interview is a taste of what it is like to have a supervision.

The best way to prepare is not to read vast amounts of Philosophy and try to absorb the views proposed there, but to read in a focused and discriminating way, and to think carefully and critically about what is being said. Writing notes and discussing the issues with friends and teachers can also be helpful. No-one is ever admitted to read Philosophy at Cambridge on the basis of the interview alone, yet the interview is an opportunity for you to show that you have a genuine interest in some area of the subject, and that you have tried to engage critically with some philosophical ideas


Suggested reading list

There are many good introductory Philosophy books, and many lists of suggested reading for beginners. Our philosophers have compiled a suggested reading list (below), but any Philosophy reading you do will help, as long as you read critically. Try a number of authors. If you find one dull or exasperating or hard to understand, try another.


Careers

Past students of Philosophy at Churchill have gone on to a variety of careers, including: law, media, management consulting, engineering, science, school teaching, investment banking, medicine, policing, and others. Some of our former students are also teaching Philosophy at university themselves.

More generally, Cambridge Philosophy graduates pursue a wide variety of career paths. More than a third go on to postgraduate study, with a significant number of Cambridge Philosophy students going on to pursue a career in the profession. Other common destinations for Cambridge Philosophy graduates are law, civil service, teaching and business. Statistics are available in the Faculty Undergraduate Prospectus and the University Undergraduate Prospectus.


Contact

For more information and for all admissions enquiries, please contact the Admissions Office.

Admissions Office

 

Image: The School of Athens, Raphael, 1510-1511.

Director of Studies

Dr Louise Hanson

Director of Studies

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