If you loved your Philosophy A Level or the Philosophy component of your IB at school, then you will already know that this might well be the higher education course for you. But what if you haven’t studied Philosophy at school – how do you know whether you should consider it at university? In this blog, we look at this interesting degree subject and if it might be a good fit for you.
This will obviously vary from university to university. Logic is a very common topic in the first year (sometimes even first term) and you will undoubtedly have an ‘Introduction to Philosophy’ in your first term. In ‘Theory of Knowledge’, you will most likely study thinkers such as Descartes and Hume. In ‘Ethics’, you will probably be reading J.S. Mill’s Utilitarianism. In second and third years, it is likely that you will be able to choose electives alongside core modules. These could include ‘Philosophy of Religion’, ‘History of Philosophy’ from Descartes to Kant, ‘Philosophy of Mathematics’, and ‘Medieval Philosophy’. Philosophy also combines well with other degree subjects for a joint honours course, e.g. Philosophy and Economics, Modern Language or International Relations.
If your school has any Philosophy teachers, see if you can have a chat with them. Explain your enthusiasm in the subject, discuss some of your favourite philosophical topics with them. That can then give you a flavour of some of the discussions you would have with your professors at university.
If you’re considering studying Philosophy, you may well get well-meaning and worried relatives asking you what on earth you can then ‘do’ with your degree. After all, there aren’t many jobs out there advertising for a Philosopher. But in fact, most employers recognise a Philosophy degree in the same way they would any other Arts discipline such as English or History. A good degree in any of these disciplines indicates that the individual has had a broad education, can analyse information effectively, can write well, can meet deadlines and can absorb mountains of complex information. These are all very useful skills.
Range from A*AA/41 IB at Oxford and Cambridge to AAA/ 38 IB at LSE or AAB/35 at St Andrew’s and ABB/34 at Cardiff.
Further Reading & Listening
Get your hands on some key texts that most Philosophy first years will be required to study. Check out The Logic Manual by V. Halbach, Utilitarianism by J.S. Mill, Think by S. Blackburn, An Introduction to Philosophical Analysis by J. Hospers, Plato’s Meno. Remember that philosophy books should be read super slowly! Don’t feel you have to read the book cover-to-cover. Try and take notes as you read, write down any questions that come up, jot down thoughts and observations on what you have read. If you enjoy the process, then it’s likely you’ll enjoy the degree. Here’s a Cambridge University Philosophy Reading List for those intending to study Philosophy at degree level.
After reading the books, try and explain what you’ve learnt to family and friends. It’s surprisingly difficult! This will help you get used to discussing complex concepts and the process of something, and having to answer questions about it, is the best way of making sure you really understand it, too.
Sometimes there just isn’t enough time to read as much as we like to. Here some podcasts to listen to whilst you’re on your way to school or brushing your teeth! It’s worth trying to jot down some keywords on a post-it after you’ve listened to the podcast, otherwise it is all too easy for the information to go in one ear, and out the other… BBC’s In Our Time offers a great range of forty minute podcasts on key philosophers and important concepts here.