Philosophy

Director of Studies:  Professor Gábor Betegh

Course length: 3 years

Websites

Welcome to the Christ's College, Cambridge Philosophy page! On this page you will find the following information: 

Philosophy at Cambridge

Philosophy starts with general and even vague questions, but then approaches them rigorously. It is a subject that appeals to critical thinkers from both sides of the arts/science divide. Good philosophers tend to have a strong desire to understand and to find answers, like scientists. But in philosophy it is extremely unusual to actually find answers (at least, answers that anyone else agrees with), just as it is unusual in arts and humanities subjects. So good philosophers also need the patience to tolerate uncertainty, obscurity, fundamental disagreements, and discussions lasting thousands of years, without losing their appetite for clarity and understanding. For people with this combination of dispositions, philosophy is a uniquely satisfying subject. If you like to think about deep and general questions, and are prepared to discuss your ideas with others in a constructive and critical way, then you should consider studying philosophy.

Course details are available in the Philosophy Faculty Prospectus.
 

Philosophy at Christ's

Philosophy is a rewarding subject to study, and Christ’s is a good place to study it. The College provides a supportive and stimulating intellectual environment, with one-to-one supervision in philosophy through all three years. Christ’s is academically strong in philosophy, as in other subjects, but it is also relaxed and friendly. The academic strength comes from encouraging real interest in the subject, and not from pressure to perform: students set their own priorities. Christ’s is a medium sized college and usually admits two philosophy students each year (a medium number) but there is no formal quota.

Christ's is distinctive amongst the Cambridge Colleges. It offers strong tutorial support to its students as they pursue their academic work, and is able to offer accommodation for three years to all of its undergraduates. The College also provides a modern library, a theatre, sporting facilities, playing fields, social activities and clubs and societies open to all.
 

Careers after a Philosophy degree

The application of rigour to unclear and messy domains gives students of philosophy a desirable and employable set of intellectual skills, which can be successfully transferred to careers in areas such as law (via a conversion course), civil service, business, journalism, and politics. Philosophy as it is taught at Cambridge has a valuable reputation for rigour among employers.
 

Student Profile

Imogen has just completed her first year of Philosophy here at Christ's College, Cambridge. She has written about her experiences of studying Philosophy in this student profile. If you would like to read more accounts from Christ's students, please see the student profiles page.

"Throughout the year we went through logic in small stages with a class to go over the worksheets that we’d been given every two weeks. This made logic a lot less daunting. It was actually easier to pick up than I thought it would be."

Imogen

How to Apply

We welcome applications from all backgrounds and school types. Details and a timeline for the application process can be found on the how to apply page, and if you'll be applying from outside the UK, there is also a dedicated section for international students. The information below provides the additional details specific to applicants for Philosophy.

Subject advice

There are no required school subjects for Philosophy applications. If you are choosing your subjects for sixth form, it can be helpful to take a mixture of arts and maths/science subjects if you intend to apply for Philosophy. Mathematics gives useful preparation, and it will help if you take one or more essay-based subjects. 

Written work

After we have received your application, applicants for Philosophy will be asked to send us one essay that you feel accurately reflects your abilities and interests. This should be work which has been prepared during the normal course of your studies and has already been marked by a teacher. We recommend that you keep a copy for your own reference as it may be discussed at interview. Full written work guidelines, including details of how to send your work by email, will be provided as part of the current applicants section on this website (published by 20 September each year).

Interviews

For candidates selected for interview in Cambridge, these are held in early December. You will have two interviews at Christ's. Information about interviews (including two useful films) is available in the Cambridge interviews section.

We also hold interviews in a number of locations overseas. If this may be relevant for you, please see the international students section

Admissions Assessment

All Philosophy applicants invited for interview also take a written Admissions Assessment, normally on the same day as their interviews. We organise the Admissions Assessment for you automatically if you are invited for interview - there is nothing that you need to do to register. The same assessment is used no matter which College you apply to.

The Philosophy Admissions Assessment lasts one hour. No special preparation or prior knowledge is required. Information about the assessment including example questions and subject content is available on the the University website from March each year.

Offers

Christ's College does not have fixed quotas of places for different subjects and the exact numbers admitted in any one year will depend upon the strengths of the fields of applicants in various subjects. However, the College's aim is to admit at least 2 students each year in Philosophy. Our aim is to admit the best students regardless of their background. In recent years Philosophy at Christ's has tended, on average, to have between a 2:1 and 3:1 applicant: acceptance ratio.

The typical conditional offer for Philosophy is A*AA at A-level, 42 points overall in the International Baccalaureate with 7,7,6 in relevant Higher Level subjects, or the equivalent in other qualifications, although the precise terms of each offer are assessed individually. If you are an international applicant taking another qualification, do read the international students section for further information.

If you will apply after you have finished school, please see our page for post-qualification applications.
 

Reading Recommendations

  • Plato, Euthyphro and Meno
  • Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics
  • Rene Descartes, Meditations on First Philosophy – especially Meditations 1 and 2
  • David Hume, An Enquiry concerning Human Understanding – especially Sections IV, V, VII and X
  • George Berkeley, Three Dialogues between Hylas and Philonous
  • John Stuart Mill, On Liberty and The Subjection of Women
  • Thomas Nagel, Mortal Questions
  • Thomas Nagel, What Does It All Mean?
  • Bertrand Russell, The Problems of Philosophy

Interview candidates are not expected to have read all of these books. The list is provided for prospective students who are looking for suggestions. 
 

Further Information

You will find more information about Philosophy in the Cambridge Admissions prospectus entry and in the Philosophy Faculty Online Prospectus, where you can also find reading lists and other useful information. You could also have a look at www.askphilosophers.org where professional philosophers do their best to answer philosophical questions from the general public.

If you are able to come to a College Open Day, we will be glad to tell you more about the College and the course in person. If you are not able to come to an Open Day, please feel free to email us with any questions you may have. Our email address is admissions@christs.cam.ac.uk.
 

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