Philosophy at Cambridge
Philosophy considers extremely general and ‘ultimate’ problems, such as the nature of reality, the purpose of human existence, and the basis of knowledge. It also scrutinises the methods used to answer such questions.
Three Cambridge scholars – Bertrand Russell, G E Moore and Ludwig Wittgenstein – transformed the discipline of philosophy in the early twentieth century and made Cambridge the most important centre for philosophy in the English-speaking world. Along with Frank Ramsey and others, they developed the analytic style of philosophy now prominent throughout the world.
Today, Cambridge remains one of the best places to get a grounding in analytic philosophy and our course is one of the few in which it’s possible to concentrate entirely on philosophy without taking any other subject (although you can diversify within the subject if you wish).
Teaching and learning
Our approach emphasises the values of the analytic school: rigour, clarity and independent thought. But its content extends well beyond the analytic tradition and its main preoccupations. For instance, we currently offer papers on the history of philosophy from Plato to Wittgenstein, as well as political philosophy and aesthetics.
The Faculty has close links with related faculties such as Classics, History, and History and Philosophy of Science, so you can take advantage of a wide range of specialised lectures and seminars. You also have access to many excellent libraries.
If you're thinking of applying to study Philosophy and haven't already done so, we strongly advise you to do some reading about the subject to get a realistic idea of what it's like. For example:
- S Blackburn Think
- R Descartes Meditations
- D Hume Enquiries
- J S Mill Utilitarianism
- B Russell Problems of Philosophy
Please see the Faculty website for further suggestions.
It's possible to combine philosophy with another subject by changing to or from another course. You can either study another subject for one or two years (such as Mathematics, Classics or Economics) and then switch to Philosophy, or change to another subject (such as Economics, History or Psychology) after Part IA or Part IB (Year 1 or 2) Philosophy.
Although the system is fairly flexible, not all combinations are feasible. If you're considering such changes, please consult the Colleges to which you're considering applying about your plans.
Although a Philosophy degree isn’t an essential qualification for any particular career, the analytical and critical skills developed through its study (eg rigour, precision, creativity) prepare our graduates for a variety of professions, including business, computing, journalism, administration and law. Around a quarter of recent graduates have gone on to further study, with others starting careers in publishing, teaching, banking and investment, arts and recreation, IT, and public services.