Philosophy at Cambridge
Philosophy explores human thought, the basis of knowledge, the nature of reason, consciousness and cognition, as well as the foundations of value and political theory. Its questions are intriguing and its study requires complex critical thinking, rigorous analysis and consideration of new perspectives.
Cambridge occupies a distinguished place in the history of philosophy. It was here, in the early twentieth century, that Russell, Moore, Wittgenstein, Ramsey and others developed the analytic style of philosophy that is now prominent in much of the world. Today, the Faculty retains a strong commitment to this analytic tradition, combining it with study of the history of philosophy from Plato to the present day to offer one of the most far-reaching courses of its kind available anywhere in the world.
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 Greek and Roman, and early modern philosophy, as well as political philosophy and aesthetics. You don’t need to have studied philosophy previously, but we do recommend you do some preliminary reading (see the Faculty website for suggestions).
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.
Additional course costs
There are no compulsory additional course costs for Philosophy. However, some students find it helpful to purchase a University approved calculator (c. £20), some textbooks (we would not expect this to exceed £100 per year). For students taking Experimental Psychology from Part IB of the Natural Sciences Tripos there may be other additional costs (please see the Natural Sciences course page for details). Full course details are available on the Faculty of Philosophy website and if you have any queries about resources/materials, please contact the Faculty (see fact file, right).
To be able to change course, you need the agreement of your College that any change is in your educational interests, and you must have the necessary background in the subject to which you wish to change – in some cases you may be required to undertake some catch-up work or take up the new course from the start/an earlier year. If you think you may wish to change course, we encourage you to contact a College admissions office for advice. You should also consider if/how changing course may affect any financial support arrangements.
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 Theology, Religion, and Philosophy of Religion or History) 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.