Philosophy is the study of fundamental problems about the nature of knowledge and reality, and about our moral and political ideas. In universities it is studied in a way that lays considerable emphasis on very precise and careful argument. Although undergraduates in Cambridge read a wide range of philosophical authors, the main aim is for students to acquire the kind of skill in reasoning which will enable them to tackle problems of a philosophical character and to think intelligently about abstract 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 much of 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 is possible to concentrate entirely on philosophy without taking any other subject (although you can diversify within the subject if you wish).
It is not expected that students have formally studied any Philosophy before reading the subject at Cambridge. If you enjoy marshalling arguments, puzzle–solving of various kinds, and subjects that emphasise rigorous thought, then you might well find that Philosophy is the subject for you. To get a real feel for the character of the subject, you need to read some Philosophy, and the Faculty of Philosophy have produced a suggested reading list providing a good introduction to various aspects of the subject.
Philosophy at Cambridge can be studied as a full three year degree, or for one or two years in combination with other subjects. It combines well with a variety of other tripos including (but not only) Linguistics and HSPS. Students with A Levels (or equivalent) in either Arts or Science subjects are equally acceptable.
Philosophy at Caius
Caius admits between two and four Philosophy students a year. This provides students with a high level of individual attention and support, and forges a close relationship between students studying the subject in first, second and third year. It also offers the opportunity of living and working in a very interdisciplinary environment, and College philosophers often come together with classicists, theologians and linguists for joint events.
Caius has an unusually high concentration of philosophy fellows, undergraduates and graduates, making it one of the best colleges at which to study this subject. In recent years Caius has been the best-performing college or among the best-performing colleges in the Philosophy Tripos. Prof Arif Ahmed is the Director of Studies in Philosophy. Prof Alex Oliver and Dr Jimmy Altham are also active Fellows of the College.
Philosophy applicants are assessed initially on the basis of references, personal statements and the details of their academic record. We invited all suitably-qualified candidates to interview and to sit a short written test. In general we’re looking for applicants who are capable of sharp, incisive thought and are enthusiastic about the opportunities that an undergraduate study of Philosophy can offer.
If you have any queries about Admissions, please contact the Admissions Tutor at firstname.lastname@example.org.