Philosophy BA (Hons)

Full-time undergraduate (3 years)


September 2017


Tackle the big questions that have mystified humanity since the dawn of consciousness and learn how the greatest thinkers have tried to answer them. Discuss, debate and develop your thinking as you learn invaluable skills for your future employment.

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Full description

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The problem-solving, creative and communication skills you’ll develop on this course will be valued by employers from many industries, from arts-based areas like journalism and media, publishing, advertising and teaching, through to computing and business administration.

Modules & assessment

Year one, core modules

  • Ancient Philosophy
    You’ll get an accessible introduction to ancient philosophy. You’ll examine key ideas from texts which contribute to the early formation of the philosophical tradition, including pre-Socratics such as Heraclitus and Parmenides and extracts from dialogues by Plato, as well as key extracts from Aristotle. You’ll explore the main issues in metaphysics, epistemology, the philosophy of art, and political philosophy. You’ll look at concepts such as being and becoming, appearance and reality, substance and categories, and issues such as the good life, the nature of the state, citizenship and government, education and character, censorship and art. Your assessment will take the form of two 1,500 word essays.
  • Rights and Responsibilities
    People fight for their rights, resent other people's exercise of their rights, claim rights against the state or on behalf of animals. But what are 'rights'? Who is entitled to them? Why? These questions are central to contemporary moral and political philosophy and also to the way in which we think of issues such as medical care, crime and punishment, justice and happiness. Through a series of lectures and seminars, you'll develop an understanding of these questions and the ways in which philosophers through the centuries have attempted to answer them.
  • Introduction to Philosophy
    You'll look at four central topics of philosophical inquiry: the relationship between truth and logical validity (When is an argument sound? Can we think about the content of a claim without thinking about reasons for asserting it?), the nature of knowledge (What are the sources and limits of knowledge?), the appearance/reality distinction (What lies beyond the limits of language and thought? Can we talk intelligibly about reality?), and selfhood (What is the self? Can we believe or want something unconsciously? What is the relationship between the self and others?).
  • Western Civilisation 1: Antiquity to the Renaissance
    This module will give you a historical overview of key ideas and events that have shaped what we have come to think of as 'Western civilisation'. You'll explore influential philosophical, political, religious and scientific ideas, and map the social and political changes that make up Western identity, from the classical period to the Renaissance. Through the study of original sources and secondary readings, you'll be encouraged to adopt an integrated approach to historical context and the spread and change of ideas, and to think critically about the role of events and ideas in shaping our past, present and future.
  • Western Civilisation 2: Reformation to the Modern Age
    This module will give you a historical overview of key ideas and events that have shaped what we have come to think of as 'Western civilisation'. You'll explore influential philosophical, political, religious and scientific ideas, and map the social and political changes that make up Western identity, in the period from the Reformation to the early 20th Century. You'll focus on an integrated approach to historical context and the spread and change of ideas and, through a selection of original sources and secondary readings, will be introduced to, and encouraged to think critically about, these events and ideas and their role in shaping our past, present and future.

Year one, optional modules

  • Current Topics in Ethics
    On this module, you'll explore a number of key debates in ethics, including value theory, theories of freedom and moral responsibility, and the question of whether morality has rational authority. Questions you'll consider include: what makes life meaningful? What has value? Do animals possess intrinsic moral worth? Do plants or the biosphere? Are human persons distinctively valuable? Other topics will be: are we free? Is there such a thing as moral luck? Are we responsible for our actions? Is it rational to be moral even at the expense of our own interests? You'll be taught through weekly lectures and seminars, and assessed by two 1,500 word essays.

Year two, core modules

  • The Rationalists: Early Modern Philosophy
    The Rationalist Philosophers of the 17th and 18th centuries set the modern philosophical agenda by asking fundamental questions about the nature of reality and knowledge, as well as the relationship between freedom and determinism in human life. On this module, you'll be introduced to the work Rationalists like Descartes, Spinoza and Leibniz.
  • The Empiricists
    The British Empiricists of the 17th and 18th centuries set the modern philosophical agenda by asking fundamental questions concerning the nature of reality and of knowledge, both theoretical and moral. On this module, you'll examine in detail the philosophy of the most important of the British Empiricists: Locke, Berkeley and Hume. You'll be assessed through two 1,500 word essays.
  • Mind and World
    On this module, you'll explore the nature of the mind and examine the different philosophical approaches that have been employed in the study of the mind. You'll be introduced to the historical context of debates about the topic, and encouraged to make comparisons and connections between different traditions in philosophy concerning problems of mind, mental content, consciousness, the body and the external world.
  • Ethics
    This module will introduce you to the basic issues in moral philosophy: What makes an action right or wrong? Do the consequences or the intention count more when evaluating an action as good or bad? What about the character of the moral agent? Does being virtuous matter? You'll explore and debate these questions by closely studying texts from the history of moral philosophy, also considering the possible application of moral theory to a host of contemporary ethical problems, such as international justice, animal welfare and euthanasia. You'll be assessed through two essays of 1,500 words each.

Year two, optional modules

  • Philosophy of Art
    What does it mean to think philosophically about art? In this module you'll do precisely that, by discussing the kinds of judgements that we make about art and whether these judgements have any objective validity or express merely subjective opinion. In the course of the module, you'll also critically examine a number of different art forms, such as conceptual art, film, music and painting, and ask questions such as 'Does music express emotion?', 'Does the authenticity of an artwork matter?' and 'Is conceptual art genuinely art?'.
  • Existence and Authenticity
    On this module, you'll trace the development of existentialism from its roots in the Christian philosophy of Kierkegaard, through the radically anti-Christian individualism of Nietzsche, to one of the most famous philosophers of the twentieth century: Jean-Paul Sartre. You'll look at how existentialist movement has been challenged as excessively humanist, and criticised either as implying nihilism or paying insufficient attention to the social and historical conditions of human existence. Embracing both literary and philosophical concerns, this module will cultivate your skills of interpretation, comparative analysis, and identification of thematic continuities in a diverse range of texts. You'll be assessed through two 1,500 word essays.
  • Applied Ethics
    At the heart of this module, you'll discover a number of moral dilemmas that remain both perplexing and largely unresolved. You'll focus mainly on three themes: taking life, giving life, and equality. In the first of these you'll consider issues such as abortion, euthanasia, and animal rights, and in the second, health care matters including IVF and the rationing of health care services. In the third, you'll consider global poverty, punishment, and sexuality. You'll uncover the differing opinions and the complexity of debates surrounding such issues as a woman's right to have a termination or the right of a terminally ill patient to die sooner rather than later. You’ll evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of a variety of arguments from politicians, interest groups, and other significant actors in contemporary moral debates, approaching these issues from both sociological and philosophical perspectives. Your assessment will consist of a 3000-word essay.

Year three, core modules

  • Major Project
    The individual Major Project will allow you to undertake a substantial piece of individual research, focused on a topic relevant to your specific course. Your topic will be assessed for suitability to ensure sufficient academic challenge and satisfactory supervision by an academic member of staff. The project will require you to identify/formulate problems and issues, conduct research, evaluate information, process data, and critically appraise and present your findings/creative work. You should arrange and attend regular meetings with your project supervisor, to ensure that your project is closely monitored and steered in the right direction.
  • Varieties of Scepticism
    This module will introduce you to the relationship between the desire to understand and the ever-present possibility that such understanding is not possible. Beginning with an account of scepticism in the Ancient world, you'll proceed to the rediscovery of sceptical problems in the early modern period before considering contemporary approaches to philosophical scepticism. You'll focus in particular on the question of whether the traditional sceptical problem of the external world is one that arises naturally wherever there are reflective human beings, or whether it is tied to a particular conception of the nature of human knowledge.

Year three, optional modules

  • Enlightenment and Modernity: The Philosophical Legacy
    On this module, you'll consider the key philosophical debates about the legacy of the Enlightenment in the context of modernity. You'll be introduced to key ideas from readings of primary texts that have contributed to debates about history, truth, morality and political power, the nature of interpretation and the role and status of reason and knowledge in the post-Enlightenment era. Your assessment is 1,000 word analysis of a specific topic or passage and a 2,000 word essay debating the wider issues discussed throughout the module.
  • Reason and Religious Belief
    On this module, you'll examine a number of issues in the philosophy of religion, including the forms of religious diversity, arguments for and against the existence of God, the phenomenon of religious experience, the nature of faith and the relation between religion and science in the contemporary age. You'll be familiarised with a wide range of perspectives and arguments, traditional and modern, and contribute to the critical evaluation of particular positions. Your assessment will consist of two 1,500 word essays.
  • Philosophy Special Subject
    This module offers you the opportunity to study in-depth one or more of the classic texts in the history of philosophy, ranging from the ancient to the modern period. Through studying aspects of the history of the subject, and some of the fundamental problems philosophers have raised, you’ll develop your problem-solving skills, with application both inside and outside academia. The module is also designed to prepare you for the possibility of more advanced philosophical research.
  • Concepts of Good and Evil
    What role, if any, does the concept of evil play in our moral vocabulary? Is it a narrowly theological notion or does it usefully describe certain kinds of act and/or character? On this module, you'll examine contemporary accounts of evil, as well as looking at the concept of evil in the history of philosophy from Leibniz to the present. In addition to considering theoretical discussions of evil, you'll also consider phenomena such as war and terrorism and ask whether the concept of evil helps us to understand them.
  • Media and Philosophy
    On this module, you'll explore the philosophical implications of the media. You'll engage with the history of philosophy, as it has touched on questions of technology, media, communication and language (itself a form of mediation), as well as the evolution of technology as a product of human agency. Specific issues you'll address include the roles of the philosophy of science in forming our technological imaginary and our conceptions of subjectivity and the relationship between military technology and video gaming. You’ll draw from a wide range of thinkers from both philosophy and contemporary media theory including Spinoza, Heidegger, Baudrillard and Deleuze. You'll explore various media such as film, television and video games in order to generate epistemological and ontological questions regarding the world as representation, cultural artefact, simulacrum or chaotic system. You'll be assessed through a 2,500 word critical essay and a group panel discussion, including a position paper of up to five minutes.

Optional modules available all years

  • Anglia Language Programme
    The Anglia Language Programme allows you to study a foreign language as part of your course. You'll take one language module in the second semester of your first year in order to experience the learning of a new language. You must select a language you've never learnt before from the following: Chinese (Mandarin), French, German, Italian, Japanese, and Spanish.


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For a full breakdown of module options and credits, please view the module structure.

You’ll demonstrate your learning through a combination of exams, essays, portfolios, presentations, reviews and reports, as well as your final-year Major Project.

Where you'll study

Your department and faculty

The Department of Humanities and Social Sciences is an academic community of nearly 800 students and teaching staff. Our students are supported by leading practitioners, so you'll always have access to the latest theoretical and practical knowledge, as well as invaluable career advice. Subjects in the Humanities and Social Sciences lead to work in many roles you might not have considered, maybe as a politician, chief executive – or even an inventor.

We organise many activities to help our students prepare for their future, like work placements, study abroad opportunities, talks by acclaimed guest speakers, and research conferences.

We’re part of the Faculty of Arts, Law and Social Sciences, a hub of creative and cultural innovation whose groundbreaking research has real social impact.

Where can I study?

Lord Ashcroft Building on our Cambridge campus

Our campus is close to the centre of Cambridge, often described as the perfect student city.

Explore our Cambridge campus

Study abroad opportunities

You will have the opportunity to study for one semester in the US or Canada, made available through our exchange programme.

Specialist facilities

You’ll work with our modern and well-equipped classrooms, with full access to our campus library, computer rooms and many online resources.

Fees & funding

Course fees

UK & EU students, 2017/18 (per year)


International students, 2017/18 (per year)


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For more information about tuition fees, including the UK Government's commitment to EU students, please see our UK/EU funding pages

How do I pay my fees?

Tuition fee loan

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Most English undergraduates take out a tuition fee loan with Student Finance England. The fees are then paid directly to us. The amount you repay each month is linked to your salary and repayments start in April after you graduate.

How to apply for a tuition fee loan

Paying upfront

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If you choose not to take out a loan you can pay your fees directly to us. There are two ways to do this: either pay in full, or through a three- or six-month instalment plan starting at registration.

How to pay your fees directly

International students

You must pay your fees up-front, in full or in instalments. You will also be asked for a deposit or sponsorship letter for undergraduate courses. Details will be in your offer letter.

Paying your fees
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Funding for UK & EU students

We offer most new undergraduate students funding to support their studies and university life. There’s also finance available for specific groups of students.

Grants and scholarships are available for:

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Funding for international students

We've a number of scholarships, as well as some fee discounts for early payment.

Entry requirements

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Important additional notes

Our published entry requirements are a guide only and our decision will be based on your overall suitability for the course as well as whether you meet the minimum entry requirements. Other equivalent qualifications may be accepted for entry to this course, please email for further information.

We don't accept AS level qualifications on their own for entry to our undergraduate degree courses. However for some degree courses a small number of tariff points from AS levels are accepted as long as they're combined with tariff points from A levels or other equivalent level 3 qualifications in other subjects.

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International students

We welcome applications from international and EU students, and accept a range of international qualifications.

English language requirements

If English is not your first language, for entry to an undergraduate degree course you’ll usually require:

  • IELTS 6.0 or equivalent, with all 4 elements (listening, speaking, reading and writing) above 5.5
Improving your English language skills

If you don't meet our English language requirements, we offer a range of courses which could help you achieve the level required for entry onto a degree course.

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