Philosophy BA (Hons)

Full-time undergraduate (3 years)


September 2018


Take on the big questions that have mystified humanity since the dawn of consciousness and discover how the greatest minds have tried to answer them. Learn to engage philosophical methods in everyday life, and develop key transferable skills for your future career.

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Full description


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The problem-solving, critical and creative skills you’ll develop on this course will be particularly useful for a range of careers in areas such as teaching, local government, charity administration and management and digital and media roles, but are also transferable to others, including arts-based areas such as heritage and arts administration, project management and PR, and business, including start-ups and online companies.

When you graduate, you might also decide to move onto our PhD / MPhil Philosophy research degree.

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.
  • A History of Ideas in 8 Objects
    In this module you will look at a history of ideas in historical context, introduced through 8 objects that have arguably changed the world, and the way we think about our place in the world. You will be introduced to key philosophical writings that are linked to the objects in question, and we will examine the specific arguments, and the historical changes and transformations that took place, in careful detail. The module will also offer you the opportunity to undertake structured skill development in identifying and creating an argument, offering evidence for a specific point of view, preparing a persuasive presentation and writing a researched project to a deadline. These skills are important not only for future employability skills but offer a foundation for academic development through the rest of the degree. This module is taught through lectures and seminars and a visit to the Fitzwilliam museum in Cambridge (no charge for this). You will be assessed by a structured portfolio comprising a series of tasks to complete, with a final research project. The module will include opportunities for formative feedback. It will include a visit to the Fitzwilliam museum to consider selected objects, antiquities and artefacts as part of the study (no financial charge for this field trip).
  • 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?).
  • 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.
  • Words and Language
    In this module we will examine some of the key philosophical debates about language, meaning and usage. How does meaning work? How do we seem to make sense and communicate using language? Does language really describe or represent the world? How do we use language and what are the implications of such usage? This module will also offer you the opportunity to undertake structured skill development in identifying and creating an argument, offering evidence for a specific point of view, preparing a persuasive presentation and writing a researched project to a deadline. These skills are important not only for future employability skills but offer a foundation for academic development through the rest of the degree. The module will be taught through a lecture-seminar format. You will be assessed by a structured portfolio comprising a series of tasks to complete, with a final research project. The module will include opportunities for formative feedback.

Year one, optional modules

  • Introduction to Philosophy 2 - Meaning, Value and Goodness
    This module will address a number of key debates in ethics, including value theory, theories of freedom and moral responsibility and the question as to whether morality has rational authority. Questions it will pose 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 will be taught by weekly lectures and seminars, and assessed by two 1500 word essays. The employee attributes you will develop on this module include cognitive skills, such as the ability to identify and solve complex problems, attention to detail and planning and organising. Generic competencies that you will develop during seminar debate include skills in relation to influencing others, being sensitive to the opinions of others and the lucid communication of ideas.

Year two, core modules

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Kant and the Empiricists
    The British Empiricists of the 17th and 18th centuries, as well as Kant, 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 British Empiricists and Kant. In addition to preparing you for more advanced study of the key issues at Level 6, this module will give you a broad conceptual and historical framework from within which to evaluate the thematic problems in metaphysics and epistemology encountered in level 4. You will be taught through lectures and seminars, with lectures introducing topics that are discussed and debated in seminars, and assessed by means of one 3000-word essay.
  • 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.

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?'.
  • 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.
  • 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.

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

  • Experiencing God
    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 will become familiar with a wide range of perspectives and arguments, traditional and modern, and contribute to the critical evaluation of particular positions. You will be assessed by one 3,000-word essay.
  • 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.
  • Philosophies of Language and the Body
    In this module you will focus on language as a symbolic system and practice where meaning is produced and reproduced under specific cultural conditions and is characterised by fragmentation and conflict as much as by cohesion and consensus. You will relate the study of language to issues concerning, for example, identity, cultural power and domination, representation, and real life. You will explore post-structuralist critiques of linguistics, which may include theories of language as a means by which identity is produced through the interconnectedness of language and ideology. In addition, you will encounter the physical body not as ‘natural’ but as a linguistic phenomenon: where the body is a text to be read. Challenging binaries such as mind/body and biological/textual, you will query the role of language in creating bodies and the ways in which the flesh has been historically created through discourse. You will also look at the ways the body has transgressed these discourses. In examining the relationships between language, power and bodies, you will explore the links between language, power, knowledge, ‘truth’ and identity, and extend these links to ecological concerns and the connectedness of the human to the nonhuman and nature. You will learn to question how truth and knowledge are challenged in post-structuralist/ deconstructionist projects, and how this challenge can lead to what is known as posthuman ethics and the ecological revolution: currently known in linguistic philosophy as ‘ecosophy’. You will be expected to give short presentations in class, based on your preparatory reading. Your assessment will consist of a 2500 word essay, requiring you to make connections between different ideas explored in the module, and a supporting task.
  • Capitalism, Power and the Discontented
    On this module you will look at theoretical accounts of capitalism and the nature of power and the state in the modern world, and consider how these structures have been contested and critiqued. You are encouraged to critically reflect on how the capitalist economy works, examining both sympathetic and critical accounts of its core functions. You will also develop an understanding of why and how resistance to the system emerges. Capitalism is not just considered as an economic system however, but also as a political, cultural and social phenomenon. As such, while some readings and issues are drawn from political economy, you will engage with a range of theoretical writing on power, race, feminism, hegemony, and alternatives to the status quo, which each offer differing conceptions of how capitalism, power and mass discontent might be understood. You will also engage with a range of intellectual sources from cultural studies, politics and international relations, history, and sociology. Theoretical positions will be contextualised through the modern and contemporary context of neoliberal globalisation. How has the post-financial crisis political landscape been transformed? What debates are emerging over how and if the market economy might be changed? Why does resistance occur? What is the nature of power? What strategies can be effective in building a more humane society? You will be taught through lectures and seminars each week, with your assessment comprising one 3,000-word essay.
  • 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.
  • 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.

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 show your progress on the course through a variety of methods likely to be used in the workplace, including presentations, research projects, reviews, reports and portfolios, as well as more traditional essays and your final 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

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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

All your classes will take place in our modern and well-equipped classrooms. You’ll also have full access to our well-stocked campus library, with computer rooms and quiet zones, as well as many online resources.

Fees & funding

Course fees

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


International students, 2017/18 (per year)


UK & EU students, 2018/19 (per year)


International students, 2018/19 (per year)


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Fee information

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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