Welcome to the Philosophy subject page at King’s. Here you will find an overview of Philosophy at King’s, the Cambridge Philosophy course, the people who teach and research Philosophy at King’s, plus information about applying for the undergraduate course.
- Philosophy at King's
- The Cambridge Philosophy Tripos
- Student perspectives
- King's Fellows in Philosophy
- Applying to study Philosophy at King's
- Reading and resources
- Further information
Philosophy at King’s
Philosophy at King’s has long been strong. Past Fellows of the College who have contributed to making it an exceptional philosophical community include Bernard Williams, Peter Lipton, and Richard Braithwaite (in whose rooms the famous incident involving Wittgenstein, Popper and a poker is said to have taken place), King’s is one of the Colleges with the biggest annual intake of undergraduates in Philosophy. This means that it is easy to find congenial intellectual company here.
A central part of the philosophical scene at King’s is the Philosopher King’s discussion group created by our former Provost, Ross Harrison, over three decades ago. Philosopher King’s is also happy to welcome people from other subjects in the College, including graduates and undergraduates from the History and Philosophy of Science.
King's College Library is well-stocked for Philosophy and provides a pleasant place to study (see the virtual tour). In addition, King's students have very easy access both to the Philosophy Faculty on the Sidgwick Site (including the Casimir Lewy Philosophy Library), and the University Library: both are only a couple of minutes' walk from College (see map).
King’s Philosophy graduates go on to a wide range of careers, including teaching, law, the arts, media, and business. A significant number of our students also go on to do graduate work in the subject. Over the last ten years more than fifteen King’s Philosophers have gone on to start a postgraduate degree in Philosophy or an adjacent discipline in Cambridge or elsewhere. Three have gone on to professional academic employment in the subject.
The Cambridge Philosophy Tripos (Tripos = course)
The Cambridge Philosophy Tripos is a course in Western philosophy, understood to include ancient Greek philosophy, modern European philosophy and contemporary philosophy in the analytical tradition. Logic and Metaphysics & Philosophy of Mind each compulsory for the first two years. Full details of the course and options can be found on the Philosophy Faculty website.
Teaching of Philosophy at Cambridge, as of every other subject, is divided between the Faculty (Department) and the College. The Faculty organises lectures, logic classes, discussion groups and seminars, and is also responsible for the end of year examinations. The College provides supervisions (individual or small group teaching) for students. The responsibility for organising these supervisions lies with the Director of Studies (see below). Each student can expect to have one supervision per week during term. Most supervisions in Philosophy at King’s are one-to-one. The main focus of the supervision is an essay submitted by the student and marked by the supervisor in advance. The supervision itself is then devoted to a critical discussion of the essay topic.
As the course is divided into three parts (Parts IA, IB, and II), it is possible to either study Philosophy for three years, or to study it for one or two years only. Many undergraduates have read Philosophy with great success either before or after another subject taught by King's. Some popular subjects Philosophy students have changed from or to in recent years include English; Law; Mathematics; Human, Social and Political Sciences; Theology; and The History and Philosophy of Science (under Natural Sciences). If you take the Experimental Psychology option in Part IB Philosophy, it is possible to go on to the Part II Natural Sciences Psychology course.
Markus and Becca have written about their experiences of King's Philosophy, including the timetable and workload, supervisions, formal logic, balancing academic work with other activities, and the application process. These accounts are well worth reading to get a sense of what studying Philosophy at King's is really like.
King's Fellows in Philosophy
John Filling (Director of Studies) has research interests in moral and political philosophy and its history. His current major research project is on freedom in Hegel and Marx.
Anna Alexandrova (Director of Studies) is a philosopher of social science. She has written on the role of idealised models in economics and on the measurement of well-being for policy, amongst other topics.
Angela Breitenbach's research focuses on the philosophy of Kant, philosophy of science and biology, environmental philosophy and aesthetics. She has published on Kant's natural philosophy and Kantian approaches to the philosophy of biology, and is currently working on a research project on aesthetics in science.
Paul Sagar works primarily on political philosophy and the history of political thought. He is particularly interested in the works of Thomas Hobbes, David Hume, and Adam Smith, and theories about how to understand the nature of the modern state. He is also interested in moral philosophy, and the intersection of this with political theory.
Applying to study Philosophy at King’s
We welcome applications from students who look able to meet our entrance requirements from all kinds of schools all over the world. There is no formal quota for the annual intake of philosophy undergraduates at King’s, but in practice the College has given offers to around four students per year in recent admissions rounds.
The application process for all subjects is explained on our how to apply page, which we advise applicants to read thoroughly in combination with the details below about subject choices for Philosophy, the interviews, and the Philosophy at-interview written assessment.
There are no required school subjects for this course. We are looking for students who can demonstrate a capacity for clear-headed logical reasoning and abstract thought. To apply to study Philosophy at King’s, you should have a strong interest in the subject but do not need to have studied Philosophy formally at school.
A combination of arts and science subjects at school can be useful but this is not a requirement. Students are successful on the Philosophy course from a range of subject backgrounds. You might like to look at the general advice on subject choices.
If you are invited for an interview in early December, you will be carefully assessed by philosophical discussion in an interview with two Fellows.
Information about the interview options for international candidates are on the International Students page.
Students who are invited for interview in Philosophy are also asked to take the at-interview written assessment for Philosophy, which lasts one hour. You do not need to register for this written assessment as it will be organised automatically by the College if you are invited for interview.
Your performance in the Philosophy at-interview written assessment will not be considered in isolation, but will be taken into account alongside the other elements of your application.
Reading and resources
- You should read the general advice about developing your interests.
- It is essential to read some philosophy before you make an application, both to check that this is what you really want to do and so that you can engage in philosophical argument in the interview. You may find some useful suggestions on our reading list page.
- The subject resources page has a tag for posts on Humanities, which you might like to browse.
- Events which may be of interest in the year before you apply (year 12 in the UK) include Oxford and Cambridge Student Conferences (March) and King's Open Days. Students from backgrounds where there is little tradition of entry to Higher Education might like to think about applying for the Sutton Trust Summer Schools or the CUSU Shadowing Scheme.
- Course outline and introductory video and details
- Faculty of Philosophy website
- Applying with limited support or advice
- International Students
- Extenuating circumstances form
- If you have any further questions about studying at / applying to King’s, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Students interested in Philosophy may also like to consider Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, English, History, Modern and Medieval Languages and Theology and Religious Studies.