Do you enjoy arguments on the pros and cons of general issues? Do you relish puzzle-solving? Do you like subjects that emphasise rigorous thought? The Cambridge course in 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.
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.
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. Each student can expect to have one supervision per week during term, and 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 to or from in recent years include English; Law; Mathematics; Human, Social and Political Sciences; Theology; and the History and Philosophy of Science. 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.
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, meaning 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 course. Our graduates go on to a wide range of careers, including teaching, law, the arts, media, and business, as well as a significant number of our students going on to undertake further study in the subject.
Fellows at King's in Philosophy:
Applying for 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.
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, and students are successful on the Philosophy course from a range of subject backgrounds.
There is no pre-interview assessment for Philosophy applicants, but students who are invited for interview in Philosophy are also required to take the at-interview written assessment, 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.
You will not be asked to submit any written work as part of your application to King's.
If you are invited for an interview in early December, you will be carefully assessed by philosophical discussion in an interview with two academics.
Mica has written about her experiences of King's Philosophy, including the timetable and workload, supervisions, formal logic, balancing academic work with other activities, and the application process. This account is well worth reading to get a sense of what studying Philosophy at King's is really like.
Reading, Resources and Events
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 below.
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.