Study Philosophy: A Comprehensive Subject Guide

This guide serves as a foundational resource for those interested in exploring the profound questions, diverse areas, and historical developments within the field of philosophy. Whether you’re a student considering a philosophy degree or a curious individual eager to engage in philosophical inquiry, this guide offers a comprehensive introduction to the subject, empowering you with the fundamental knowledge and critical thinking skills necessary to navigate the world of ideas and seek a deeper understanding of the human experience.


Table of Contents

What is Philosophy?

Philosophy is a systematic and critical inquiry into fundamental questions concerning reality, existence, knowledge, ethics, and the nature of the universe and human experience. It is a discipline that explores profound and abstract concepts, seeking to understand the fundamental principles that underlie all aspects of human thought and existence. Philosophers engage in philosophical inquiry by using reason, argumentation, and critical thinking to explore various issues and to formulate and evaluate theories and ideas.

Philosophy encompasses a wide range of subfields, each of which focuses on specific questions or areas of interest. Some of these subfields include:

  1. Metaphysics: The study of the fundamental nature of reality, including questions about the existence of God, the nature of the self, the nature of time and space, and the relationship between mind and body.

  2. Epistemology: The study of knowledge and the nature of belief. It explores questions about what we can know, how we come to know it, and the limits of human knowledge.

  3. Political Philosophy: The study of political systems, government, justice, and social organisation. It seeks to answer questions about the best form of government, the rights and responsibilities of citizens, and the concept of justice.

  4. Logic: The study of reasoning and argumentation. Logic deals with the principles of sound and valid reasoning and helps philosophers construct and evaluate arguments.

  5. Philosophy of Mind: The study of the nature of consciousness, mental processes, and the relationship between the mind and the body.

Why Study Philosophy?

Studying philosophy offers a wide range of intellectual, practical, and personal benefits, even if you don’t plan to become a professional philosopher. Here are some compelling reasons to study philosophy:

  1. Clarity and Precision: Philosophical inquiry demands clarity and precision in thought and expression. By engaging with philosophical concepts, you learn to articulate your ideas more effectively, which can improve your communication skills in everyday life and in your career.

  2. Broadened Perspective: Philosophy explores fundamental questions about existence, knowledge, ethics, and more. It challenges your assumptions and broadens your perspective, making you more open to different worldviews and less likely to accept ideas uncritically.

  3. Ethical Reflection: Philosophy, particularly ethics, helps you think deeply about moral dilemmas and values. It enables you to make more informed and ethically sound decisions in your personal and professional life.

  4. Self-Discovery: Philosophy encourages introspection and self-reflection. It can help you gain a better understanding of your own beliefs, values, and motivations, leading to personal growth and self-awareness.

  5. Appreciation of Diversity: Philosophy exposes you to diverse cultural, historical, and intellectual traditions. This can enhance your appreciation of different perspectives, cultures, and ways of thinking.

  6. Intellectual Exploration: Philosophy is a versatile discipline that connects with various other fields, such as science, art, politics, and religion. It provides a framework for exploring interdisciplinary questions and expanding your intellectual horizons.

Best Universities for Philosophy

Here is a list of the top UK universities in this field according to the latest QS World University Rankings:

1University of Oxford
2University of St Andrews
3London School of Economics and Political Science
4University of Cambridge
5University of Warwick
6UCL (University College London)
7University of Exeter
8Durham University
9University of Manchester
10University of Bristol
11University of York
12University of Birmingham
13King's College London, University of London
14University of Southampton
15The University of Edinburgh
16Lancaster University
17University of Stirling
18University of Aberdeen
19SOAS University of London
20University of Leeds
21University of Nottingham
22Cardiff University
23University of Hull
24University of Sussex
25University of Sheffield
26University of Kent
27University of Glasgow
28University of East Anglia UEA
29Newcastle University
30University of Reading
31Oxford Brookes University
32University of Essex
33Bangor University
34University of Hertfordshire
35University of Liverpool
36Manchester Metropolitan University
37Royal Holloway, University of London
38Queen's University Belfast
39Keele University
40University of Winchester
41University of Roehampton
42University of Dundee
43University of Gloucestershire
44Liverpool Hope University
45University of Lincoln
46Bristol, University of the West of England
47Nottingham Trent University

Entry Requirements for a Philosophy Degree

Entry requirements for a Philosophy degree in the UK can vary depending on the specific university and the level of study (undergraduate or postgraduate).

Undergraduate (Bachelor’s Degree):

  1. Academic Qualifications: Typically, you’ll need to have completed your secondary education or an equivalent, such as A-levels or the International Baccalaureate (IB). The specific entry requirements may vary between universities, but good grades in subjects like Philosophy, English, or the humanities are often preferred.

  2. A-Level or Equivalent: Many universities in the UK require A-levels (or equivalent qualifications) in Philosophy or a related subject, and they may specify minimum grades. For instance, you might be required to have A-levels in subjects like Philosophy, Religious Studies, or English.

  3. International Baccalaureate (IB): If you’ve completed the IB, you’ll typically need a specific number of Higher Level (HL) points, often with a minimum score in a relevant subject.

Postgraduate (Master’s or PhD Degree):

  1. Bachelor’s Degree: For a Master’s degree, you’ll need a bachelor’s degree, and for a PhD, you’ll need a Master’s degree in a related field. Your degree should generally be in Philosophy or a closely related discipline.

  2. Academic Performance: Your academic performance during your previous studies is essential. Universities typically require a minimum grade or GPA for admission.

  3. Language Proficiency: If your first language is not English, you may need to provide proof of English language proficiency through tests like IELTS or TOEFL.

Jobs for Philosophy Graduates

Here are the career prospects for graduates in this field:

  • Academia: Many philosophy graduates pursue advanced degrees (Master’s or Ph.D.) and become university professors or lecturers in philosophy departments.

  • Law: Philosophy majors often excel in legal reasoning, making them well-suited for careers in law. Many lawyers and judges have backgrounds in philosophy.

  • Ethics and Compliance: With a strong foundation in ethical reasoning, philosophy graduates can work in roles related to ethics and compliance, ensuring that businesses and organisations adhere to ethical standards.

  • Public Policy and Government: Philosophy graduates can work in government agencies, policy analysis, and advocacy. Their ability to think critically and engage in ethical debates can be beneficial in these roles.

  • Writing and Journalism: Strong communication skills make philosophy graduates well-suited for careers in writing, journalism, and publishing. They can work as writers, editors, or reporters.

  • Nonprofit and Advocacy Organisations: Philosophy graduates can work in organisations that focus on social justice, human rights, and advocacy. Their analytical and ethical skills are valuable in these contexts.

  • Healthcare and Medical Ethics: Some philosophy graduates find careers in healthcare ethics, helping to navigate complex moral issues in healthcare settings.

  • Technology and Artificial Intelligence: With the increasing importance of ethics in technology, philosophy graduates can work in roles related to ethics and artificial intelligence, ensuring that technological developments align with ethical principles.

What Careers Do Philosophy Graduates Pursue?

Philosophy graduates are diverse in their career choices, with top occupations including teaching, sales, marketing, business, research, and finance. Of the graduates, 55.3% are employed, 17.5% pursue further study, and 12.8% balance work and study, highlighting the varied paths these individuals take after graduation.

Salary for Philosophy Graduates

Check out the average salary for graduates in this field: 

Low skilled: £19,000

Medium-skilled: £20,000

High-skilled: £25,700

Topics for Philosophy Dissertation

Below, we present a diverse array of research areas, each offering an opportunity to delve into the complexities of Philosophy and make a significant contribution to its advancement:

  1. Metaphysics: Research in metaphysics delves into questions about the fundamental nature of reality, including the existence of God, the nature of time and space, the concept of causality, and the nature of existence itself.

  2. Epistemology: This branch of philosophy focuses on the nature of knowledge, belief, and justification. Research in epistemology explores topics like the limits of human knowledge, the nature of truth, and the concept of rationality.

  3. Ethics: Ethics is a broad field examining questions about morality and principles of right and wrong. Research areas include normative ethics (e.g., utilitarianism, deontology), metaethics (e.g., the nature of moral facts), and applied ethics (e.g., bioethics, environmental ethics).

  4. Aesthetics: Aesthetics research concerns the nature of beauty, art, and aesthetic experiences. Topics include the philosophy of art, the nature of artistic expression, and the interpretation of literature and visual arts.

  5. Philosophy of Mind: This area explores questions about the nature of consciousness, mental processes, and the mind-body problem. Researchers consider topics like the self, perception, and the relationship between the mental and the physical.

  6. Political Philosophy: Political philosophy addresses issues related to governance, justice, and the nature of society. Research areas include the philosophy of law, social justice, political systems, and human rights.

  7. Environmental Philosophy: Environmental philosophy investigates ethical and metaphysical questions related to the environment and our relationship with it. Researchers explore topics like eco-ethics, the intrinsic value of nature, and environmental sustainability.

How Much Does it Cost to Study in the UK

One of the most important things to consider is how much the degree is going to cost. Here is a general guide for 2023/2024:

  • For home students in England, universities can charge up to a maximum of £9,250 per year for an undergraduate degree.
  • In Wales, institutions can charge up to £9,000 for home students. However, Welsh students can apply for a fee grant to cover some of the cost of their tuition fees. This grant is currently not repayable or income-assessed.
  • Northern Irish universities will charge up to £4,275 for home students and may charge up to £9,250 for students from elsewhere in the UK.
  • Scotland does not charge home students fees at the undergraduate level; however, students from England, Wales, or Northern Ireland are expected to pay up to £9,250 per year. International students from outside of the UK will pay significantly more to study in Scotland.
  • International students can expect to pay between £10,000 and £26,000 annually for lecture-based undergraduate degrees at universities across the UK. An undergraduate medical degree can cost overseas students up to £58,600 per year. As for postgraduate degrees, the average cost is estimated to be around £17,109 per year.
Besides the tuition fees, there are also several other cost considerations such as food, accommodation, phone bills, books, social life, memberships, and others. Remember to check out our free student budget calculator

Other Subjects to Consider

Given that you are interested in this subject area, you might also want to consider the following options: 

Frequently Asked Questions

Consider your interests, passions, and career goals. Research various degree programmes and their content to see which aligns best with your aspirations.

While earning potential is important, it’s also crucial to select a degree that you’re passionate about and suits your skills. A balance between your interests and potential career prospects is ideal.

Location can impact your overall university experience. Consider factors like cost of living, proximity to industry hubs, and personal preferences.

Evaluate tuition fees, available scholarships, and potential for part-time work. Create a budget to ensure you can manage your finances during your studies.

Consider combining your passions with practical skills. For example, if you love art but want job security, explore fields like graphic design or digital marketing.

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