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Philosophy is the study of problems that are fundamental and general. These problems concern, for example, what reality is, how our beliefs are justified, how mind and body can interact, what the necessary conditions for a just society are, and what value is. At Cambridge, philosophy is studied in a manner, which lays considerable emphasis on precise and careful argument. In the first year, the central elements are metaphysics, ethics, logic and the philosophy of the mind. As the course proceeds, the number of optional elements increases, so that in the third year there are no compulsory subjects and students can study topics from a wide variety of philosophical domains, ranging from philosophy of science to aesthetics, from the history of ancient philosophy to mathematical logic. Philosophy is an attractive Arts degree course for training and developing the mind, and graduates go on to pursue a wide variety of careers.


The course is designed to accommodate the many students taking philosophy for the first time. In the first year, you acquire the reasoning skills that enable you to tackle philosophical problems and to think independently about abstract questions generally, not just gather information about who said what. You are encouraged to approach topics in your own way, and regular discussion groups are organised for first- and second-year students.

Part IA gives you an introduction to philosophy through the study of four core compulsory papers:

  • Metaphysics
  • Ethics and Political Philosophy
  • Philosophical Logic and Formal Logic (A Level/IB Higher Level Mathematics is not required)
  • Set Texts, such as Plato’s Meno, Hume’s Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, and J.S. Mill’s OnLiberty and The Subjection of Women

Part IB is about exploring the philosophical aspects of a range of issues, both practical and theoretical. There are two compulsory papers:

  • Metaphysics and Epistemology
  • Logic

You then choose two further subjects from:

  • Ethics
  • Greek and Roman Philosophy (from Classics)
  • Modern and Medieval Philosophy
  • Philosophy of Science
  • Political Philosophy
  • Experimental Psychology (from Natural Sciences, involving practical work)

Part II will provide you with an understanding of various contemporary debates and will familiarise you with current philosophical concepts. Lectures involve exploring more refined and new positions on debates, and you participate in seminar discussions on advanced subjects. There are no compulsory papers and you choose four from an extensive range of subjects. These include most of those mentioned above, studied at a more advanced level, as well as several papers covering new areas. Papers recently available include:

  • European Philosophy from Kant
  • Mathematical Logic
  • Philosophical Logic
  • Aesthetics

In addition, there may be a Special Subject which changes from time to time.

It is also possible to take one or two papers from another course, such as Classics or Theology and Religious Studies.

Philosophy at Queens’

  • The standard pattern of College teaching is for students to prepare one essay a week and to be supervised individually by experts from throughout the Collegiate and University system.
  • Candidates will be required to submit a school essay. On the day of the interview candidates will have to sit an hour-long admissions assessment. There is no preparation or revision required for this assessment, and candidates to all colleges take the same test. More information can be found here.

Queens’ Philosophy Fellows

Dr Maarten Steenhagen 

Current interests: Philosophy of Mind, Metaphysics, Aesthetics, History of Analytic Philosophy

Dr David Butterfield (Part 1A, 1B)

Dr Richard Jennings (Part II)

Current interests: Philosophical logic, philosophy of language and philosophy of science. Particular interest in ethical issues arising in modern science and technology. General interest in history of science.