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Telephone: 01223 333313
Fax: 01223 333179
Cambridge University Students' Union
17 Mill Lane
Cambridge CB2 1RX
The free time you will enjoy as a philosopher will make you the envy of your Cambridge friends. One or two lectures a day, a weekly essay and supervision leaves lots of time for philosophers to become successful sportsmen/women, musicians, writers and actors, and there is definitely time to lead a healthy social life!
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Unfortunately, though, you do have to spend some time pondering the world’s biggest unanswered questions: how should we view morality? Do we really have free will? What is the meaning of meaning?! These are split in your first year into four subject areas. You can then choose from more options in your 2nd and 3rd years.
“ We spend time pondering the world's biggest unanswered questions ”
Many people worry that they come to Cambridge with little knowledge of Philosophy – but this really isn’t a problem. Philosophy at Cambridge is much more about how you think through issues, respond to new ideas and construct good arguments than about how many facts you can remember. If you like arguing, are a deep thinker and enjoy a challenge then you will get a lot out of the Cambridge Philosophy experience.
The main focus of your work will be your weekly supervision essay of about 2500 words. The one-on-one supervision is a useful and relaxed experience, allowing you to discuss the issues from your essay which you enjoy or have found challenging. As well as these supervisions and the lectures, in the first year you benefit from logic classes and discussion groups arranged by the faculty. These classes are friendly and helpful – it is often very reassuring to know that everyone else was stuck on the same bit as you!
Best thing? Real-world relevance of the course
The philosophy faculty on the Sidgwick site is easily accessible for most Colleges, located just a ten minute walk away from the town centre. The philosophy library is relatively small compared to other subjects, but it has most of the books that you will need. You can also use your College library and the University Library, so you’ll never be short of a book! The atmosphere is relaxed and friendly, and you will often see lecturers and supervisors chatting away with students over a coffee in the canteen.
A big advantage to studying philosophy at Cambridge is definitely the flexibility of the course. As well as the ability to plan your work roughly around your own timetable, you have a say in what topics you want to study and write about. The downside to philosophy would have to be the amount of reading! As with most subjects you are expected to do a lot of reading, but with philosophy it can take hours to read and understand just one page! But if you are willing to persevere and discuss it with others then you will get there in the end, and there are always people around to help you.
Worst thing? Constantly being told that we might not actually exist...