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St John’s College typically admits up to four undergraduates each year to read Philosophy, making it among the three or four largest colleges for the subject. Lectures are organised on a University wide basis, but additional teaching, in the form of individual supervisions and small discussion groups, is arranged through the College. The Teaching Fellow in Philosophy and Director of Studies is Dr Owen Griffiths. The College provides generous grants to help with the purchase of books and the College library has a useful collection of central works.

Courses in Philosophy

The first year course, Part IA of the Philosophy Tripos, provides grounding in the main areas of the subject, including Metaphysics, Ethics and Logic. There is no choice of papers at this stage. The second year course, Part IB, involves some compulsory elements (Logic, Metaphysics and Philosophy of Mind) and a choice of two more from a range including Philosophy of Science and Political Philosophy. Part II, typically taken at the end of the third year, allows a free choice from eleven papers covering all major areas of this subject, including Mathematical Logic and the History of Philosophy. There is also at this stage the option of writing a dissertation. Many undergraduates proceed through three years of Philosophy by this route. However, it is also possible to combine Philosophy with another subject by changing into or out of the Tripos at a suitable stage. For example, it is possible to read one or two years of Philosophy and then change to another subject (History, English, Economics, Psychology, etc) or to switch to Philosophy after reading another subject (Economics, Natural Sciences, Classics, etc).

Directors of Studies

Dr Owen Griffiths - Philosophy

Subject Fellows

College Research Associates

Dr Caterina Tarlazzi

UCAS Code: V500

Entry Requirements

If you are following an A-level curriculum, the usual conditions of the offer will be that you obtain specified grades at A-level: typically grades A*AA. No specific A-level subjects are required, and studying Philosophy at A Level does not in itself confer an advantage..

Application / interview procedure

Those who are invited to interview will have two interviews at St John's. Your first interview will be with the Tutor for the subject, and the second with the Director of Studies in Philosophy. The aim of these interviews, which last upto 30 minutes each, is to find out from you first hand about your motivation and aptitude for studying Philosophy. We conduct our interviews in a friendly and informal manner and you should not feel daunted by the prospect of them. Applicants who are invited to interview will sit the University’s At-Interview assessment for Philosophy. More information can be found on the University’s webpage for Admissions Assessments.

Suggested Preparation for Interview

The Director of Studies will want to discuss philosophical questions with you, but the interview is not a test of your subject knowledge: unless you mention it yourself, either in your application or during the interview, the interviewer will not assume that you have studied any particular area of philosophy. Nonetheless, you should come to the interview with some idea of what philosophy is, and what it would be like to study it.

An excellent way to do this is by reading some introductory books, such as:

  • S Blackburn, Think
  • E. Craig, Philosophy: A very short introduction
  • M. Sainsbury, Paradoxes
  • J. Annas, various Very short introductions to ancient philosphy

You might also look at some of the "classics", many of which are available online:

Finally, you can find excellent interviews, discussions and podcasts at WiPhi, Philosophy Bites and the History of Philosophy without any gaps.

I am from Germany, and also finished school with the German Abitur. Coming to Cambridge to do Philosophy without ever having written a proper essay assignment in English before was scary, but supervisors are really helpful with this and after a while I got used to it like everyone else. To me, the subject choice was not clear for a long time. There are just so many interesting things! I...
I studied the International Baccalaureate at Sixth Form instead of A Levels, which meant that I took 6 subjects in total. My Higher Level subjects were Philosophy, Spanish and French; my Standard Level subjects were Maths, English and Chemistry. Coming from this different background, I was nervous that Universities would not understand the scoring system but I found that it was not a problem for...

Further Information

Further information on the Philosophy Tripos can be found in the Undergraduate Prospectus available from: Faculty of Philosophy, University of Cambridge, Sidgwick Avenue, Cambridge, CB3 9DA, by phone (01223) 335090, email or you can visit their website.  You can also book a place on the Philosophy Open Day by phoning or emailing them as above.

Philosophy Course Video, courtesy of the University of Cambridge

See video