Philosophy BA (Hons)

Full-time undergraduate (3 years, 4 years with foundation year)




Take on the big questions that have mystified humanity since the dawn of consciousness and discover how the greatest minds have tried to answer them on our full-time Philosophy degree in Cambridge. Choose to study abroad for a semester. Learn to use philosophical methods in your everyday life, and develop skills in problem solving and critical thinking for your future career.

Full description


We work with employers to make sure you graduate with the knowledge, skills and abilities they need: they help us review what we teach and how we teach it.

The problem-solving, critical and creative skills you’ll develop on this course will be particularly useful for a range of careers in areas such as teaching, local government, charity administration and management and digital and media roles, but are also transferable to others, including arts-based areas such as heritage and arts administration, project management and PR, and business, including start-ups and online companies.

When you graduate, you might also decide to move onto our PhD / MPhil Philosophy research degree.

Modules & assessment

Level 3 (foundation year)

  • Foundation in Humanities, English, Media, Social Sciences and Education
    This module will provide students with the necessary skills to begin studying at level 4 in courses related to the humanities, social sciences, English, media and education. Students will be introduced to the core skills necessary to succeed in higher education, including thinking critically, researching, and referencing appropriately, demonstrating appropriate numeracy and ICT skills, and communicating effectively verbally and in writing. In addition to these fundamental study skills, Students will be given an introduction to a broad range of disciplines whose skills and theories are widely applicable. Students will study a variety of writing styles in order to recognise, deconstruct and replicate various forms of persuasive, analytical, and informative writing. Students will learn the basics of intercultural studies and how these theories can be applied to real-world problems. Students will consider social perceptions held across western cultures, and the difference between social and self-perception, participating in structured discussion and argument. Students will be introduced to the core principles of psychology and will explore various current applications of psychological theory. Students will also be introduced to ethics and will learn about some of the key theories and thinkers in the development of current ethical considerations in a range of scenarios. This module is made up of the following eight constituent elements: Interactive Learning Skills and Communication (ILSC); Information Communication Technology (ICT); Critical Thinking; Intercultural Studies; Psychology; Composition and Style; Ethics; Social Perceptions.

Year one, core modules

  • Ancient Philosophy
    You’ll get an accessible introduction to ancient philosophy. You’ll examine key ideas from texts which contribute to the early formation of the philosophical tradition, including pre-Socratics such as Heraclitus and Parmenides and extracts from dialogues by Plato, as well as key extracts from Aristotle. You’ll explore the main issues in metaphysics, epistemology, the philosophy of art, and political philosophy. You’ll look at concepts such as being and becoming, appearance and reality, substance and categories, and issues such as the good life, the nature of the state, citizenship and government, education and character, censorship and art. Your assessment will take the form of two 1,500 word essays.
  • A History of Ideas in 8 Objects
    In this module you will look at a history of ideas in historical context, introduced through 8 objects that have arguably changed the world, and the way we think about our place in the world. You will be introduced to key philosophical writings linked to the objects in question, and examine the specific arguments, and historical changes and transformations that took place, in careful detail. The module will give you the chance to undertake structured skill development in identifying and creating an argument, offering evidence for a specific point of view, preparing a persuasive presentation and writing a researched project to deadline. These skills are important not only for your future employability skills but also because they will give you a foundation for academic development throughout the rest of the degree. You will be taught through lectures and seminars and a visit to the Fitzwilliam museum in Cambridge (no charge). You will be assessed by a structured portfolio comprising a series of tasks to complete, with a final research project. The module will include opportunities for formative feedback.
  • Introduction to Philosophy
    You'll look at four central topics of philosophical inquiry: the relationship between truth and logical validity (When is an argument sound? Can we think about the content of a claim without thinking about reasons for asserting it?), the nature of knowledge (What are the sources and limits of knowledge?), the appearance/reality distinction (What lies beyond the limits of language and thought? Can we talk intelligibly about reality?), and selfhood (What is the self? Can we believe or want something unconsciously? What is the relationship between the self and others?).
  • Rights and Responsibilities
    People fight for their rights, resent other people's exercise of their rights, claim rights against the state or on behalf of animals. But what are 'rights'? Who is entitled to them? Why? These questions are central to contemporary moral and political philosophy and also to the way in which we think of issues such as medical care, crime and punishment, justice and happiness. Through a series of lectures and seminars, you'll develop an understanding of these questions and the ways in which philosophers through the centuries have attempted to answer them.
  • Words and Language
    In this module we will examine some of the key philosophical debates about language, meaning and usage. How does meaning work? How do we seem to make sense and communicate using language? Does language really describe or represent the world? How do we use language and what are the implications of such usage? This module will also offer you the opportunity to undertake structured skill development in identifying and creating an argument, offering evidence for a specific point of view, preparing a persuasive presentation and writing a researched project to a deadline. These skills are important not only for future employability skills but offer a foundation for academic development through the rest of the degree. The module will be taught through a lecture-seminar format. You will be assessed by a structured portfolio comprising a series of tasks to complete, with a final research project. The module will include opportunities for formative feedback.

Year one, optional modules

  • Issues in Contemporary Philosophy: Knowledge, Reality and Value
    On this module you will address a number of contemporary debates in one or more of: epistemology, philosophy of science, metaphysics and/or moral philosophy. Questions that you will address include a number of the following: What are the sources of knowledge? What is the value of knowledge? Does science tell us about the nature of reality? How should we understand so-called “paradigm-shifts” in science? How can we acquire moral knowledge? What makes life go well? Teaching is by weekly lectures and seminars. The employee attributes you will develop on this module include cognitive skills such as the ability to identify and solve complex problems, attention to detail and planning and organisation. Generic competences that you will develop during seminar debates include skills in relation to influencing others, being sensitive to the opinions of others and the lucid communication of ideas.

Year two, core modules

  • Ethics
    This module will introduce you to the basic issues in moral philosophy: What makes an action right or wrong? Do the consequences or the intention count more when evaluating an action as good or bad? What about the character of the moral agent? Does being virtuous matter? You'll explore and debate these questions by closely studying texts from the history of moral philosophy, also considering the possible application of moral theory to a host of contemporary ethical problems, such as international justice, animal welfare and euthanasia. You'll be assessed through two essays of 1,500 words each.
  • The Rationalists: Early Modern Philosophy
    The Rationalist Philosophers of the 17th and 18th centuries set the modern philosophical agenda by asking fundamental questions about the nature of reality and knowledge, as well as the relationship between freedom and determinism in human life. On this module, you'll be introduced to the work Rationalists like Descartes, Spinoza and Leibniz.
  • Kant and the Empiricists
    The British Empiricists of the 17th and 18th centuries, as well as Kant, set the modern philosophical agenda by asking fundamental questions concerning the nature of reality and of knowledge, both theoretical and moral. On this module, you'll examine in detail the British Empiricists and Kant. In addition to preparing you for more advanced study of the key issues at Level 6, this module will give you a broad conceptual and historical framework from within which to evaluate the thematic problems in metaphysics and epistemology encountered in level 4. You will be taught through lectures and seminars, with lectures introducing topics that are discussed and debated in seminars, and assessed by means of one 3000-word essay.
  • Mind and World
    On this module, you'll explore the nature of the mind and examine the different philosophical approaches that have been employed in the study of the mind. You'll be introduced to the historical context of debates about the topic, and encouraged to make comparisons and connections between different traditions in philosophy concerning problems of mind, mental content, consciousness, the body and the external world.

Year two, optional modules

  • Philosophy of Art
    What does it mean to think philosophically about art? In this module you'll do precisely that, by discussing the kinds of judgements that we make about art and whether these judgements have any objective validity or express merely subjective opinion. In the course of the module, you'll also critically examine a number of different art forms, such as conceptual art, film, music and painting, and ask questions such as 'Does music express emotion?', 'Does the authenticity of an artwork matter?' and 'Is conceptual art genuinely art?'.
  • Applied Ethics
    At the heart of this module, you'll discover a number of moral dilemmas that remain both perplexing and largely unresolved. You'll focus mainly on three themes: taking life, giving life, and equality. In the first of these you'll consider issues such as abortion, euthanasia, and animal rights, and in the second, health care matters including IVF and the rationing of health care services. In the third, you'll consider global poverty, punishment, and sexuality. You'll uncover the differing opinions and the complexity of debates surrounding such issues as a woman's right to have a termination or the right of a terminally ill patient to die sooner rather than later. You’ll evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of a variety of arguments from politicians, interest groups, and other significant actors in contemporary moral debates, approaching these issues from both sociological and philosophical perspectives. Your assessment will consist of a 3000-word essay.
  • Existence and Authenticity
    On this module, you'll trace the development of existentialism from its roots in the Christian philosophy of Kierkegaard, through the radically anti-Christian individualism of Nietzsche, to one of the most famous philosophers of the twentieth century: Jean-Paul Sartre. You'll look at how existentialist movement has been challenged as excessively humanist, and criticised either as implying nihilism or paying insufficient attention to the social and historical conditions of human existence. Embracing both literary and philosophical concerns, this module will cultivate your skills of interpretation, comparative analysis, and identification of thematic continuities in a diverse range of texts. You'll be assessed through two 1,500 word essays.
  • Working with Philosophy
    Philosophy fosters many skills and aptitudes that have relevance to the world of work. Studying Philosophy also encourages a reflective approach to many aspects of human organisation and practice, including those of the workplace. This module will encourage you to develop awareness of your own strengths and skills, apply theoretical knowledge and insights gained through your studies on your degree, and investigate possible careers for which a degree in Philosophy would be relevant. The module may help you to obtain credit for work that you already do, or help you to think about the work you might do after graduation, or to offer reflections on theoretical issues in practice or the relationship between theory and practice itself. The module requires that you undertake 35 hours of work in any field, full or part-time, paid or unpaid. You will arrange this work yourself, with help and support from the Employability Service and/or the SU Volunteering programme. ARU is one of the biggest employers in the region, so the work may also consist of employment within ARU. Alternatively you may chose to undertake a research project about philosophy in practice, exploring the practical features or implications of philosophy in an area of work or policy in the real world. In this case the 35 hours would be embedded in a research project relevant to the objectives of this module. Examples of workplaces might include charities, eg Mind, Headway, Age Concern, Citizen’s Advice Bureau etc, a school, a small business, an art gallery or museum, a local government organisation or political group, or a university (such as ARU). You might reflect on the sorts of activities that are typical of such organisations or types of work, and how your skills are relevant to work in such organisations. If you choose to undertake a research project, this might consist of, for example: an analysis of certain features of Philosophy degrees in the UK, an analysis of an aspect of philosophy in the media, a report on specific areas of policy and practice in HE, or a review of policy relevant to philosophy in areas such as medical ethics or political decision-making. There will be a series of workshops to support the module and students will also receive supervision from the Module Leader or Tutor. The assessment will consist of a self-reflective report or work journal. The report will record hours, activities and tasks, responsibilities and achievements relevant to the objectives of this module. It will contain a short reflective account of the relationship of these activities to key skills identified as essential to the Philosophy degree.
  • Aspects of Artificial Intelligence
    Machine technology has fundamentally changed our lives over recent decades. There is no reason to think that this rate of change will slow down, and every reason to think it will continue, perhaps at an exponential rate. We are reaching a point where machine intelligence is becoming a part of our everyday lives, from search engines to personal assistants (like Alexa), from driverless cars to health care. How will this impact our lives in the short, medium and long term? What will the nature of AI be? Will it become autonomous? Will it be truly ‘intelligent’? Should we think of it as having a ‘mind’? What ethical principles will, or should, it run on? What epistemic principles will, or should, it run on? What ethical rights should AI have? How will AI affect law, social relations, work, the economy, education, health-care, sex, war and our understanding of ourselves? On this module you will examine all of these future-directed questions, and look at the philosophical implications of AI within relevant areas, from our understanding of what it is to think, to our understanding of the rights and responsibilities of AI, to the impacts that it will have on our work, social and home lives. You will be assessed through a portfolio containing a report and essay, and taught through a weekly lecture/seminar.

Year three, core modules

  • Undergraduate Major Project
    The individual final Major Project module allows you to engage in a substantial piece of individual research, focused on a topic relevant to your specific discipline. Normally the topic will be agreed in consultation with academic staff and an appropriate supervisor will be appointed to supervise you in your chosen topic. The topic may also be drawn from a variety of sources including: Anglia Ruskin research groups, previous or current work experience, the company in which you are currently employed, or a professional subject of specific interest (if suitable supervision is available). The project topic will be assessed for suitability to ensure sufficient academic challenge and satisfactory supervision by an academic member of staff. The chosen topic will require you to identify and formulate problems and issues, conduct literature reviews, evaluate information, investigate and adopt suitable development methodologies, determine solutions, develop software and/or media artefacts as appropriate, process data, critically appraise and present your findings. Regular meetings with the project supervisor and or/group workshops should take place, so that the project is closely monitored and steered in the right direction. The assessment will normally include a substantial written report, including a bibliography.
  • Varieties of Scepticism
    This module will introduce you to the relationship between the desire to understand and the ever-present possibility that such understanding is not possible. Beginning with an account of scepticism in the Ancient world, you'll proceed to the rediscovery of sceptical problems in the early modern period before considering contemporary approaches to philosophical scepticism. You'll focus in particular on the question of whether the traditional sceptical problem of the external world is one that arises naturally wherever there are reflective human beings, or whether it is tied to a particular conception of the nature of human knowledge.

Year three, optional modules

  • Experiencing God
    On this module you'll examine a number of issues in the philosophy of religion, including the forms of religious diversity, arguments for and against the existence of God, the phenomenon of religious experience, the nature of faith and the relation between religion and science in the contemporary age. You will become familiar with a wide range of perspectives and arguments, traditional and modern, and contribute to the critical evaluation of particular positions. You will be assessed by one 3,000-word essay.
  • Enlightenment and Modernity: The Philosophical Legacy
    On this module, you'll consider the key philosophical debates about the legacy of the Enlightenment in the context of modernity. You'll be introduced to key ideas from readings of primary texts that have contributed to debates about history, truth, morality and political power, the nature of interpretation and the role and status of reason and knowledge in the post-Enlightenment era. Your assessment is 1,000 word analysis of a specific topic or passage and a 2,000 word essay debating the wider issues discussed throughout the module.
  • Philosophies of Language and the Body
    In this module you will focus on language as a symbolic system and practice where meaning is produced and reproduced under specific cultural conditions and is characterised by fragmentation and conflict as much as by cohesion and consensus. You will relate the study of language to issues concerning, for example, identity, cultural power and domination, representation, and real life. You will explore post-structuralist critiques of linguistics, which may include theories of language as a means by which identity is produced through the interconnectedness of language and ideology. In addition, you will encounter the physical body not as ‘natural’ but as a linguistic phenomenon: where the body is a text to be read. Challenging binaries such as mind/body and biological/textual, you will query the role of language in creating bodies and the ways in which the flesh has been historically created through discourse. You will also look at the ways the body has transgressed these discourses. In examining the relationships between language, power and bodies, you will explore the links between language, power, knowledge, ‘truth’ and identity, and extend these links to ecological concerns and the connectedness of the human to the nonhuman and nature. You will learn to question how truth and knowledge are challenged in post-structuralist/ deconstructionist projects, and how this challenge can lead to what is known as posthuman ethics and the ecological revolution: currently known in linguistic philosophy as ‘ecosophy’. You will be expected to give short presentations in class, based on your preparatory reading. Your assessment will consist of a 2500 word essay, requiring you to make connections between different ideas explored in the module, and a supporting task.
  • Capitalism, Power and the Discontented
    On this module you will look at theoretical accounts of capitalism and the nature of power and the state in the modern world, and consider how these structures have been contested and critiqued. You are encouraged to critically reflect on how the capitalist economy works, examining both sympathetic and critical accounts of its core functions. You will also develop an understanding of why and how resistance to the system emerges. Capitalism is not just considered as an economic system however, but also as a political, cultural and social phenomenon. As such, while some readings and issues are drawn from political economy, you will engage with a range of theoretical writing on power, race, feminism, hegemony, and alternatives to the status quo, which each offer differing conceptions of how capitalism, power and mass discontent might be understood. You will also engage with a range of intellectual sources from cultural studies, politics and international relations, history, and sociology. Theoretical positions will be contextualised through the modern and contemporary context of neoliberal globalisation. How has the post-financial crisis political landscape been transformed? What debates are emerging over how and if the market economy might be changed? Why does resistance occur? What is the nature of power? What strategies can be effective in building a more humane society? You will be taught through lectures and seminars each week, with your assessment comprising one 3,000-word essay.
  • Concepts of Good and Evil
    What role, if any, does the concept of evil play in our moral vocabulary? Is it a narrowly theological notion or does it usefully describe certain kinds of act and/or character? On this module, you'll examine contemporary accounts of evil, as well as looking at the concept of evil in the history of philosophy from Leibniz to the present. In addition to considering theoretical discussions of evil, you'll also consider phenomena such as war and terrorism and ask whether the concept of evil helps us to understand them.
  • Philosophy Special Subject
    This module offers you the opportunity to study in-depth one or more of the classic texts in the history of philosophy, ranging from the ancient to the modern period. Through studying aspects of the history of the subject, and some of the fundamental problems philosophers have raised, you’ll develop your problem-solving skills, with application both inside and outside academia. The module is also designed to prepare you for the possibility of more advanced philosophical research.

Optional modules available all years

  • Anglia Language Programme
    The Anglia Language Programme module will allow you to study a foreign language as part of your course. You may choose to take two language modules in place of options on your course from the second semester of your first year, or in the second or third year. You can choose from the following: Chinese (Mandarin), French, German, Italian, Japanese, or Spanish. In order to experience the learning of a new language, you must select one that you have not learned before.


For a full breakdown of module options and credits, please view the module structure.

Modules are subject to change and availability.

You’ll show your progress on the course through a variety of methods likely to be used in the workplace, including presentations, research projects, reviews, reports and portfolios, as well as more traditional essays and your final major project.

Where you'll study

Your department and faculty

At the School of Humanities and Social Sciences, we believe in thinking critically about the past, present and future to challenge perceptions and better understand communities and people.

With expertise from gender issues to literary analysis to exploring how the past has shaped our modern world, all our staff members are active researchers. This is reflected in our teaching, allowing us to support our students with the latest theories and practices, as well as essential employability advice.

Where can I study?

Lord Ashcroft Building on our Cambridge campus

Our campus is close to the centre of Cambridge, often described as the perfect student city.

Explore our Cambridge campus

Study abroad opportunities

You can study abroad for one semester, and apply for funding to help cover the cost

Specialist facilities

All your classes will take place in our modern and well-equipped classrooms. You’ll also have full access to our well-stocked campus library, with computer rooms and quiet zones, as well as many online resources.

Fees & funding

Course fees

UK & EU students starting 2019/20 or 2020/21 (per year)


International students starting 2020/21 (per year)


Fee information

For more information about tuition fees, including the UK Government's commitment to EU students, please see our UK/EU funding pages

How do I pay my fees?

Tuition fee loan

You can take out a tuition fee loan, which you won’t need to start repaying until after your graduate. Or alternatively, there's the option to pay your fees upfront.

Loans and fee payments


We offer a fantastic range of ARU scholarships, which provide extra financial support while you’re at university. Some of these cover all or part of your tuition fees.

Explore ARU scholarships

International students

You must pay your fees upfront, in full or in instalments. We will also ask you for a deposit or sponsorship letter. Details will be in your offer letter.

Paying your fees

Funding for UK & EU students

Most new undergraduate students can apply for government funding to support their studies and university life. This includes Tuition Fee Loans and Maintenance Loans. There are additional grants available for specific groups of students, such as those with disabilities or dependants.

We also offer a fantastic range of ARU scholarships, which provide extra financial support while you’re at university. Find out more about eligibility and how to apply.

Funding for international students

We offer a number of scholarships, as well as an early payment discount. Explore your options:

Entry requirements

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Important additional notes

Our published entry requirements are a guide only and our decision will be based on your overall suitability for the course as well as whether you meet the minimum entry requirements. Other equivalent qualifications may be accepted for entry to this course, please email for further information.

We don't accept AS level qualifications on their own for entry to our undergraduate degree courses. However for some degree courses a small number of tariff points from AS levels are accepted as long as they're combined with tariff points from A levels or other equivalent level 3 qualifications in other subjects.

International students

We welcome applications from international and EU students, and accept a range of international qualifications.

English language requirements

If English is not your first language, for entry to an undergraduate degree course you’ll usually require:

  • IELTS 6.0 or equivalent, with all 4 elements (listening, speaking, reading and writing) above 5.5
Improving your English language skills

If you don't meet our English language requirements, we offer a range of courses which could help you achieve the level required for entry onto a degree course.

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