Philosophy (Joint Honours)
Philosophy is a thriving subject at Oriel. One cannot study philosophy by itself as an undergraduate at Oxford, but Oriel admits for seven of the eight courses that include a philosophy component. This means that about a fifth of all undergraduates at the college study some philosophy as part of their course.
Oriel’s philosophy tutors between them cover a broad range of specialist subjects. Our three tutorial fellows have a diverse and complementary range of research and teaching interests. Luca Castagioli is a specialist in ancient philosophy, who has a teaching interest in ethics. Oliver Pooley specialises in philosophy of physics and metaphysics. In addition to papers in the philosophy of physics and the philosophy of science, his teaching interests include logic and the philosophy of language. Gonzalo Rodriguez-Pereyra is a specialist in early modern philosophy and metaphysics. In addition to cover teaching in these areas, he also teaches introductory ethics and epistemology.
In addition to its tutorial fellows in philosophy, several other Oriel fellows work in closely allied subjects. The fellow in politics, Teresa Bejan, is a political theory specialist, who teaches the theory of politics paper to philosophy students. The fellow in theology, William Wood, has special expertise in the philosophy of religion, and regularly teaches the paper.
Oriel encourages applications for all of the following courses:
- Classics (Literae Humaniores) (4 or 5)
- Computer Science and Philosophy (1 or 2)
- Maths and Philosophy (1 or 2)
- Philosophy and Modern Languages (1 or 2)
- Philosophy and Theology (3)
- Philosophy, Politics, and Ecomonics (9)
- Physics and Philosophy (2)
Further information is available on the linked course pages. The numbers in brackets indicate the numbers of places available for each course. We aim to admit four students a year for the science and philosophy courses (two of those four for physics and philosophy). At any one time, there are normally two students in college studying philosophy together with a modern language.
Although the subjects studied differ from course to course, almost all philosophy students at Oriel start by studying the same core curriculum: logic, and a selection of topics in metaphysics and epistemology, such as the mind–body problem, free will, knowledge, scepticism, and personal identity. This means that our philosophy students quickly get to know those on other courses who are also studying philosophy, and with whom they might share tutorials for optional papers later in their courses.
Each course enables students to explore the connections between philosophy and the other subjects they are studying. Some courses involve study of a bridging subject, such as the philosophy of physics, or the philosophy of religion. All philosophy courses involve a wide choice of optional subjects, which together cover most fields of philosophy. In Oriel we also encourage students with a particular interest in Philosophy to write a small thesis on a subject of their own choosing as part of the course.
The college has its own Philosophy Society, run by the students. The society meets at least once a term to listen to a talk by an invited philosopher, after which the students have the opportunity to question them about it. Recent speakers include David Armstrong, Ursula Coope, John Hawthorne, Jeff McMahan, Adrian Moore, Ted Sider and Tim Williamson. Oriel philosophy students working on theses have also presented their own work to the society.
The admissions criteria for each course involving philosophy can be found on the dedicated course pages linked to above. For all courses, applicants invited to interview will be given a philosophy interview, or an interview with a philosophy component. Most students who come to Oxford to study philosophy have not studied the subject before. We will not test whether you are already familiar with philosophical texts or arguments. Instead we are interested in your aptitude and potential for precise analytical thought, and in whether you enjoy abstract reasoning. Further information can be found on a helpful FAQ page on the Faculty of Philosophy’s website. This page includes some reading suggestions, which might help you decide whether philosophy is the right subject for you.