We admit students in almost all of the Honour Schools at the university which include Philosophy.
To study Philosophy you need to have a flexible, critical intellect and to be willing to study a wide range of abstract questions. Though Philosophy is an ‘Arts’ subject, it can be enjoyed by those from a variety of disciplines – science, maths, languages, other arts subjects, the social sciences. You will read the works of great philosophers written over a two thousand year period, as well as the latest writings on the subjects, and will be encouraged to evaluate philosophical arguments for yourself.
Somerville’s full-time Tutor in Philosophy is Associate Professor Karen Margrethe Nielsen, whose research centres on questions at the intersection of Aristotle’s ethics and moral psychology, especially his theory of decision (prohairesis).
While it is not possible to study Philosophy by itself at Oxford, the combinations we support include
- PPE (Philosophy, Politics and Economics)
- Lit Hum (Classics)
- Psychology, Philosophy and Linguistics (PPL) (but not Psychology and Philosophy)
- Philosophy and Maths
In all the courses, you will study some History of Philosophy; Ethics (moral philosophy) is an option in all schools and compulsory for some. There is a very wide range of further papers, including Philosophy of Mind, of Science and of Religion. Aristotle, Kant and Wittgenstein can be studied in special papers; you will also encounter their writings in some of the core subjects. It is possible to choose to weight your studies in favour of one or the other subject, or to divide your time equally among them. No background in Philosophy is required, and very few applicants have made any formal study of Philosophy.
Somerville is ideally placed for a philosophy student, as the faculty is right next door. We also have one of the largest college libraries by number of volumes in the University.
The college accepts nineteen Philosophy students annually. In a typical year group Somerville will have around eleven PPE students, six Classicists, and up to two students from each of the remaining courses. We don’t have any hard quotas for the latter, and we’re always keen for more! There are usually about sixty undergraduates in total at Somerville studying Philosophy as part of their course at any one time, forming a large and lively group.
Some prominent British philosophers chave studied or taught at Somerville, including Philippa Foot (the creator of the trolley problem), Iris Murdoch, Mary Midgeley, and Elizabeth Anscombe.
The paths taken by our Philosophy graduates vary widely. In addition to further academic research, Oxford philosophy graduates have gone into careers in banking, journalism, law, teaching, social work, politics, marketing research, and more.
Karen Margrethe NielsenFellow & Tutor in Philosophy; Associate Professor in Philosophy