Philosophy is the systematic study of the most general and fundamental questions, such as those about existence, reason, knowledge, truth, morality, the mind, and language.
Somerville has a strong and proud tradition of excellent teaching. Our tutors place a real emphasis on helping you develop the creative and analytical intellect needed to study a wide range of abstract questions. We encourage philosophical enquiry to be practised from a variety of perspectives, from the study and analysis of ancient texts to empirical enquiries into the nature of the mind and language.
We have two Fellows in Philosophy. Dr Karen Margrethe Nielsen’s research focuses on ancient philosophy, with special emphasis on Aristotle’s ethics and moral psychology. She has also published on Aristotle’s metaphysics and explores philosophical questions in the course of analysing and assessing Greek texts. Dr James Kirkpatrick works primarily on the philosophy of language, focusing specifically on the meaning of generic sentences, impersonal pronouns, definite descriptions, and proper names, as well as related topics in other areas of philosophy, such as epistemology and ethics. For any subjects that the expertise of our tutors does not cover, we will arrange for you to be taught by specialist tutors in other colleges.
We admit Philosophy students for PPE, Classics (Lit. Hum.), and PPL (Philosophy and Linguistics). We encourage talented students from any background to apply and no background in Philosophy is required to excel in these courses. Indeed, very few applicants have made any formal study of Philosophy before starting their undergraduate degree.
Somerville has exceptional resources for Philosophy students, including one of the largest Philosophy collections of the college libraries at the University as well as the vast resources of the Bodleian library. The college is also ideally placed for a philosophy student, with the Faculty on our doorstep.
College scholarships and exhibitions are awarded to Somerville philosophy students who perform at a high level in their studies.
For more information on course structure and admissions requirements, visit the University’s course pages in the following subjects:
Somerville has one of the most vibrant communities of philosophers in Oxford, with undergraduates, postgraduates, and academics from diverse backgrounds studying philosophy from a range of perspectives.
The college accepts approximately eighteen Philosophy students annually. In a typical year group, we admit around ten PPE students, six Classicists, and two students who study Philosophy and Linguistics. 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. In addition, a number of graduate students are admitted for higher degrees such as the BPhil masters degree and the DPhil research degree.
By studying Philosophy at Somerville, you will become part of our proud academic heritage. Many of the most prominent British philosophers have studied or taught at Somerville, including Elizabeth Anscombe, Philippa Foot (the creator of the trolley problem), Mary Midgley, Iris Murdoch, Baroness Onora O’Neill and Sarah Broadie.
The paths taken by our Philosophy graduates vary widely. In addition to further academic studies and research, Somerville philosophy graduates have gone into careers in the arts, banking, journalism, law, marketing research, politics, teaching, social work, and more.
James KirkpatrickFixed-Term Fellow and Tutor in Philosophy
Karen Margrethe NielsenFellow & Tutor in Philosophy; Associate Professor in Philosophy