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What is Philosophy?

There is no consensus among professional philosophers about the answer to that question, or even how to go about answering it. This gives us a clue to one of the distinctive features of Philosophy, namely, that in Philosophy, absolutely everything is open to question. But philosophers don’t just raise questions; they also attempt to answer them, no matter how difficult those questions are. Some of the questions you might address as a student of Philosophy include: What makes an action like lying right or wrong? Do we have duties to non-human animals? Are there any moral truths? What exactly is knowledge, and do we have any? What makes you a person? Is time travel possible? Is your mind something over and above the activity of your brain? What kind of thing is a number? What makes a work of art beautiful? 

Philosophy at Oxford is studied only in combination with other subjects. Applicants can choose between: Mathematics & Philosophy; Physics & Philosophy; Philosophy & Modern Languages; Philosophy, Politics, & Economics; and Philosophy, Psychology, and Linguistics.

Why study Philosophy at St Hilda’s?

St Hilda’s has a well-deserved reputation for being an open, informal, and friendly place. We have a relatively large intake of philosophers across the joint schools, so the community of philosophers at St Hilda’s is large and vibrant. This is a great advantage. Since Philosophy is a discursive subject, a great deal of it can be learned through informal discussions with other philosophers. The undergraduate philosophers are well integrated with graduate students through various social events, such as philosophy drinks, and through regular philosophy symposia and discussion groups. In addition to our students and tutors, St Hilda’s also currently has two Senior Research Fellows in philosophy who frequently participate in discussions at these events.

The Philosophy tutors and lecturers at St Hilda’s cover an extremely wide range of papers at the undergraduate level. Thus, most teaching will be done within college. However, one of the great advantages to studying Philosophy at Oxford is the abundance of expertise within the Philosophy Faculty. It is therefore common practice for colleges to swap students, so that each student can be taught by a world-leading expert in a specific sub-field.

The links between Philosophy and the subjects with which it is joined are explored in so-called ‘bridge-papers’. For instance, a Classics student might naturally be interested in studying Plato or Aristotle, either in the original language or in translation, or a PPE student might naturally be interested in studying Theory of Politics. Nevertheless, nearly all papers are open to every student, so a PPE student can study Philosophy of Mathematics, and Physics and Philosophy student can study Theory of Politics. As a result, each student gets a course that is tailored to suit his or her interests.

At St Hilda’s we take academic achievement very seriously, and we are strongly committed to supporting our students to achieve their full academic potential. In Philosophy, our students have consistently performed well at examinations. Indeed, in recent years, St Hilda's students have been awarded several prizes for their examinations, including Gibbs prizes in Philosophy and the extremely prestigious Gilbert Ryle prize. 

Subject tutors

The core tutorial teaching team at St Hilda’s consists of:

After St Hilda's

Some graduates of joint schools involving Philosophy have gone on to research in Philosophy and related fields. Others have gone on to careers in law, finance, political research, journalism and television.