Philosophy

Join our inspirational community to explore fundamental questions and expand your thinking with a broad choice of units and specialisms.

Renowned department

One of the country’s largest philosophy departments, Bristol is ranked 5th in the UK for the subject (Guardian University Guide 2021).

Interdisciplinary learning

Our joint honours courses span three faculties, so you will study alongside students from a variety of disciplines.

Vibrant community

Get involved with local outreach events, join our student societies, or visit our department's ‘Kierkegaarden’ allotment.

Philosophy at Bristol

Studying philosophy at Bristol gives you the opportunity to delve into some of the deepest questions that have puzzled great thinkers. You will learn the basics of logic, metaphysics, epistemology, ethics and political philosophy and explore your interests through specialised units and independent research.

The department is largely based within the ‘analytic’ tradition in philosophy, but some continental philosophy is taught. Areas of special strength include philosophy of mind and language, ethics, political philosophy, logic and philosophical logic, philosophy of mathematics and philosophy of science (especially biology and physics).

You will be part of a heritage of philosophy in the South West that includes John Locke and Thomas Hobbes.

Studying Philosophy leaves me with wide-ranging career options, so whatever I choose to do I know I'll have a strong grounding in being able to academically evaluate, unpick arguments and think more widely about issues.

Lucy, BA Philosophy

Career prospects

Philosophers are highly employable. A wide range of employers value analytical skills, such as flexibility of thought and the capacity for developing coherent and compelling arguments.

Many philosophy graduates go on to make excellent lawyers, journalists, teachers, consultants, entrepreneurs and leaders in business or other professions.

What our students do after graduating

Course structure

During your degree you will gain a broad understanding of philosophy, and you can also deepen your knowledge with a choice of optional units each year.

Our first-year units introduce you to philosophy and its methods. You will gain a basic knowledge of some of the fundamental problems of metaphysics, epistemology, ethics and political philosophy, as well as a competence in both formal and informal logic.

In the second year you will take a mandatory unit in realism and normativity. You may also have the opportunity to spend a semester studying abroad at one of our worldwide partners. To find out more visit Global Opportunities.

By the final year you will be in a position to specialise and undertake independent study. Third-year optional units have recently included:

  • Virtue and Well-Being
  • Evil, Deviance and Crime
  • Probability and Rationality
  • The Social Epistemology of the Internet
  • Philosophical Issues of the Physical Sciences.

Community

Our academics and students are regularly involved in philosophy education outreach events and projects with the general public, thanks to strong links with schools and community groups across the city.

The department’s allotment, known as the ‘Kierkegaarden’, is maintained by students and academics – encouraging discussion around ethics of the environment as well as providing delicious food.

Extend your discussions outside the classroom with like-minded friends in the Philosophy Society. There’s also a society for Physics and Philosophy students, Paradox, and science-based debates in Paradigm.

Philosophy

Philosophers apply rigorous analysis and argument to fundamental questions about the nature of reality and human existence.

You will learn the basics of logic, metaphysics, epistemology, ethics and political philosophy and explore your interests through specialised units and independent research.

Why study Philosophy at Bristol?

Studying philosophy at Bristol gives you the opportunity to delve into some of the deepest questions that have puzzled great thinkers by applying the rigorous analysis and argument that is distinctive of the 'analytic' philosophical tradition. You will be part of a heritage of philosophy in the South West that includes John Locke and Thomas Hobbes.

You will cover the basic topics that form the groundwork to philosophy in your first two years. Your third year will then allow you to study more advanced, specialised units offered by lecturers in their own fields of research specialisation. These have recently included:

  • Virtue and Well-Being
  • Evil, Deviance and Crime
  • Probability and Rationality
  • The Social Epistemology of the Internet
  • Philosophical Issues of the Physical Sciences.

You may also have the opportunity to study at one of our worldwide partners on an exchange programme during your second year. To find out more visit Global Opportunities

What kind of student would this course suit?

You love reading and have the motivation to spend time studying difficult texts to analyse the arguments and the concepts they involve.

You relish the prospect of engaging in rigorous argument, both with great philosophers of the past and present, and with your peers and tutors.

You can approach fundamental questions concerning what exists and how we should live with an open mind. You have a broad interest in human affairs and knowledge. You are able to apply logical and scientific modes of thought to humanist concerns, as well as to engage in philosophical reflection on logic and science.

How is this course taught and assessed?

Philosophy at Bristol is taught by lectures, seminars and tutorials. For every hour of formal teaching you should do at least three hours of independent study.

As you progress through the course, lecture sizes become smaller and you receive more one-to-one tuition, culminating in the extended essays you write in the final year with the support of a tutor.

We distinguish between summative and formative assessment. Marks for some coursework essays are for formative purposes only and do not count towards your mark for the course. Your final degree class depends on your second- and third-year summative assessments.

What are my career prospects?

Philosophers are highly employable. A wide range of employers value the flexibility of thought and the capacity for marshalling arguments in a coherent and compelling manner that philosophy fosters.

Many philosophy graduates go on to make excellent lawyers, journalists, teachers, consultants, entrepreneurs and leaders in business or other professions.

Find out more about what our students do after graduating.

Disclaimer

Important disclaimer information about our courses.

Every day my inbox is flooded with opportunities – internships, research projects, extra-curricular activities – all of which are the University getting students involved. The University is constantly updating its facilities, which reinforces its friendly and inclusive environment.

Alexandra (LLB Law)

Request more information

Ask us a question, sign up for our updates or request a prospectus.

Get in touch

Edit this page