About the course
Our BA Philosophy teaches you to dig deeper into ideas and challenge received wisdom. You rigorously examine the most fundamental questions about human life: Does God exist? Is material success all that counts in life? What do I owe to others? How free am I to decide my own future?
At Essex, we take philosophy back to its roots in everyday existential, social, and political problems. We embrace the relevance of philosophy to other forms of enquiry - political, cultural, legal, medical, aesthetic – and bring this to bear on urgent issues in public life, such as the controversial issues raised by mental health legislation or public policy regarding end of life care.
We cover a wide range of topics from the meaning of life to capitalism and its critics, from ancient philosophy to current trends in European thought; and we have particular strengths in the areas of:
- Political philosophy
- Philosophy of religion
- European philosophy (including critical theory, phenomenology, and existentialism)
We are involved in many exciting and interdisciplinary research projects, and have active links with other areas including Political Science, Law, Sociology, Psychoanalysis, and Art History.
Our department is widely regarded as among the very best in the UK, having been recognised as one of the top 10 UK universities for research excellence (REF 2014), and being placed in the top 10 in The Guardian University Guide in 2010, 2011, and 2013.
Our diverse and creative course also achieved an exceptional 94% student satisfaction in the 2016 National Student Survey.
“I chose to study philosophy at Essex because I always knew the University had a good reputation for this subject. However nothing prepared me for just how brilliant it is! The atmosphere in School of Philosophy and Art History is fantastic; the lecturers are some of the most enthusiastic and interesting people you will ever meet, and so passionate about what they teach.”
Jennifer Bass, BA Philosophy, 2012
Your education extends beyond our University campus. We support you in this by providing the option of an additional year at no extra cost (2017 entry). The four-year version of our degree allows you to spend the third year studying abroad, while otherwise remaining identical to the three-year course.
Studying abroad allows you to experience other cultures and languages, to broaden your degree socially and academically, and to demonstrate to employers that you are mature, adaptable, and organised.
Alternatively, you can spend your third year on a placement year with an external organisation, where you learn about a particular sector, company or job role, apply your academic knowledge in a practical working environment, and receive inspiration for future career pathways. You will be responsible for finding your placement, but with support and guidance provided by both your department and our Employability and Careers Centre.
Our expert staff
Our courses are taught by world-class academics and over three quarters of our research is rated “world-leading” or “internationally excellent” (REF 2014), which puts us fifth in the UK for research outputs.
Our open-minded and enthusiastic staff have an exceptionally broad range of research interests. Some recent projects and publications include:
- Béatrice Han-Pile and Dan Watts’ major new research project, The Ethics of Powerlessness: the Theological Virtues Today
- Peter Dews’ The Idea of Evil
- Irene McMullin’s Time and the Shared World: Heidegger on Social Relations
- Fabian Freyenhagen’s Adorno’s Practical Philosophy: Living Less Wrongly
- David McNeill’s An Image of the Soul in Speech: Plato and the Problem of Socrates
Take advantage of our extensive learning resources to assist you in your studies:
Many employers want graduates who can think logically and creatively about practical problems.
Philosophy develops these skills, providing you with:
- The ability to understand all sides of a dispute objectively and without forming a premature opinion
- The ability to work in a team, taking a collaborative approach to problems
- The ability to interpret dense text and to communicate effectively
- Analytical and problem-solving skills
Philosophy graduates are therefore well-suited to a wide range of occupations, including law, PR, journalism and the media, the Civil Service, charity work, banking, and the NHS. Our recent graduates have gone on to work for a wide range of high-profile companies.
We also work with the university’s Employability and Careers Centre to help you find out about further work experience, internships, placements, and voluntary opportunities.
We offer a flexible course structure with a mixture of compulsory modules and options chosen from lists. Below is just one example of a combination of modules you could take. For a full list of optional modules you can look at the course’s Programme Specification.
Our research-led teaching is continually evolving to address the latest challenges and breakthroughs in the field, therefore all modules listed are subject to change.
Begin your study of philosophy with an exploration of scepticism and matters of life and death. Do we truly know anything? Might, for all we know, our brains be under the control of evil scientists? Is torture ever justified? How demanding is morality and how much of our lives should it cover?
Certain ideas shape the way we see ourselves and the world around us—ideas like democracy, free speech, individualism, free markets, and humans rights. These ideas took their definitive modern form during a politically and intellectually revolutionary stretch of history known as the Enlightenment (1650-1800). This interdisciplinary module examines this period and thus serves as an essential prerequisite for students who want to understand the intellectual currents that run through the world they live in. Graduating students often rank it among the most useful modules they’ve taken.
Ask life’s big questions: What, if anything, is the meaning of our lives? How can we become wise? Can we make sense of human suffering? How should we think about our own deaths? You take up these questions, first, by examining a series of ancient narratives, including The Myth of Sisyphus and Eden and the Fall; and then through the study of key works of modern philosophers including Nietzsche, Weber and Freud.
Sharpen your debating skills through learning how to construct and deconstruct arguments. You learn how to identify arguments in philosophical texts, how to assess arguments for logical soundness, and how to formulate your own arguments.
Are you ready for graduate employment? Like to improve your core skills? Wish you had some relevant work or volunteering experience? Attend workshops, events and activities at the University and elsewhere to build your knowledge, abilities and experience. Polish your CV, while developing your employability, citizenship and life skills.
What is the nature and limit of human knowledge? What are the relations between faith and reason? What is the relation between the body and the mind? Study the philosophical texts of the modern era that helped lay the conceptual foundations for these questions and others. You explore the work of Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz, Locke, Berkeley and Hume.
Can we say that our moral judgements are capable of being true or false? If they are, does their truth depend on certain moral facts? Can we describe these facts as natural? In this module you explore ethical theory, considering the challenges to morality which seem to make it impossible, or to undermine our commitment to it.
In this module we will engage in a close study and discussion of texts in ethical and political philosophy. For example, in a module dedicated to the study of Marx’s work, students will read sections of The Communist Manifesto on a weekly basis, supplemented by other works by Marx, critical responses from his contemporaries, and the work of later theorists.
This module is dedicated to close readings of key works in the philosophy of religion. For example, one might examine Augustine’s Confessions to examine the nature of the theological virtues of faith, hope and love. Can these virtues be said to be within our control? If not, how can these be considered virtues? How can I be praised for having faith, hoping, or loving if whether I have faith, hope or love is not up to me? Religious themes will be considered in light of the question of how theycan be relevant to the non-believer or practitioners of other religions.
Discover ancient Greek philosophy, focussing on Plato and Aristotle. In their writings, philosophy is understood not as an academic discipline, but as the fulfilment of a distinctively human possibility for inquiry. They saw philosophy as a way of life. You explore their accounts of ethics, politics, metaphysics and theory of knowledge, as well as the pre-Socratic philosophies of Parmenides and Heraclitus.
Since the Enlightenment, religious belief in the Western World has been under new pressures to justify itself in terms compatible with the worldview of modern science. You explore the work of philosophers who have sought to show that we can and need to make a place for religion in modern cultural and social life, through the work of Hegel, Rosenzweig, Habermas, and Levinas.
This module introduces students to key debates in modern social and political thought. We focus on seminal texts by authors such as Hobbes, Spinoza, and Rousseau, whose contributions have radically transformed our understanding of social and political life. We explore the roots of modern notions like the state and society, and scrutinise the nature of freedom, power and democracy. Finally, we consider whether these authors’ accounts of social misdevelopments can still guide critiques of contemporary society.
Discover the relations between philosophy and literature. You study Iris Murdoch’s account of life as a ‘pilgrimage’ from appearance to reality, which she claims is the concern of great art, and Martha Nussbaum’s rejection of this in her discussion of Greek tragedy. You then explore Richard Rorty’s account of Nineteen Eighty Four as demonstrating that no ‘truth’ is written into the human condition, before finally looking at Stanley Cavell’s comparison of philosophical scepticism and Shakespearean tragedy.
This module offers you the opportunity to build up a portfolio of experiences, skills, and knowledge that will help prepare you for the graduate job you’re looking for. You learn about future career possibilities, gain an insight into what graduate employers are looking for, and access a range of opportunities for valuable work experience on and off campus.
Many of Freud`s ideas have become integral to the ways in which we think about ourselves and about our mental life. At the same, Freud`s claims about the nature and functioning of the human mind raise many intriguing and unresolved philosophical questions. You study Freud’s method of interpreting the unconscious meaning of dreams, conceptions of gender and sexuality, and the nature of the unconscious, before considering philosophers who have criticised Freud, including Sartre, Wittgenstein, Ricoeur, and Habermas.
Devote yourself to a close study of Nietzsche`s 1887 On the Genealogy of Morality. You explore Nietzsche’s early reflections on the parallels between modern and ancient Athenian decadence, and also address many of the most significant themes in Nietzsche`s later work, including the opposition between master and slave moralities, ressentiment, and nihilism.
Marx described critical theory as “the self-clarification of the struggles and wishes of the age.” In this module, you will focus on a key text from the critical theory tradition in order to develop your knowledge of its key concepts and methodologies, which will inform a research project of your own.
German Idealism, considered broadly, includes philosophers such as Kant, Fichte, Hegel, Schelling and other lesser known philosophers. In this module you pursue your own research project focusing on this tradition through the examination of a set text, the assessment of the philosophical issues raised by this tradition, or through assessing the relevance of the German Idealist approach for contemporary philosophy.
Existentialism encompasses a variety of different thinkers unified by a.) the belief that human existence cannot be fully understood using the categories provided by the philosophical tradition or the natural sciences, and b.) a commitment to taking seriously the first-person quality of experience as it is lived. For this reason Existentialism has close ties to Phenomenology, which is a philosophical methodology defined by its insistence on examining meaning as it is experienced first-personally in order to uncover the structural necessities governing the possibility of those meaningful experiences. This module is dedicated to the intersection of these philosophical approaches.
How should theory and theorists relate to real politics? What are the competing approaches in contemporary philosophy? In this module you study both the liberal, ideal theories of justice as shaped by John Rawls, but also compare them to alternative approaches. You also explore the notion of injustice through asking what, if anything, is wrong with inequality, applying this to cases such as exploitation, marketization, objectification and stereotyping.
Kant's Critique of Pure Reason initiates a new 'critical' method in philosophy which has been highly influential in both continental and analytic philosophy. His critical method establishes a new way of thinking about the relation in which we stand to the world, and the role played by knowledge and judgement within that world. You explore the ways in which Kant has been taken up in twentieth and twenty-first century continental philosophy.
Develop your research and written skills through writing a dissertation on a philosophical topic studied in either your second year or the autumn term of your final year.
On your year abroad, you have the opportunity to experience other cultures and languages, to broaden your degree socially and academically, and to demonstrate to employers that you are mature, adaptable, and organised. The rest of your course remains identical to the three-year degree.
- Teaching takes the form of lectures and seminar sessions or discussion classes
- Seminars allow your lecturer to explain new arguments and ideas, while giving sufficient time for questions and collective discussion and debate
- We believe that discussion is the lifeblood of philosophy, and we try to keep our classes as small as we can for this purpose
- Usually assessed by 2,000-3,000 word essays
- Most modules weighted 50% coursework and 50% exams
- In your second- and third-years of philosophy modules, you may write an optional essay if you wish, in order to improve your coursework mark
- First year marks do not count towards your degree class
- Final-year students may carry out an optional dissertation
UK entry requirements
IB: 30 points. We are also happy to consider a combination of separate IB Diploma Programmes at both Higher and Standard Level. Exact offer levels will vary depending on the range of subjects being taken at higher and standard level, and the course applied for. Please contact the Undergraduate Admissions Office for more information.
Entry requirements for students studying BTEC qualifications are dependent on units studied. Advice can be provided on an individual basis. The standard required is generally at Distinction level.
International and EU entry requirements
We accept a wide range of qualifications from applicants studying in the EU and other countries.
for further details about the qualifications we accept. Include information in your email about the
high school qualifications you have already completed or are currently taking.
English language requirements
English language requirements for applicants whose first language is not English: IELTS 6.0 overall. Different requirements apply for second year entry, and specified component grades are also required for applicants who require a Tier 4 visa to study in the UK.
Other English language qualifications may be acceptable so please contact us for further details. If we accept the English component of an international qualification then it will be included in the information given about the academic levels listed above. Please note that date restrictions may apply to some English language qualifications
If you are an international student requiring a Tier 4 visa to study in the UK please see our immigration webpages for the latest Home Office guidance on English language qualifications.
If you do not meet our IELTS requirements then you may be able to complete a pre-sessional English pathway that enables you to start your course without retaking IELTS.
Applications for our full-time undergraduate courses should be made through the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS). Applications are online at: www.ucas.com. Full details on this process can be obtained from the UCAS website in the how to apply section.
Our UK students, and some of our EU and international students, who are still at school or college, can apply through their school. Your school will be able to check and then submit your completed application to UCAS. Our other international applicants (EU or worldwide) or independent applicants in the UK can also apply online through UCAS Apply.
The UCAS code for our University of Essex is ESSEX E70. The individual campus codes for our Loughton and Southend Campuses are ‘L’ and ‘S’ respectively.
Applicant Days and interviews
Resident in the UK? If your application is successful, we will invite you to attend one of our applicant days. These run from January to April and give you the chance to explore the campus, meet our students and really get a feel for life as an Essex student.
Some of our courses also hold interviews and if you’re invited to one, this will take place during your applicant day. Don’t panic, they’re nothing to worry about and it’s a great way for us to find out more about you and for you to find out more about the course. Some of our interviews are one-to-one with an academic, others are group activities, but we’ll send you all the information you need beforehand.
If you’re outside the UK and are planning a trip, feel free to email email@example.com so we can help you plan a visit to the University.
Our Colchester Campus events are a great way to find out more about studying at Essex. In 2017 we have three undergraduate Open Days (in June, September and October). These events enable you to discover what our Colchester Campus has to offer. You have the chance to:
- tour our campus and accommodation
- find out answers to your questions about our courses, student finance, graduate employability, student support and more
- meet our students and staff
Check out our Visit Us pages to find out more information about booking onto one of our events. And if the dates aren’t suitable for you, feel free to get in touch by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll arrange an individual campus tour for you.
If you live too far away to come to Essex (or have a busy lifestyle), no problem. Our 360 degree virtual tour allows you to explore the Colchester Campus from the comfort of your home. Check out our accommodation options, facilities and social spaces.
Our staff travel the world to speak to people about the courses on offer at Essex. Take a look at our list of exhibition dates to see if we’ll be near you in the future.