Undergraduate Course

BA Philosophy

BA Philosophy

Overview

The details
Philosophy
V500
October 2020
Full-time
3 years
Colchester Campus

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:

  • Ethics
  • 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 School of Philosophy and Art History has been ranked in the Top 20 in the UK for research excellence (REF 2014, mainstream universities, THE 2014).

Why we're great.
  • We focus on the existential questions of human life, and provide a critical perspective on the social, political and economic challenges we are facing today.
  • Our courses can also be taken as a four-year option including a year of study abroad.
  • We combine Anglo-American and European Continental philosophy.
THE Awards 2018 - Winner University of the Year

Study abroad

Your education extends beyond the university campus. We support you in expanding your education through offering the opportunity to spend a year or a term studying abroad at one of our partner universities. The four-year version of our degree allows you to spend the third year abroad or employed on a placement 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.

If you spend a full year abroad you'll only pay 15% of your usual tuition fee to Essex for that year. You won't pay any tuition fees to your host university

Placement year

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.

If you complete a placement year you'll only pay 20% of your usual tuition fee to Essex for that year.

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

Specialist facilities

Take advantage of our extensive learning resources to assist you in your studies:

Your future

We know that the world of work is changing. Employers want graduates who can think laterally logically and creatively about practical problems and are effective communicators.

At Essex, we are serious about providing you with a teaching environment in which you develop the skills you need to flourish in the discipline, and to be prepared for the jobs you aspire to in the future.

A degree in Philosophy at Essex provides you with::

  • The ability to analyse and solve difficult problems
  • The ability to think clearly, creatively, and self-critically
  • The ability to work in a team, taking a collaborative approach to problems

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.

We also work with the University’s Careers Services to help you find out about further work experience, internships, placements, and voluntary opportunities.

“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

Entry requirements

UK entry requirements

A-levels: BBB

BTEC: DDM, depending on subject studied - advice on acceptability can be provided.

IB: 30 points or three Higher Level certificates with 555
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.

Access to HE Diploma: 45 Level 3 credits at Merit or above

International & EU entry requirements

We accept a wide range of qualifications from applicants studying in the EU and other countries. Get in touch with any questions you may have about the qualifications we accept. Remember to tell us about the qualifications you have already completed or are currently taking.

Sorry, the entry requirements for the country that you have selected are not available here. Please select your country page where you'll find this information.

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.

Additional Notes

If you’re an international student, but do not meet the English language or academic requirements for direct admission to this degree, you could prepare and gain entry through a pathway course. Find out more about opportunities available to you at the University of Essex International College here.

Structure

Example structure

We offer a flexible course structure with a mixture of compulsory and optional modules chosen from lists. Below is just one example structure from the current academic year of a combination of modules you could take. Your course structure could differ based on the modules you choose.

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. To view the compulsory modules and full list of optional modules currently on offer, please view the programme specification via the link below.

Introduction to Philosophy

Begin your study of philosophy with an exploration of knowledge, agency, selfhood, and the vices and virtues of the mind. What does it mean to say that we ‘know’ something? How do our modes of practical interaction with the world and each other shape our ability to know different kinds of objects? How should we address questions about selfhood and identity? Are there vices of the mind that undermine our reasoning and lead our practical deliberations astray? Can the study of philosophy help us transcend such barriers to good reasoning? And can we flourish as intellectual agents?

View Introduction to Philosophy on our Module Directory

Modern Revolutions in Science, Politics, and Culture

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 (ca. 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.

View Modern Revolutions in Science, Politics, and Culture on our Module Directory

Death, God and the Meaning of Life

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.

View Death, God and the Meaning of Life on our Module Directory

Critical Reasoning and Logical Argument

Sharpen your philosophical 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.

View Critical Reasoning and Logical Argument on our Module Directory

Skills for University Studies

Making the transition from school to University studies can be challenging. This module will introduce you to University life and enable you to acquire the study skills to make a success of your degree. It also orients you to work, volunteering and extra-curricular activities so that you can acquire additional skills and experience while you study.

View Skills for University Studies on our Module Directory

Knowledge and Reality

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. We will explore these issues through the study of some of the seminal works of Descartes, Spinoza and Leibniz.

View Knowledge and Reality on our Module Directory

Ethics

This is a module in ethical theory rather than practical ethics. That is, it takes up theoretical questions about the status and justification of morality rather than philosophical issues raised by practical moral problems. In this module, we will explore some of the things that worry people about morality. These are matters that may be thought of as challenges to morality and that seem either to make morality impossible or to undermine our commitment to it. For instance, if morality is just a matter of what we happen to like or dislike, or it is only relative to the standards of one's culture, the idea that we can ask and give moral reasons appears to be undermined, or significantly limited. Analogously, the fact that moral discussions (unlike arguments about matters of fact) often end up in irresolvable disagreements seems to threaten the rationality of moral arguments. The role that matters of luck play in our moral evaluations seems to involve holding people responsible for things that are not really under their control, thus compromising the idea that we can really assess the moral value of their actions. In the first term, we will look at these and other challenges to morality, and we will also explore some of the metaethical questions that these challenges raise: 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?

View Ethics on our Module Directory

Texts in Practical Philosophy

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.

View Texts in Practical Philosophy on our Module Directory

Texts in the Philosophy of Religion

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.

View Texts in the Philosophy of Religion on our Module Directory

Ancient Philosophy

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.

View Ancient Philosophy on our Module Directory

Philosophy and Religion

Have you ever tried to discredit a belief by pointing out its backstory? “You only believe that because you grew up in X!” or “You only believe that because you have traits X, Y, or Z!” Philosophers call this a Genealogical Debunking Argument (GDA), because it aims to undermine some belief by describing its origin. GDAs exert significant influence in the philosophy of religion. Historically, figures like Marx, Nietzsche, and Freud wielded these arguments to great effect; and today one regularly encounters naturalistic GDAs, e.g., “You only believe in God because have a ‘god-shaped hole’ in your brain!” But are these arguments any good? That’s the question we will explore in this module.

View Philosophy and Religion on our Module Directory

Modern Social and Political Thought

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.

View Modern Social and Political Thought on our Module Directory

Narrativity, Truth and Flourishing

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 <i>Nineteen Eighty Four</i> 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.

View Narrativity, Truth and Flourishing on our Module Directory

Beyond the BA: Skills for the Next Step

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.

View Beyond the BA: Skills for the Next Step on our Module Directory

Philosophy Capstone Module

This is an intensive final-year module running over five weeks during the summer term. It involves a guided and structured approach to support students in completing a research project of their own. It will be co-taught on a particular theme, with the theme for Summer Term being Challenges to Human Flourishing. Students will be introduced to two major research traditions in Philosophy that bear on this theme: (1) Critical Theory and (2) Phenomenology and Existentialism. Students will be split into two groups that will be taught about these two respective traditions in alternating weeks.

View Philosophy Capstone Module on our Module Directory

Contemporary Political Philosophy (optional)

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.

View Contemporary Political Philosophy (optional) on our Module Directory

Topics in the Philosophy of Religion (optional)

Can belief in God be reconciled with the reality of terrible evils in our world? Take an in-depth look at such central topics in the philosophy of religion and advance your understanding of key concepts such as: faith, theodicy, trial, free will, resignation, spiritual trial, sin, grace, sacrifice and forgiveness.

View Topics in the Philosophy of Religion (optional) on our Module Directory

Nietzsche (optional)

Devote yourself to a close study of Nietzsche`s 1887 On the Genealogy of Morality. You explore many of the most significant themes in Nietzsche`s work, including his account master and slave moralities, ressentiment, guilt, and nihilism.

View Nietzsche (optional) on our Module Directory

Feminism (optional)

How and why are women oppressed? What is a “woman”, and should we even use the term? Should we be aiming for freedom, or equality, or justice – and what do these terms mean? This module will look at some of the main strands in modern feminist theory, and explore the different ways in which they understand the nature, role and objectives of feminism.

View Feminism (optional) on our Module Directory

Phenomenology and Existentialism (optional)

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 structures governing the possibility of those meaningful experiences. In this module we will closely study one or more of the leading figures of these two inter-related philosophical movements.

View Phenomenology and Existentialism (optional) on our Module Directory

Kant's Revolution in Philosophy (optional)

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.

View Kant's Revolution in Philosophy (optional) on our Module Directory

Year abroad

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

  • Teaching typically takes the form of lectures and seminar sessions
  • Seminars allow your lecturer to explain new arguments and ideas in more detail, while giving you sufficient time for questions, collective discussion and active engagement with the material
  • We believe that discussion is the lifeblood of philosophy, and we try to keep our classes as small as we can for this purpose
  • In the second and final-year of your degree, we add an additional contact hour to each module
  • In the Summer term of the second and final-year of your degree we offer additional modules which cover additional topics and develop your research skills

Assessment

  • In your first year, modules are typically assessed by essays and exams (with most modules weighted 50% coursework and 50% exams).
  • We are the only Philosophy Department in the UK that has scrapped all formal exams in the second and final-year of your degree
  • In place of exams, we have a whole range of innovative assessments (e.g. essays, in-class assessments, presentations, group work, reading summaries) designed to boost your transferable skills

Fees and funding

Home/EU fee

£9,250

International fee

£16,050

Fees will increase for each academic year of study.

Home and EU fee information

International fee information

What's next

Open Days

Our events are a great way to find out more about studying at Essex. We run a number of Open Days throughout the year which enable you to discover what our 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 book a campus tour here.

2019 Open Days (Colchester Campus)

  • Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Applying

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.

You can find further information on how to apply, including information on transferring from another university, applying if you are not currently at a school or college, and applying for readmission on our How to apply and entry requirements page.

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 applicantdays@essex.ac.uk so we can help you plan a visit to the University.

Colchester Campus

Visit Colchester Campus

Home to over 13,000 students from more than 130 countries, our Colchester Campus is the largest of our three sites, making us one of the most internationally diverse campuses on the planet - we like to think of ourselves as the world in one place.

The Campus is set within 200 acres of beautiful parkland, located two miles from the historic town centre of Colchester – England's oldest recorded town. Our Colchester Campus is also easily reached from London and Stansted Airport in under one hour.

 

Virtual tours

If you live too far away to come to Essex (or have a busy lifestyle), no problem. Our 360 degree virtual tours allows you to explore our University from the comfort of your home. Check out our Colchester virtual tour and Southend virtual tour to see accommodation options, facilities and social spaces.

Exhibitions

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.

At Essex we pride ourselves on being a welcoming and inclusive student community. We offer a wide range of support to individuals and groups of student members who may have specific requirements, interests or responsibilities.


Find out more

The University makes every effort to ensure that this information on its course finder is accurate and up-to-date. Occasionally it can be necessary to make changes, for example to courses, facilities or fees. Examples of such reasons might include a change of law or regulatory requirements, industrial action, lack of demand, departure of key personnel, change in government policy, or withdrawal/reduction of funding. Changes to courses may for example consist of variations to the content and method of delivery of programmes, courses and other services, to discontinue programmes, courses and other services and to merge or combine programmes or courses. The University will endeavour to keep such changes to a minimum, and will also keep prospective students informed appropriately by updating our programme specifications.

The full Procedures, Rules and Regulations of the University governing how it operates are set out in the Charter, Statutes and Ordinances and in the University Regulations, Policy and Procedures.

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