Undergraduate courses

"The unexamined life", said Socrates, "is not worth living." Philosophy involves a critical examination of our most fundamental beliefs about truth and reality, right and wrong. It challenges many of our assumptions about what we know and how we should live and focuses upon the ways in which different views of the world clash or fit together, and with how far different perspectives (moral, scientific, religious, metaphysical, personal) may be reconciled.It allows for extended reflection on and discussion of, in those immortal words, "life, the universe, and everything".

The Philosophy Department offers several degree courses:

BA Ethics, Value and Philosophy

BA Philosophy

BA Philosophy and Classical Studies

BA Philosophy and English Literature

BA Philosophy and International Relations

BA Philosophy and Politics

BA Philosophy, Politics and Economics

BA Psychology and Philosophy

BA Art and Philosophy

BA History and Philosophy

Studying Philosophy at the University of Reading will give you the opportunity to critically examine society's most fundamental beliefs about truth and reality, right and wrong. Leading scholars will guide your learning, introducing you to groundbreaking theories and developments in philosophy. You will be encouraged to discover what interests you about the subject, and be given the resources to explore this through independent research. Our modules cover a wide range of topics. We use a variety of different teaching and assessment techniques, providing all students with opportunities to reach their highest potential.

Within the department we are dedicated to providing you with an outstanding level of education and support. We are keen to admit enthusiastic students who are passionate about philosophy, and a have a desire to explore the subject further.

Teaching and Assessment

Teaching takes three main forms: lectures, seminars, and tutorials. Typically, there are (per module) two hours of lecture and one hour of seminar per week, plus optional tutorial-style discussions. Students take 120 modules per year full-time, and most modules are 20 credits; some modules are 10 credits.

Assessment is coursework-only.

Here is some extra information about each of these.

Philosophy Lectures

Lectures involve all of the students undertaking a particular module. They are one hour long and are usually held in theatre halls or large classrooms. Lectures are used to present information. Their aim is to introduce specific topics, to raise related issues, and to consider differing theoretical perspectives. After having the topic outlined in a lecture, you are expected to explore it in more detail during your self study time. Lecture content will often come up for discussion in your seminars.

Philosophy Seminars

Seminars typically involve between 12 and 15 students. They have a relaxed atmosphere where you will be encouraged to discuss your reactions to and opinions of a particular subject. The aim of a seminar is to discuss a topic in detail; to analyse and consider critically the evidence for the claims we make.

In all Part One seminars you will be required to submit short pieces of writing about the previous week's lectures and/or assigned reading. This is a useful test of your own understanding, and a chance to identify any questions you might have on the lecture topic. This is not marked, but is mandatory, and often forms the basis of seminar discussions. Seminars can lead anywhere depending on what you and your peers have found interesting.

Seminars give you the opportunity to listen to others in the group and consider how they have approached a topic. Participating in seminars helps to build your confidence, communication skills, and understanding of the subject.

Optional Tutorials (office hours)

These are one to one meetings between you and a lecturer, where you will discuss a particular piece of work. These sessions grant you the opportunity to gain advice on the form and content of your assessment, and provide highly relevant, personal feedback on your progress.


In all three (or four) years of your degree you will spend a considerable amount of time working outside of formal lectures, seminars and tutorials. We call this self study.

Self study is an essential part of undertaking a Philosophy degree. You will need to set aside time to read and think around the subjects you are studying. You will be expected to research a wide range of sources in order to inform your thinking in essays and discussions. In addition, you will need to prepare for lectures and seminars to gain the most from them.


In your final year you will be given the option to produce an 8,000-10,000 word independently researched Dissertation. A Dissertation provides a fantastic opportunity to undertake a project on a topic of your own choosing, throughout which you will receive support from a dedicated supervisor. The Dissertation helps to further develop key skills acquired throughout your studies, for instance, time management, problem solving, communication, and organisation among others. A Dissertation is something which you can point to in the future to demonstrate transferable qualities acquired during your degree.

Our Modules

We are proud to offer students a diverse and exciting range of courses throughout their degrees. Not only do our modules cover a wide span of current and historical theories, but we also explore a variety of philosophical topics. Our main departmental strengths include moral philosophy and metaphysics together with philosophy of science and language.

For a full list of modules click here.

Here are some of the modules we run:

Please note that not every module is taught every year.

Research-led Teaching, and Other Resources for You

Staff Research

The University of Reading Philosophy department is focused on research led teaching. This means that our staff are actively researching and contributing to current academic debates, alongside their University teaching roles.

This provides fantastic benefits to your studies. You will be taught by enthusiastic individuals who have extensive knowledge of their subjects and a passion for conveying their expertise. Our lecturers are at the forefront of their disciplines and are furthering understanding in many philosophical theories and topics.

Learning is a two way collaborative process, guided by the experience of the lecturer. This dynamic learning environment allows students to develop their own views, creating confident, independent and inquisitive individuals. You can see a current list of our staff here.

Resources We Provide for You

When choosing your degree programme, you need to be aware of the resources which the University and Department provide to support your self study.

At the University of Reading Philosophy Department we are proud to provide undergraduates with an excellent standard of material to assist learning.

Our department provides its students with access to a private departmental study room, additional academic lectures, subject related periodical subscriptions, specialised database access, and much more besides.

Print Resources

The Whiteknights library currently holds over 9,000 relevant texts for the Philosophy degree programs. The strengths of the collection reflect the modules offered by the department and the interests of staff, for example: moral philosophy, philosophy of religion, science, the mind, and language, metaphysics, and epistemology/theory of knowledge. Recently acquired series include, The Handbook of Philosophical Logic, Kant's gesammelte Schriften, Marx and Engels Collected works (English language), and Proceedings of the British Academy amongst others. In addition, there are approximately sixty Philosophy reference volumes, particularly companions and guides, available in the main library.

Philosophy students are encouraged to explore relevant special collection books housed at the Museum of English Rural Life (MERL). The most extensive collection is undoubtedly the Overstone Library. The Overstone Library contains nearly 8,000 printed volumes, from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. It includes texts on economics, travel, history, literature, classics, and political and religious philosophy. The emphasis is predominantly English and Scottish, with French works coming a strong second. Many seminal writings of the period are present.

We also maintain a departmental library and study room. Here we hold a collection of around 800 books, and 500 journals issues. In addition, we provide an assortment of articles which cover all third year option topics. The study room provides an excellent space for working on group projects, especially as there are so many resources close to hand.

Electronic Resources

The library provides Philosophy students with a wealth of online materials. You will be given full access to registered databases such as Cambridge Companions Online, Oxford Scholarship Online, Early English Books Online (EEBO), and Eighteenth Century Collections Online (ECCO). The department subscribes to 52 subject relevant journals, of which historical and current articles can be viewed electronically. Online access is also provided to the Encyclopaedia of Philosophy, and the bibliographic database Philosopher's Index.

Research Seminars

Within the department, we are keen to encourage the exchange of knowledge between established academic philosophers and undergraduate students. To facilitate this we hold weekly seminars every Tuesday afternoon of term addressed by a visiting speaker who is an expert in their field. These talks are not linked to specific modules; rather they are designed to introduce students to cutting edge research and controversial topics in the discipline.

Click on the link below for a list of Autumn 2011 seminars.


The Philosophy Society (click here)

The Philosophy Society is run by students, for students. Throughout the year they organise social and academic events. Joining the society and attending the events provides an excellent opportunity to meet Philosophy students from all years and backgrounds. Why not check out the society Facebook page?

Life at Reading Philosophy

As a student with us you will become an important part of our School and you will be helped to settle in during the Freshers' week events.We offer a high number of successful courses and attract a large number of students each year, in turn this offers an excellent opportunity to make many new friends and meet new people. You will be encouraged to participate in social evenings, seminars and events as you widen your social and academic community, both within your subject area and the School.

There is a healthy student community which is a vital part of the School and during your time with us, you will be able to take part in the Staff/Student Committees within each subject area and provide the School with valuable feedback.

You will be able to attend lectures, seminars and visits throughout the year, which are arranged to engage you with your colleagues, friends and staff within the School.The Resources you have available to you, that work alongside the academic environment of the School, are the Visual Resources Centre, URE museum and a Resources Room within each subject area; with the addition of dedicated teaching staff and friendly support staff, who are here to guide you during your time here at the University.

Watch some interviews with past students on our Reading Philosophy Youtube Channel. Made possible by the University's Annual Fund.

Things to do now



Undergraduate Admissions Tutor

Dr James Andow

Postgraduate Director of Admissions
Professor Brad Hooker

Postgraduate Research

Catherine O'Hare
+44 (0) 118 378 5799

Current Students

Please use RISIS.

Head of Department

Prof RM de Gaynesford

Head of Humanities

Prof. Karla Pollmann

Click on the link below to find out more about this exciting new degree programme:

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