Studying philosophy means engaging with some profound and fascinating questions; questions that any inquisitive and critical thinker will ask themself at some point in their life, but which many non-philosophers do not pursue in depth.
Here are some examples of these questions:
In philosophy of science: What is the difference between science and pseudoscience? How does science generate knowledge? Does science discredit religious belief?
In ethics: What does morality require? Why be moral?
In political philosophy: Is equality of basic rights and resources a requirement of justice?
In metaphysics: What is freedom of the will, and do we possess it? What makes you the same person over time, notwithstanding the changes in your body, beliefs and values over your life?
Features of LSE courses
In studying philosophy at LSE you will debate and investigate the issues and problems that have preoccupied philosophers since Greek times, as well as learning the skills and techniques of reasoning. You will do so by studying works by the major authors of the Western tradition (including Plato, Aristotle, Hume, Kant, and Mill) and contemporary sources.
Our research and teaching programmes have two distinctive features. The first is a commitment to clarity of expression and argumentative rigour. This means taking great care to avoid obscure or grand statements that one cannot back up with precise arguments or evidence. Formal logic is an important part of the degrees, as too are the principles of evidence and of inductive reasoning.
The second is a commitment to doing philosophy in close contact with the social and natural sciences. We study questions of moral and political philosophy, knowledge acquisition, and scientific method in an interdisciplinary way. In addition to courses in familiar areas of philosophy (like moral philosophy and philosophy of mind and language), we therefore offer courses in the Philosophy of Science, Philosophy of Economics, Philosophy of the Social Sciences, Philosophy of the Biomedical Sciences, Philosophy of Cognitive Science, Scientific Method and Policy, the History of Science, Set Theory and Further Logic, Philosophy and Public Policy and Business and Organisational Ethics. You will also have the opportunity to take a significant number of courses in other departments at LSE.
The skills in reasoning which you will gain can be applied to any subject matter, and your studies will provide you with a good general basis for a wide range of occupations and professions.
We offer a single honours BSc Philosophy, Logic and Scientific Method; a joint BSc degree in Philosophy and Economics; and BSc Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE) which is a joint four-year programme. The Department of Government also offers the BSc Politics and Philosophy.
What the selectors are looking for in an application
The selectors are looking for academic students with a genuine interest in and enthusiasm for the social and political sciences. There is no ideal subject combination, however selectors like to see that you possess both analytical and writing abilities, and it is desirable to see students offering a mix of arts and science/mathematics A levels (or equivalent). As with all degrees at LSE, at least two traditional subjects are preferred.
For BSc Philosophy and Economics and BSc Philosophy, Politics and Economics, it is essential that you have studied, or are studying, Mathematics to A level (or equivalent).
For Philosophy, your personal statement should demonstrate your awareness of and genuine interest in exploring philosophical issues and the application of logic. We are interested in your views and opinions on questions such as morality, free will, or the relationship between science and religion.
In addition, for Philosophy and Economics, your personal statement should demonstrate an equal interest in both disciplines. For Philosophy, Politics and Economics, we are looking for a balanced statement that demonstrates interest in all three subjects and their overlapping themes.
You should mention how the programme in question relates to your current academic programme, what topics particularly interest you, and what additional reading or similar academic experiences you have had which led you to apply. You may also like to include information on your extra-curricular activities and any relevant work experience. We expect to see some evidence of engagement with the subjects outside of your school work, and expect you to critically reflect on these experiences, explaining how they have prepared or inspired you to pursue your chosen programme.
Personal characteristics and skills that will be useful to students in their study of philosophy at LSE (as a single or combined programme) will be those such as the abilities to think logically and independently, follow complex lines of reasoning, read extensively and evaluate and challenge conventional views. In addition you should possess intellectual curiosity and have the motivation and capacity for hard work.
Please visit lse.ac.uk/ug/apply/phl for further information on admissions criteria.
Teaching and assessment
You will have at least a one-hour lecture and a one-hour related class for each course each week, as well as LSE100 teaching. We are committed to giving undergraduates a good deal of face-to-face time with faculty. All lectures are done by faculty. Many classes from the second year onwards (and even some first year classes) are taught by faculty as well (other classes are taught by PhD students in the Department). All teachers have weekly office hours in which you can further discuss material from the lectures and classes.
There is some variation in assessment for different courses, but in general, you will have an examination for each course in June of the year in which you have taken it, as well as an essay due at the beginning of May. For each course, you will have to complete several essays and/or exercises as part of your class work. Your attendance at classes and performance will be carefully monitored, and you will have a personal academic adviser to provide assistance and guidance.
Please note that you can read about recent research and events involving Faculty members on our LSE Philosophy Blog.
Listed below are texts that serve as good introductions to the various areas of philosophy.
R Descartes Meditations (any edition)
D Hume An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding and An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals (any editions)
JS Mill On Liberty (any edition)
Plato The Republic, translated and edited by Robin Waterfield (Oxford Paperbacks)
K Popper Conjectures and Refutations: the growth of scientific knowledge (Routledge, 2003)
A Smith The Theory of Moral Sentiments (any edition)
General philosophy and philosophical tools:
T Nagel What Does It All Mean? (Oxford University Press, 1987)
RM Sainsbury Paradoxes (Cambridge University Press, 2009)
B Skyrms Choice and Chance: an introduction to inductive logic (Wadsworth, 2000)
T Nagel Mortal Questions (Canto, 1991)
B Williams Morality: an introduction to ethics (Canto, 1993)
J Wolff An Introduction to Political Philosophy (Oxford University Press, 2006)
A Voorhoeve Conversations on Ethics (Oxford University Press, 2011)
Philosophy of science:
A Chalmers What is this thing called Science? (Oxford University Press, 2006)
S Okasha Philosophy of Science: a very short introduction (Oxford Paperbacks, 2002)
Our graduates have excellent job prospects. A recent Guardian survey ranks us as the Department with far and away the best job prospects in the UK for philosophy graduates; we believe that this is because of the analytical rigour and interdisciplinary nature of our degrees. Recent graduates have gone on to work in banking and financial services, government, management consultancy, media and education, and have also proved very successful in gaining entry to graduate programmes.