Oxbridge Philosophy Preparation

Serious, regular reading is a prerequisite for a successful application to Oxbridge to read Philosophy or a related degree. One proper Philosophy reading and note-taking every week is required as an absolute minimum for joint-honours Oxford Philosophy degrees, and two for Cambridge single-honours.

The following books give good introductions to the subject. They are recommended to all Oxbridge Philosophy candidates as a first step. For those who do not already study Philosophy, reading at least one of these is considered essential.

  • Nigel Warburton, Philosophy: the Basics
  • Thomas Nagel, What Does it All Mean
  • Simon Blackburn, Think: A Compelling Introduction to Philosophy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999)

It is strongly recommended that you get hold of (and use!) a Philosophy 'reader'. This is a compilation of primary text materials. Browse them for topics or philosophers you find interesting. Set yourself a target of reading one reading each week, and taking notes and/or answering any study questions that are provided. Two of the best general Philosophy readers are:

  • Nigel Warburton, Philosophy: Basic Readings
  • Robert C. Solomon, Introducing Philosophy: A Text with Integrated Readings

Once some primary sources have whetted your appetite, there are three things you can (and should) do.

  1. Find out about new topics
    • by reading some Very Short Introductions. These excellent books are available on a wide range of philosophical themes and available online. Some of the best are: Causation (Stephen Mumford and Rani Lill Anjum); Kant (Roger Scruton); Plato (Julia Annas); Wittgenstein (A. C. Grayling); Policitcal Philosophy (David Miller); Freedom (Thomas Pink).
    • by reading Philosophy Now - a superb Philosophy magazine. The back issues never go out of date and contain some amazing articles.
  2. Read some primary source material. Other pages on this website give some ideas of what to look at.