Philosophy has been taught at the University of Aberdeen since King's College was founded in 1495, and Aberdeen philosophers played a central role in the Scottish Enlightenment. Thomas Reid, the founder and leading member of the eighteenth-century Scottish school of Common Sense Philosophy, graduated from Aberdeen in 1726 and served as Professor from 1752. Alexander Bain also graduated and taught at Aberdeen in the late nineteenth century, and his work in the philosophy of mind helped to lay the foundations for modern scientific psychology.
Today, philosophy at Aberdeen is a vibrant, diverse, and active department. It hosts the new Centre for Knowledge and Society which brings together scholars from different disciplines. The aim of the Centre is to investigate and address societal challenges by using a wide range of philosophical resources. We have a comprehensive undergraduate programme and place a strong emphasis on teaching. At postgraduate level we have a thriving community of students pursuing MLitt and PhD degrees. In 2021 we launched a new MLitt/PGCert/PGDip in Philosophy and Society which allows students to put philosophy into practice, whatever their area of interest or intended career. The 2022 National Student Survey has ranked Aberdeen Philosophy 1st in Scotland and 8th in the UK for overall student satisfaction, and first in Scotland for academic support and for assessment and feedback. We have been home to the funded research project What's So Special about First-Person Thought? (Leverhulme) and recently hosted the Equalities of Wellbeing in Philosophy and Architecture (AHRC) project. We organize a regular visiting speakers’ series funded by the Scots Philosophical Association and the Royal Institute of Philosophy. Each year we host one or more visiting Polish academics funded by the W Bednarowski Trust.
We have a number of initiatives that enhance the student experience and make Aberdeen a unique place to study. The Aberdeen Philosophy in Education Group (APEG) trains volunteer philosophy students to facilitate discussion of philosophical questions among primary and secondary school pupils. We hold a yearly Philosophy Reading Party, when philosophy students and staff spend a weekend in the Cairngorms National Park, with hillwalking during the day and informal philosophy talks in the evening.
The Philosophy Department is strongly committed to equality and diversity. As proud members of the BPA/SWIP Good Practice Scheme, we have several initiatives to ensure a fair work and study environment for all students and staff. We are aware of the barriers facing women and minority groups in their academic progression and are committed to improving our understanding of them and combating them. Philosophy has led the successful Athena SWAN Bronze application of the School of Divinity, History and Philosophy, with both Co-Leads of the School Self-Assessment Team belonging to this department. For more information, please see the School’s Equality and Diversity page.
Aberdeen’s Philosophy Department has signed up to the BPA Environmentally Responsible Travel scheme. We are committed to thinking about the impact of our travel, and to reducing it or taking less damaging modes of travel where possible.
Why study philosophy at Aberdeen?
I absolutely loved my time in Aberdeen. It was a real privilege to have the opportunity to study philosophy at an ancient university, with such beautiful surroundings and a fantastic new library. My degree in philosophy has given me a great academic grounding and opened lots of doors for the future. I have just started work at Cambridge University Press in the Rights and Permissions department for their English Language Teaching books.
Studying philosophy at the University of Aberdeen gave me the confidence to pursue a career in secondary school teaching. Aberdeen's philosophy department is small and friendly and the teaching is very student centred. My tutors were always willing to help and I received detailed feedback on my work. I am now training to teach philosophy, religion and ethics at King's College London and doing a master's degree in education.
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