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. 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. The 2017 National Student Survey has Aberdeen Philosophy ranked 1st in Scotland for student teaching quality and joint 2nd in Scotland for overall student satisfaction. We are also an active and highly ranked research department. In the last Research Excellence Framework, 71.9% of outputs in Philosophy were rated world-leading or internationally excellent (4* or 3*). We are currently 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 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.
Find out more about staff members in our department.
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.