So you’ve started studying philosophy, now what?

Philosophy for first-years.


I remember how daunting it was to start studying Philosophy at university level. Particularly if you’ve just taken a year out and seem to have lost your ability to write an essay! So as a grizzled fourth year, I’m going to give you my top tips if you’re a new Philosophy student.


Philosophy society guest lectures

If you are a member of PhilSoc, then every Thursday you have free access to their running series of guest lectures. (If you are not a member of PhilSoc, then you can either purchase a membership at any one of these events or pay £2.50 per talk). These lectures are guaranteed to be thought-provoking and give a great perspective into what constitutes philosophy beyond the mandatory 1st-year courses. Worth a visit!



Philosophy library

Many students have no idea that this place exists, and spend their exam seasons waking up at 6 am to try and secure a seat in the main library. But just across George Square in the Psychology building lies a little study-spot dedicated to PPLS students. If you want a quiet place to nail that essay where you’re always guaranteed a seat, this should be your go-to.


Students presumably discussing something mind-bending.

PPLS Writing Centre

Again, most Philosophy students do not make the most of this resource. By appointment, drop-in, or in workshops, the PPLS writing centre is here to enhance your essays. Spend 1 hour with an MSc student polishing your essay, utterly free of charge. Sound too good to be true? I’m still convinced it is.


Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

When you start researching for your 1st-year essays, you’ll undoubtedly come across this site. However, you may not realise its importance at this stage. The SEP will be your best friend throughout your degree, and it is a phenomenal resource for all things philosophical. At times it can seem too comprehensive, but if you’re able to use it as a supplement to your lectures, you’ll always end up with an excellent grade.


Do the reading

Every 1st year makes this mistake. You roll out of bed and into your 300 person lecture, and you haven’t done the reading. What most of you don’t consider is how much harder this makes revising for your exams come December/May. If you do the reading and can make comprehensive notes during the lecture, when it comes to revising the material, you will halve your workload because you’ll already have your revision notes. A stitch in time saves nine.


Don’t stress about Logic 1

Do not work yourself up about Logic 1 if you are finding it tough. It may seem scary, after all, don’t as many people fail as they get firsts? However, if you put in the hours, you will eventually succeed in Logic. It’s not something that you’re going to understand immediately, but it will click eventually! Go to the office hours, do the reading, and put in the time in advance – you’ll be fine.


Image result for propositional logic
Calm it, Kermit, it’s just a logical derivation.


Stimulate your interest in your subject!

Finally, I recommend that you try your best to stimulate your interest in your subject. When you first enter university and are suddenly completing modules in Philosophy in addition to all of your other outside courses, it is difficult to feel connected to your degree! Listen to podcasts such as: In Our Time: Philosophy, The Infinite Monkey Cage, or Philosophy Bites, and read up on those areas that interest you. Philosophy is such an exciting subject, and it’s worth squeezing every ounce of value from your four years studying it at Edinburgh.