Let me clarify my question a little bit. I am a high school senior deciding between Cambridge and UChicago. I know that I want to study philosophy in grad school. I am mostly interested in continental philosophy and am especially interested in Marxism, structuralism, psychoanalysis, and phenomenology. I would prefer to go to Cambridge over Chicago overall, but there philosophy department is 100% analytic and I would not study any of the philosophy that interests me. Chicago has a department that is split between analytic and continental and they have classes on what I am interested in. If I did go to Cambridge, than I would rather study one of my other interests (French, Classics, German) than study a style of philosophy that doesn't interest me very much (no offense to those of you who prefer analytic). Then again, I am worried if I could study philosophy at a higher level if I don't take it in college. So I guess the specific question would be: if I study French, German, or Classics at Cambridge, would that diminish my chances significantly of being accepted to a masters program in philosophy (in America, Britainn, France, or Germany)?

P.S. I am an American with Canadian, British, and American citizenship.

  • 2
    If what you want to do is have a professional career in the field then you should go to the school that has the best program and will help you the most when applying for a PhD program. It isn't the end of the world if you mostly do analytic philosophy in undergrad, it's just undergrad so most of it is surface level compared to what you'll be doing later. – Not_Here Apr 22 '18 at 6:26
  • 2
    @Not_Here to add another perspective to your (IMHO accurate) comment, what you enter college interested in will often not hold throughout. I entered college interested in continental socio-political Philosophy. I’m wrapping up my PhD in analytic Philosophy of Mathematics. – Dennis Apr 23 '18 at 3:37
  • 2
    @Dennis I completely agree, I entered intending to do software design but fell in love with my theory of computation class which led to finding my true passions are analytic philosophy and mathematical logic. To the OP, you still have a lot of time to learn about what your interests are, but no matter what you do I think it is the best decision to choose what is going to give you the biggest advantage when entering into the hyper competitive environment of graduate school (which is probably Cambridge and suffering through a few classes about Quine). – Not_Here Apr 23 '18 at 6:49
  • 1
    Also entered interested in continental and post-modern stuff. Changed to modern philosophy and comparative philosophy during my PhD. Never looking back. I also really like logic (though I don't work in that subfield). – virmaior Apr 23 '18 at 22:02
  • This is more a legal matter. Most Europe countries allow this. – Overmind Apr 24 '18 at 11:59

You can get an MA in philosophy in the US without doing an undergraduate in philosophy. If you do so, most programs will be looking for a strong background in analytic skills (here not with the exact meaning it has in "analytic philosophy") such as a hard science, math, or other difficult degree. The University of Chicago has a masters in humanities where you can focus on philosophy that fits this bill.

For less competitive programs, an undergraduate degree in just about any field will suffice. Some programs offer some financial support for MAs.

That being said, if you're plan is philosophy graduate school, then I would not recommend setting yourself up to pursue an MA in philosophy. While an MA was sufficient for getting a position at universities and functioned as a terminal degree for many up until the 1950s or so, in the current situation, an MA is a degree you can get before entering a PhD program. Instead, you should do an undergraduate where you can directly apply for PhDs in philosophy (looking from the American system) where you would receive full funding (they pay the tuition and give you money).

An undergraduate degree in Classics would prepare you to do a PhD in classical philosophy, depending on how the classics were taught past the language learning. One in French or German would likely require you to do an MA in philosophy before you could go on.

Finally, I'm not convinced of your account of the departments. While it's true that Cambridge does little continental, Clare Chambers does some continental work and some of the faculty could probably help you with projects that relate postmodernism back to modern philosophy. Similarly, I wouldn't call the Chicago department "split" -- there's definitely more people doing continental philosophy among their projects but that doesn't mean they do it from a thoroughly continental approach.


Acceptance into any Masters program is conditional upon the requirements of the particular school in question. I hate to be that person that says "Google it", but from my own quick search on the subject, I was able to discover the following on Cambridge's website: you need a minimum of two years' full-time study (or a minimum of 10 courses) in Philosophy in order to qualify for their Masters program. I'm sure if you check on Chigaco's website that you'll find their own requirements listed as well.

If you minor in philosophy during your undergrad, depending on how many courses you'll have to take, that may be sufficient to qualify you for a Masters at Cambridge or Chigaco. I would not take my word on it though - double-check how many courses a minor requires from you at either of these schools, and whether or not it would be enough to allow you to apply for the Masters. If it does, then I think that - in combination with a strong background in volunteer work, CO-OP or student work program experience, strong reference letters from your professors, and good grades will all be more than enough to ensure your acceptance into a Philosophy Masters program.

Good luck!

P.S. - I looked at Cambridge's syllabus and it looks fairly balanced and standard to me. I don't know where you got the interpretation that it's overly analytical, though. I see that the Wikipedia page for Continental Philosophy places some emphasis on a certain distinction between Continent and Analytic philosophy - and while the differences may be valid, I've never encountered this distinction throughout my undergraduate in Philosophy. Many of my classes (besides those specifically centered on some particular school of philosophy, like Ancient Greek philosophy) supply a balanced mix of various schools of thought, so that students are more widely and dynamically versed in the philosophic canon. Besides, if you want to specialize in any particular area, I would worry about that for your Masters only. As well, you might find that other areas of philosophy will actually appeal to you much more than you might anticipate. Continental philosophy is all well and good, but for all you know, the Stoics may be your favourite by the end of your fourth year.

  • 1
    The balanced approach is not universal. Many strong liberal arts colleges use it (it was used where I did my undergraduate degree and I used it when I taught during my PhD), but it's less prevalent at least in the US among state schools. – virmaior Apr 22 '18 at 4:11
  • Agreed - this is helpful to note. Though the program at Cambridge certainly seemed balance from my quick glance at it, I only have experience with Canadian universities and thus my opinion is exclusively informed by that outlook. – xxWallflower Apr 22 '18 at 4:18

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.