Why I chose to study #Philosophy at #Cambridge

We speak to one of our Cambridge Tutors – a postgrad reading Philosophy…

Why did you choose to study Philosophy at Cambridge?

It would be best to discuss this in two parts: why philosophy and why the Cambridge MPhil. The reason I chose to study philosophy at all is because I find it both interesting and rewarding. Not only is the subject matter fascinatingly fundamental to the constitution of our lives and the nature of the world (Are there any objective moral values? What exists? What is the relationship between the mind and the brain? What exactly are you and what would it take for you to persist/die?) but the style of it is challenging and satisfying.

The analytic tradition is characterised by clarity and analytic rigour. One feels as though one is really succeeding at intellectual investigation when one is asked to be utterly precise with one’s argumentation. Furthermore, the analytic style improves one both as a writer and a
reader (of all academic material). Through learning logic and applying it in one’s interaction with texts one develops the ability to discern and critique poor argumentation – both in the work of others and in one’s own work.

I chose to stay at Cambridge after my undergraduate studies because the MPhil at Cambridge is research based. This contrasts starkly to the undergraduate degree. The latter works on a weekly work cycle whereby one is introduced to a new topic, is given several pieces to read and asked to immersive oneself quickly and efficiently. This process culminates in a one-to- one supervision in which one’s newly acquired thoughts on the subject matter are questioned, discussed, stretched and informed. The cycle then begins again. The MPhil, on the other hand, gives space for continued investigation of a certain area. This will often result in a winding path of reading, moving from one field to the other, as one picks at all the interrelated philosophical strings. This experience is designed to be, and is, much more like the research of philosophy academics and I chose to do it as a taster for PhD life.

 

What are your special areas of interest?

My general philosophical interest covers meta-normativity, metaphysics and the philosophy of language. I am very interested in the intersection between metaphysics and the philosophy of language. This has been hugely prominent in analytic philosophy over the last
100 or so years since ‘the linguistic turn’ in philosophy (the idea that not only should we consider philosophical issues but that we should consider how we discuss them to inform our philosophical opinions). My interest in this intersection concerns the realism/anti-
realism debate which, for any domain, concerns whether we project/construct or observe/describe entities in that domain. Even the formulation of the realism/anti-realism debate is not a matter of consensus – some think it should be formulated semantically,
others ontologically.

I am currently exploring my interest meta-normativity by looking into the potential effects of Moral Error theory. This is the theory that all moral statements (eg ‘murder is wrong’) are systematically false because for them to true would require the existence of objective moral
properties, and there are no such things. The concerning consequence is that the reasons to think there are no such moral properties appear to apply equally well in the epistemic domain. I am looking into whether it is possible to demonstrate that though moral properties may be ‘metaphysically queer’, epistemic properties are not.