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Philosophy of Biological and Cognitive Sciences MA

Course Description

The Department of Philosophy has outstanding research strength in the fields of philosophy of biology, philosophy of psychology and philosophy of cognitive sciences.

We are ranked by the Philosophical Gourmet Report as the strongest department in the UK for the philosophy of biology. The department is also home to a European Research Council project on Darwinism and the Theory of Rational Choice, which explores connections between biological and cognitive science research.

This MA builds on these outstanding research strengths. It is intended for graduates of philosophy, psychology and biology who wish to study philosophy of science with an emphasis on the biological and cognitive sciences. The programme focuses on philosophical issues arising from these scientific disciplines. The history of science is studied in terms of the philosophical debate about the nature of scientific method and knowledge.

You will be an active member of the department's flourishing research culture. All students are encouraged to participate in both the weekly departmental research seminar and in the weekly Philosophy and History of Science research seminar, which often features well-known scholars in the field, from Bristol and beyond. The department has strong links with both the School of Experimental Psychology and the School of Biological Sciences, with whom joint workshops and reading groups are organised.

Programme structure

The MA consists of taught components, examined by essay, and a dissertation. You will take six taught units, normally three in each semester.

Core units
-Scientific Epistemology and Methodology
-Philosophical Writing and Research Seminar
-Philosophy of Biology
-Philosophy of Psychology

Optional units can vary each year but may include:
-History of Science
-Philosophy and History of Mathematics
-Philosophy and History of Medicine
-Philosophy of Physics
-Individual, supervised research project

Satisfactory completion of semesters one and two will allow you to progress to writing a dissertation of up to 15,000 words on an approved topic of your choice. The dissertation is your chance to produce an extended piece of philosophical research that can act as preparation for a graduate research degree. You will have supervisory meetings with a member of staff who will also provide feedback on a draft of your work.


Students who have completed the MA in Philosophy of Biological and Cognitive Sciences have gone on to careers in teaching and science administration. A number of MA graduates pursue further studies in either philosophy or science.

Visit the Philosophy of Biological and Cognitive Sciences MA page on the University of Bristol website for more details!

(Student Profile)

Valeria Motta

5283.jpg I studied Philosophy at University of Buenos Aires. It is a very intellectually vibrant and culturally diverse place but I wanted to expand my experiences and learning horizons so I decided to have an experience in an English institution. I worked for three years to save for my course and then set off to this new adventure!

I chose Bristol for its reputation of excellence in the Philosophy of Science field. I first came to an open day organized by the Philosophy Department and spoke to professor James Ladyman. I participated in a seminar where I could see how involved in the philosophical discussion all the professors from the department are. That has inspired me greatly and I instantly felt part of the community.

The University of Bristol is a place to find inspiration, support and beauty (in the many different senses of the word). It's there, and it is up to you, to grasp and enjoy it. Learning is a way of achieving happiness. It is worth the effort.

I love the fact that there are always interesting seminars, reading groups and different thought-stimulating activities across different departments to which everyone is welcomed to attend. This allows for a multidisciplinary education which I find very valuable.

The city is very diverse, I love the fact that there are different areas each one with its own character. It is a place that's also full of green spaces, nice cafes and restaurants. There is a wonderful free-spirited feel about it. It is an inspiring place!

I really like Cotham House which is our Philosophy Department. I also adore the fact that all the university buildings are so close to each other and surrounded by trees. The buildings themselves are of great beauty.

After completing my course, I would like to remain in academia. At Bristol, I have been able to observe how the best philosophers do their job. I have gained research skills and have been given the training that has made me feel confident that I can do this.

I find this a place where if you work hard enough, you will get results. That is empowering.


Entry Requirements

Minimum entry requirement is an upper second-class honours degree in either a science subject, typically biological science or psychology, or philosophy (or a degree with a major philosophical component).

Last Updated

16 September 2016

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