Philosophy Personal Statement
"(…) through the greatness of the universe which philosophy contemplates, the mind also is rendered great". Suggestive of the metaphysical world to which the subject awakens us, these closing lines of Russell's ‘Problems of Philosophy’ solidified my decision to pursue a philosophy degree.
My choice of course was influenced heavily by studying Philosophy at AS level. I was particularly intrigued by the Ontological argument. Kant famously claimed that this argument proves only that the concept of God necessarily exists, not that it is instantiated in the World. However, Vardy states that the concept of necessary existence, though empirically unverifiable, has real meaning in a religious form of life. Pitt-Payne's article on ‘Religious Belief and Ontological Claims’ in ‘Think’ journal demonstrates that this position is flawed. If religion makes no ontological claims, the believer cannot articulate why maintaining religious faith is important to the empirical world.
One objection to Descartes' formation claims that he depends on "clear and distinct" ideas which cannot be relied on before proving the existence of God. I think Descartes' reply in ‘Meditations’ suggests this is a misunderstanding. While attending to them, we cannot be deceived about the truth of clear and distinct ideas. Descartes uses ideas which he clearly and distinctly perceives in his mind throughout the proof, so does not need the existence of God to guarantee their truth.
Concept empiricist Locke's analogy of the mind as a "tabular rasa" is alluded to by Shelley in ‘Frankenstein’, which I studied in English literature. However, all empirical knowledge is discovered by induction, the truth of which must be assumed to justify belief in the inductive principle itself which begs the question. So, on an empiricist account of its acquisition, all our knowledge is unjustified.
Studying the philosophes of the French Revolution in History introduced me to Political Philosophy. In ‘An Introduction to Political Philosophy’, Wolffe describes Rousseau's positive notion of freedom as living the life a rational person would choose. This is achieved by acting on the general will which may justify coercing minority dissenters to obey a law passed in spite of their vote. Utilitarianism, which I read about in Mill's ‘Utilitarianism’ and Glover's ‘Causing Death and Saving Lives’, also threatens personal freedom. Actions violating individual liberty are only wrong if they do not maximise utility, which is counter-intuitive. However, as Dawkins says in ‘The God Delusion’, intuitions vary and are not justified by reason or evidence.
Reading several books has broadened my understanding of Philosophy beyond the A-level specification. In ‘Practical Ethics’, Singer suggests that ethics consists of universal laws which aim to maximise preference satisfaction, making agents active. This inherently values individual liberty in a way hedonistic utilitarianism does not. Russell argues in ‘Problems of Philosophy’ that it is possible to know that an object answering a definite description exists without having acquaintance knowledge of it. This undermines Berkley's attack on the "scepticism" of indirect realism which assumes that we could not truly judge the existence of objective matter with which we are unacquainted. Similarly, in ‘Think’, Blackburn exposes the common fallacy of composition using formal logic to underline the importance of quantificational structure.
Beyond the classroom, I take part in outdoor pursuits such as skiing and have climbed several Lake District mountains including Scafell Pike and Helvellyn. During my placement at Unicorn School, I practised communicating clearly while managing the school play and undertook clerical work which will aid my essay writing.
Universities Applied to:
- University of Cambridge (Philosophy) - Offer (A*AA) Firm
- Durham University (Philosophy) - Offer (AAA) Insurance
- University of St Andrews (Philosophy) - Offer (AAB)
- University of Birmingham (Philosophy) - Offer (Unconditional if firm, AAB if insurance)
- University of Manchester (Philosophy) - Offer (ABB)
- Geography (AS) - A
- English Literature (A2) - A*
- History (A2) - A*
- Philosophy (A2) - A*