Darije
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Hi everyone,

Suppose I'd better start this thread with some background.

Thanks to my love all things abstract, fundamental and logical, I'm going to be applying for Oxford's Physics and Philosophy course next year (currently in Yr 12); much to the bemusement of people who don't seem to see the link between the two...

Before October rolls around though, I'd like to hear from anyone who is doing PhysPhil (at Oxford or anywhere else) or knows someone who is doing PhysPhil about how they are enjoying the course; whether it really is a course that ties the two subjects together (some prospectuses gave me a feel that it was most of the physics degree with bolt-on philosophy modules grafted to it); how much maths there is in the course (I like my maths way too much to give it up... problem is, I like my philosophy too much too...); and whether anyone has any recommendations for reading -- I've found myself more than enough reading lists, so I'd like to cut it down to something manageable.

Thanks in advance.
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Pedrobear
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If you like maths so much why not Mathematics & Philosophy? It seems to me a slightly more congruous pairing, although not by that much. I've always felt physics could be very philosophical in places... not always so much in the physics itself as the philosophical implications that knowledge of said physics brings upon us. Anyway, if you go with maths and philosophy you'll be looking to read along the lines of Russell, Descartes and Gödel... I think it appears a natural joint. Perhaps I'm wrong.
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Ebd
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I applied for Physics and Philosophy at Oxford and its hella competitive. I'd advise being very cautious about going for it at oxford personally anyway.
Reasons:
1. Balliol is the only college that takes in a serious ammount (6) the other colleges that do it tend to have 1 undergrad at a time so an intake of about 1/4 a year
2. It's got one of the lowest success rates outside of medicine and law and only like 14 places or something.
3. It's meant to be one of the hardest courses there, when i was looking round a lot of people said that the phys/phil at their college was a shut away, snowed under with work and such. You end up doing something crazy like 80% of the physics course and 80% of the philosophy (I could be wrong about that, that was a figure someone threw out I think)

I've got a place doing Nat Sci at durham (very advisable for a second choice by the way), not to scare you by all means go for it at oxford. Just be prepared and be certain its what you want to do. If you do still go for it like I said Durham is great as you can basically pick what you want, its an awesome nat sci degree as its so free. Other than Durham, Bristol has a good Physics and philosophy degree. The 'and' is important, if its a physics with philosophy then its much less philosophy which a lot of places do.

As for the workload obviously I'm only a perspective student so can't comment, if you want to tie the two courses apply for an 'and'. Good luck and I can only wish you better me if you do go for Oxford Oh and I havent put you off, really hope you do go for it as its a good subject and there are a lot of links (I got the same thing with people thinking its an odd marriage :p:)
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zevotu
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Hi!

(Not to answer or give advice but to post some more questions.)

I also have great interest in PhysPhil course at oxford.

I've heard that for this course we need to sumit two written works.. Does anyone have any idea how and where to get sample for these works. I am oversea student so I haven't got any written work from my school like in UK.

((((((( Is it advisable and wise to choose this subject 'cause obviously for some these are the most unsuitable subjects for jobs and as well for study. But this two are my most favorite subjects.

by the way i already applied for Cambridge for engineering course and I got invited for the interview but i failed.
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dandelion123
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My son is interested in applying for PhysPhil course this year but we are worried about the workload. If anybody who is doing this course at the moment, or did it in the past, could give us some advice it would be greatly appreciated.
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rorocks202
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(Original post by dandelion123)
My son is interested in applying for PhysPhil course this year but we are worried about the workload. If anybody who is doing this course at the moment, or did it in the past, could give us some advice it would be greatly appreciated.
Hi there!
I'm currently a second year student doing PhysPhil at Oxford. I've got to say it is really tough. Workload is definitely that of about 1.5 degrees and very very heavy on the maths/physics side. If it's what he wants to do tell him to go for it. But if there's any doubt it's worth taking a gap year to really consider it. Unfortunately we've had a lot of dropouts this year (we've gone from about 20 to 10 students across the uni), this is not because people have failed but rather that they are not enjoying having to scrape by. My advice would be to tell your son only to apply if he feels like he can commit to the subjects and is willing to work really hard even when he can't necessarily see the results.
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cambio wechsel
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(Original post by rorocks202)
we've had a lot of dropouts this year (we've gone from about 20 to 10 students across the uni)
do you mean that they're going to, for example, straight physics, or that they're leaving the university?
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rorocks202
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(Original post by cambio wechsel)
do you mean that they're going to, for example, straight physics, or that they're leaving the university?
A mixture! I know a few who have left the university (some of these were unsuccessful in changing course), a few who have changed to straight physics, and a couple who have changed to other unrelated degrees
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dandelion123
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(Original post by rorocks202)
Hi there!
I'm currently a second year student doing PhysPhil at Oxford. I've got to say it is really tough. Workload is definitely that of about 1.5 degrees and very very heavy on the maths/physics side. If it's what he wants to do tell him to go for it. But if there's any doubt it's worth taking a gap year to really consider it. Unfortunately we've had a lot of dropouts this year (we've gone from about 20 to 10 students across the uni), this is not because people have failed but rather that they are not enjoying having to scrape by. My advice would be to tell your son only to apply if he feels like he can commit to the subjects and is willing to work really hard even when he can't necessarily see the results.
Many thanks for the insightful information. He really has to think about applying to this course. He works really hard but is worried about the drop out rate. He might just want to apply for straight Physics now.
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dandelion123
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(Original post by rorocks202)
Hi there!
I'm currently a second year student doing PhysPhil at Oxford. I've got to say it is really tough. Workload is definitely that of about 1.5 degrees and very very heavy on the maths/physics side. If it's what he wants to do tell him to go for it. But if there's any doubt it's worth taking a gap year to really consider it. Unfortunately we've had a lot of dropouts this year (we've gone from about 20 to 10 students across the uni), this is not because people have failed but rather that they are not enjoying having to scrape by. My advice would be to tell your son only to apply if he feels like he can commit to the subjects and is willing to work really hard even when he can't necessarily see the results.
Do you have to write a lot of essays for Philosophy? My son is definitely interested in Physics. He is not sure about Philosophy as he has little knowledge about it. He is good at writing as he is doing AS English and likes debating. He is also curious about science. I really appreciate your information and advice as you are a current student. I understand only around 20 colleges offer PhysPhil, but a lot of them have not accepted any students for the last 3 years. Balliol admits the most. However, my son would like to apply for a choral scholarship as well which restricts him to only 4 colleges to consider, University, Oriel, Exeter and Worcester. Which college are you at if you don't mind me asking? You can PM me if you wish. Thank you.
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BAWUS
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(Original post by dandelion123)
Do you have to write a lot of essays for Philosophy? My son is definitely interested in Physics. He is not sure about Philosophy as he has little knowledge about it. He is good at writing as he is doing AS English and likes debating. He is also curious about science. I really appreciate your information and advice as you are a current student. I understand only around 20 colleges offer PhysPhil, but a lot of them have not accepted any students for the last 3 years. Balliol admits the most. However, my son would like to apply for a choral scholarship as well which restricts him to only 4 colleges to consider, University, Oriel, Exeter and Worcester. Which college are you at if you don't mind me asking? You can PM me if you wish. Thank you.
PhysPhil and a choral scholarship is certainly a hefty commitment. On their own they are enough to leave you wondering whether it's all worth it!

If your son enjoys debating then there's no reason why he can't go to moot court or a political/philosophy society. Likewise, if he wants to join a choral group he can do so without the commitment of the scholarship.
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dandelion123
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(Original post by BAWUS)
PhysPhil and a choral scholarship is certainly a hefty commitment. On their own they are enough to leave you wondering whether it's all worth it!

If your son enjoys debating then there's no reason why he can't go to moot court or a political/philosophy society. Likewise, if he wants to join a choral group he can do so without the commitment of the scholarship.
That's what I am worried about, the workload of the course and the commitment of the choral scholarship. I don't want him to find himself being unable to cope with the pressure. Thank you very much for your useful information and advice. He is thinking of applying for Physics now.
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BAWUS
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(Original post by dandelion123)
That's what I am worried about, the workload of the course and the commitment of the choral scholarship. I don't want him to find himself being unable to cope with the pressure. Thank you very much for your useful information and advice. He is thinking of applying for Physics now.
My brother studied at oxford and said that the physphils were hermits always drowned with work and never coming out of their rooms. choral scholarships are practically part time jobs. beyond this, he's supposed to find time to socialize and enjoy being a student which seems tricky.

certainly a single honours physics degree and ECs which he can attend/put as much work into as wanted might make more sense especially since he's not sure if philosophy is even something he's interested in doing at an academic level. The Cambridge philosophy department once said something interesting in that a lot of students mistake an interest in academic philosophy for general curiosity. you said he hasn't studied any real philosophy yet in his spare time so maybe it's just a budding interest in life in general which is fine.

I know which way I'd go but ultimately it's his choice. I mean, most people who go to Oxford also want to do some rowing or other activities outside academia for fun so I assume he will too. With the constraints of the double honours and scholarship you can probably see how it'd be very easy for somebody to become a recluse and depressed. On the other hand, maybe he'll thrive under the immense pressures of both and be an outstanding student!
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dandelion123
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(Original post by BAWUS)
My brother studied at oxford and said that the physphils were hermits always drowned with work and never coming out of their rooms. choral scholarships are practically part time jobs. beyond this, he's supposed to find time to socialize and enjoy being a student which seems tricky.

certainly a single honours physics degree and ECs which he can attend/put as much work into as wanted might make more sense especially since he's not sure if philosophy is even something he's interested in doing at an academic level. The Cambridge philosophy department once said something interesting in that a lot of students mistake an interest in academic philosophy for general curiosity. you said he hasn't studied any real philosophy yet in his spare time so maybe it's just a budding interest in life in general which is fine.

I know which way I'd go but ultimately it's his choice. I mean, most people who go to Oxford also want to do some rowing or other activities outside academia for fun so I assume he will too. With the constraints of the double honours and scholarship you can probably see how it'd be very easy for somebody to become a recluse and depressed. On the other hand, maybe he'll thrive under the immense pressures of both and be an outstanding student!
I couldn't agree with you more. I have known a couple of students at Oxbridge with depression after first year. I want my son to enjoy uni. He works very hard but also enjoys choral singing and drama. I am concerned he doesn't know what he gets himself into.
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BAWUS
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(Original post by dandelion123)
I couldn't agree with you more. I have known a couple of students at Oxbridge with depression after first year. I want my son to enjoy uni. He works very hard but also enjoys choral singing and drama. I am concerned he doesn't know what he gets himself into.
There's a whole summer yet! in that time I must have gone through nearly every course offered (inc. physphil) until I arrived at mechanical engineering and a later degree in law! There's plenty of time for him to mull over it after his exams.

I'm sure that with an actively supportive parent like yourself he'll make the best decision for him in the end
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dandelion123
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(Original post by BAWUS)
There's a whole summer yet! in that time I must have gone through nearly every course offered (inc. physphil) until I arrived at mechanical engineering and a later degree in law! There's plenty of time for him to mull over it after his exams.

I'm sure that with an actively supportive parent like yourself he'll make the best decision for him in the end
That is true. He has the whole summer to think about which course he likes the best. In addition, going to the open days to find out more information about courses will help him make up his mind. Thank you very much for your advice and information. It is greatly appreciated! Good luck with your AS exams!
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Goldenpuppy314
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Hello! I am currently in my 4th year of Physics and Philosophy, and just want to disperse some of the worries on here.

Firstly, I do not believe that PhysPhil is substantially harder than most Oxford degrees, especially Physics, and from what I've seen around me (as well as myself) it certainly doesn't seem to be the case that PhysPhils have less fun or are more workaholic. Actually, as a compensation for doing philosophy, we do not have to do some of the bits of physics (labs, and the more practical subjects such as optics and circuit theory). All in all, I think these can balance each other out fairly well to the extend, that I would say I was doing about 1.2 times the work of a physicist at most.

Now a possible caveat that I should mention is that there is a certain base level of effort required to succeed in physics, which I would say for me amounted to about 4-5 days of work a week. Now that left 2 days for the Philosophy work, which might have been a bit on the short side for me to do as well as I could have done, but I would say this was due to time management problems on my side rather than inherent flaws in the degree structure. And I think if you are more philosophically inclined you can also fine-tune your options in 3rd and 4th year so that you will be doing more philosophy.

As for the choral scholarship, it's certainly possible to combine the two, in fact I know someone who comfortably did that, and I also know lots of PhysPhils who combined their degree with other time-consuming commitments (theatre, rowing, etc).

Finally, I would also advise when choosing Philosophy that it's important to look closely at whether Philosophy really interests you, especially if you've not studied it in depth before. I had not studied much Philosophy before and was slightly disappointed at what the subject actually entailed (questions only lead to more questions, and never to satisfying answers...) when I came to do it, as well as struggling with the reading more than I thought I would. But I would still say that Philosophy has given me new insights into Physics that I am very happy with. If I were given the choice I think I would certainly choose PhysPhil again (though I must also say I am happy to be fully specialising in Physics next year, as I have always been more inclined towards Physics).

Hope this helps a bit, and don't hesitate to ask more questions if anyone has any!
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dandelion123
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(Original post by Goldenpuppy314)
Hello! I am currently in my 4th year of Physics and Philosophy, and just want to disperse some of the worries on here.

Firstly, I do not believe that PhysPhil is substantially harder than most Oxford degrees, especially Physics, and from what I've seen around me (as well as myself) it certainly doesn't seem to be the case that PhysPhils have less fun or are more workaholic. Actually, as a compensation for doing philosophy, we do not have to do some of the bits of physics (labs, and the more practical subjects such as optics and circuit theory). All in all, I think these can balance each other out fairly well to the extend, that I would say I was doing about 1.2 times the work of a physicist at most.

Now a possible caveat that I should mention is that there is a certain base level of effort required to succeed in physics, which I would say for me amounted to about 4-5 days of work a week. Now that left 2 days for the Philosophy work, which might have been a bit on the short side for me to do as well as I could have done, but I would say this was due to time management problems on my side rather than inherent flaws in the degree structure. And I think if you are more philosophically inclined you can also fine-tune your options in 3rd and 4th year so that you will be doing more philosophy.

As for the choral scholarship, it's certainly possible to combine the two, in fact I know someone who comfortably did that, and I also know lots of PhysPhils who combined their degree with other time-consuming commitments (theatre, rowing, etc).

Finally, I would also advise when choosing Philosophy that it's important to look closely at whether Philosophy really interests you, especially if you've not studied it in depth before. I had not studied much Philosophy before and was slightly disappointed at what the subject actually entailed (questions only lead to more questions, and never to satisfying answers...) when I came to do it, as well as struggling with the reading more than I thought I would. But I would still say that Philosophy has given me new insights into Physics that I am very happy with. If I were given the choice I think I would certainly choose PhysPhil again (though I must also say I am happy to be fully specialising in Physics next year, as I have always been more inclined towards Physics).

Hope this helps a bit, and don't hesitate to ask more questions if anyone has any!
I am really grateful for your advice. It is very helpful. My son is more inclined towards Physics at the moment. Do you mind telling me what subjects you did for your A Level?
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dandelion123
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There was a Physics and Philosophy Open Day last year but it doesn't seem to be one this year.
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dandelion123
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My son needs to choose min 3, max 10 colleges for his choral scholarship application. He is going to apply for physics and Philosophy. I would be grateful if somebody could give me advice on which two colleges are the best for Physics and Philosophy among the following colleges:

1. Oriel
2. University
3. Exeter
4. Queen's
5. Somerville
6. St Edmund Hall
7. Merton

He set his eyes on Merton before the open days. Merton offers PhyPhil from 2014. He liked the college and the chapel where he sang once with their choir. He also liked the location where it is close to the exam schools as he has a tendency to be late. But on the open days, he talked to some of the students who were doing PhyPhil in other colleges he was told not to apply to Merton as they put a lot of pressure on students to do well. It would be difficult to cope with a joint degree. Is it true?
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