Philosophy is the hardest degree

How are you supposed to get a good mark if the examiner doesn’t even know the correct answer?


Philosophy is often the whipping boy of the supposedly “easy degrees”. No one takes you seriously if you study it, and people assume you can easily get a 2:1 just by turning up.

This couldn’t be further from the truth. Unlike with Geography, where if you bring your 24 pack of Crayola you’re pretty much set, I have to try and decide whether the crayons are actually real or not.

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Cogito, ergo, ummm

I’m often accused of spending £9,000 a year to sit around and think, and this is largely accurate. Maybe you haven’t tried it for a while, but thinking is actually really hard. With subjects like Economics and History you are spoon fed theories and facts to learn, with your lecturer and seminar tutor holding your hand all the way. Well done! You did really well in that exam where you wrote down everything you were told you to. The difference between your average student and a trained monkey is that the monkey probably dresses slightly better.

In Philosophy you are faced with dilemmas like the trolley problem, there is no economic model that you can plug the information into to get an answer. You have to figure it all out for yourself. As an inherently flawed 21-year old male, I can barely make myself breakfast in the morning, and am shocked when I make it to the end of each day in one piece. In what sort of world can I be expected to offer anything coherent on ethical dilemmas that are asked of me in essays and exams. How am I supposed to get a good mark when I am faced with modules such as ‘The Philosophy of Time’?

People who study other degrees are lucky, only in Philosophy are you subjected to suffering an existential crisis every time you set foot in a seminar room.

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The bemused face of a mathematician when faced with a problem slightly more taxing that 2+2

One week we had to discuss whether the most good that we could possibly do was to start colonising space just in case life on Earth suddenly ended, and that for every second that we weren’t working towards colonising space, we were forsaking billions upon billions of potential human lives, and this was therefore morally abhorrent. Try and wrap your head around such a ridiculous proposition to be faced with.

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Bill Nye? I’ll raise you Aristotle

Ultimately, photosynthesis has never made me question what the point of life is. If there is no point, then putting off writing that essay really isn’t that bad. Philosophy adds another dimension to procrastination and severely hinders motivation to do any work.

Elaborating on the recent ‘BAs are harder BSCs‘ article, part of what makes BAs so hard is the lack of contact hours, the lack of structure throughout your study. Having so many contact hours and lab sessions makes university an extension of school. On top of doing my degree, I have to organise my time and study through my own volition. Furthermore, in a sick twist of events, my extremely hard degree unfairly labels me as unemployable, meaning I have to also fill my time with extracurricular activities in the hope that some compassionate soul out there will one day hire me because I was once on the committee of one innocuous society or other. If you haven’t been convinced thus far, Film and Television Studies is a BSc for crying out loud.

“They need to get a proper job” is an attack often launched at philosophers when I discuss with a friend an issue or theory that has come up in a lecture. “It’s just something to occupy your time with” is another that is offered to me. Studying philosophy is hard because you spend half your time having to defend it against spotty nerds in pristine lab coats, grasping test tubes and telling each other how intelligent they are when they all secretly know that robots will make them obsolete in fifty years. That won’t happen with philosophy.