Philosophy – Oxford Interview Questions
“How can I prepare when the interviewer could ask me absolutely anything about Philosophy?”
By understanding how the interview works and, crucially, what it is that the interviewer is looking for. The interviewer is not looking to catch you out, but rather for you to demonstrate your curiosity, knowledge and passion for Philosophy.
“How am I able to do that?”
Show that you enjoy studying Philosophy independently
The easiest way to demonstrate your enthusiasm for Philosophy is to show that you are self-motivated and have studied the subject in your free-time for enjoyment – for example through online lectures and independent reading. If you don’t know where to start, review our suggested reading list below.
Demonstrate your subject knowledge about and passion for Philosophy
The key to answering these questions is to always demonstrate your thought process aloud. The interviewer does not expect you to be able to answer every question immediately, but rather wants to determine that you are able to think about and work on unknown topics with confidence, intelligence and clarity – and they won’t be able to do that if you sit in silence! Use the list of questions below to prepare. Perhaps you can have a friend or relative ask you these questions so that you can develop your skills of thinking under time pressure and speaking out loud.
Subject Interview Guide – Philosophy
Our Subject Interview Guides help you to prepare and go into your interview with confidence.
Each guide discusses ten Oxford Interview Questions in depth with answers and approaches – along with possible points of discussion to further demonstrate your knowledge. They have been specially edited for applicants for each subject by a team of Oxford and Cambridge graduates.
Please Note: Currently “The Oxford Interview Guide” is available for Chemistry and Physics (available to download below). Other subjects will be available for download in November – please enter your email below to receive a notification when your subject guide is available for download.
Philosophy Interview Questions
Why do you believe what your teachers tell you?
One grain of wheat does not constitute a heap. If one grain doesn’t make a heap neither will two. If two don’t make a heap neither will three….. If 9,999 grains of wheat don’t make a heap 10,000 don’t make a heap….
How would you prove that toothpaste has medicinal properties?
How do you know the moon isn’t made of cheese?
What makes you think I’m having thoughts?
Can you imagine a world without Laws?
What does it mean to be happy?
Is it a matter of fact or knowledge that time travels in only one direction?
If you’re not in California, how do you know it exists?
Do you believe in free will? How far does it extend to – an oyster, for example?
Are you cool?
Do animals think?
If you entered a teletransporter and your body was destroyed and instantly recreated on mars in exactly the same way with all your memories in tact etc, would you be the same person?
Is being hungry the same thing as wanting to eat?
What do you think of teleport machines?
Is the chair really there?
What colour is that notice board?
What makes you think that I am having thoughts?
Convince me you are real and not just in my dreams?
What is Christmas?
How would you describe an apple?
Are you your body?
Is the chair really there?If you were to form a government of philosophers what selection process would you use?
Is it moral to hook up a psychopath (whose only pleasure is killing) to a reality-simulating machine so that he can believe he is in the real world and kill as much as he likes?
Would a blind scientist who knew every scientific thing about colour actually know colour?
What is an emotion?
Two trains are about to crash. One contains pensioners going to Blackpool. The other contains commuters going to London. Which do you save?
Is society greater than the individual?
How can you prove that anything exists outside your own mind?
Give an example of an argument with false premises but a true conclusion.