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I am a Computer Science graduate and I have been realising that my true passion lies in Philosophy, as for the past 5 or 6 years (I am 26) I have been constantly asking questions about life, conciousness, the universe and the relationship between them. I am also in the process of writing a book which can be considered as Philosophical, although I am not yet quite sure whether it will be Philosophical Fiction or Non Fiction.

My question is, is it possible to continue as a graduate and start a Masters or Doctorate in Philosophy? Since I would like to become a professor so I can help others pursuing answers to such questions. As already mentioned, I would also like to start writing unfortunately, in our current era, it is very difficult to be taken seriously if you do not have academic background on that field.

From what I am reading, this might not be possible since Philosophy is an ancient field and hence there is the usual sequence of degree, masters and PhD. For instance, some new fields, such as neuroscience do not have any directly related degrees and hence you can transition to them from other fields.

If this is not possible, will I be taken seriously if I transform my book into a paper (assuming it is actually a good book) and be allowed to start a PhD without any previous academic philosophical background? My current targets are either Oxford University or UCL.

Looking forward for your response.

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    I am a little concerned that you might not have enough familiarity with the academic field of philosophy to even know what you're getting into. By way of analogy, not everyone who is passionate about literature would make an ideal or even appropriate English graduate student: the modern discipline of English is about a lot more (and, at times, a bit less) than loving to read and discuss literature. Thinking that your possibly fictional work could be transformed into a work of academic philosophy does not allay my concerns. – Pete L. Clark Mar 23 '15 at 13:02
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    What is your background in philosophy itself? Have you for instance read Plato, Hume, Kant, Husserl? Have you written any academic papers in the area? If not: you should certainly take at least a few undergraduate courses to even see what you're getting into. I don't think you'll be at all competitive for a graduate program in philosophy without any undergraduate level coursework in the area. – Pete L. Clark Mar 23 '15 at 13:04
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    why don't you make the question a bit more generic so it applies to more people, like switching from CS to humanities? – Herman Toothrot Mar 23 '15 at 18:31
  • As a CS/Bio person, this is a pretty big jump from any science to humanities. I'd think machine learning and NLP would be a far more practical use of your skills, and much less jostling. – Compass Mar 24 '15 at 20:15
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    For the love of God do not do it. Any decent CS person is going to tackle these things, because any decent human being is going to tackle these things. It doesn't mean that you want or should make a life study out of it professionally (if only because that is a pipe dream, making money out of a philosophy degree). Just continue eating mushrooms, and pour your thoughts into the parts of CS that intersect with philosophy, such as ML, as previously mentioned. – L0j1k Mar 25 '15 at 16:38
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Since you're interested in life and consciousness, you might want to explore cognitive science (including artificial life), which draws from philosophy, artificial intelligence, neurology, and other fields. Your computer science background could help you enter a program like this, and once in, you could take philosophy courses to strengthen your background in that area. Perhaps you could do an MSc in cognitive science, and then you might have the background to enter a PhD program in philosophy.

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    This is a good suggestion. Based upon what the OP writes, it seems to me that there is a non-negligible chance that his research interests lie in the realm of cognitive science rather than philosophy anyway. – Pete L. Clark Mar 23 '15 at 13:22
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    @PeteL.Clark Cognitive science deeply interests me and I also researched on it while I was doing my dissertation, since it was related to cognitive science. However, it is still science, and like all science, it is based on the observed reality. The only reason why I prefer philosophy is because it is the only field which questions everything, including philosophy itself. I already thought about something similar to your train of thought (linking my academic background with something philosophical) – seedg Mar 24 '15 at 16:30
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There are a number of concerns here, so I'll deal with them each in turn. I originally went to college for Philosophy, but dropped it in favor of computers and psychology! So you might say I'm heading the opposite direction of what you are thinking, so I hope I can provide you some things to consider.

The first concern is how familiar you are with the specific work of modern, living, publishing philosophers? While it is technically true that philosophy questions everything, that doesn't mean that everything is an open question today - countless lines of inquiry have been beaten to death over the last 2000+ years. This does not mean it's not still a line of study - in fact, one of two lines of specialty offered at Oxford is indeed Ancient Philosophy (Aristotle, Plato, etc). It seemed a lot more like history and classic literature to me, which I was not expecting and had already ruled out as interests myself - but if you love it, then great! But that's not at all what I thought I was signing up for, and thus the importance of fact-checking reality before making a decision.

The second concern is about writing something to get into a Masters/PhD. Actually, you aren't far off the mark here, but be aware that what most departments are interested in for admission isn't a book or a thesis - it's a writing sample! I've often heard that these are expected to range from 10-20 pages at most, but every department is different so you'll need to check.

The third concern is attempting to go directly into philosophy without significant undergraduate study, but you are targeting top-in-the-world programs. Check out Philosophy Graduate Admissions at Oxford statements:

BPhil in Philosophy

The BPhil is an intellectually demanding course, presupposing an undergraduate and/or graduate background in philosophy (or equivalent). It is not suitable as a conversion course for students changing to philosophy from another subject and it cannot be studied part-time or externally...

MSt in Ancient Philosophy

The MSt course in Ancient Philosophy aims to attract students of the highest calibre - with a background in philosophy or classics...Knowledge of ancient Greek language is not a prerequisite for admission to the course. However, students admitted will be expected to achieve Intermediate Level ancient Greek...

MSt in Philosophy of Physics

This course aims to attract students with a strong background in physics at undergraduate level or higher...

So if you don't want to question specifically ancient Greek or Physics, and if you aren't willing to start back again at undergraduate courses in philosophy, you are looking at the wrong department - they just don't seem interested.

How about UCL Philosophy (under Entry tab):

Entry requirements A minimum of an upper second-class Bachelor's degree in Philosophy from a UK university or an overseas qualification of an equivalent standard. Applicants with a strong degree in a non-philosophical subject are welcome.

Aha! So that last sentence isn't a no, at least!

I believe you'll find this general trend is true - if you check with the specific departments, you'll get a much better feel for who will even consider admitting you under normal circumstances. However, that leads into...

The fourth concern is being aware of the relative competitiveness you're looking into. As noted in various blogs and directly from some departments websites (Oxford lists some info on theirs linked previously), Philosophy is one of many fields where interested people outnumber positions available. 10:1 to 100:1 ratios of applicants to available positions are often reported - though be aware that this includes international students. If you are looking at UK institutions and you are already a UK citizen, or otherwise looking into places in your own home country, the odds are vastly better than quoted - but there are still usually many more applicants than positions available.

As such, especially if you want more in-demand departments, you'll be at a comparative disadvantage if your interests in philosophy aren't linked to your previous degree, or if you don't have a degree in philosophy or at least lots of coursework. Some programs will exclude you entirely, and many more will not accept you into a PhD directly and will require a Master first at least (with many PhD programs not really having much coursework, so if you don't have that at an undergraduate level they aren't prepared to provide that as part of the program).

This is not to say that you can't seek a career in philosophy if that's what you decide to do - but writing an interesting book or paper of a general philosophical nature won't get you right into a PhD anywhere of note. You might very well be able to get into a Masters program if you can show the program what they are looking for, but you'll need to locate a program that seems like a good fit and tailor your application to them specifically. So I'm by no means telling you it isn't possible! But I am saying it will take a lot of hard work to find the right fit, and make sure it's right for you to start with.

I hope this can be food for thought, and regardless of what you find out - good luck! As a parting piece of wisdom, I would advise this - keep your mind and eyes open. There's lots of fields and lots of really intersections of interests and passions - you never know what you'll find on the way to your dreams!

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I was in a similar position of your a few years ago when I switched from CS to something completely different.

Initially I though I liked anthropology and archaeology, so I started reading some books and above all scientific articles. I soon realized that the archaeology I was portraying in my head was very different to what was actually happening in the field and especially away from the field. I then read more books and talked to people and narrowed it down to biology and then further narrowed it down to a discipline in which CS skills are highly requested, so I was able to place myself as the geek with a passion for the subject and offer skills very few other could offer. Keep in mind that your passion might or might not be better pursued in your free time than making it a job or a PhD. Talk to people in the field from students to professors and see what their work entitles.

You will most likely have to take a few undergraduate classes to get a more formal education in the new field.

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