History Philosophy at university; a place rich in contrasting

History & Philosophy –
Cambridge University

 

I’ve
always been interested in people; their backgrounds, environments and stories,
and this has founded my interest in History. Whilst History offers me the
opportunity to gain a snapshot of an era, the abstract elements of Philosophy
enhance my knowledge on the opinions of the people, allowing me to submerge
myself into their epochs. I endeavour to further my knowledge in both fields by
studying History and Philosophy at university; a place rich in contrasting
cultures.

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I view
history as a crucial factor in understanding the world today. Without my study
of 1950’s USA and the Civil Rights movement I wouldn’t be so informed of the
severity of increasing police brutality in America over the last 5 years. The
similar struggles for equality of the past re-emerging in American society show
how history can repeat itself when problems are not fully addressed. Another
benefit of history is its accessibility through travel, adding a more tangible
aspect to the past. I was not able to truly grasp the magnitude of the 1963
March on Washington until I visited the Lincoln memorial last year and
envisioned the mass support that King and the NAACP were able to generate in
under a decade, and I hope to experience this through further travel outside of
my course. My A Level studies sparked my interest in the Communist eras in 20th
century Russia and China. In particular, the way in which Mao Zedong
established unwavering control over China through the use of strong,
Marx-influenced ideology led me to explore Mao’s tactics. Orwell’s London in
‘1984’ used the same methods of mass youth mobilisation and psychological
manipulation as Mao used on the Chinese peasants, illustrating what it was
truly like to live under this strict ruling. Grasping how it is possible for a
single idea or political figure to alter and influence the lives of millions is
what fuels my desire to explore leaders of this stature in greater depth at
university.

Philosophy
is a history of ideas encapsulating the attitudes of the people through their
proposed solutions of society, and I believe that studying theories and
influential thinkers will allow me to liaise with the opinions expressed by
different classes and groups throughout time. Plato’s epistemology revealed his
theory of the forms and analogy of the cave, with his concluding idea that
philosophers should rule society depicting the tensions between rulers and
philosophers at this time. Contrastingly, I’ve enjoyed studying Ethics due to
the challenges it presents me with. Studying Utilitarianism challenged me to
find more tangible arguments in favour of the principle of utility, as I
disagree that pleasure equates to morality. A Huffington Post article praising
the personhood status given to the titular character in the comedy film, ‘Ted
2’, influenced my views on medical ethics. As someone who has usually sided
with the ‘sanctity of life’ view on these issues, the absurdity of awarding
this status to a teddy bear highlighted the broad criteria of personhood,
suggesting that restricting this right may be more plausible when dealing with
stem cell research. I thoroughly enjoy being pushed out of my comfort zone and
I hope to encounter this further when reading philosophy.

Government
and Politics has benefitted my A-Level studies as Politics works with theories
and case studies of the past to deal with issues of the present, such as the
UK’s proposals to devolve further powers to Scotland after their success in the
2015 general election. I have also explored experimental psychology and its
link to behaviourism and determinism. ‘The Psychopath Test’ provided me with
basic knowledge on psychopathy and I was surprised to discover the way in which
these traits thrive in corporations. However it was the haunting account of a
Treblinka commandant in ‘Into That Darkness’ that altered my assessment of the
Holocaust. Stangl emphasised how people can become a product of their
environment and thus how a government

can
use this to condition its population as a means to its ends. Independent
research has allowed me to broaden my knowledge, and I hope to continue this
throughout this course.

Representing
Venezuela in Model United Nations conferences on the issue of Global Terrorism
has allowed me to explore history and philosophy on a practical platform.
Debating resolutions and deciding which course of action would benefit
different countries demonstrated the importance of ethics in UN decisions, as
well as the role played by UN Charter resolutions to avoid making the same
errors of the past. My visit to a criminal law firm in July further indicated
the significance of ethical decision-making when working with people. Attending
cases of a sensitive nature demonstrated the importance of understanding the
background of a case in detail and considering all possible ethical repercussions
when formulating a defence or prosecution, which this course will require me to
do.

My
academic enthusiasm has filtered into my school life, where I’ve participated
in sports teams and assumed the role of House Captain. This, in addition to my
commitment to the performing arts, has taught me the value of working to the
strengths of others, and I look forward to experiencing this in university
societies and seminars. It is this enthusiasm paired with my thirst for
knowledge, which draws me towards studying History and Philosophy in an
environment filled with diverse knowledge and experiences.

 

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