I learnt this week that I will very likely have to make a choice about which areas of philosophy I want to specialise in rather sooner than I had hoped.

At least if I come to Oxford, I’ll have to pick just two options for study at master’s level, which then means that a doctorate can only really be in those areas. So for example if I did Metaphysics & Epistemology and Logic & Language, I’d be locking myself out of Ethics. If I did Plato and Aristotle, I’d be committing myself to learning Greek and going down that route for the next twenty years.

Or so it seems. Perhaps there is more flexibility, really, and in any case I think that there is almost certainly more flexibility in a US graduate programme. And of course I don’t have to decide for a year or so. The problem is that I’m going to have to decide on what I feel is limited information. I’m not sure I know what I want out of philosophy, and worse, I’m not sure what I will get out of specialising in each of the particular different areas.

You’d think that tutors would be able to help with this, but they all disagree with each other so vehemently that there’s no standard decision tree I can work my way through. I got an example of this on Friday night. I said to my (young) tutor, “I’ve done a good spread of things in my undergraduate degree, the only significant and difficult things I’m missing are Kant, and Wittgenstein.” His response was that anything worth learning from these two can be learnt on one’s own, and choosing to do them at master’s level means consigning yourself to a “ghetto” with “bad philosophers” who think far too much of the opinions of people like Kant and Wittgenstein. Whereas from other tutors I learn that the views of such people are very easy to misunderstand, and are an important component in developing one’s philosophical understanding.