Promoting Philosophy by provoking thought

In the lead up to this year’s recruitment events we identified video as a way of showcasing our Department of Philosophy. We set out to make engaging content to intrigue viewers and get them thinking about the issues they could explore through the lens of Philosophy.

Our philosophy going in to creating these videos was:

“We want to challenge you to think about your understanding of yourself and the world in which you live and challenge yourself. We want to challenge you to have more questions than answers about big issues and complex debates.”

A new approach

After an initial meeting with the Department, our content producer Helena worked with videographer Joe to produce the videos. Promotional videos for universities and their subjects often last three to four minutes, with a mix of talking heads and cutaways of facilities and campus. But, as Philosophy is a largely theoretical subject that is less easy to visualise, we decided this would be a good opportunity to try something new.

To appeal to prospective students, rather than create one long video, we decided to produce shorter videos similar to those used on social media. These would be brief and easily digestible, but with clear thinking points to spark interest. 

How we captured the spirit of the subject

With philosophy you can study the mind, society, politics, medicine, law, religion, art, technology and almost everything in between. The backdrop of a city steeped in heritage, art, social reform and innovation was perfect for this all-encompassing subject. 

Studying philosophy has the potential to change how you think for the better, trying to answer complex questions such as:

  • What is freedom? 
  • How much does language affect our thinking?
  • Why do humans often associate beauty with morality? 
  • Is privacy a right? 
  • Where is the line between art and something that isn’t art? 
  • Would you choose to edit your genes? 

We asked our students to consider these questions, to talk about what they thought about their degree, why they chose it and where it might lead.

They were passionate advocates for the range of choices they’ve been offered, the support of staff and how they have developed at York.

We followed the students through several distinctive York locations to bring the city and its citizens into the frame, encouraging viewers to take a moment and think for themselves about the issues we’ve raised.

We thematically grouped their thought-provoking questions and observations into three videos that should spark the minds of viewers.

The videos showcase the different avenues and wide range of topics students can pursue in the study of Philosophy; they’ll intrigue potential students and get them thinking.

One final question

Does the study of philosophy ever lead to answers or simply more questions?

Published by

Elizabeth Wilson

Liz is a Content Assistant at the University of York. She is an ardent defender of the Oxford Comma.

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