Philosophy (MA)

The department offers a graduate program leading to the master of arts (MA) and the doctor of philosophy (PhD) degrees. The program, which is pluralistic in orientation, requires students to develop a broad knowledge of the history of philosophy, major fields, and various approaches and methods. Students are urged to concentrate in a specific area at the advanced level. Specializations are supported in American philosophy, Continental philosophy, feminist philosophy, Latin American philosophy, philosophy of race, philosophical psychology, and environmental philosophy.

Our program is known for its pluralism, close mentoring relationships between graduate students and faculty, a faculty committed to teaching excellence as well as research, supportive rather than competitive relationships among graduate students, and professionally active and successful graduate students.

The department and faculty have particular strengths in a range of traditions and fields of focus. The program requires students to develop a broad knowledge of the history of philosophy, major fields, and various approaches and methods. We also welcome interdisciplinary approaches. Students are expected to concentrate in a specific area at the advanced level.

Each student designs a program in consultation with a faculty adviser. Two or more years are typically required to complete the master’s degree and five years for the doctorate.

Program's Admission Requirements

Please visit the program's website.

Program Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of this program, students will be able to:

  • Represent the pluralistic orientation of philosophy including the four major traditions of inquiry: Continental European, American, Feminist, and Analytic.
  • Delineate the history of Western philosophy, including the main eras: Ancient, Modern, 19th C., 20th and 21st C.
  • Develop expertise in any combination of the sub-disciplines within the field of philosophy, such as ethics, data ethics, bioethics, metaphysics, epistemology, aesthetics, philosophy of language, philosophy of race, decolonial philosophy, social and political philosophy, critical theory, philosophical psychology, environmental philosophy, philosophy of race and others.
  • Students must explore emerging and engaged areas of philosophical work.
  • Develop proficiency in a second language relevant to their area of research.
  • Develop proficiency in logic.
  • Specialize in specific philosophical areas at an advanced research level by researching relevant primary and secondary literature, designing, and writing a doctoral dissertation or a master's thesis.

Philosophy Major

There are two paths to earning a master’s degree. The first requires completion of the second-language requirement and 48 credit hours of graduate course work including the distribution requirements (listed below). The second requires satisfaction of the second-language requirement, completing 45 credits of graduate course work—9 of which are taken in Thesis (PHIL 503)—and the writing of a master’s thesis under the direction of a thesis advisor with a second faculty reader.

The distribution requirements may be satisfied by receiving a mid-B or better.

  • History Requirements (3 courses)
  • Traditions Requirements (4 courses)
  • Emerging and Engaged Philosophies Requirements (3 courses)

Coursework Track

History Requirements *
One course from each of the following:12
Course from ancient period (PHIL 521)
Course from modern (16th-18th centuries) period (PHIL 533) *
Course from 19th century (PHIL 553)
Traditions Requirements
One course about continental philosophical traditions 14
One course about analytic philosophic traditions 14
One course about American philosophical traditions 14
One course about feminist philosophical traditions 14
Emerging and Engaged Philosophies *
Two courses in Emerging Philosophies8
Native American Philosophy
Feminist Philosophy: [Topic]
Philosophy and Race: Contemporary Issues
One course in Engaged Philosophies4
Data Ethics
Environmental Philosophy: [Topic]
Total Credits48

Usually satisfied by taking the Advanced Introduction in each area (571, 572, 573, 574).


May be filled by topics courses.

Note on criteria for multiple fulfillment:

Graduate courses may be listed as counting toward the simultaneous fulfillment of multiple categories of distribution simultaneously, though this is possible for only some of the categories. A course may count toward one Historical Period while also fulfilling a Philosophical Tradition or a course in Emerging and Engaged Philosophies. Courses may count toward either a Philosophical Tradition or the Emerging and Engaged requirement, but no course may count toward both of these requirements at once. For example, a course in nineteenth-century feminist philosophy can count toward either the requirement in the Feminist Tradition or in Emerging and Engaged Philosophies (but not both) and at the same time fulfill a requirement for Historical Periods. When a course is listed so as to provide an option for fulfillment of either the Traditions or Emergent & Engaged requirements, students must choose which requirement the course is to fulfill.

Thesis Track

PHIL 503Thesis9
Additional graduate-level philosophy courses 136
Total Credits45

The Thesis track must still follow the Distribution Requirements above.

The student asks two faculty members to serve as his or her master’s committee, with one agreeing to serve as chair. The student prepares a short (maximum five pages) description of the proposed thesis topic. Once both committee members have approved the thesis proposal, the student registers for as many as 9 credits of Thesis (PHIL 503) during the one or two terms over which the thesis is written. Typically, the committee chair meets periodically with the student to assess progress and to oversee the writing of the thesis. When both members of the thesis committee agree that the thesis is suitable for a final defense, the candidate schedules a one-hour oral examination, during which the committee members ask questions about the argument and make suggestions for further revision, if necessary. The thesis is completed when it is given final approval by both members of the committee and is accepted by the Division of Graduate Studies as satisfying its requirements for thesis preparation.