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MA (Philosophy), Exam Option


The Master of Arts (Philosophy) [MAPh] program helps students develop knowledge in both history of philosophy and systematic philosophy. Students learn to place these traditions in critical dialogue with modern and contemporary philosophical thought.

Students who enroll in the Exam Option integrate their knowledge in both history and systematic philosophy with a chosen area of contemporary inquiry. They also participate in the MA Philosophy colloquium which provides them with an opportunity to examine focused topics of interest in a collaborative learning environment. Under the direction of Regular Faculty, students use the colloquium to sharpen listening and communication skills.

The MAPh degree is a two-year program which requires a total of 48 semester units, distributed as described below. The maximum time permitted for the completion of the program is four years computed from the date of initial registration. All students in the MAPh program are required to maintain a 3.0 GPA. A grade of “B-” (2.7) or better is necessary in all courses used to satisfy core requirements in the program.

Consult the Student Handbook for more details

Goals & Outcomes

In addition to the stated institutional goals, students in the MAPh Exam Option develop:

  1. A comprehensive knowledge of the history of the Western philosophical tradition;
  2. A detailed understanding of systematic philosophy;
  3. Skills for academic research;
  4. An ability to integrate historical and systematic knowledge in a chosen area of interest;
  5. Skills for effective communication of philosophical ideas.

In addition to the stated institutional outcomes, students must

  1. produce two research papers by the conclusion of their program which meet specified criteria: the RRP and the MA Colloquium Research Paper, described below;
  2. use the MA Colloquium (see below) to produce a capstone research paper which synthesizes material from the program, and to demonstrate skills for effective communication and collaborative learning, specifically
  • to listen attentively to input from peers and faculty on questions or points of disagreement, and
  • to formulate responses which incorporate issues raised.


Systematic Philosophy – 18 units (Students must take all the courses from this area)

Philosophy of Nature
Philosophical Anthropology
Theory of Knowledge
Philosophical Ethics

History of Philosophy – 12 units (Students must take all the courses from this area)

History of Ancient
History of Medieval
History of Modern
History of Contemporary

Electives – 15 units

MA Colloquium Parts 1 and 2 – 3 units

Sequence of Courses and Fulfillment of Requirements for the MAPh Exam Option (Typical)

Capstone Research Paper

Students must complete a Capstone Research Paper. The paper must be 20-25 pages in length (approx. 5,000 to 6,250 words, not counting notes or bibliography) and should show “an ability to integrate historical and systematic knowledge in a chosen area of interest.” Students engage a DSPT faculty member to serve as the reader for the paper. The paper may be an expanded version of a research paper (other than the Research Readiness Paper, completed earlier in the program) from a DSPT course or a new research project.

MA Colloquium

Meeting periodically throughout the year, the Colloquium provides students with an opportunity to discuss their research. They are able to engage in academic conversation in a collaborative learning environment, to sharpen their listening and communication skills. Each student will act as chair of the Colloquium for a meeting and make at least one presentation related to their Capstone Research Paper.

Comprehensive Exam

Students must pass a written comprehensive exam which assesses their general knowledge and ability to integrate philosophical ideas, thus ensuring the achievement of an adequate knowledge of systematic and historical philosophy. It is a three hour, closed-book exam that takes place at the end of the final academic year in the program. The expectation is for the student to compose two essays in response to the questions, demonstrating a coherent thought process.

Consult the Student Handbook for more details