MA in Philosophy

The MA in Philosophy is a terminal degree for full- or part-time students. The program helps to prepare students to make contributions to philosophical discussion and debate and offers considerable flexibility within the program of study. This flexibility can serve as a vehicle to combine an intensive philosophical training with various interests (for example, aesthetics with training in a fine art, or political philosophy with training in law). Additionally, the department’s philosophical life is significantly enriched by its close association with Boston University’s Center for Philosophy & History of Science and the Institute for Philosophy & Religion.

Within its master’s degree program, the philosophy department offers a concentration in the philosophy of science. This curriculum is designed for those who are seeking to understand the conceptual foundations of the natural sciences (physics, chemistry, biology, earth sciences), cognitive sciences, mathematics, medicine, psychology, economics, and other social sciences. While philosophy of science usually focuses on contemporary science, in this program students are also afforded the opportunity to study the history of science as well as issues at the interface of science and religion.

All applicants should have completed the equivalent of an undergraduate major in philosophy, typically with an average of B or higher. Students with minors in philosophy are also encouraged to apply.

Learning Outcomes

Students completing the program are expected to:

  • Acquire the conceptual ability, and the speaking and writing skills, needed for intensive examination of questions concerning what is true, what is good, and what is beautiful.
  • Demonstrate familiarity with core questions in ethics and political philosophy, metaphysics and epistemology, and logic, as well as the ability to sustain critical reflection on, and discussion of, these questions.
  • Gain significant knowledge of the canonical works of both Antiquity and Modernity, as well as the basic issues and texts of contemporary philosophy.
  • Learn to defend their views with strong arguments, but also remain open to disagreement and critique.
  • Develop a solid understanding of what it means to study philosophy at the graduate level.

Course Requirements

Coursework consists of eight courses (32 credits). Course requirements are as follows:

  • At least five courses in philosophy, one of which may be a language course.
  • Logic Proficiency: Every student must demonstrate competence in logic by (1) passing one of the following courses with a B+ or higher, or (2) passing a logic examination, administered by the department, that assumes the knowledge provided by GRS PH 633 Symbolic Logic.
    • GRS PH 633 Symbolic Logic
    • GRS PH 661 Mathematical Logic
    • GRS PH 662 Foundations of Mathematics
    • GRS PH 668 Philosophical Problems of Logic and Mathematics
    • GRS PH 674 Inductive Logic and Scientific Methodology
    • GRS PH 864 Philosophy of Logic

Concentration in the Philosophy of Science

Students must fulfill the general Master of Arts degree requirements of the Department of Philosophy. Students should consult with their advisors when selecting courses to fulfill the additional following requirements:

  • GRS PH 687 Topics in the Philosophy of Science
  • Two courses in the philosophy of a particular science
  • An elective in the philosophy of science, philosophy of math, logic, epistemology, metaphysics, or history of the philosophy of science

The student specializing in the philosophy of science will take the same total number of courses as any other philosophy MA student. For more information, including a full list of approved courses for the elective requirement, please see the department website.

Language Requirements

The foreign language requirement is contingent upon the nature of the MA thesis. Only if the student’s thesis director mandates it will the student be required to demonstrate competence in a foreign language. The standards for meeting this requirement will be determined by the thesis director.


The master’s thesis consists of an investigation or study of a specific problem, theme, or area of philosophy; it is composed under the direction of a current member of the Department of Philosophy. Aimed at helping prepare the student to make contributions to philosophical discussion and debate, the thesis should take the form of a scholarly publication or monograph, not over 19,000 words, with adequate documentation and bibliography, as appropriate (these are included in the word limit). The thesis must be examined by two faculty members and defended at an oral examination before the same two professors. One of the professors will be the thesis director.