MA in Philosophy

Beginning July 1, 2020, the University of Rochester Department of Philosophy is launching a one-year program leading to the master of arts in philosophy.


The philosophy MA is designed to provide intensive training in philosophy and to serve as preparation for making applications for further graduate work in law and public policy, philosophy, or other programs. It is also valuable preparation for any writing-intensive career.

MA requirements and program offerings provide students the flexibility to pursue advanced work across the breadth of philosophy or to concentrate in such areas as:

  • Pre-law
  • Ethics and policy
  • Logic and metaphysics
  • Knowledge, mind and nature

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Program Requirements

The MA program in philosophy is a one-year program in which each student must complete 30 credit hours of graduate coursework, in accordance with the following requirements:

  • Foundations requirement: At least four courses at the 400-level (16 hours); also competence in symbolic logic up to the level of PHIL 110 (491)
  • Seminar requirement: At least two courses at the 500-level (eight hours)
  • Capstone requirement: Masters exam or masters essay
    • Exam option: The masters exam may be either a three-hour written exam or a ninety-minute oral exam; in either case, the exam is administered by two members of the department, and students and faculty will agree on a reading list drawn from the student’s concentration as the basis for the exam
    • Essay option: The masters essay is written under the supervision of one member of the department, and defended in a ninety-minute oral examination before a committee of three (two from among the philosophy faculty and one from another department)

No more than six credits can be devoted to reading courses (PHIL 491, 493, 495), and of those, no more than four credits can count toward the foundations requirement.

Completion of these requirements presupposes full-time enrollment. In order to complete the requirements in one year, MA students must complete 16 hours of coursework per semester.

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Sample Concentrations

Completion of the MA does not require a concentration. Depending on their interests and aspirations, students may find one of these possible concentrations attractive.


Recommended courses include:

  • PHIL 415: Intermediate Logic
  • PHIL 423: Social and Political Philosophy
  • PHIL 420: Recent Ethical Theory
  • PHIL 426: Philosophy of Law
  • PHIL 430: Environmental Justice 
  • PHIL 431: Philosophy of Race and Gender
  • PHIL 435: Data, Algorithms, and Justice
  • PHIL 457: Philosophy of Artificial Intelligence
  • PHIL 517: Selected Topics in Ethics 

Ethics and Policy

Recommended courses include:

  • PHIL 420: Recent Ethical Theory
  • PHIL 423: Social and Political Philosophy
  • PHIL 428: Public Health Ethics
  • PHIL 429: Philosophy of Education
  • PHIL 430: Environmental Justice
  • PHIL 431: Philosophy of Race and Gender
  • PHIL 435: Data, Algorithms, and Justice
  • PHIL 517: Selected Topics in Ethics

Logic and Language

Recommended courses include:

  • PHIL 412: Probability, Inference and Decision
  • PHIL 414: Logical Methods in Philosophy
  • PHIL 415: Intermediate Logic
  • PHIL 416: Mathematical Logic
  • PHIL 418: Philosophy of Mathematics
  • PHIL 447: Philosophy of Language
  • PHIL 457: Philosophy of Artificial Intelligence
  • PHIL 516: Selected Topics in Philosophy of Language 

Knowledge, Mind and Nature

Recommended courses include:

  • PHIL 442: Metaphysics
  • PHIL 443: Theory of Knowledge 
  • PHIL 444: Philosophy of Mind
  • PHIL 446: Social Character of Knowledge
  • PHIL 447: Philosophy of Language
  • PHIL 452: Philosophy of Science
  • PHIL 457: Philosophy of Artificial Intelligence
  • PHIL 503: Theory of Knowledge
  • PHIL 542: Selected Topics in Metaphysics
  • PHIL 544: Selected Topics in Philosophy of Mind

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Our Department

The Department of Philosophy at the University of Rochester is known for its faculty of internationally recognized scholars and a vibrant intellectual life, featuring distinguished speakers, reading groups, and collaborations with:

  • Brain and cognitive science
  • Computer science
  • Earth and environmental science
  • Linguistics
  • Mathematics
  • Medicine
  • Physics
  • The Susan B. Anthony Institute for Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies

Our areas of faculty expertise include all the core areas of philosophy and several more particular specializations, such as moral psychology and philosophy of artificial intelligence. We regularly offer 400-level courses in:

  • Ancient philosophy
  • Early modern philosophy
  • Philosophy of education
  • Environmental philosophy
  • Epistemology
  • Ethics
  • Philosophy of language
  • Logic
  • Philosophy of mathematics
  • Metaphysics
  • Philosophy of mind
  • Political philosophy
  • Philosophy of law
  • Philosophy of science

Our courses in ethics include subfields of applied ethics (including public health ethics and the ethics of technology), recent ethical theory, and metaethics. The department is committed to providing an inclusive and welcoming environment and to clarity and rigor in writing and speech.

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Application Process

Applications will be reviewed as they are received until applications close on June 15, 2022. Applicants who need an early admission decision should indicate this in their application. Applications must be submitted through our online application system.

Qualified students will be motivated to acquire rigorous training in philosophical methods of argument and analysis, and to master a representative swath of philosophical literature. The program does not presuppose a BA in philosophy, and students with backgrounds in humanities, social sciences, engineering, and natural sciences are encouraged to apply.

Requirements for application are as follows:

  • A brief (1,000-2,000 word) writing sample
  • A current transcript from the student's undergraduate institution*
  • A current resume or CV
  • A statement of purpose that describes the student's intellectual interests and academic or vocational goals, as well as the concentration areas of greatest interest, if any (this is for planning purposes and is not a commitment)
  • Two references
    • Current UR students must provide two names of UR faculty members as references
    • All other applicants must provide two letters of recommendation
  • GRE scores are not required, although they will be accepted
  • TOEFL scores (for non-native English speakers)**

*Transcript must show that the student has or will earn their BA or BS. There is no specific GPA requirement; instead, we will consider the nature of courses taken and will take into account the difficulty of a student's chosen curriculum.

**If your native language is not English and you completed your secondary or higher education in a non-native English speaking country, you must take the Duolingo English Test (score of 120 or better), TOEFL (score of 100 or better), or IELTS (score of 7.5 or better) to demonstrate English language proficiency.  Students should use school code 7267 to send scores to the department.

Students choosing to submit TOEFL scores may submit results from the TOEFL iBT or Paper-Delivered Test administered at proctored test locations. TOEFL iBT Special Home Edition Test or the TOEFL ITP Assessment may also be accepted.  

The admissions committee will conduct Skype interviews with non-native English applicants prior to offers of admission, at its discretion.

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Tuition Merit Awards

All applicants who are admitted receive a 40 percent merit tuition award based on our selective admissions criteria. See the Office of the Bursar for more information regarding tuition costs.

The Financial Aid office has additional information about other financial aid opportunities for which students may be eligible.

Contact Information

Paul Audi, director of graduate studies

Richard Feldman, graduate admissions director

Cheryl Kingston, department administrator

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