Feb 28, 2024  
2019-2020 Graduate Catalog 
2019-2020 Graduate Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Philosophy Major, MA

Philosophy is an ancient discipline. It pursues systematic rational inquiry into human experience and the broader world. Its main subfields include: ethics, the study of what to do and how to live; metaphysics, the study of the nature of the world; and epistemology, the study of knowledge and understanding of the world. The history of philosophy is also an important subfield. Philosophy pursues its questions with a variety of methods. These have at their core commitment to precise, clear, and careful explanation, argument, and analysis; to the refusal of dogmatism; to ongoing openness to criticism; and to the production of a systematic and accurate view of both ourselves and the world in which we live. The serious study of philosophy broadens intellectual horizons. An MA in philosophy also prepares students to apply to a top philosophy PhD program or for a career as a teacher or an ethics consultant.

  • Thesis Option. This option includes a substantial independent research project that is conducted with guidance and supervision by a committee of faculty. The option is open to all philosophy MA students, and is especially recommended for those who intend to go on to pursue a PhD in philosophy.
  • Course Only with Comprehensive Exam Option. This option is open to all philosophy MA students, but it is not recommended for those who intend to go on to pursue a PhD in philosophy. It is suitable for those seeking a broad philosophical education, without ambition to become an academic researcher.

Options Available


Courses Only with Comprehensive Exam (​Non-thesis)

Campus Code

Knoxville Campus

Admissions Standards/Procedures

  • Admission to the graduate program is decided on a case-by-case basis. The deadline to apply is January 15. An application to our program includes
    • a writing sample of approximately 5000-6000 words,
    • personal statement,
    • GRE scores,
    • transcripts from prior degree programs, and
    • three letters of recommendation.
  • While some prior experience in philosophy is necessary for admission, we are open to applications both with and without an undergraduate degree in philosophy.

Credit Hours Required

Minimum of 30 graduate credit hours

Required Courses

  • Thesis Option Option
    • PHIL 500  (6 credit hours)
    • 24 credit hours of graduate course work of which at least two-thirds must be in courses at or above the 500-level. These must include the proseminar (PHIL 601 ).
  • Course Only with Comprehensive Exam (Non-thesis) Option
    • 30 credit hours of graduate course work of which at least two-thirds must be in courses at or above the 500-level. These must include the proseminar (PHIL 601 ).

Additional Course Requirements

  • There are course distribution requirements, to ensure breadth of knowledge across
    • ethics and political philosophy,
    • metaphysics and epistemology, and
    • history of philosophy.
    • Please see the department’s graduate student handbook for details of these distribution requirements
    • Prior graduate-level coursework may be used to fulfill these requirements.
    • Courses are selected in consultation with the major professor and/or guidance committee.

Non-Course Requirements

  • Thesis Option: Preparation and defense of a thesis
  • Course Only with Examination (Non-Thesis) Option:
    • Pass a final written examination on all work offered for the degree
    • An additional oral examination may be required.
    • A culminating (capstone) experience is expected. Examples of culminating experiences include presenting a paper at a refereed national or regional philosophy conference or presenting a paper at a departmental colloquium.
    • NOTE. The department (the DGS or the Graduate Committee) may waive the requirement of an exam for a non-thesis MA if it deems such a waiver appropriate, but this exam waiver is normally granted only to students in the PhD program who continue to work toward completion of the PhD.

Five-Year BA/MA Program – Philosophy Major, MA

The Department of Philosophy offers a program in which qualified students may earn both a BA and MA in philosophy in five years. This is accomplished by applying 9 credit hours of approved graduate courses to both the BA and MA. Interested students typically apply for conditional admission to the program during, or immediately following, their third year of undergraduate study. A student will be conditionally admitted to the program only if he or she:

  • is a declared Philosophy major;
  • has completed at least 90 credit hours overall with a minimum GPA of 3.25; and
  • has completed at least 15 credit hours in Philosophy with a minimum GPA of 3.50.

Applicants must also provide three letters of recommendation. Applicants are strongly encouraged, but not required, to have completed PHIL 235 and at least one 400-level Philosophy course. The Department may consider other relevant factors, such as an applicant’s work experience and level of academic promise, in deciding whether to conditionally admit students to the BA/MA program. Both the Department of Philosophy and the Graduate School must approve all conditional admissions into the BA/MA program. The Department will inform applicants of its decisions by the beginning of their fourth and final year of undergraduate study.

Both the Department Head (or designee) and the Graduate School must approve any course taken for graduate credit before the student satisfies all requirements for the BA. A student conditionally admitted to the BA/MA program may complete up to 9 credit hours of graduate credit to count toward both the BA and MA requirements. Only graduate courses taken after conditional admission into the BA/MA program may be used to satisfy the requirements of both degrees.

Conditional admission to the BA/MA program does not guarantee acceptance into either the Graduate School or the MA program in Philosophy. Students conditionally admitted into the BA/MA program at the start of their fourth year must apply that year for admission to both the MA program and the Graduate School. Such applicants must follow standard application procedures; in particular, they must submit GRE scores and a writing sample. If the student is accepted by both the MA program and the Graduate School, they will be fully admitted to the BA/MA program; they must then complete the standard curriculum for the MA program.

Students are ineligible for graduate assistantships until they satisfy all requirements for the BA degree.