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Postgraduate taught programmes

MA History of Philosophy

Overview: aims of the programme

The MA in the History of Philosophy involves one year's full-time study, or two years' part-time. It is a 'taught' Master's programme, with each module following a fixed syllabus, as opposed to a 'research' degree. With the possible exception of the dissertation at the end of the programme, original research is not really expected: but the MA may act as a preliminary to a subsequent research programme, normally a PhD. The programme is primarily intended for those students who have already studied Philosophy as undergraduates, and who now want to focus more narrowly on its history; although occasionally students might be admitted who do not have a Philosophy background.

Programme structure

Taught modules - requirements

Students must earn a total of 180 credits, of which 120 will come from taught modules. At least 140 credits (including the dissertation—see below) must be earned through work done in the History of Philosophy; and students will normally be expected to study a language relevant to their philosophical interests, such as French or German, Latin or ancient Greek. The modules that, for these purposes, are treated as belonging to the History of Philosophy are as follows:

You should note that taking one or both of the Greek Philosophical Texts modules will be treated as an alternative way of satisfying the language requirement -- the other way being to take a language module outside the Department of Philosophy, whether through the Modern Languages Centre, or the Department of History (for Latin), or the Department of Classics (for ancient -- but not specifically philosophical -- Greek). But you must check the timetable: we cannot guarantee that these external modules will not be clashing with our own.

Language modules from other Departments

But that language requirement is, in any case, one that might be waived in certain cases. Given that, with the exception of Greek Philosophical Texts, the language modules do not count towards your 140 credits of historical work, to take a language as well as those historical modules will leave you with very few if any credits to play with. In particular, if you don't already have a background in Philosophy, you should really be taking 7AAN4021 General Philosophy: but that, plus your 140 historical credits, will bring you up to 180, and there won't really be any room left over for a language on top of that. Or, even if you don't take General Philosophy, you might have some special reason for wanting to take some other non-historical philosophical modules, e.g. if they intersect with the specific historical topics that most interest you. If the language needs to fall by the wayside, to make room for other things, then so be it. Alternatively, though, you should bear in mind that the programme regulations do actually allow you to overshoot the normal 180-credit target to a maximum of 200 credits. That might allow you to take everything you want to take, and still satisfy the language requirement after all.

Other optional modules

Once the above requirements have been satisfied, you may choose from the selection of MA modules offered by the Department.

Most of these modules are worth 20 credits each, and taught in either the Autumn or the Spring; just one (General Philosophy, which conversion students will normally be expected to take) is worth 40, and spans both semesters.

Some modules are assessed by means of coursework essays; others involve written exams in May or early June. 


The remaining 60 credits will then come from a dissertation of around 10,000 words, on an approved topic in the History of Philosophy, to be completed over the Summer at the end of the programme. Students who complete all requirements of the programme with the exception of the dissertation are entitled to exit with a Postgraduate Diploma in the History Philosophy.

Further information

For additional information concerning the programme, follow the links below:

To view the Programme Approval Form (full programme regulations, also known as the PAF), visit the Quality and Academic Support Office webpages.

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