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College of Arts and Letters | Michigan State University

Graduate Programs

Aims of the programs

The Department offers work leading to the M.A. and the Ph.D. degrees. The master's program emphasizes a broad range of philosophical areas, while the doctoral program prepares students for specialized work leading to the dissertation. The Department supports work in most of the traditional areas of Western philosophy. Choosing a concentration or specialization at the doctoral level is possible in most areas and is planned by each student with a guidance committee composed of four faculty members.

A distinctive strength of the Department is in the area of Philosophy and Ethics of Health Care. In conjunction with the Center for Ethics and Humanities in the Life Sciences (based in the University's medical colleges), the Department offers students the opportunity to do concentrated doctoral work on the ethical, epistemological, and policy aspects of health care. Philosophy faculty with research and teaching interests in medical issues collaborate with philosophers and physicians in the Center in providing annual seminars and practicum courses. 

Several faculty in the Department of Philosophy at Michigan State are working in an area in which traditional debates over justice, freedom, and political obligation are increasingly joined in contemporary philosophy by concerns with inequality, power, identity, and the rationalization of institutions and practices. In recent years individual faculty have published books and articles on themes in feminism, African American thought, democratic theory, the politics of knowledge, and the history of liberalism.

The Department offers the opportunity for advanced study and research in environmental philosophy. Philosophers at MSU are in active dialogue with the sciences education and other humanities disciplines on campus, nationally and internationally. The environmental philosophy faculty have also been involved in the public sphere as members of National Research Council’s Advisory Committee on Biotechnology, the Michigan Environmental Justice Working Group, and the Isle Royale Wolf-Moose Project.

Course offerings

Graduate students may enroll for credit in 400 (senior) level courses as well as graduate level courses and seminars. Department courses cover the history of philosophy and main topics in contemporary philosophy as conceived by different theoretical approaches. All graduate students may take some courses outside the Department, and doctoral students have the option of taking an interdisciplinary Minor Field.

At the 400 level, the following courses are given: Plato, Aristotle, Continental Rationalism, British Empiricism, Kant, Hegel, 19th Century Philosophy, Topics in 20th-Century Analytical Philosophy, Topics in 20th-Century Continental Philosophy, Topics in European Philosophy, Topics in Philosophy of Logic and Language, Central Issues in Ethics, Philosophical Issues in Biomedicine, Liberal Theory and Its Critics, Philosophy and the Black Experience, Topics in Feminist Philosophy, Epistemology, Metaphysics, Philosophy of Mind, Introduction to Cognitive Science, Aesthetic Theory and Modernism, Philosophy of Science, Philosophy of Biological Science, Philosophy of Social Science, Philosophy of Mathematics. The opportunity for independent study is also available.

Usually three graduate seminars are offered per term. Seminars are given either on particular philosophical topics or on particular authors. Faculty have an opportunity to teach seminars on a rotating basis, and as much as possible the seminar offerings in any one semester will cover three of the four traditional areas of philosophy. Seminars in recent years have included such topics as pragmatism, mental representation, aesthetics and modernism, evolutionary theory, and democratic theory. Among the many authors that have been studied are Plato, Spinoza, Husserl, Wittgenstein, Quine, Kripke, Rawls, Heidegger, Habermas, Foucault, and Rorty.

The Graduate School at Michigan State University

For general information on the programs, policies and resources of the Graduate School, see The Graduate School Website.