The philosophy department offers an M.A. program, a Ph.D. program, and two interdisciplinary programs: a joint M.A. in philosophy and theology, and dual degrees in philosophy and law (M.A./J.D. and Ph.D./J.D.).
A significant feature of these programs is the extensive and diverse range of courses available to graduate students every semester. They cover the history and problems of philosophy, allowing for concentration in the following areas: Ancient Philosophy, Medieval Philosophy, Modern Philosophy, Phenomenology and Contemporary Continental Philosophy, Ethics, Social and Political Philosophy, Philosophy of Law, Philosophy of Religion, Epistemology and Philosophy of Science. The department is linked to research centers such as the Lonergan Institute, and is home to several scholarly journals. Members of the department are nationally and internationally known, and are involved in cutting-edge research.
Furthermore, each year the department hosts many speakers from the US and abroad (through its own lecture series, or consortiums such as the Boston Area Colloquium in Ancient Philosophy), and invites a prominent scholar to be the Gadamer Visiting Professor and teach for four to six weeks.
In addition, students may take appropriate graduate level courses in other departments of Boston College (e.g., Political Science, Theology), and may avail themselves of Boston’s wider intellectual offerings thanks to Boston College’s participation in the Boston Area Consortium, which allows them to cross register for one course per semester at Boston University, Tufts University or Brandeis University. By application, they also can participate in The Graduate Consortium in Women's Studies and in the Boston Theological Institute.
Boston College is a suburban campus located on the western edge of the city of Boston. Several colleges and universities, including Boston University, MIT and Harvard University, are easily within reach by public transportation. The exchange of ideas between faculty and students of Boston area colleges and universities is rich and diverse.
Students in the course of the M.A. and Ph.D. programs in philosophy will
- demonstrate a wide-ranging and sophisticated grasp of the history of Western philosophy (ancient, medieval, modern, and contemporary), i.e., be able to convey information about individual authors and texts, to state connections between the principal authors and texts, but also to explain how individual texts and authors fit into the overall movement of Western philosophy; ability to articulate a narrative of that tradition; in the case of M.A. students and of Ph.D. students completing their first year in the program, ability to converse knowledgeably about the history of Western philosophy as well as about two of the major systematic areas in philosophy (metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, natural theology / philosophy of religion, social / political philosophy).
- demonstrate a sophisticated reading and interpretation of philosophical texts, i.e., to identify the main thesis of a text, to explain the thesis, to outline in detail the principal arguments in support of the thesis, and to identify the main presuppositions underlying the text; to contextualize philosophical texts and issues in a fairly sophisticated way, i.e., to locate them in their appropriate historical contexts, to show awareness of the historical background of philosophical issues, and to show alertness to the differences between philosophical genres.
- demonstrate a sophisticated understanding and evaluation of philosophical arguments, i.e., to distinguish premises and conclusions, to distinguish issues of logical validity from issues concerning the truth or falsity of premises, to pick out and explain ambiguous terms, to identify presuppositions, and to highlight the most salient strengths or weaknesses of an argument.
- demonstrate a sophisticated ability to write about philosophical texts and issues, i.e., to state a philosophical thesis, to explain the thesis, to construct an argument or arguments in support of the thesis, to respond to possible misunderstandings of or objections to the thesis as well as to alternative interpretations of the texts and alternative positions on the issues.
- demonstrate the ability to survey and to select secondary literature that is appropriate to their work, and to make fair and effective use of this secondary literature.
- demonstrate a sophisticated ability to distinguish philosophical claims from other types of claims, i.e., to recognize and articulate the differences between philosophical claims and, for example, historical and natural-scientific claims when presented with these different types of claims; to be able to explain texts in which claims of different sorts are not only found side by side but are even confused.
- demonstrate a fairly sophisticated understanding of such philosophical issues as the nature and scope of human knowledge, the meaning of human personhood, the good life and moral obligation, the social and political dimensions of human existence, the relationship of faith and reason, and the existence and nature of God. This fairly sophisticated understanding would involve being able to state what the main questions are in most if not all of these areas, what the main answers to these questions are, what the principal sources of evidence are to which those answers appeal; to stake out a reasoned position on at least some of these questions; and to show an appreciation of what they do and do not know about these various issues.
- in the case of Ph.D. students, demonstrate the ability to communicate clearly and effectively about the philosophical texts and issues mentioned above.
Students in the Joint MA in Philosophy and Theology are expected to:
- Demonstrate a working understanding of the fundamental texts, voices, conversations, and debates that have shaped the history of philosophy and theology in the Western tradition (ancient, medieval, modern, and contemporary);
- Appreciate and systematically engage the historical and ongoing interaction between philosophy and theology in the Western tradition, particularly as it concerns questions of God, reason, revelation, faith, language, doctrine, culture, and human experience;
- Appreciate and constructively engage the various genres, methods, styles, aims, and historical contexts of philosophical and theological inquiry;
- Develop a program of study in consultation with an advisor that includes a concentration in one of the following areas: Faith, Science, and Philosophy; Foundations in Philosophy and Theology; Medieval Philosophy and Theology; and Philosophy and Religions.
- Demonstrate a sophisticated ability to write and speak about philosophical and theological texts and issues through graduate seminars, language study, a comprehensive exam, and an optional thesis.
Where are They Now?
The Philosophy Dept at BC has a proud record of success with our doctoral graduates - excellent academic placements, distinguished book publications, major scholarly grants and awards and directorships of international NGOs, Non-Profits and other humanities projects. The following is a brief sample. We invite you to join our on-going faculty research projects.