M.A. in Philosophy, Law, and Policy
For students interested in relating theory and practice, the M.A. program in Philosophy, Law, and Policy offers the opportunity to address policy questions in an integrated way. As a collaboration between the Morrissey College of Arts and Sciences, the Law School, the Lynch School of Education and Human Development, and the School of Theology and Ministry, and housed in the Philosophy Department, the program provides students with an integrated foundation of courses in philosophy, law, and social science. In consultation with a program advisor, students focus their own paths of inquiry by choosing from among electives across the participating schools and departments.
The degree consists of ten courses, or the equivalent. These consist in a group of foundational courses to establish students’ understanding of the interdisciplinary nature of the program, elective courses so that students may focus their studies to suit their interests, and a capstone course to bring that focus to a suitable conclusion. Students must meet with the Director of the program or other designated advisor for advising before registering each semester. On approval by the Director, students may use previous credits to place out of PLP Foundations requirements, with the exception of the foundational Philosophy requirement, the Capstone requirement, and the overall number of credits (30) required for the degree, taking electives instead. The structure and requirements of the program are organized as follows:
Foundations, consisting in a total of five courses:
Philosophy Foundation: Engaged Philosophy, taught in the Philosophy Department, serves as the keystone cohort-building course that instructs students in combining philosophical inquiry with analysis of contemporary issues and policy questions at the intersections of ethics, political theory, law, and the social sciences. To be taken in the first semester (Fall).
Law Foundation: One course to be taken in the first or second semester (Fall or Spring) in Law School, chosen from the following:
Foundations of Western Law
American Legal History
American Legal Theory
Or other courses in the Law School to be approved by the Director
Legal Philosophy Foundation: A course in philosophy of law, to be taken from a designated list taught in the Law School or the Philosophy Department.
Analysis Foundation: A to be taken from an approved list of courses offered by participating departments. For most students, the approved course in the methodology of quantitative analysis will be Sociology 7702, Introduction to Statistics and Data Analysis. Courses in other departments covering methodologies of social science analysis may be substituted with the Director’s approval. Students particularly interested in analysis are encouraged to take Sociology 7703, Multivariate Statistics, after Sociology 7702.
Policy Foundation: One course on one or more policy questions and the context for their meaning, implementation, and assessment, to be taken from a list of applicable courses offered by participating schools and departments.
Electives: Four courses, chosen in consultation with the PLP Director or designated advisor to focus each student’s track of study. These may also be taken at partner universities in BC’s consortium.
Capstone: One course, chosen in consultation with the PLP Director, to serve as a conclusion to each student’s focused area of study. This may take one of two forms:
Thesis course: Recommended for students intending further graduate study. Students wishing to do a thesis must first consult with the Director the semester before registering for the thesis course, and the Director must approve the thesis project. The student must secure an advisor for the thesis project before registration in order to be eligible for the thesis option. The course will result in a qualifying paper that could serve as writing sample in applying to other graduate programs.
Focused coursework: Some students may have a particular professional or academic expertise that they wish to improve through a specific course, such as in advanced statistical techniques. Other students may have an academic interest or career goal that they wish to advance through a specific course, such as in environmental law and policy. To take this option, the student must consult with the Director before registering for the course, and they must communicate with the course instructor and arrange for a focused research project to complete as a final project in the course (sometimes in addition to the regular course requirements).
For their electives, students choose their courses primarily from offerings in the Morrissey College of Arts and Sciences, the Law School, the Lynch School of Education, and the School of Theology and Ministry at Boston College. The main participating departments in the Morrissey College of Arts and Sciences are: Economics, History, Philosophy, Political Science, Psychology and Neuroscience, Sociology, and Theology, although coursework in other departments is possible after consultation with the program Director and permission of the course instructor. Some departments have strict prerequisites for their graduate courses. Before registering, students must consult with their advisor and with the instructor of courses outside of Philosophy to determine if these electives are appropriate for their program of studies and if the student has the requisite background. Students also have access to courses in philosophy at other member institutions of the Boston area consortium: Boston University, Tufts University, and Brandeis University. By application, they can also participate in other consortiums with area institutions and Boston College.
Students take their courses alongside graduate students in the participating programs.
Late in their second semester of coursework, students choose a specific focus for their coursework. While this is not a formal concentration, and can be changed, the coursework focus is important for advising and the selection of electives. The focus is up to the student to design, so long as it fits with the program’s parameters; examples include environmental policy, constitutional politics, administrative decision-making, data analysis for policy making, philosophy of law, religion and governance, and so on.
All students are mentored by an advisor assigned in their first year. Once they choose their focus for elective coursework, students are encouraged to choose an advisor appropriate to their own specific interests.
Language requirement: None, although for students whose areas of research require competency in a particular language, the study of that language is strongly encouraged. Language courses do not count toward the ten required for the degree.
The program is designed for completion within four semesters, but a longer trajectory can be arranged.
Students must maintain a 3.0 GPA to remain in good standing in the program.
Sample Courses of Study
Each of the following sample courses of study, using electives assume four of the five Foundations and one Capstone courses as described in the Requirements section. Note that the Capstone course should also address the student’s area of focus.
- Philosophy: “Engaged Philosophy” — Fall, first year
- Law: Choice of either “American Legal History” or “American Legal Theory” or “Foundations of Western Legal Theory” or “Constitutional Theory” in the Law School — Fall or Spring, any year
- Legal Philosophy: Taken either as “Philosophy of Law” in the Law School or in Philosophy; the PHIL course “Law and Interpretation” can also fulfill this requirement — Fall or Spring, first year
- Data Analysis: “Introduction to Statistics and Data Analysis” in Sociology or suitable substitution, Fall, first year
- Capstone: Taken in the final semester, either as a Thesis course, Focused Coursework, or an Internship that serves to complete the student’s integrative design of their course of study.
Sample Focus 1: Legal Theory
- Policy: A choice from a set of approved options, such as “Cybersecurity Policy: Privacy and Legal Requirements” in the Law School.
- Electives: Four, as approved by the director, such as those listed above but not taken for Law Foundation or Legal Philosophy Foundation, as well as courses such as “Constitutional History: The Framing of the Constitution,” and “Future of Constitutional Democracy” in the Law School
Sample Focus 2: Policy Analytics
- Policy: A choice from a set of approved options, such as “Social Issues and Social Policy” in the Lynch School of Education and Human Development
- Electives: Four, as approved by the Director, such as “Multivariate Statistics” and “Longitudinal Data Analysis” in Sociology, “Law, Policy, and Politics of Higher Education in the (Inter)National Context” in the Lynch School of Education and Human development, and “Healthcare Law and Compliance” in the Law School
Sample Focus 3: Race, Division, and Depolarization
- Policy: A choice from a set of approved options, such as “Race, Policing, and the Constitution” in the Law School
- Electives: Four, as approved by the Director, such as “Philosophical Hermeneutics on Race and Justice” in Philosophy, “Race, Culture, and Power” in History, “Race, Freedom, and the Bible in America” in Theology, “Participatory Action Research: Gender, Race, Power” in the Lynch School of Education and Human Development
Sample Focus 4: Technology and the Environment
- Policy: A choice from a set of approved options in various departments at the graduate level, any year, such as “Energy Law and Deregulation” in the Law School
- Electives: Four, as approved by the Director, such as “Technology and Culture” and “How to Save the World: Ethics of Climate Change” in Philosophy, “Biotechnologies, Health, and Theological Ethics” in Theology, and “Environmental Sociology”
Sample Focus 5: Service-Learning Pedagogy
- Policy: A choice from a set of approved options, such as “Assessment of and for Learning” in the Lynch School of Education and Human Development
- Electives: Four, including in the first year the two-semester sequence, “Philosophy and the Pedagogy of Service Learning” (aka, “Grad PULSE”) in the Philosophy Department, and two others as approved by the director, such as “Supporting Positive Behavior in Schools and Community” and “Ethics and Equity in Education” in the Lynch School of Education and Human Development
Sample Focus 6: Ethical Life and Social Dynamics
- Policy: A choice from a set of approved options, such as “Law, Policy, and Politics of Higher Education in the (Inter)National Context” in the Lynch School of Education and Human Development
- Electives: Four, as approved by the director, such as “Origins of Virtue” and “Current Topics in Moral Psychology” in Psychology and Neuroscience, “Christian Ethics in Migration” in Theology, “Ethical Principles in Comparative Perspectives” in Philosophy
Sample Focus 7: Violence, Non-Violence, and Justice
- Policy: A choice from a set of approved options, such as “Immigration: Processes, Politics, and Policies” in Political Science.
- Electives: Four, as approved by the director, such as “The Ethics of Peace and War” in Philosophy, “From Revolution to Human Rights: Histories of Violence and Non-Violence” in History, “Transitional Justice in Comparative Perspectives” in the Law School, “Terrorism in America” in History, and “Psychology of Trauma: Cross-Cultural and Social Justice” in the Lynch School of Education and Human Development
Sample Focus 8: Religion and Civic Life
- Policy: A choice from a set of approved options, such as “Law and Religion” in the Law School
- Electives: Four, as approved by the director, such as “Jews and Christians: Understanding the Other” in Theology, “Public Theology, Politics, and Faith in the United States” and “Faith and Justice: Liberation Theologies in the U.S.” in the School of Theology and Ministry, and “Ethics, Religion, and International Politics” in Philosophy.
Philosophy, Law, and Policy is closely affiliated with the Public Philosophy Initiative at Boston College, which offers workshops in skills useful for practical philosophy and hosts an annual conference, usually in Spring. For more information on this, contact Professor Fried.
The program is also closely connected to two centers at Boston College: the Clough Center for the Study of Constitutional Democracy and the Rappaport Center for Law and Public Policy. These centers offer regular programming, such as speaker events and student colloquiums.
Candidates should apply via the standard admissions process defined for the Boston College Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.