Joint M.A. in Philosophy & Theology
The joint MA in philosophy and theology draws on the strengths of its excellent programs in each area. It was founded in the conviction that a great deal of work in either field is best served by a good understanding of the other. The Boston College department of philosophy is committed to the study of the great works of the history of philosophy, close engagement with the important questions and problems to be found both there and in contemporary culture, and a pluralistic approach. The department is especially well known for global prominence in the phenomenological, hermeneutical and post-structural work of continental European thinkers, but also includes excellence in Anglo-American and analytic philosophy of language, ethics, and science. The Boston College department of theology is among the top two or three in the United States, with leading scholars and teachers in the areas of ethics, fundamental theology, comparative theology, bible, and historical theology. The two departments work together often, and there is a lively community among their faculty and students.
Goals and career paths served by this degree
The program is designed to serve graduate students (i.e., any student already in possession of the BA or equivalent) in need of further work in philosophy or theology in order to enhance preparation for doctoral programs, wishing to complete their preparation for secondary school teaching, or simply interested in further intellectual enrichment.
Coursework in philosophy and theology:
The program requires a total of 10 graduate-level courses, to be divided as closely as possible between theology and philosophy (i.e., 5 each or 6 of one and 4 of the other). These distributions cross another one between 6 courses in the concentration of a student’s choice (see below) and 4 that should be committed to rounding out her/his background and grounding in the fields. Each student is required to take “Philosophy for Theological Studies,” which is offered annually or bi-annually.
There is also a thesis option. Students who write a thesis do so during the final two semesters in the program. It counts for two of the ten courses that are required. A first semester is dedicated to guided reading and the establishment of an outline and bibliography. The second semester is dedicated to writing the thesis. The project should be approved by the end of the previous semester, have the explicit agreement of a faculty member to supervise, with the formal approval of the program co-directors. The thesis must be at least 60 pages long (double-spaced, 12-point font).
Students choose their courses primarily from the Boston College Philosophy and Theology departments: They also have access to courses in religion offered at other member institutions of the Boston Theological Interreligious Consortium (BTI). Philosophy courses at other member institutions of the Boston area consortium: Boston University, Tufts University, and Brandeis University. By application, they can also participate in the Graduate Consortium in Women’s Studies.
Students take their courses alongside graduate students in the standard philosophy and theology programs.
Students are required to demonstrate intermediate proficiency in at least one non-English language of competence for their academic interests. This is most often French, German, Greek or Latin, but one can make a case for others. Language courses do not count among the ten courses required for the degree.
All students must pass a comprehensive examination that is administered toward the end of or after the final semester of coursework. The examination includes take-home written answers to two questions each in philosophy and theology. These should be 6-8 pages in length, and in full scholarly style (analysis, argument, footnotes). A short time after the written answers have been submitted, an oral defense of the answers is scheduled. This takes approximately 75 minutes. The reading list can be found here.
All students are required to attend monthly meetings of the Advanced Research Seminar in Philosophy and Theology.
Late in their second semester of coursework, students choose a specific area of concentration. The established concentrations are “Ethics,” "Faith, Philosophy, and Science," "Foundations in Philosophy and Theology" and "Medieval Thought," and "Philosophy and Religions" (i.e., non-Christian religions).
All students are mentored by one or both of the co-directors until they choose their area of concentration. At that time, a faculty mentor specialized in that area may be added or else replace the previous mentors.
The program is designed for completion within four semesters, but a longer trajectory can be arranged.
Sample courses of study
Area of specialization: Foundations in Philosophy and Theology
- First Semester: Philosophy for Theological Studies, Plato, Intermediate Latin 1
- Second Semester: Kant’s First Critique, Fundamental Theology as Political Theology, Intermediate Latin 2
- Third Semester: 19th and 20th Century European Philosophy, Modern Metaphysics, Theological Aesthetics
- Fourth Semester: Medieval Philosophy, Lonergan’s Insight, Augustine
Area of specialization: Philosophy and Religions
- First Semester: Method in Comparative Theology, Islamic Philosophy, Philosophy for Theological Studies
- Second Semester: Aristotle, Kant
- Summer: Introduction to Arabic, Intermediate Arabic 1
- Third Semester: Medieval Jewish Thought, Aquinas, Augustine
- Fourth Semester: Thesis 1 (guided reading)
- Summer: Intermediate Arabic 3
- Fifth Semester: These 2 (completion of the text)
Area of specialization: Ethics
- First Semester: Plato, Virtue Ethics
- Second Semester: Aquinas, Medical Ethics
- Summer: Intermediate French 1, Intermediate French 2
- Third Semester: Philosophy for Theological Studies, Kant’s Moral Philosophy
- Fourth Semester: Feminist Philosophy
- Fifth Semester: Just War Theory, Liberation Theology
- Sixth Semester: Philosophical Hermeneutics
The joint MA program has close relations with the Northeast Philosophy of Religion Colloquium, which meets for two days annually in Boston or New York, for a working seminar in which students in philosophy of religion and theology present research for discussion. For more information on this, contact Professor Bloechl.
The program also has close relations with the International Network in Philosophy of Religion, which organizes small regional meetings from time to time and a major international conference every two years. The next major conference will be in 2021. For the INPR’s goals and activities, see https://www.network-inpr.org/