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MA Philosophy

Why we're great

  • We are world-renowned for our combination of Continental and Anglo-American philosophy
  • Tailor your course to focus on continental philosophy, critical social theory, psychoanalysis, or art history
  • We're ranked in the top 10 UK universities for research excellence

Course options2017-18

MA Philosophy Full-time

Duration: 1 year
Start month: October
Location: Colchester Campus
Based in: Philosophy and Art History (School of)
Fee (Home/EU): £6,125
Fee (International): £15,450
Fees will increase for each academic year of study.
PGT fees information

Part-time

Duration: 2 years
Start month: October
Location: Colchester Campus
Based in: Philosophy and Art History (School of)
Fee (Home/EU): £3,065
Fee (International): £7,725
Fees will increase for each academic year of study.
PGT fees information

Course enquiries

Telephone 01206 872719
Email pgadmit@essex.ac.uk

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About the course

Philosophy at Essex takes philosophy back to its roots in everyday existential, social and political issues. Our radical approach cuts across traditional boundaries, fostering dialogue between different schools and disciplines, and we are one of the few universities in the world that bridges the divide between the two great traditions of Analytic and Continental philosophy.

Our MA Philosophy will provide you with a rigorous grounding in modern and contemporary European philosophy. We have leading expertise in critical theory, phenomenology, German Idealism, nineteenth Century German philosophy, aesthetics, existentialism, contemporary French philosophy, philosophy and psychoanalysis, and medical humanities.

You study modules of your choice, develop your research, writing, and employability skills through an intensive Writing Workshop, and prepare an MA dissertation in your chosen area of research.

Our department is widely regarded as among the very best in the UK, having been recognised as one of the top 10 UK universities for research excellence (REF 2014), and being placed in the top 10 in The Guardian University Guide in 2010, 2011, and 2013.

As an alternative to our more flexible MA Philosophy, you can focus your study on a more specific area by following one of the following pathways:

:

MA Philosophy (Continental Philosophy Pathway)

All of our academic staff work on Continental Philosophy, including classical German philosophy (Kant and German Idealism), Frankfurt School Critical Theory (Adorno, Habermas, Honneth), nineteenth-century philosophy (Kierkegaard, Marx, Nietzsche), and phenomenology (Husserl, Heidegger, Merleau-Ponty).

On this pathway you choose from a range of specified topics in these areas, in addition to some outside options and a dissertation on a topic in Continental Philosophy.

MA Philosophy (Critical Social Theory Pathway)

We are the leading centre for Critical Social Theory in the UK with five members of academic staff working on the Frankfurt School (Adorno, Habermas, Honneth), contemporary French thought (Derrida, Foucault, Rancière) and issues in Critical Social Theory, such as activist political theory, theory of recognition, aesthetics and politics, deliberative democracy, and the moral limits of markets.

On this pathway you study modules on the Frankfurt School and Contemporary Critical Theory, in addition to some outside options and a dissertation on a topic in Critical Social Theory.

MA Philosophy (Philosophy and Art History Pathway)

Drawing on the collaborative and interdisciplinary approach of the School, our new Philosophy and Art History pathway enables students to get a thorough grounding in philosophical aesthetics. You explore issues in aesthetics and their bearing on other areas of philosophy (such as critical theory or existentialism) and Art History (such as aesthetic practices and curating), and profit from the wide-ranging expertise of our staff in both disciplines.

On this pathway you study modules on Philosophy/Aesthetics and Art History (dealing, for example, with Art & Politics, Art, Architecture and Urbanism, or Art, Science & Knowledge), in addition to some outside options and a dissertation on a topic in Philosophy and Art History.

Our expert staff

Our courses are taught by world-class academics, and over three quarters of our research is rated “world-leading” or “internationally excellent” (REF 2014), which puts us fifth in the UK for research outputs.

Our open-minded and enthusiastic staff have an exceptionally broad range of research interests, so whatever questions in philosophy catch hold of your imagination, there is certain to be someone you can approach to find out more.

Recent projects and publications include:

  • Béatrice Han-Pile and Dan Watts’ major new research project, The Ethics of Powerlessness: the Theological Virtues Today
  • The Essex Autonomy Project, a major interdisciplinary project funded by the AHRC (Arts and Humanities Research Council), which aims to investigate the role of autonomous judgment in many aspects of human life
  • Peter Dews’ The Idea of Evil, Polity, 2007
  • Béatrice Han-Pile, Foucault’s Critical Project: Between the Transcendental and the Historical, Stanford University Press, 2002
  • Fiona Hughes, Kant’s Critique of Aesthetic Judgement: A Reader’s Guide, Edinburgh University Press, 2007.
  • Wayne Martin, Theories of Judgement: Psychology, Logic, Phenomenology, Cambridge University Press, 2006
  • Irene McMullin’s Time and the Shared World: Heidegger on Social Relations, Northwestern University Press, 2013
  • Fabian Freyenhagen’s Adorno’s Practical Philosophy: Living Less Wrongly, Cambridge University Press, 2013

Specialist facilities

  • Graduate students have access to desk space in the School and many students work there on a daily basis
  • A dedicated German-language course for graduate students in philosophy
  • Attend our Critical Theory Colloquium
  • Attend the Werkstatt, where recent work on phenomenology is presented
  • An exciting programme of research seminars, reading groups and mini-courses that help you expand your philosophical knowledge beyond what you learn on your course
  • Access a variety of philosophy textbooks and journals in the Albert Sloman Library and in our departmental library

Your future

Many of our philosophy graduates embark on doctoral study after finishing their MA. We offer supervision for PhDs in a range of fields including:

  • Continental philosophy
  • Critical Social Theory
  • History of philosophy
  • Applied ethics

Our graduates have also gone into careers in law, the media, local administration, HM Revenue and Customs, and top jobs in the Civil Service.

We work with our university’s Employability and Careers Centre to help you find out about further work experience, internships, placements, and voluntary opportunities.

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Example structure

Postgraduate study is the chance to take your education to the next level. The combination of compulsory and optional modules means our courses help you develop extensive knowledge in your chosen discipline, whilst providing plenty of freedom to pursue your own interests. Our research-led teaching is continually evolving to address the latest challenges and breakthroughs in the field, therefore to ensure your course is as relevant and up-to-date as possible your core module structure may be subject to change.

For many of our courses you’ll have a wide range of optional modules to choose from – those listed in this example structure are, in many instances, just a selection of those available. Our Programme Specification gives more detail about the structure available to our current postgraduate students, including details of all optional modules.

Year 1

Develop your research and written skills through writing a 15-16,000 word dissertation on a philosophical topic.

Develop your research and written skills through writing a 15-16,000 word dissertation on a philosophical topic.

Develop your research and written skills through writing a 15-16,000 word dissertation on a philosophical topic.

Develop your research and written skills through writing a 15-16,000 word dissertation on a philosophical topic.

Kant's Critique of Pure Reason initiates a new 'critical' method in philosophy which has been highly influential in both continental and analytic philosophy. His critical method establishes a new way of thinking about the relation in which we stand to the world, and the role played by knowledge and judgement within that world. You explore the ways in which Kant has been taken up in twentieth and twenty-first century continental philosophy.

This module will be devoted to a close reading of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right. This text is Hegel’s major work on moral and political philosophy and contains a philosophical defence of modern social institutions, including the nuclear family, civil society (including the market), and the state. Each seminar will include an introductory lecture, close work with the text, and student discussion. There may be occasional seminar presentations by students.

Discover what is probably the most influential and significant tradition of critical social philosophy to have emerged within twentieth-century European philosophy: The Frankfurt School. This module takes either the form of concentrating on some of the leading figures (such as Adorno and Horkheimer, or Habermas, or Honneth), or focusing on specific themes such as reification, social pathology, or freedom and autonomy. The exact focus will vary from year to year.

You undertake the in-depth study of a given topic in Continental Philosophy which allows you to benefit from the research-led, cutting-edge discussion of important themes and authors within the phenomenological tradition. This topic varies year-on-year, but you can expect to address a theme such as 'Transcendence and Metaphysics', 'Structure and Subjectivity', 'Medio-Passivity and Agency', 'Perception and Reflection', or Kant's Critique of Judgement.

Our MA Writing Workshop provides you with intensive training in postgraduate-level philosophical writing. You write a short essay every week based on a reading assignment, and meet with your writing tutor in weekly sessions to get feedback on your submissions. You also attend weekly discussions to work both on the philosophical issues and the micro-skills of writing.

Discover what is probably the most influential and significant tradition of critical social philosophy to have emerged within twentieth-century European philosophy: The Frankfurt School. The module takes either the form of concentrating on some of the leading figures (such as Adorno and Horkheimer, or Habermas, or Honneth), or focusing on specific themes such as reification, social pathology, or freedom and autonomy. The exact focus will vary from year to year.

Undertake an investigation into aesthetic practices, activities and objects, and their history, from artworks to the aesthetic strategies of protest movements. You reflect on the distinctive experiences that are involved in participating in aesthetic practices or perceiving aesthetic performances and objects, and debate why aesthetic practices and experiences play such a central role in continental thought, from Kant and Hegel to Adorno and Rancière.

Get valuable real-life experience from inside the Essex Collection of Art from Latin America’s new teaching museum space. As well as discussing and analysing artworks from the collection, take on the exciting challenge of proposing a new acquisition for ESCALA. Whilst the task is hypothetical, if the committee decides to pursue the acquisition, you could be credited for your contribution.

In 2013, both Jeff Koons and Zaha Hadid designed yachts for obscenely wealthy collectors. At the same time, members of the activist art group, Pussy Riot languished in a Russian prison, charged with hooliganism over the artistic protests against the authoritarianism of the Putin government. How can we make sense of this moment in contemporary culture, where artistic means are directed to such diverse aesthetic, political, ethical, and social ends? Probe the relationship between art, politics and money in this series of weekly lectures.

Dancing bodies; protesting bodies; falling bodies: the relationship between moving bodies and images is a recurring subject for artists, philosophers, and art historians alike. This seminar shifts away from the iconography of the moving body to focus on the ‘moving image’. Images that investigate bodily movement through new visual technologies suggest the close relationship between representation, embodiment, and the act of beholding. From seventeenth-century fresco painting to twentieth-century performance art and film, students will read and discuss recent literature in philosophy and art history in relation to images of moving bodies that span early modern and modern art.

This seminar explores the role of visual culture within popular religion in the cities of late Medieval and Renaissance Italy. We will challenge definitions of “art” and “popular religion”, especially the ways in which art history, as a discipline, has often interpreted popular religious art from this period through an artificial binary between “high culture” (e.g. altarpieces, sculptures and fresco cycles by well-known artists) and “low culture” (e.g. anonymous panel paintings, reliquaries, prints).

Theories of justice are still being worked on and developed today. You question contemporary theories of justice through applying them to some of the most controversial issues dominating contemporary politics.

Study one of the most important contemporary aspects of political action: the natural environment. You consider the state of the environment and possible paths along which it might change, before exploring environmental policies from the level of individual values, to the environmental movement, to political parties, and finally to the level of the EU.

The rational choice approach uses methods derived from microeconomics to study a wide range of political phenomena, and is now of considerable significance. This constructs explanations on the assumption that individuals are rational and often self-interested. You learn to apply these methods to a range of phenomena in the fields of politics and political economy.

This module introduces you to two main traditions within contemporary political theory: analytical political theory, and ideology and discourse analysis. You explore a range of ideas and concepts within these traditions in relation to central discussions in contemporary political theory.

Evaluate a variety of perspectives on post-structuralist and post-analytical research, gaining an appreciation of the assumptions underpinning different approaches to questions of description, explanation and critique. You explore a range of prominent perspectives including empiricism, rationalism, conventionalism, positivist, hermeneutics, and critical realism.

Studying philosophy of science is not necessarily about becoming a philosopher; it can also help us to do political science better. You cover the main theoretical approaches to the study of politics, including both models of political actions that inform and are derived from the empirical study of politics, and normative theories of politics. This enables you to ask questions from the philosophy of sciences concerning how we can study social and political phenomena.

You are introduced to key strands of poststructuralist discourse theory, including post-marxism, deconstruction, structural linguistics, and psychoanalytic theory. You also engage with a set of contemporary debates in political and social theory, using the economy (eg., the global financial crisis and public service reforms) as a central theme and reference point.

On this module, you approach writing about the natural world through a series of three-week units on subjects such as trees, marshes, coasts, and birds. Each unit will begin with a focus on the local – the wild east of Essex and Suffolk – before moving outwards to larger perspectives. Several of the units will involve field trips led by the writers being studied, which will include such figures as Richard Mabey and Robert Macfarlane.

What are the nature of obligations relating to economic, social and cultural rights? How do it differ from civil and political rights? Understand the past, present and future of economic, social and cultural rights. Examine approaches to implementing these rights. Explore human rights and its impact in this field.

What protection does international law offer refugees and internally displaced persons? Examine legal definitions of refugee status. Understand the guarantees provided for such groups by international human rights law. Evaluate the limitations of such laws by states in Europe and North America.

What does right to development mean? How does it relate to human rights treaties? What is a human rights-based approach to development? Study international human rights law, exploring theoretical and practical implications of linking human rights and development. Analyse specific human rights themes. Evaluate the role of governments and organisations.

What are the global standards set by the GATT/World Trade Organisation? And by World Bank policies? Examine relationships between human rights, international trade and foreign investment. Study legal issues, plus ethical, political and economic arguments on current topics. Evaluate cases to see the practical effect of linking trade and rights.

You’ll receive an introduction to the protection and promotion of women’s and girls’ human rights under international law. Your focus will be on the universal human rights mechanisms, with some analysis of regional human rights mechanisms, especially relating to violence against women. You’ll consider sexual and reproductive rights, economic, social and cultural rights, administration of justice, women’s rights in conflict and post-conflict, and violence against women. You’ll also look at the persistence of gender stereotyping, theories of equality and discrimination, and the efforts of human rights defenders.

Broadly speaking transitional justice refers to the belief that any State where mass atrocities have taken place should engage with a set of judicial and non-judicial processes in order to achieve a successful transition from conflict to peace or repression to democracy. You’ll receive an overview of the history, theory, legal background and dilemmas of transitional justice, followed by in-depth discussions of the four pillars of transitional justice – truth, justice, reparations and guarantees of non-recurrence, and of their interrelatedness.

What are the major developments since Freud? How did the British object-relations school pioneer research and treatment of primitive states of mind? Explore key developments of psychoanalytic thought following Freud, with emphasis on the British object-relations tradition. Understand the problems when comparing different analytic and psychoanalytic schools.

Why do we believe psychoanalytic theories about the unconscious? Or about childhood sexuality? How did Freud and others convince us their work is correct? And what arguments suggest their theories are not? Debate the nature of psychoanalytic evidence. Analyse work by psychoanalytic writers to critically assess their observations and conclusions.

Teaching

  • Your modules, followed during the autumn and spring terms, generally consist of two-hour seminars
  • Modules include introductions to the topic by your tutor, presentations by you and discussions based on a programme of reading
  • We host annual mini-courses in areas of philosophy, given by visiting speakers of international reputation, which are specifically designed for our postgraduates
  • We run a number of mini-courses, seminars and conferences that our postgraduates are encouraged to attend

Assessment

  • Assessment is normally on the basis of coursework and your supervised dissertation

Dissertation

  • Your dissertation allows you to focus in depth on your chosen topic from April onwards. This enables you to gain an in depth knowledge of an area that interests you

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Qualifications

UK entry requirements

We will consider applications with an overall grade of 2:2 and above.

International and EU entry requirements

We accept a wide range of qualifications from applicants studying in the EU and other countries. Email pgadmit@essex.ac.uk for further details about the qualifications we accept. Include information in your email about the undergraduate qualification you have already completed or are currently taking.

IELTS entry requirements

IELTS 7.0 overall with a minimum component score of 5.5

If you do not meet our IELTS requirements then you may be able to complete a pre-sessional English pathway that enables you to start your course without retaking IELTS.

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Applying

You can apply for our postgraduate courses online. You’ll need to provide us with your academic qualifications, as well as supporting documents such as transcripts, English language qualifications and certificates. You can find a list of necessary documents online, but please note we won’t be able to process your application until we have everything we need.

There is no application deadline but we recommend that you apply before 1 July for our taught courses starting in October. We aim to respond to applications within two weeks. If we are able to offer you a place, you will be contacted via email.

Visit us

Open days

We hold postgraduate events in February/March and November, and open days for all our applicants throughout the year. Our Colchester Campus events are a great way to find out more about studying at Essex, and give you the chance to:

  • tour our campus and accommodation
  • find out answers to your questions about our courses, student finance, graduate employability, student support and more
  • meet our students and staff

If the dates of our organised events aren’t suitable for you, feel free to get in touch by emailing tours@essex.ac.uk and we’ll arrange an individual campus tour for you.

Virtual tours

If you live too far away to come to Essex (or have a busy lifestyle), no problem. Our 360 degree virtual tour allows you to explore the Colchester Campus from the comfort of your home. Check out our accommodation options, facilities and social spaces.

Exhibitions

Our staff travel the world to speak to people about the courses on offer at Essex. Take a look at our list of exhibition dates to see if we’ll be near you in the future.

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