• Graduate Catalog

  • Master of Arts in Philosophy



    The Catholic intellectual tradition has always prized the study of philosophy; there is a Christian humanism in our tradition that has always taken seriously the liberal arts, and in a particular way, philosophy. This is why Franciscan University, after renewing and extending its commitment to philosophy, inaugurated in January 1993 a program of study leading to the MA in Philosophy.

    This program has a distinctive character. It is firmly rooted in the Western philosophical tradition, especially Augustinian, Franciscan, and Thomistic philosophy. At the same time, the philosophers of the program take very seriously all that has happened in modern and contemporary philosophy, some of them giving particular attention to phenomenological realism. (The library contains a special collection of writings in this area). There is one modern development that concerns them in a special way: In the last few centuries, the idea of human beings as persons has come into its own. The program emphasizes the philosophy of the human person and the issues of a personalist ethics.

    Our MA Philosophy Program is committed to the distinction between faith and reason. Philosophy is a work of reason and does not base itself upon faith and revelation. At the same time, the philosophers of the program recognize that reason and faith stand in many positive relations to each other. Faith provides a fertile soil for the development of philosophical wisdom and insight, suggesting fruitful hypotheses, important questions, and paths of inquiry. The MA Philosophy Program serves not only believers but all men and women who are serious about questions of truth.

    This program is of interest to persons intending to go on to the PhD in philosophy and also to persons intending to do graduate study in some other area, such as literature, political science, history, jurisprudence, or theology. When students recognize the importance of philosophical literacy and philosophical habits of mind for serious work in these disciplines, they often look for philosophy studies leading precisely to the MA degree. Healthcare professionals are increasingly interested in MA studies that stress issues of ethics. Finally, there will be those who come to our program simply out of the desire to reflect more closely than they have before on the most fundamental questions of human existence.


    Upon completion of the degree students shall be able to:

    1. develop a position on a significant philosophical problem in one ofthe branches of philosophy;
    2. explain and analyze the position of some significant philosophers who have dealt with this problem;
    3. and defend a philosophical position that employs a philosophical methodology such as developing arguments, offering evidence, making distinctions, clarifying terminology, or anticipating objections and responding to them.


    Applicants must have a baccalaureate degree from an accredited college or university with a minimum quality point average of 3.0 based on a 4.0 scale.  An applicant's file must contain all application materials, including two reference letters and a philosophical writing sample, in order to receive priority consideration for the fall term.  An applicant may be required to complete at least 18 undergraduate hours in philosophy.

    Applications completed after February 1 will be reviewed on a periodic basis. Admission will be granted subject to the availability of space in the program.


    Thirty-six (36) hours are required and they are distributed as follows:

    1. Four (4) 800-level courses
    2. Two (2) 700-level courses
    3. Four (4) elective courses
    4. Thesis (PHL 910) (6 credits)

    Students can complete the program in three semesters; it requires 30 hours of coursework and a non-optional thesis. The 18 undergraduate hours in philosophy that may be required for admission can be taken as part of the program. There is also a language requirement and a thesis defense required for graduation.

    Guidelines for Completing the Thesis

    Read the guidelines for preparing and completing the required Thesis, PHL 910.


    The Philosophy Department offers a special arrangement for Franciscan University students that enables them to receive an early admission to our MA program. Students admitted under the accelerated program are allowed to take up to two (2) graduate-level philosophy courses for atotal of six (6) credit hours and to apply these credits both toward completion of their undergraduate degree as well as their MA degree. The tuition for these two graduate-level courses is the normal tuition for undergraduate courses.

    By taking two graduate-level philosophy courses under this program, the student is left with the requirement of completing 24 credits of graduate work, which can be done by taking the normal graduate load of four (4) courses for two more semesters. There would remain only the language requirement and thesis.


    Franciscan University undergraduate students applying for the accelerated program must fulfill the following requirements:

    1. Apply for admission to the accelerated program no earlier than the midsemester date of the second semester of their junior year and no later than the end of the first semester of their senior year.
    2. Complete an application for the accelerated program. Applications are available in the Graduate Admissions Office, Starvaggi Hall.
    3. Have completed at least six (6) undergraduate philosophy courses before the start of the first semester of their participation in the accelerated program. Three (3) of these courses must be PHL 113, PHL 211, and PHL 212. Three (3) others must be a combination of any 300-or 400-level courses.
    4. Have at least a 3.00 QPA in their undergraduate philosophy courses and overall.


    Franciscan University undergraduate students admitted to theaccelerated program must fulfill the following requirements in order tocomplete the program:

    1. Take one, but no more than two, graduate-level philosophy courses offered at Franciscan University. Students may take any such courses.
    2. Attain at least a B+ in each of the graduate courses taken under the program.
    3. The course(s) must be taken when the students are seniors. The courses can be taken the same semester or in the summer.
    4. Maintain a 3.0 QPA in their senior year philosophy courses and overall.

    After completing graduate courses under the accelerated program, the applicant’s status will be reviewed by the Director of the graduate program in philosophy. If the above conditions are not fulfilled, then the student’s accelerated status will be revoked and the graduate courses will count only for undergraduate credit. If the above conditions are fulfilled, then the student will be admitted into the graduate program in philosophy.


    In some cases the limit for transfer credit may be set lower than six (as in the case of a student whose previous graduate philosophy study had little affinity with the particular approach and special focus of our program).

    PHL 611 Aesthetics
    (3 credits)
    One studies first the metaphysics of beauty, which involves issues such as beauty and being, beauty and good, and divine beauty. Then one studies beauty in the fine arts, in literature, and in nature as well as the place of beauty in the life of the human person. The course also includes questions that do not directly concern beauty, such as the essence of the tragic and of the comic.

    PHL 622 Philosophy of Community
    (3 credits)
    One asks what it means to say with Aristotle that man is a social animal, and then studies how modern philosophies of intersubjectivity (Hegel, Scheler, Levinas, von Hildebrand) have contributed to our understanding of the relation of each person to others. One also inquires into the structure of communities, such as the family, the state, mankind, and how the individual can participate in these communities in a manner appropriate to their personhood.

    PHL 624 Philosophy of Science
    (3 credits)
    One studies questions first raised by Aristotle in his Physics, such as the questions regarding space, time, matter, and number. One is also introduced to the philosophical problems arising from contemporary science, such as from the theory of relativity or the theory of evolution. The philosophical assumptions of some of the sciences are explored. Questions of scientific method are raised.

    PHL 625 Philosophy of God
    (3 credits)
    One inquires whether the existence of God can be proved, and studies some of the main attempts to prove it (including the cosmological, the teleological, the ontological, and the moral proofs). One studies the problems of speaking about God without anthropomorphism (that is, speaking in such a way as not to reduce God to a finite being). One comes to grips with the main objections to traditional theism, such as those of Kant and Hume, and those of process theology, and with the attempt to disprove the existence of God on the basis of the evil in the world.

    PHL 626 Philosophy of Law
    (3 credits)
    One studies the different orders of law, especially the natural moral law and the positive law of the state, and their interrelations; this involves issues such as justice, authority, the is-ought distinction, the common good, and state punishment. Aquinas’ Treatise on Law is typically read, as are modern authors such as Hegel, Kelsen, and Reinach.

    PHL 628 The Nature of Love
    (3 credits)
    One studies this special area of the philosophy of the human person, looking closely at the personal response of love and the interpersonal relationship constituted by love. One studies the role both of the will and of the emotions in the act of loving. The relations between love and happiness, love and unity, and love and morality are explored. Different types of love may be examined, such as eros, agape, love of friendship, and familial loves. Betrothed love and its expression in and through the body sexually are also discussed. Both classical (e.g., Plato,Aristotle, Augustine, Aquinas, Scotus, Bernard of Clairvaux) and modern (e.g., Kierkegaard, Buber, Marcel, von Hildebrand, Pieper, Wojtyla) sources are utilized.

    PHL 632 Philosophy of Language
    (3 credits)
    One inquires into what the meaning of a word is and into the kind of reality that meaning has. One studies the “performative” functions of language that philosophers have only recently noticed and the emotive and prescriptive force of language. One is also introduced to recent philosophical studies of grammar and to the function of language in religion. Finally, one inquires into the place of language in the existence of person, asking whether language is only an instrument of communication and action or a realm in which the human person dwells.

    PHL 710 Philosophical Texts From Ancient and Medieval Philosophy
    (3 credits)
    One studies closely some classic texts of ancient or medieval philosophy, such as Plato’s Republic, Aristotle’s Metaphysics, St.Augustine’s De Trinitate, the works of St. Anselm, some part of the Summa Theologiae of St. Thomas, or some major work in the Franciscan tradition. The intent is to study the great works of philosophy more seriously than is possible when they are dealt with in other courses. This closer textual study will enable the students to deepen their understanding of the philosophical tradition in which they stand. This course can be taken more than once since its content will vary from semester to semester.

    PHL 720 Philosophical Texts From Modern and Contemporary Philosophy
    (3 credits)
    One studies closely some classic texts of modern or contemporary philosophy, such as Descartes’ Meditations, Kant’s Critiques, the works of Nietzsche, Husserl’s Logical Investigations, Sartre’s Being and Nothingness, Scheler’s Formalism in Ethics, Wittgenstein’s Tractatus, Maritain’s Degrees of Knowing, or Longergan’s Insight. The intent is to appropriate critically the philosophical tradition in which we stand. This course can be taken more than once since its content will vary from semester to semester.

    PHL 735 Advanced Studies in the History of Philosophy
    (3 credits)
    One studies not some main period of philosophy such as the medieval period. Rather this course introduces the student to a serious study of a specific school of philosophical thought, philosophical tradition within the history of philosophy, or philosophical problem within a historical setting. Examples include the influence of neo-platonism on medieval philosophy, analytic philosophy, the Muslim medieval tradition, contemporary Thomism, phenomenology, the influence of scholastic philosophy on modern philosophy, existentialism, pragmatism, and the impact of Christian revelation on philosophy, or the concept of the agent intellect in medieval philosophy. This course can be taken more than once since its content will vary.

    PHL 815 Selected Issues in the Philosophy of the Human Person
    (3 credits)
    One studies in depth a particular issue in philosophical anthropology. Examples include the problem of individuation, the nature of subjectivity, the relation between the soul and body, the immortality of the person, and issues involving acts of the human person such as love, freedom, or aesthetic enjoyment. Possible issues also include some topics that fall within social philosophy or the philosophy of community such as the nature of intersubjectivity, types of social acts, the nature of marriage and the family, the nature of the common good, and the relation between human beings and the state. This course can be taken more than once since its content will vary.

    PHL 825 Selected Issues in Metaphysics
    (3 credits)
    This course examines in depth a particular topic in metaphysics. Examples include the transcendental properties of being, the relation between substance and accident, the problem of universals, what time is, and the relation between being and value. Possible topics include those that fall within the area of natural theology such as the cosmological arguments for the existence of God, the problem of God and evil, and the various attributes of God. This course also encompasses questions of ontology such as the ontology of certain aesthetic objects and the ontology of relations. This course can be taken more than once since its content will vary.

    PHL 835 Selected Issues in Epistemology
    (3 credits)
    This course focuses on a particular topic in epistemology. Examples include the role of sense perception in knowledge, the nature of error, the difference between knowledge and opinion, the various forms of evidence in knowledge, and the social and historical conditions of knowledge. This course also encompasses issues in the philosophy of religion such as the relation between faith and knowledge and revelation as a source of religious knowledge. This course can be taken more than once since its content will vary.

    PHL 845 Selected Issues in Ethics
    (3 credits)
    In this course one studies in depth a specific question or area of ethics such as sexual or environmental ethics, the nature of moral virtue and vice, the nature of conscience, and what natural law is. This course encompasses some topics that fall within the scope of political philosophy such as the nature of rights, the forms of justice, and the relation between moral obligation and duty. This course can be taken more than once since its content will vary.

    PHL 855 Selected Issues in Philosophical Logic
    (3 credits)
    This course focuses on the specific topic in philosophical logic. Examples include principles of probability, tense logic, the nature of reference, set theory, the nature of conditional propositions, principles of modal logic, propositions and states of affairs, negative states of affairs, the status of logical laws, and logical atomism. This course can be taken more than once since its content will vary.

    PHL 910 Thesis Research
    (3 credits)
    A thesis of 45 to 75 pages, which is to be orally defended, is required of all MA Philosophy students. The permission of the Director of MA Philosophy is needed in order to enroll in PHL 910. Students should consult the Director for further information regarding the conditions that must be met before they can enroll in Thesis Research and the guidelines for writing the thesis.

    PHL 999 Thesis Extension
    (0 credits)
    Registration for this optional non-credited course indicates that the student is involved in studies necessary for the completion of the MA degree in philosophy. At the end of each extension period the student must demonstrate progress toward the completion of the thesis. Master’s students are allowed to register for PHL 999 no more than two (2) times. A matriculation fee is required. This fee entitles the student to the use of the library and other basic services.


    Graduate students are expected to maintain sufficient progress toward a degree. Any student not showing promise of completing a program in a reasonable amount of time or whose academic performance is less than a 3.0 may be advised to withdraw from the University. Evaluation of student performance and progress will be monitored by the student advisor in consultation with the other members of the permanent graduate faculty. A review of each student’s performance will be made at the end of the student’s first year. An unfavorable review can lead to warning or to probationary status that can be removed after a third semester’s work, at which time those on probation will be reviewed again. If a second review is unfavorable, the student will not be allowed to proceed to the thesis. Should a student disagree with an unfavorable evaluation by the graduate faculty, he or she may appeal to the Vice President for Academic Affairs.

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