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This archived information is dated to the 2009-10 academic year only and may no longer be current.

For currently applicable policies and information, see the current Stanford Bulletin.

Master of Arts in Philosophy

University requirements for the M.A. are discussed in the "Graduate Degrees" section of this bulletin.

Three programs lead to the M.A. in Philosophy. One is a general program providing a grounding in all branches of the subject. The others provide special training in one branch.

Admissions—All prospective master's students, including those currently enrolled in other Stanford programs, must apply for admission to the program. Please see the departmental web site at for applications deadlines. No fellowships are available. Entering students must meet with the director of the master's program and have their adviser's approval, in writing, of program proposals. The master's program should not be considered a stepping stone to the doctoral program; these two programs are separate and distinct.

Unit Requirements—Each program requires a minimum of 45 units in philosophy. Students in a special program may be allowed or required to replace up to 9 units of philosophy by 9 units in the field of specialization. Although the requirements for the M.A. are designed so that a student with the equivalent of a strong undergraduate philosophy major at Stanford might complete them in one year, most students need longer. Students should also keep in mind that although 45 units is the minimum required by the University, quite often more units are necessary to complete department requirements. Up to 6 units of directed reading in philosophy may be allowed. There is no thesis requirement, but an optional master's thesis or project, upon faculty approval, may count as the equivalent of up to 8 units. A special program may require knowledge of a foreign language. At least 45 units in courses numbered 100 or above must be completed with a grade of 'B-' or better at Stanford. Students are reminded of the University requirements for advanced degrees, and particularly of the fact that for the M.A., students must complete three full quarters as measured by tuition payment.


The General Program requires a minimum of 45 units in Philosophy courses numbered above 99. These courses must be taken for a letter grade, and the student must receive at least a 'B-' in the course. Courses taken to satisfy the undergraduate core or affiliated courses may not be counted in the 45 units. The requirement has three parts:

  1. Undergraduate Core: students must have when they enter, or complete early in their program, the following undergraduate courses (students entering from other institutions should establish equivalent requirements with a master's adviser upon arrival or earlier):
    1. Logic: 50 (formerly 57), 150 (formerly 159), or 151 (formerly 160A)
    2. Philosophy of science: any course from 60, 61, 163-167
    3. Moral and political philosophy: one from 170-173
    4. Metaphysics and epistemology: one from 80, 180-189
    5. History of philosophy: two history of philosophy courses numbered 100 or above
  2. Graduate Core: students must take at least one course numbered over 105 from three of the following five areas (courses used to satisfy the undergraduate core cannot also be counted toward satisfaction of the graduate core). Cross listed and other courses taught outside the Department of Philosophy do not count towards satisfaction of the core.
    1. Logic and semantics
    2. Philosophy of science and history of science
    3. Ethics, value theory, and moral and political philosophy
    4. Metaphysics, epistemology, and philosophy of language
    5. History of philosophy

    Each master's candidate must take at least two courses numbered above 200 (these cannot be graduate sections of undergraduate courses). One may be a graduate core seminar (360, 370, 380, 381), but no student is admitted to a core seminar before completing undergraduate requirements in the area of the seminar and securing the approval of the instructor.

  3. Specialization: students must take at least three courses numbered over 105 in one of the five areas.


Students should have the equivalent of the Stanford undergraduate major in Symbolic Systems. Students who have a strong major in one of the basic SSP disciplines (philosophy, psychology, linguistics, computer science) may be admitted, but are required to do a substantial part of the undergraduate SSP core in each of the other basic SSP fields. This must include the following three philosophy courses or their equivalents: 80; 151 (formerly 160A); and one from 181, 183, 184, 186. This work does not count towards the 45-unit requirement.


  1. Four courses in philosophy at the graduate level (numbered 200 or above), including courses from three of the following five areas:
    1. Philosophy of language
    2. Logic
    3. Philosophy of mind
    4. Metaphysics and epistemology
    5. Philosophy of science

    At most two of the four courses may be graduate sections of undergraduate courses numbered 100 or higher.

  2. Three courses numbered 100 or higher from outside Philosophy, chosen in consultation with an adviser. These courses should be from two of the following four areas:
    1. Psychology
    2. Linguistics
    3. Computer Science
    4. Education

    Remaining courses are chosen in consultation with and approved by an adviser.


Admission is limited to students with substantial preparation in philosophy or linguistics. Those whose primary preparation has been in linguistics may be required to satisfy all or part of the undergraduate core requirements as described in the "General Program" subsection above. Those whose preparation is primarily in philosophy may be required to take additional courses in linguistics.


  1. Philosophy of language: two approved courses in the philosophy of language numbered 180 or higher.
  2. Syntactic theory and generative grammar: 384 and LINGUIST 231.
  3. Logic: at least two approved courses numbered 151 (formerly 160A) or higher.
  4. An approved graduate-level course in mathematical linguistics or automata theory.

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