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European Philosophy (MA)

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Course overview

Open for 2016 entry, Royal Holloway's MA in European Philosophy offers one of the few Masters-level programmes in the country to specialise in the 'European' tradition in philosophy.

Drawing on core research and teaching strengths in 19th and 20th-century French and German thought, the MA gives students the opportunity to study the development of European philosophy from Kant’s critical philosophy onwards, with a focus on German Idealism, the German phenomenologists and the Frankfurt School on one side, and the French philosophical movements in the 20th Century from Bergson and the existentialist movement through to poststructuralism and psychoanalysis.

Options focus a variety of topics and thinkers, focusing on the Continental tradition in political philosophy, the Frankfurt School, the role of aesthetics in the development of European thought, and more. 

Key facts

Key facts about the course
Qualification Master of Arts
Duration 1 year full-time or two years part-time
Department and Faculty Politics and International Relations, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
Partner institution(s) N/A
Course director Professor Nathan Widder
Contact for more information n.e.widder@royalholloway.ac.uk / +44 (0) 1784 414127

Fees / funding

Please visit the Fees and funding pages for the latest information about tuition fees and the different sources of funding which may be available to you.

How to apply

Applications for entry to all our full-time postgraduate degrees can be made online.

Further information on making an application, including the documentation that you will need to submit with the application is available in the How to apply section of this site.

If you are interested in applying to Royal Holloway, why not arrange a visit to our campus to see for yourself what academic and student life is like here. More information on arranging visits is available on our Open days pages.


Entry requirements

Entry criteria:

Normally a minimum of a 2:1 UK honours degree or overseas equivalent. However each application will be considered on a case by case basis.

We will consider students from non-traditional backgrounds on the basis of the submission of a substantial essay on philosophy, or demonstrable research experience, and an interview.

Interviews may be held in cases where the entry requirements are not formally fulfilled, and essays may also be requested.

English language requirements:

IELTS 6.5 overall with 7.0 in writing and a minimum of 5.5 in all other subscores. For equivalences, please see here


Students from overseas should visit the International pages for information on the entry requirements from their country and further information on English language requirements. Royal Holloway offers a Pre-Master’s Diploma for International Students and English language pre-sessional courses, allowing students the opportunity to develop their study skills and English language before starting their postgraduate degree.


Why choose this course?

  • you will be able to explore key issues, thinkers and texts from the European tradition on one of the few programmes in the country to specialise in European philosophy

  • academic staff have a broad range of interests including German Idealism, the Frankfurt School, French and German phenomenology, poststructuralism, and modern European political theory

  • the flexible structure of the course allows students to concentrate on European philosophy, or to also engage with a broader range of options

  • we offer some studentships and bursaries in support of students taking the MA

  • you will have access to the vibrant intellectual community provided by being a part of the University of London.

Department research and industry highlights

  • Members of the teaching staff have a wide range of expertise, having published major works in a number of areas and on a number of figures, including Adorno; Aesthetics and Subjectivity; Altruism; Hegel; Deleuze; French and Continental Philosophy; Greek and Roman Aesthetics; the Holocaust and the Postmodern; Music, Philosophy, and Modernity; Richard Rorty; Romanticism to Critical Theory; Scepticism; Schelling; Time and Politics. 

Current projects include:  

  • examining the possibilities offered by aesthetics, and music in particular, for developing a non-cognitive model of thinking
  • investigating the coherence of the notion of tacit knowledge, and its implications for knowledge more generally
  • tracing the development of modern French thought to its origins in German Idealism
  • imagination in ancient aesthetics
  • a pragmatist theory of deliberative democracy
  • arguments in defence of associative duties
  • psychoanalytic and post-Nietzschean conceptions of agency and selfhood

Course content and structure

Programme structure

Advanced Topics in Philosophy (20 credits)

Two courses from among:

Contemporary Continental Political Thought (20 credits); The European Philosophical Trajectory (20 credits); and Twentieth Century French Thought (20 credits).

40 credits of option courses from available options

Dissertation (60 credits)

Core course units:

Advanced Topics in Philosophy (40 credits)

The aim of this course is to allow students to engage with cutting edge research from across the range of philosophical sub-fields. The course also allows students to develop their understanding of the nature of philosophy and the diversity of philosophical methods, as well to further improve their abilities at written and oral communication of philosophical ideas and arguments. The course will be taught by a number of philosophers who teach on the wider MA programmes, and will be divided into four parts, each presenting a five week introduction to a topic researched by the academic. It will allow students enrolled on the different MA Philosophy streams to compare approaches, and see their own specialism within a wider philosophical context. The module will be taught via a two hour weekly seminar.

Contemporary Continental Political Thought (20 credits)

The course addresses key questions and arguments concerning the relationship between identity, power, meaning and knowledge, through examination of key figures in contemporary Continental political thought and philosophy. Specific content varies from year to year, but may include key texts from Nietzsche, Heidegger, Adorno, Sartre, Lacan, Irigaray, Foucault, Ranciere, and Deleuze & Guattari.

The European Philosophical Trajectory (20 credits)

The unit will involve ten two-hour seminars on key figures in European Philosophy. The course will run through a number of central figures and problems from Immanuel Kant to the work of Jacques Derrida and Theodor Adorno. Texts will not necessarily be read in their entirety.

Twentieth Century French Thought (20 credits)

This course will trace the development of French philosophical thought from its early assimilation of Husserl’s phenomenology to later post-modern and post-structuralist thinkers. The course is research-led, and so specific philosophers covered on the course are subject to change, but indicative philosophers would include Gabriel Marcel, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Gilles Deleuze, Michel Foucault, and Alain Badiou.

Dissertation on European Philosophy (60 credits)


Elective course units:

Adorno and Critical Theory (20 credits)

Anglo-American Political Theory (20 credits)

Continental Aesthetics (20 credits)

Human Rights (20 credits)

Identity, Power and Radical Political Theory (20 credits)

Issues in Normative Epistemology (20 credits)

Legacies of Wittgenstein (20 credits)

Neo-Platonism (40 credits)

Political Concepts (20 credits)


On completion of the course graduates will have:

  • a knowledge of the broad range of philosophical approaches adopted in the European tradition, such as phenomenology, existentialism, hermeneutics, and transcendental empiricism

  • detailed understanding of some of the key philosophers in the European tradition

  • an ability to read complex philosophical texts with an appreciation of the role of style and context in their composition

  • an understanding of the broader philosophical landscape, and the place of European philosophy within it.


Assessment is carried out by a variety of methods including coursework and a dissertation.

Employability & career opportunities

Our graduates are highly employable and would be prepared for careers in a wide range of areas. This course also equips you with the subject knowledge and a solid foundation for continued PhD studies. 


Related courses

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