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Modern Philosophy (MA)

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Course overview

Open for 2016 entry, Royal Holloway's MA in Modern Philosophy offers a unique approach to postgraduate study of philosophy. Whereas most Masters programmes focus either on an area of Anglo-American ‘analytical’ philosophy, or on ‘European’ or ‘Continental’ Philosophy, our MA enables you to investigate both notional traditions of philosophy.

Incorporating both the analytical focus on technical philosophical problems and the European focus on the social and political implications of philosophy, the MA reflects the way in which many of the most important developments in contemporary philosophy are resulting from a new dialogue between the traditions, as seen in figures like Richard Rorty and John McDowell, who were trained in the analytical tradition but think it is vital to read Hegel and Heidegger, and Jürgen Habermas and Manfred Frank, who, although trained in the European tradition, engage with analytical ideas. 

Key facts

Key facts about the course
Qualification Master of Arts
Duration 1 year full-time or 2 years part-time
Department and Faculty Politics and International Relations, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
Partner institution(s) --
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 UK Upper Second Class Honours degree (2:1) or equivalent. However, applications 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 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 equivalencies see here|.

The MA is open both to those who have studied on a predominantly analytical first degree philosophy course who wish to find out more about Kant, Nietzsche, and others; and to those who have either studied European philosophy or have become interested in philosophy via other subjects in the humanities and other areas, and wish to gain more philosophical expertise.

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.

Additional entry requirements:

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

Why choose this course?

  • the programme is well attuned to the growing awareness that work in philosophy which remains within either just the analytical tradition or just the European tradition may soon be outmoded

  • you will explore the key issues, thinkers and texts likely to determine the future development of philosophy. The course will give you expertise in the analytical and European traditions, and suggest ways beyond the differences in the traditions

  • the course is taught by a staff of experts in both fields

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

  • if you wish to continue working in the academic sphere, you will be able to do further research and apply for jobs in a greater variety of university departments than if you had only studied either analytical or European philosophy. 

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 at 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 (40 credits)

The European Philosophical Trajectory 20 credits)

Legacies of Wittgenstein (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.

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.

Legacies of Wittgenstein (20 credits)

The aim of this unit will be to explore the development of the analytic tradition from the second world war until the present. Focusing on the consequences of Wittgenstein’s work for our conception of philosophy, the course covers the debate about naturalizing normativity in its various domains (McDowell and Brandom and their opponents).

Dissertation on Modern Philosophy (60 credits)


Elective course units: 

Adorno and Critical Theory (20 credits)

Anglo-American Political Theory (20 credits)

Contemporary Continental 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)

Neo-Platonism (40 credits) 

Political Concepts (20 credits)

Twentieth Century French Thought (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.

View the full course specification for Modern Philosophy (MA) in the Programme Specification Repository


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. 


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