Master's degree programme in Philosophy
Philosophy. Understanding reality
Philosophy is reflection – it advances our understanding of reality and our place within it by raising fundamental questions. Philosophers analyse the content of concepts and claims that common sense and science take for granted. They investigate the conditions of human experience and understanding from the most comprehensive perspective, and they discuss our current norms, values, and practices. By exploring the facts and fictions of theoretical and practical rationality within science and society, philosophy provides the interpretive discourses and logical tools that allow us to generate and maintain transparency in how we reason about what we are and what we do. The MA programme in philosophy at Aarhus University offers advanced courses in the main areas of contemporary professional philosophy, taught by professors with doctoral degrees from leading international departments including Cambridge, Oxford, Pittsburgh, Canberra (ANU), St Andrews and Tübingen. The guiding principle of our curriculum is to offer our students a learning environment that encourages specialisation but never loses sight of general philosophical competencies: that provides the best philosophical education and the best career opportunities.
The track concept: specialisation and early engagement with research
Our two-year programme is divided into four tracks that reflect the departmental areas of active research and allow students to pursue their interests at an advanced level in both the analytical and the continental tradition of philosophy:
- Track A: Epistemology, metaphysics and philosophy of cognition
- Track B: Idealism and post-idealism
- Track C: Ethics, legal and political philosophy
- Track D: Philosophy of science and technology in society
Students concentrate their efforts on the core courses and research laboratories offered in one of the tracks. Core courses provide advanced introductions to relevant areas of the current research discussion. In research labs, students practise their research skills, explore ideas, and become directly engaged with the ongoing departmental research activities. The MA thesis is produced interactively under the supervision of experts.
Beyond the track: philosophy in context
In supplementary courses from the other tracks, students broaden their competencies in philosophy and become part of a lively and openminded research environment with many international events. We cultivate an informal climate of intellectual curiosity, we value collaboration across different philosophical traditions, and we actively explore interdisciplinary research with the health-care sciences, cognitive science, anthropology, information science, robotics, and other disciplines. The programme is designed to prepare our students for a wide variety of workplaces both within academia and outside. All four tracks give students the opportunity to experience the praxis of professional academic philosophy. In their third semester students take a philosophy semester abroad, put their philosophical skills to use in a business company or a public social institution, or work on their 'professional profiles' taking university - wide 'profile' courses that address the demands of specific sectors of the labour market.
Philosophy and intellectual history
Our MA programme is embedded in the recently established "Research programme in Philosophy and Intellectual History" and with more than 50 researchers, it is one of the largest platforms of its kind.
For more information about research activities, please see our calendar.
The programme familiarizes students with topics that are currently at the forefront of the professional research debate in philosophy. The programme as a whole, however, is also committed to teaching “philosophy that matters” – both for society and for science.
Track A engages students in the most important and intriguing current issues in theoretical analytical philosophy. Our courses and student projects address research questions within a wide variety of topics such as aspects of the epistemology of counterfactual reasoning; skepticism; conceptions of rationality; the metaphysics of time, space, and modality; process ontology; philosophical aspects of embodied cognition research; and theoretical aspects of social robotics. Special attention is also given to methodological questions about the relationship between the philosophy of cognition, and the empirical study of human cognition in cognitive psychology and neuroscience..
Track B provides students with in-depth scholarly knowledge about key figures in idealist and post-idealist philosophy. Courses in this track explore the relevance of thinkers such as Kant, Hegel, Schelling, Kierkegaard, Husserl, Heidegger, Cassirer, Gadamer, Sartre, Foucault, and Wittgenstein in contemporary discussion contexts. The track’s general aim is to investigate the relation between our conceptions of the world and human capacities of knowing, understanding, perceiving, feeling, and acting. These investigations often link to studies in aesthetics, religion, culture and language. The track’s central tenet is that we can acquire a deeper understanding of all issues, even those of metaphysics, mathematics, and logic, through a philosophical approach that takes the human being as its starting point.
Track C focuses on ethics, legal and political philosophy (ELPP). We offer courses such as Advanced Ethics, Metaethics, Pragmatism, Practical Reason, The Ethics of War, Well-Being and Public Policy, Professional Ethics the Limits of Liberalism, Theories of Rights, Theories of Punishment, Ethics and Cogntive Science, Moral Responsibility and Global Issues, , The Moral Limits of the Market, Ideal and Non-Ideal Theory in Practical Philosophy. Special attention is given to cover the empirical aspects, be they psychological, economic, legal or political, that underlie, follow from, or otherwise connect with the philosophical issues under discussion.
Track D addresses issues in philosophy of science and philosophy of technology that are at the forefront of current social concern. The courses of this track relate philosophical concerns to basic considerations of social policy making. Typical topics include: health, environment, and social justice; science and democracy; sociable technologies such as social robotics; ethics of biotechnology; the link between philosophy and history of science and technology; risk and hope in biomedicine and public health; science studies and philosophy of practice.
Track seminars and lab
The four tracks of the MA program in Philosophy cover each a number of main area, as signaled by the title of the track. Thus we offer in each semester a 'track seminar' and a 'research lab,' typically with alternating areas alternating topical focus. The 'track seminars' introduce the core issues in the area; they are units of intensive instruction. In contrast, the 'research labs' have the following three general objectives:
- They involve students in the current research discussion by commentaries on guest lectures
- They help students to develop and practice advanced research skills in the mode of 'learning by doing'—by developing their own research projects
- They introduce students to new topics in the area that are not covered by the track seminar
We use a variety of different teaching styles and methods; these depend on the various pedagogical goals we are trying to achieve. Thus they typically differ somewhat from track to track.
In the seminars we lecture when it is necessary to provide efficient introductions and overviews. More often we teach by creating a focused discussion space that we jointly explore with our students.
Our most important teaching tool, however, is individual project development, typical in the form of a research talk or course paper. ’Learning by doing’ is not enough—it is interactive learning that achieves the best results. So we invite our students to actively pursue an individual project, and we accompany all steps of the project development. In particular, we give our students feedback on several drafts of their course papers.
Read more, print and be inspired
Download and print a short presentation of the Master's degree programme in Philosophy 2014.
Line A (NB: Taught in Danish or English)
Line A consists of two years' study of philosophy.
To fulfil the admission requirements for line A, the student must have completed a Bachelor’s degree in philosophy or including philosophical content, for example the Bachelor's degree in philosophy from Aarhus University, University of Copenhagen or University of Southern Denmark; or the Bachelor's degree in history of ideas from Aarhus University.
A Bachelor's degree in a humanistic subject combined with a supplementary subject in Humanistic Organisational Development (2010 academic regulations), where the average grade of graded exams is no less than 7, is also sufficient for admission to the Master's degree programme in philosophy.
Line B (NB: Taught in Danish)
Line B consists of 75 ECTS points in philosophy combined with 45 ECTS of an upper secondary school subject.
To fulfil the admission requirements for line B, the student must have completed a Bachelor’s degree with 135 ECTS points in Philosophy and a Bachelor's supplementary subject of 45 ECTS points in another upper secondary school subject.
The Bachelor's degrees in philosophy from Aarhus University, University of Copenhagen and University of Southern Denmark with a 45 ECTS-point supplementary subject in an upper secondary school subject are sufficient for admission to be granted.
Line C (NB: Taught in Danish)
Line C consists of two years' study of philosophy, as with line A. The first 45 ECTS points are identical to the Master's supplementary subject in philosophy.
Line C is available to students who have studied the Bachelor's supplementary subject in philosophy and wish to convert philosophy to their core subject, i.e. to study the Master's degree programme in philosophy based on their Bachelor's supplementary subject. To fulfil the admission requirements for line C, the student must have completed a Bachelor’s degree with a Bachelor's supplementary subject (45 ECTS points) in philosophy.
The Board of Studies decides, based on individual assessment, whether applicants with other Bachelor's degrees than the above have the academic qualifications required for their application to be accepted.
Legal right of admission
Students of the Bachelor's degree programme in philosophy at Aarhus University have the right to be admitted to the Master's degree programme in philosophy on the condition that application is made with a view to continuing directly from the Bachelor's degree programme to the Master's degree programme. The legal right of admission requires receipt of the application by Aarhus University within the appropriate period of time.
As the Master’s degree programme in Philosophy (due to government legislation) only admits a limited number of students each year, meeting the admission requirements does not in itself guarantee admission to the programme.
In evaluating qualified applicants, the admissions committee assesses each applicant on the basis of the average mark (i.e. GPA) of the Bachelor’s degree at the time of application. Marks/grades obtained after the application deadline will not be included in the GPA.
The admissions committee assesses each applicant’s marks on the basis of the information provided by diplomas and transcripts.
All three lines of the master’s programme in Philosophy is taught in Danish, and require Danish at 'A' level or equivalent
However, Line A is available for students with foreign qualifications applying for courses where teaching is conducted in English. In such cases the requirement for Danish at 'A' level is replaced by English at 'B' level or equivalent.
In addition to the general documentation requirements, you must upload the following documentation to your application:
- Bachelor’s students without a Bachelor’s degree with Philosophy as their main focus must upload a Statement of relevance in English (1-2 pages) which explains:
- the relevance of your Bachelor’s degree in relation to the Master’s programme
- your career plans
- the courses in your Bachelor’s degree which have particular relevance to the Master’s programme
All students choose one of the four educational tracks as their primary study area. This is the area where they expect later to write their thesis. In their first year, students take the core module offered in their chosen track (i.e., a seminar and a lab yielding a total of 20 ECTS), as well as one seminar (or subject course, 10 ECTS) from one of the other two tracks. In their third semester students receive additional education that will support their career development. In the fourth semester, students return to the programme to write their thesis (30 ECTS).
The academic regulations for the MA study in philosophy provide detailed information about requirements in the full MA programme in philosophy (A-line). In addition, the regulations specify how one may take MA courses in philosophy in connection with another MA education (B-line) or on the basis of a BA education that is only partly in philosophy (C-line). (Click on the tabs "A-Linje", "B-Linje" etc. in the dropdown menu to see the different options.
In the academic regulations for the MA study in philosophy provide detailed information about requirements in the full MA programme in philosophy (A-line). In addition, the regulations specify how one may take MA courses in philosophy in connection with another MA education (B-line) or on the basis of a BA education that is only partly in philosophy (C-line).
As a student at the Department of Philosophy, you spend every day at the Nobel Park, which is an extension of the university complex. The Nobel Park is where many humanistic degree programmes are based. The Department of Philosophy has its own library and reading room, but shares lecture theatres, the canteen and surrounding areas with the other fields of study at the Nobel Park.
There are many activities, most of them in Danish, for philosophy students to take part in:
- The Student Committee, where you can discuss academic aspects of your degree programme and contribute to its further development.
- The Philosophical Association is the lecture association for this subject, where lecturers from Denmark and abroad.
- Filosofisk Studenterkollokvium (Philosophical Students Colloquium) is a student initiative that aims at creating an open, academic forum where you can try out philosophical ideas in front of interested fellow students.
- Doxa is the name of the philosophy students’ newsletter, and it is published twice per term. Here you can read philosophical discussions or make your own contributions.
- Philosophia is the name of a publishing house mainly run by students.
- Eliten is the students’ own film club, which publishes a programme each term. Here you can see films that are anything but mainstream.
- The social meeting place for philosophy students is the Friday bar Panta Rei, where you can chat over a glass of beer.
In addition, there are many other events for students at the Faculty of Arts and the University of Aarhus in general – e.g. lectures, intro days, career days, seminars, celebrations and sports days.
Student-to-student is your opportunity to ask about being a student at the Faculty of Arts and about Aarhus and Denmark in general to another international student who has already taken the leap and now lives in Denmark and studies for his/her Master's degree at the Faculty of Arts.
You can read more about the student-to-student service and find the list of AU international student ambassadors at Arts here.
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Job functions for grads
This data is derived from AU's 2013/2014 employment survey. This data should not be considered a completely accurate representation of the labour market and job functions for all graduates of the individual degree programmes. It exclusively represent the responses submitted to the survey in the years in question.
By completing the MA programme our graduates gain specific expertise in philosophy and are well prepared for a career in academic research. But they also acquire the following general competences that provide invaluable assets for many employment contexts, especially those with requirements of leadership skills:
- Systematic analysis of complex problems: Philosophy graduates are trained to analyze complex texts and problems with the aim of core ideas, weaknesses of arguments, and solution paths that have been overlooked because of unquestioned presuppositions. This peculiar competence of being able to address complex problems with intellectual calm and systematic understanding is a central asset in management and public policy development.
- Clear and concise presentation of ideas: Philosophy graduates are trained to cut straight to the bone and to think and express themselves with precision and logical consistency. Such efficient communication skills matter in many employment context that involve fast rational decision making.
- Mediation and communication: Since philosophy graduates learn to read texts and to listen with care and critical acumen, they are able to pinpoint the causes of misunderstandings and communication failures in contexts of rational negotiation and conflict resolution.
- Visualization and creating context: Philosophy graduates learn to put certain positions within a wide historical, ideological, and cultural contexts and to understand them as contributions of an ongoing debate. This capacity of creating perspectives and visions beyond a given horizon is an invaluable skill in successful leadership.
- “Bildung” and a sense of responsibility: Philosophy graduates are exposed to the most important foundational ideas in the history of Western thought, and they are familiar with the most impressive attempts to ground morality and determine the common good. This exposure creates not only conceptual sophistication and an appreciation for intellectual culture, but also an attitude of responsibility. In particular this latter capacity of holding decisions consistently and activity to reflected ethical standards should be an invaluable asset for many employments contexts.
Employers increasingly appreciate that philosophy graduates have outstanding transferable skills in analytical, innovative thinking. With a degree in philosophy you can create transparency in complex decision contexts and communicate complex subjects to a variety of audiences. Outside of academia our alumni are employed in IT, consultancy, and public administration.
The five most common career paths for Danish philosophy graduates are:
- Teaching: About one fifth of the philosophy graduates from the University of Aarhus find jobs as upper secondary school teachers or in other kinds of school.
- Consultancy: A growing number of philosophy graduates find employment as consultant in areas such as IT, communication, organisation or HR. Knowledge of categorisation, systematics, logic, philosophy of science and ethics is important here.
- Public sector: As a philosophy graduate, you can also work in one of the many kinds of academic position in the public sector, e.g. administration, management, counselling, cultural advisor, health sector, project management etc.
PhD degree programmes at the Faculty of Arts
In philosophy, you also have the option of applying for admission to the PhD programme at the faculty’s Graduate School. You can apply when you have completed your Bachelor’s degree and one year of your Master’s degree studies or when you have completed your Master’s degree. Read more about PhD degree programmes at the Faculty of Arts.
You can also read more about a range of career guidance services including special events and workshops at AU Career.