Prospective Graduate Students
The Philosophy Department at Simon Fraser University offers graduate degrees at both the Masters and the PhD level. We are especially proud of our two innovative MA programs, quite possibly unique in North America. Most of the students we accept are in MA programs. We have worked very hard on structuring our small PhD program to make sure our graduates emerge with both a solid philosophical education and the best possible dissertation in hand. We accept a few exceptional PhD students.
Please see The Graduate Handbook for full details of our programs.
The department is particularly strong in Ethics, Philosophy of Mind, Philosophy of Science, and we have expertise in some areas of Epistemology and Metaphysics, as well as History of Early Modern, Ancient, and of Analytic Philosophy and Logic. (See individual faculty members' web-pages for details). Several faculty members have strong interests in empirical research in Psychology and Neuroscience, and the Philosophy Department is a participant in SFU’s Cognitive Science program. SFU Graduate students can take advantage of the expertise offered at the University of British Columbia Philosophy Department by taking UBC courses or having UBC faculty as members of their supervisory committees.
Student Testimonials - MA Program
"When I first applied to the graduate programs from Turkey, I encountered two obstacles: my undergraduate program was not well-known in North America and I did not have enough time to polish my sample paper. The MA program at SFU helped me to overcome both of these. At SFU, I had the opportunity to take stimulating classes, which not only extended my philosophical horizon but also gave me an opportunity to get reference letters from well-known professors, and with the non-thesis MA option I had the time to prepare a well polished writing sample under the invaluable guidance of my advisor. Thanks to SFU, my application to the graduate schools was a success in the second round!"
-- Nazim Keven (SFU M.A. 2009), currently a PhD student in the Philosophy-Neuroscience-Psychology program at Washington University, St. Louis
"My experience at SFU was invaluable to my development as a philosopher. When I entered the program I was unsure whether I wanted to commit to a PhD in philosophy; and even if I had been sure, I would not have been in a position to get into a top program. My time at SFU allowed me the opportunity to explore a range of philosophical interests. Engaging with these interests at a more advanced level solidified my desire to pursue a career in philosophy and also put me in a better position to get into a competitive PhD program."
-- Trey Boone (SFU M.A. 2010), currently a PhD student in History and Philosophy of Science, University of Pittsburgh
"I strongly recommend the MA program in philosophy at SFU because it provides a very useful introduction to graduate work and helps to round out one's knowledge of philosophy. In my time at SFU, I learned a great deal about academia broadly speaking, and in particular, about carving out a career in academic philosophy. Most importantly, because of the program's attentiveness to helping its students during the PhD application process, my participation in the program enabled me to gain admission to a first-rate PhD program."
-- Amanda Bryant (SFU M.A. 2011), currently a PhD student in the Department of Philosophy at the City University of New York (CUNY)
Profile interview with Lauren Kopajtic (SFU M.A. 2011), currently a PhD student in the Department of Philosophy at Harvard University.
Hi Lauren! Tell us about yourself: where are you now and what are you up to?
I’m currently in my third year at Harvard, in the department of philosophy. I spent my first and second years mostly doing coursework, but also working on what Harvard calls the “Second Year Paper” (2YP). I wrote my 2YP with Professor Rusty Jones on Plato’s Phaedrus, and the paper is titled “Love, Madness and Philosophy: The Philosophical Life in Plato’s Phaedrus.” This year I began my teaching career at Harvard and I’m working on research for my Prospectus. Things are still in a formative stage, but I plan to write my dissertation on early modern philosophy, in particular, on conceptions of the relation between reason and the passions that focus on the work of self-control and the role that philosophy plays in that work. I hope to also discuss the ways in which the early modern philosophers were relying on, appropriating, and transforming conceptions from ancient philosophy, focusing on the notions of self-control we find in Plato’s works and also in the works of the Stoics. I plan to write my dissertation under the supervision of Professor Alison Simmons, but my eventual committee is otherwise undecided. My research interests are in early modern philosophy, particularly in Descartes and Spinoza, ancient philosophy, particularly Plato, and the intersection of philosophy and literature.
What did you do before coming to SFU?
I received a BA in English literature from University of Connecticut in 2004. I then studied for two years at St. John’s College (SJC) in Annapolis, MD. I received an MA in Liberal Arts from SJC in 2006. I then worked as a paralegal for about a year in New York, and spent another year working for a local government office in Maryland.
What made you decide to enroll in SFU’s MA program?
After my experience at SJC, I decided I wanted to pursue a PhD in philosophy. I tried to apply for PhD programs the same year I applied to SFU’s MA program, and every application was denied. I realized that I very much needed to do some basic coursework in philosophy, and SFU was generous enough to accept a late application from me. I was admitted to SFU as a qualifying MA student in 2006.
What was it like to study at SFU? How has the MA degree helped you out in your philosophical career?
I wouldn’t have had a philosophical career without SFU! Even though I read many canonical philosophical texts at SJC, I was not prepared for a PhD in philosophy. This wasn’t just a matter of not having the right credentials, I really did need to expand my knowledge of contemporary philosophy and to learn some fundamentals. I was also fortunate enough to be able to work with Professor Lisa Shapiro at SFU, and to begin to work in earnest on topics in the early modern philosophy. This supervision and my coursework at SFU left me poised to begin the program at Harvard in earnest the moment I arrived. I had a good sense of the work I wanted to do eventually, and felt confident in my coursework at Harvard. I was also able to count two of the courses I took at SFU toward my requirements at Harvard, thus leaving me time to focus more closely on my research interests. I also benefitted very much from the ‘professional paper’ option at SFU. That paper was my writing sample for graduate applications and I’m currently planning to revise and rework it into something suitable for submission to conferences.
Studying at SFU was a very beneficial experience, and I would highly recommend SFU’s MA program, especially to students coming from a non-philosophy background who are nonetheless hoping to pursue a PhD in philosophy.