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Department of Philosophy

Graduate Program

A rising centre of excellence in the North American philosophical community, Ryerson’s Department of Philosophy offers an intense program leading to a Master of Arts (MA) degree in philosophy. Located in the heart of Toronto’s vibrant downtown, the program contributes to the thriving research culture in Canada’s largest and most cosmopolitan city.

Focused on core areas of philosophy, the program is designed for students who wish to broaden or deepen their undergraduate experience in philosophy and for students planning to pursue a PhD in philosophy. Our innovative 5-term program includes both a Major Research Paper stream and a Thesis stream.

Many of our students choose to continue their philosophical studies at the PhD level, and we have had great success placing our students in outstanding doctoral programs. Our students have been accepted into programs at Oxford, UCLA, McGill, the University of Toronto, Emory, DePaul, Vanderbilt, and many more. To view       the entire list, please download the (Word Doc) PhD Placements Handout.

Students will gain

Exposure to a wide array of philosophical topics

The program includes courses on the nature of the human self, mind and agency; the grounds of our moral and political obligations; the nature, value and limits of knowledge and belief; the value of aesthetic and religious claims and experiences; society’s influence on our conceptions of ourselves and our world; and questions about the ultimate nature of reality.

Experience with diverse philosophical approaches

Students will explore both recent works from the leading figures in contemporary Analytic and Continental philosophy, as well as the foundations of current debates, through close study of the most important philosophical texts of the past.

Solid preparation for PhD study in philosophy

By providing students with broad exposure to the core traditions, eras and topics in philosophy, along with the opportunity to write a Major Research Paper or Thesis, the program will position students to gain entry to, and succeed at, top-ranked PhD programs in Canada and the United States.

Valuable professional skills

The program aims to develop the analytical, communication, organization, study and research skills needed to succeed in the profession and in the general workplace. Students will study these skills in the innovative Professional Seminar, practice them through teaching assistantships in critical thinking and moral philosophy, and then sharpen them as they engage in research, leading to a Major Research Paper or a Thesis.


Interested in Applying for Fall 2017? 

  • Click on the red "How to Apply" tab above for admission requirements.
  • Click on the red "Program Info" tab above for more key information about our program.
  • Click here to begin the application process.

We begin reviewing applications on February 14th, 2017.

Important Notes for International Applicants:

  • Due to the structure of our funding, our program is able to take only a very small number of international applicants each year. 
  • International students pay roughly double the tuition of Canadian students, and are ineligible for some forms of funding.

Philosophy (MA) Degree Requirements

Students may follow either a Major Research Paper (MRP) stream or a Thesis stream.

Stream Term 1
Term 2
Term 3
Term 4
Term 5
Professional Seminar;
2 electives
3 electives
MA Research;
Area Readings
MA Research
Professional Seminar;
2 electives
3 electives
MA Research;
Area Readings
MA Research;
1 elective
1 elective

Professional Seminar

In Term 1, students complete the Professional Seminar, a course designed to introduce students to the professional skills needed to succeed in the program and in the general workplace.

Area Readings

In Term 3, students complete Area Readings consisting of independent but guided research in a core area of philosophy.

Masters Research

In Terms 3 and 4, students conduct independent philosophical research towards the completion, in Term 5, of a Thesis or Major Research Paper.

Elective Courses

Students pursuing the Major Research Paper stream take 7 electives, while those in the Thesis stream take 5.


This course is a study of what canonical and contemporary philosophers have said about several central problems in the theory of knowledge. Topics may include: theories of justification; scepticism; the limits of belief and knowledge; perception, intuition and other sources of evidence; the social construction of knowledge; science and pseudo-science; a priori and a posteriori knowledge; knowledge of mathematical truths.


This course is a study of what canonical and contemporary philosophers have said about several central metaphysical problems. Topics may include: being and existence; the existence and nature of abstract objects; modality and possible worlds; the nature of time; personal identity; and metaphysical realism and anti-realism.


This course is a study of philosophical issues relating to the natural sciences. The course may examine themes such as the relation between science and its social context, the nature of scientific reasoning, and the scope of scientific descriptions of reality. Specific topics may include: causation, philosophical problems of quantum mechanics, natural laws, the objectivity of science, and the existence of theoretical entities.


This course is a study of what canonical and contemporary philosophers have said about religion. Topics may include: concepts of God and ultimate reality; arguments for and against the existence of God; the relationship between faith and reason; religious diversity; miracles; religion and science; religion and ethics.


This course will examine philosophical issues regarding both the nature of language and the relation of language to other matters. The first group of issues includes topics such as: what distinguishes linguistic communication from other types of communication; how metaphors work; the ways in which language is rule-governed; the distinction between semantics and pragmatics. The second group of issues includes topics such as: the relation between language and thought, between language and truth, language and rationality, and language and gender.


This course will examine a selection of views and issues that have arisen out of philosophical attempts to make sense of "the mind". Some of these views may be historical, while others will be contemporary. Issues taken up may include: mind-body dualism and its critics; materialism and its critics; behaviourism and its critics; the nature of sensory experience and its relation to thought; mind/brain identity theories; the relation(s) between thought and language; functionalism and its critics; the nature of consciousness; the possibility of "naturalizing" the mind; whether non-human animals have thoughts; whether computers do, or could in principle, think; emotions and their expression; innatist accounts of learning; cognition as information processing.


This course will explore a core theme in the general cluster of Philosophy of Human Rights, Law and Punishment. Examples include: transformations in philosophical theories of human rights, from Lockean Natural Rights theory to contemporary Egalitarianism (including Capability Theory and Feminist Theories); transformations in philosophical theories of punishment, revisioning deterrence, retributivism and restorative justice; transformations in philosophical theories of distributive justice (including Libertarianism, Rawls’ Theory, and other Egalitarian theories).


This course is a study of what canonical and contemporary philosophers have said about several central problems concerning the self. Topics may include: free will and moral responsibility; personal identity and survival; the nature of action; moral motivation; rationality and irrationality.


This course focuses on selected issues or figures in historical and/or contemporary moral philosophy. Typical topics to be dealt with might include: the sources of normativity; the metaphysical and epistemological underpinnings of moral experience; moral psychology and the nature of practical reason; the relation between morality and politics and/or religion; particular moral theories such as utilitarianism, Kantianism, virtue ethics, and contractarianism.


This course will involve a close study of some central issues in philosophical aesthetics. Topics may be drawn from one or more of the main fields within the discipline: the study of beauty (or the aesthetic), the philosophy of art, and the philosophy of criticism. Potential topics include: the nature of art; the relation between morality and art, the character of aesthetic experience, and the appropriate criteria for art criticism.


This course focuses on selected issues or figures in historical and/or contemporary social and political philosophy. Typical topics to be dealt with might include: the scope and justification of the state; the right vs. the good; multiculturalism and group rights; the relation between economics, ideology and politics; particular political theories such as libertarianism, liberalism, political realism, communitarianism, critical theory.


This course involves a close study of one or more philosophical topics in historical and/or contemporary feminist thought. Examples include: the nature and origins of gendered identity; feminist approaches to ethics; feminist epistemology; feminist perspectives on motherhood, sexuality, the body, and reproductive technology; critical approaches to gender-based oppression.


This course involves the study of the nature, means and goals of education, by way of an engagement with major historical and/or more contemporary philosophical theories of education. Issues to be discussed may include: metaphysical and epistemological underpinnings of education; the relation of education to rational autonomy, liberty, and authority; differences between educating character, practical wisdom, and the theoretical intellect; social and political dimensions of the institutionalization of education, particularly in a multicultural context; the importance of aesthetic education. Some of the typical authors to be studied may include Plato, Aristotle, Comenius, Rousseau, Kant, Schiller, Croce, Dewey, Friere.


This course involves the study of the nature of philosophical education itself. Through an examination of classic and contemporary texts, students will grapple with perennial questions about what a philosophical education is, and what it is for. This course will include an innovative experiential learning module: students will investigate these issues in an applied way, by providing individual and small-group tutoring in a high school philosophy course. Students will be required to submit a final paper which integrates their academic study of philosophical pedagogy with an analysis of their practical experience in the high school classroom setting.


This course involves a critical study of selected themes and doctrines in ancient Greek philosophy, with a focus on such seminal thinkers as Socrates, Plato, and/or Aristotle. Typical issues include: the nature of reality; the relation between universals and particulars; the nature of the soul and its relation to the body; the difference between knowledge and true belief, and between the different kinds of knowledge (philosophical, practical, mathematical, knowledge of the natural world); the nature of the good life and of virtue; the roles that reason, emotions, and appetites play in the virtuous person; the kinds of social, economic, and political structures that characterize the best society.


This course involves the critical examination of selected works from one or more of such major 17th and 18th Century philosophers as Descartes, Locke, Berkeley, Leibniz, Spinoza, Hume and Kant. Topics might include the structure, scope and limits of human knowledge; the primary-secondary quality distinction; concepts of space, time and matter; nature of causation; nature of perception, consciousness and self-consciousness; personal identity; how mind and body are related; nature and existence of free will and the problem of evil and theodicy; the nature and foundations of moral and political rights.


This course involves the critical examination of selected works from one or more of such major 19th Century philosophers as Fichte, Schelling, Hegel, Marx, Nietzsche and Kierkegaard. Typical themes to be addressed include: the nature of subjectivity and self-consciousness; the role that socio-economic institutions play in shaping human knowledge and self-identity; the nature of reason and its relation to history; social dimensions of freedom; arguments for and against the systematic character of human knowledge; the critique of modernity.


This course focuses on philosophical conceptions of the nature of history and historical knowledge. Topics may include: the ontological status of the past; identifying the proper focus and unit of study of human history (the individual, the nation, religious, cultural or economic eras, the human species as a whole); whether historical developments are law-governed or contingent; whether historical knowledge is distinct from other forms of knowledge; the narrative structure of history; and the politicization of historical narratives. Authors to be studied may include, among others, Thucydides, Vico, Herder, Hegel, Dilthey, Collingwood, Foucault, Benjamin, Ricoeur, Mink, Carr, and White.


This course is an in-depth study of the influential philosophical movement known as phenomenology, and of the ways this movement was taken up and developed by the existentialists of the 20th Century. Some of the typical issues to be studied include: the distinction between reflective and lived experience; the character of perception and embodied experience; the intersubjective constitution of the world's meaning; the breakdown of the subject/object dualism; the temporal structure of human reality; the significance of our encounter with death and nothingness. The main authors to be studied may include Husserl, Bergson, Heidegger, Sartre, and Merleau-Ponty.


Hermeneutics and deconstruction represent two of the most influential perspectives on language, meaning, and expression to emerge in 20th Century philosophy. Despite their important differences, these two philosophical approaches each emphasize the role that interpretation plays in the constitution of human experience, action, self-identity, as well as in the constitution of all sorts of socio-cultural artifacts (for instance, laws, artworks, science). The course will focus on the work of such philosophers as Heidegger, Derrida, Gadamer, Ricoeur, and Vattimo.


This seminar examines a selection of the most important themes and developments in recent continental philosophy. Some of the topics to be examined may include: difference and alterity; the 'ethical turn'; desire and the unconscious; critiques of subjectivity and self-identity; communicative action theory; bio-politics; performativity. The course will typically focus on the work of such philosophers as Foucault, Deleuze, Habermas, Irigaray, Kristeva, Levinas, Lyotard, Nancy, Butler and Zižek.


This course gives students the opportunity to engage in a rigorous and concentrated study of a specific canonical or contemporary philosophical topic.


This course gives students the opportunity to engage in a rigorous and concentrated study of the work of a major historical or contemporary philosopher.


This course gives students the opportunity to pursue an area of study of their own choosing, under the supervision of a faculty member.


This seminar focuses on a branch of continental social and political thought known as Critical Theory.  Though diverse, Critical Theorists share roots in Western Marxism and a commitment to the critique of ideologies and social practices that perpetuate alienation and oppression.  Thinkers studied may include early forerunners, such as Marx, Nietzsche and Freud, members of the Frankfurt School, including Horkheimer, Adorno, Marcuse and Fromm, and contemporary figures, such as Habermas and Honneth.  

PH8126 - KANT

This course studies the philosophical thought of Immanuel Kant as presented in works such as the Critique of Pure Reason, the Groundwork to the Metaphysics of Morals, the Critique of Practical Reason, and the Critique of Judgment. Topics to be discussed may include a priori knowledge, idealism, perception, and causation; free will, moral obligation, and practical reason; beauty, aesthetic judgment, and artistic genius; or teleological explanation, organisms, and the philosophy of biology.



Courses Offered in 2017 - 2018


Term Course
Course Name Instructor Name
F2017 PH 8003

Professional Seminar

Glenn Parsons

F2017 PH 8109 Moral Philosophy Jo Kornegay
F2017 PH 8119 Phenomenology and Existentialism
Kym Maclaren
F2017 PH 8122

Topics in Philosophy (Kantian Approaches to Self-Consciousness)

Thomas Land
W2018 PH 8105

Philosophy of Language

David Checkland

W2018 PH 8111

Social and Political Philosophy

Robert Murray

W2018 PH 8115

Ancient Philosophy

Boris Hennig
W2018 PH 8122

Topics in Philosophy (Art and Experience)

David Ciavatta


Semester Away

It may be possible to spend one semester at a different university during your second year in the MA program. So far, we have had students spend a semester at Oxford University, MIT, Istanbul Bilgi University (Turkey), and the University of Texas at Austin. 

Conference Participation

Our students have had papers accepted at peer-reviewed philosophy conferences across Canada, the US and Europe. Conference participation is an important part of a graduate education, and Ryerson is committed to providing significant financial support from a variety of sources to cover travel costs when our students participate in conferences. (The typical level of funding from all sources combined is about $1000.) Ryerson’s Philosophy Graduate Student Association also organizes an annual graduate student conference on campus.

Scholarships, Fellowships & Awards

Many of our students have received prestigious scholarships, fellowships, and awards, such as Ryerson Graduate Scholarships, Ontario Graduate Scholarships, and various awards funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC), including Canada Graduate Scholarships and Foreign Study Supplements.

Faculty Research Areas

Recent Course Outlines

Graduate Student Union

The Philosophy Graduate Student Union represents the interest of philosophy graduate students, and organizes many events and activities.

 The executive officers for 2017-2018 are:


Phd Placement

View the complete list of philosophy doctoral programs that have accepted graduates of our MA program.


Current MA Students

Recent MA Graduates

Philosophy (MA)

Minimum Academic Requirements


  • The normal admission requirements are a four-year honours undergraduate degree in Philosophy (or a degree from an equivalent program, such as Ryerson’s Arts and Contemporary Studies program with an option in Philosophy)
  • Minimum GPA of 3.33/4.33 (B+), or its equivalent, in the final half of the program.
  • For more information about dates, English language proficiency requirements, and application fees, click here.

We also encourage applications from students with an honours undergraduate degree in another program who have demonstrated in their coursework a strong aptitude for philosophy. If you are not sure whether your undergraduate experience qualifies, please contact the gradute program director.


Specific Documents Required

Statement of Interest

  • Your research interests and reasons for pursuing Graduate study in philosophy;
  • How your previous studies and experience have prepared you for the MA program; and
  • Your career objectives and how the MA program relates to them.

Sample of Work 

  • Please submit a sample of writing (10-15 pages) that represents your very best philosophical work.

Letters of Recommendation

  • Two letters of recommendation are required. The two recommendations should be from academic references—former professors or research supervisors—familiar with your experience and abilities.  



If you are considering applying to our program for Fall 2017, consider also applying for a SSHRC scholarship. The deadline is December 1st. For more information, click here:


International applicants should note that, due to the structure of our funding, our program is able to take only a very small number of international applicants each year.  Also, international students pay roughly double the tuition of Canadian students, and are ineligible for some forms of funding.



Why should I choose Ryerson?

Ryerson is the only MA program in the GTA that allows you to write a Thesis or a Major Research Paper, so only at Ryerson will you have a chance to explore a topic in real depth. And because ours is a 5-term program, you’ll have more time to work closely with your professors. This means that we will be in a stronger position to support you wherever you decide to go after you finish your degree.

Finally, Ryerson is located in the heart of one of the world’s largest and most cosmopolitan cities, a city with a thriving philosophical culture. There is no better place to study philosophy.

What background do I need to get in?

Most of our students have an honours BA in philosophy. Our goal is to accept the best and most promising students that we can. If you are not sure whether you have the right sort of background, just ask our graduate program director.

What areas of philosophy do you specialize in?

Our faculty members work in all areas of philosophy, in both the continental and the analytic tradition. We have special strengths in the philosophy of religion, metaphysics and the philosophy of mind, social and political philosophy, philosophy of language, normative and applied ethics, contemporary continental philosophy, and in aesthetics. Here is a list of our faculty and their research interests.

What are the program’s requirements?

All of the program’s requirements are spelled out in detail under the red "our program" tab above. But here is the short version.

In your first year, you’ll take a required Professional Seminar as well as 5 electives, 2 in the fall and 3 in the winter. Over the summer, you’ll do an Area Reading Exam, which involves independent but guided research in a core area of philosophy.

In your second year you’ll write either a Major Research Paper (MRP) or a Thesis. If you do an MRP, you’ll also take 2 more electives that year, one each term. If you decide to do a Thesis, then that’s all you will work on in your second year.

What are the Area Reading Exams?

During the summer between your first and second year, you will do one Area Reading Exam course. This is an opportunity to do independent but guided research in a core area of philosophy. The aim is to help you get a running start on the research you’ll need to do for your MRP or Thesis.

Together with the program director and your supervisor, you will create a reading list and a set of questions to guide your research. You will be then required to submit some written work and to discuss your research progress with your supervisor.

What is the difference between a Major Research Paper and a Thesis?

A Major Research Paper (MRP) is usually around 30-40 pages long, roughly modeled on a typical article in a philosophy journal. A Thesis is usually around 120 pages long, roughly modeled on a typical small monograph or book. Both are meant to be original contributions to a current philosophical debate. An oral defence is required for a thesis but not for an MRP.

If you decide to do an MRP, then you have to take an elective each term in your second year. If you decide to do a Thesis, then that is all you have to do in your second year. Both options have positives and negatives. This is an important decision, and we can help you make the decision that is right for you.

How many seminars do you offer every year?

Every fall we offer the Professional Seminar designed especially for our first year MA students. We also offer 7 electives every year, three in the fall and four in the winter. In your first year, you’ll take 2 electives in the fall (out of 3 options) and 3 in the winter (out of 4 options.)

What is the typical seminar size?

A typical seminar has between 8 and 13 students in it. This means that you’ll have a great opportunity to get to know the other students and your professors, and to have intimate discussions in class.

What activities outside the classroom do you offer?

We are committed to providing a rich philosophical life outside the classroom.
Our annual speaker series brings 3 or 4 guest speakers to our department every semester. Graduate students are invited to the talks and we usually pay for one or two to come for dinner with the speaker.

We also have hosted and organized philosophy conferences and workshops, including workshops on Gilbert Ryle, on Hegel, on Merleau-Ponty, on Belief and Agency. And every spring we hold a Research Day when our faculty members and graduate students can share their research projects. 

For a sample of recent activities, check out our News and Events page.

How much does it cost?

The fees for the program change every year, but are around $3000/term. For more information visit the Graduate Fees page.

What financial support would I get?

Our goal is to provide every student with substantial and highly competitive financial support. Our letter offering you admission will specify exactly the amount of funding we will provide you. There are several different sources of funding.

First, we may offer you paid work as a Grading or Teaching Assistant. This involves grading essays and exams and leading tutorial sections in undergraduate philosophy classes. This is a terrific way to learn philosophy. The normal contract is for 130 hours of work per semester (not including the summer, when there is no such work). The rate of pay changes every year, but is around 40$/hour. In total, this would amount to around $10,000.

Second, you may be offered an internal Ryerson scholarship or award. Ryerson Graduate Fellowships are valued at about $7,000 (on average) and are awarded to excellent students by the Dean of Graduate Studies. Ryerson Graduate Development Awards range from $500 to $6000 and are awarded by the department.

Third, you may be offered a paid Research Assistant position, helping one of our faculty members with his or her research project.

Finally, you should seriously consider applying for external scholarship to support your studies, including the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada and the Ontario Graduate Scholarship. If you qualify for one of these awards, we’ll also help you apply for it in the fall of your first year to help fund your second year with us.

Again, our letter offering you admission will specify in detail how much financial support you would receive and from what sources.

More information on all of this can be found at the YSGS website.

What is TA and GA work? How much does it pay?

Paid work as a Teaching Assistant (TA) or Grading Assistant (GA) constitutes a large part of the financial support we provide our students. This usually involves grading essays and exams and leading tutorial sections in our undergraduate philosophy classes. The tutorial sections usually have about 25 students in them.

A normal TA/GA contract is for 130 hours per semester, paid at about $40/hour. This sort of work is only available during the fall and winter terms (not during the summer.)

Grading is often demanding work, but it is also one of the best ways to broaden your philosophical knowledge and to sharpen your writing skills.

Why should I choose a 2-year MA?

We believe that you can’t rush good philosophy. It takes time to master the intricacies of a philosophical debate. Our 5-term program is designed to provide you with a broad education across all areas and traditions in philosophy, while also giving you an opportunity to explore a topic in real depth. We believe that you’ll do better, will learn more, and will find the experience more fulfilling if you take your time.

What can I do with an MA in philosophy?

Some students with an MA in philosophy go on to get a PhD in philosophy, with the aim of becoming a university professor. Others go on to law school or business school. Some go to teacher’s college with the aim of teaching philosophy in Ontario high schools. Still others go on to work in the private sector. Completing an MA will help sharpen your communication and critical thinking skills, skills that are valuable in any career and that contribute to a full and rich life.

What are the application dates?

We start considering applications in February every year, but we will continue to accept and consider applications until we have reached our enrolment targets. Applications are completed entirely on-line.

How many students do you accept each year?

Our goal is to enroll about 13 students each year. This means that we have about 26 students at any one time. So not only will you get to meet students in your own year, but you’ll get to watch as students in the year ahead of you finish up their program.

When will I hear if I was accepted?

We aim to start sending out offers of admission in the early spring. If you haven’t heard, do not hesitate to contact the graduate program director.