MA Philosophy Now

Study programme

The master programme is structured around four clusters, of which students will take courses in two:

  1. Representation: Democracy, Science, and Culture
  2. Environment, Life and Technology
  3. Subjectivity and Response-Ability
  4. The Politics of Wealth: Inequality, Capitalism, Exploitation

Part-time students choose between two combinations of clusters: clusters 1 and 4 and clusters 2 and 3.

Information video: Master Philosophy Now

In this video, ESPhil Director of Education Han van Ruler welcomes you to watch this video and will introduce the programme. Furthermore, ESPhil director programme Sjoerd van Tuinen will discuss the content of the master programme. He will also provide practical information about this programme (such as time schedule, lectures etc.). One of our students Chagajeg Soloukey Tbalvandany, will also give first-hand experience about this programme.

Practical information

The academic year for this master programme consists of six blocks coming to 60 EC. In the first block, you will examine and discuss a choice of fundamental texts, both classical and contemporary (5 EC). After that, in blocks 2 up until 4, you will take courses from the clusters you have chosen (30 EC). Over the course of these blocks, you will also participate in mentor groups and prepare a work of public philosophy (5 EC). Block 5 is centered around acquiring non-academic philosophy skills (5 EC). In the last block (6), students will write their Master Thesis (15 EC).

Learning objectives

The MA Philosophy Now aims to prepare you for careers in- and outside academia. It provides you with a thorough grounding in subjects of interest within the four clusters and with analytical and research skills required for doctoral study or a wide range of careers.

Mode of education

Education in the Master in Philosophy at Erasmus University Rotterdam is organised on a small-scale basis. Besides lectures you will have group tutorials and non-academic workshops. There is ample room for debate and discussion with fellow students, but we also expect you to work individually, for instance by writing essays. During the process of writing your master thesis you will be closely supervised.

Specialisation

This MA programme consists of a wide range of courses structured in four clusters of which students will follow two. Below, you will find a description of each cluster. Alternatively, it is possible to do a customized specialization in public philosophy.

Representation: Democracy, Science, and Culture

Representation acts as the interface of politics, science, and culture. Yet today, it is everywhere in crisis. Trust in parliamentary democracy and knowledge institutions is waning. Culturally, traditional identities become fluid and – supposedly – less collective. This means that representation becomes a problem. When people and things no longer have a ‘natural’ place, the question becomes: what belongs where, why, and by what guarantee?

In contemporary conditions, as people start to defy and decry the increasingly apparent impossibility of solving the puzzles of representation, representation is increasingly under pressure and reframed in terms of mediation: people, institutions, or arrangements who offer themselves as ‘stand-in’, rather than ‘mirror-image’. This is illustrated by the rise of post-truth politicians, conspiracy thinkers, social media influencers, and algorithmic logistical optimizers. By tracing the contemporary parameters of doubt, questioning, and investigation, we confront this amalgam of unruly actors and investigate whether and how it might still be possible, and legitimate, to assign rightful places to people and things.

Environment, Life and Technology

Humans shape and are shaped by our natural and technological environments as never before. The advent of the Anthropocene marks the gradual undoing and hybridization of many modern dualisms, including those between nature and history, ecology and economy, geology and capitalism, positive law and natural boundaries. In the aftermath of the euphoria about globalization, the Anthropocene confronts us with a sobering dilemma: business as usual is no longer an option. Yet, the plurality of alternatives presented - nightmarish and utopian alike - have yet to coalesce into a viable alternative.

This Cluster’s students investigate what it takes to think on a planetary scale with cutting-edge philosophical tools and interdisciplinary methodologies about the natural and technological crossroads humans face. In light of converging technologies such as nanotechnology, biotechnology, information technology and cognitive science, is there an alternative to the apocalyptic end of the futuristic dream of the technological sublime? How does the relationship between technoscience and colonial history right itself? What does prosperity and well-being look like reconfigured humble to its genesis in natural materiality and health? What measures are necessary to harmonize our economic, financial, and political imaginaries and institutions with the thriving of ecosystems as well as with global justice and solidarity? And what are the often deliberate obstacles imposed to prevent ecological and social justice in exchange for illusory short-term private gain? 

Subjectivity and Response-Ability

Philosophies of subjectivity are the cornerstone of Enlightenment humanism: ‘Enlightenment is man’s emergence from his self-imposed immaturity.’ For centuries, subjectivity has been the encompassing legitimation discourse for scientific, political, technological, artistic and other practices. How is this legacy currently being transformed by post- and non-human forces? Does the subject still exist? 

Not only do new developments force us to contest at least the primordiality of the subject, but since the beginning of the twentieth century, the concept of the subject has also been eroded. From our self-experience as consumers or users to our self-image as citizens or earthlings, we are currently witnessing a crisis of subjectivity that coincides with a sense of our capacity to take responsibility having waned. Taking recent findings and problems in the neuro-, behavioral, and cognitive sciences as well as psychoanalytical and affect theory as its points of departure, this cluster offers students the opportunity to reflect on and discuss the changing metaphysical, moral, socio-political, and cultural conditions of human agency

The Politics of Wealth: Inequality, Capitalism, Exploitation

Global wealth has strongly increased over the past few centuries, but this increase has not been to the benefit of everyone. Especially in the last decades, income inequality rose dramatically within and across nations. Some argue that at least part of these inequalities further enhances the creation of overall wealth. Others warn of detrimental impacts on our societies, such as imbalances in power, new forms of exclusion or the development of a new class of “patrimonial capitalists”, threatening to undermine social cohesion and democratic institutions and preparing further grounds for exploitation.  

As the global economic market system counts as one of the major driving forces in the creation of inequality, an increasing number of voices in academia and politics start to raise questions about the moral limitations of markets, to demand stronger policy measures to decrease the gap between the 1% and the 99% or even to call for new economic systems to move beyond capitalism. A crucial question in these debates, however, is how to guide such changes. Students will learn to combine practical approaches from a historical, methodological and normative perspective in an interdisciplinary manner, taking into account recent cutting-edge research in philosophy, economics, and other social sciences.