Humanities Research: Philosophy

Explore Human Knowledge and Morality
Programme of
Humanities (Research)
TitleMA Philosophy

This programme prepares you for a career as a researcher in philosophy. It focuses on central questions concerning human knowledge and morality, and it allows you to specialize in different directions. The combination of historical and contemporary perspectives is a key feature of the entire programme.
The aims of our programme are

  • To help you to obtain an in-depth acquaintance with state-of-the-art discussions and issues in epistemology and moral and political philosophy as well as their historical roots.
  • To train your research skills.
  • To prepare you for a PhD trajectory.
  • To help you apply the historically informed analysis of the foundations of knowledge and morality to topical issues such as the nature of fake news and conspiracy theories, climate skepticism, the relation between freedom and equality, individual responsibility for collective outcomes, or the morality of markets.

Key features of the programme are its connection to the department’s internationally renowned research projects; a strong focus on research skills and on the preparation of an academic career; an international orientation reflected by, among other things, the option of studying a semester abroad; and the fact that it is embedded in a Humanities research and education environment.

This is a full-time two-year programme.

The first year starts with a core course in moral and political philosophy and a core course in epistemology, as well as two courses on foundational texts on knowledge and ethics from the history of philosophy. In addition, you will take two courses in which you will set up and execute philosophical research projects. Together with the other Humanities Research Master's students, you will follow two more modules on research. Finally, you will follow elective courses offered by the Dutch Research School of Philosophy or the Research Schools on Ancient or Medieval Studies.

The second year offers you the option to study a semester abroad at one of our partner institutions. Alternatively, you can select from a number of courses offered by the VU, the Dutch Research School of Philosophy and the Research Schools on Ancient or Medieval Studies. There is one compulsory Humanities Core module in which you will learn how to write a research proposal for national or international science foundations. The fourth and final semester is devoted to supervised research and writing a thesis.

Topics concerning knowledge that you can explore within this programme and that are topics of current research of our faculty include:

  • the nature of knowledge, sources of knowledge
  • differences between the sciences and the humanities
  • scientific understanding
  • scientism
  • knowledge, disagreement and democracy
  • social epistemology, trust in testimony and experts, systems design
  • responsible belief
  • ignorance
  • philosophy of cognitive science

Ethical concepts and themes include, among others: 

  • freedom
  • moral responsibility
  • blameless and blameworthy ignorance
  • value pluralism
  • justice and legitimacy
  • ethics and public policy
  • markets and morality
  • the ethics of nudging
  • exploitation and fraud

Historical topics and authors that you can explore within this programme and which are topics of current research of our faculty include:

  • Plato, Aristotle, Neoplatonists, Avicenna, Aquinas, Spinoza, Locke, Hume, Reid, Kant, Hegel, Ricoeur and others
  • The Aristotelian model of science and its reception
  • late ancient epistemology and virtue ethics
  • essence, potency, power in Ancient and Medieval theories of knowledge
  • eschatology and moral theories in the Middle Ages.
  • knowledge and art in (Early-)Modern philosophy
  • knowledge and morality in (original and contemporary versions of) German Idealism

Detailed course information
VU Amsterdam's online study guide: Humanities Research (2019-2020).

When you have successfully completed this programme you will be an ideal candidate for a PhD position in the Netherlands or abroad, as well as for other kinds of research positions, in international and interdisciplinary contexts.
Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam has a strong tradition of research in theoretical philosophy (epistemology, philosophy of science, philosophy of cognition) and in moral and political philosophy. Whereas the programme allows the student to specialize, the combination of historical and contemporary perspectives is a distinctive feature in any specialization.

Admission & Contact

The Humanities Research Master is a selective programme. Each application is reviewed by an admissions committee. Students must have a BA in philosophy or equivalent degree (to be decided by the admissions committee). You should also have a proficient level of academic English, proof of excellent study results, and clear motivation for doing academic research.

For detailed information about admission and application see the Admission and language requirements page.

For questions concerning the programme
Please contact the coordinator:

Prof. dr. René van Woudenberg

Information on practical matters (application procedure, scholarships, visas, etc.)

Irena Paap
International Student Advisor
T: +31 (20) 59 85252

VU Amsterdam
International Office
De Boelelaan 1105
1081 HV Amsterdam

Information days
Meet us at the next Master's Event!

Overview Humanities Research: Philosophy




2 years


1 June for Dutch and EU-students. 1 April for non-EU-students.


1 September