Humanities Research: Philosophy

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

Due to the corona crisis, the requirements to enroll in this master programme have changed. For an overview of the requirements, we refer to the subsection 'Corona crisis: from a Bachelor’s to a Master’s'.

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.

Dutch Students

Generally speaking, students must complete their Bachelor’s or pre-Master’s before starting on their Master’s programme. This is known as the ‘Bachelor's before Master's rule’. Due to the corona crisis, however, some students have had to partially stop their studies, resulting in an unfortunate delay.

In April a nationwide decision was taken to abandon the so-called “harde knip” because of Corona and to formulate alternative requirements for admission to master’s programmes. For this reason, and following general VU guidelines, the Humanities Faculty has opted for a smoother transition. Find out what this means for you below.

Guidelines for Bachelor’s to Master's    
•    Minimum percentage of EC’s: 90%   
•    Grade average of 7.5 on all Bachelor's courses at the start of the master's programme   
•    An approved thesis work plan    
•    The language requirements   

We strongly advise students to do everything possible to complete their Bachelor’s or pre-Master’s programme before the end of this academic year. The study load makes it very difficult to complete missing courses while on an intensive Master’s programme.

All students who enroll on the basis of the “zachte knip” will be invited by the academic advisor and will be assigned a mentor, who will have a finger on the pulse for the completion of the Bachelor's degree.

Request exceptional admission
Do you meet these conditions or do you expect to meet these conditions by 31 August at the latest? If so, you can request exceptional admission no later than 1 August. You can do this by completing and submitting the form for exceptional admission to a Master’s programme.

Due to the corona crisis, the requirements to enroll in this master programme have changed. For an overview of the requirements, we refer to the subsection 'Corona crisis: from a Bachelor’s to a Master’s'.

The Humanities Research Master programme is aimed at talented students who are exceptionally motivated to be trained in academic methods in their specific field of humanities. To be admitted to the programme, the student should have a bachelor’s degree in an academic degree related to their chosen specialisation. The student should also have a proficient level of academic English, proof of excellent study results and clear motivation for doing academic research. 

Specific admission requirements Philosophy
The Philosophy track of the Humanities Research Master programme is aimed at talented students who are exceptionally motivated to be trained in academic methods in the field of philosophy. To be admitted to the programme, the student should have a bachelor’s degree in philosophy or a related academic degree. The student should also have a proficient level of academic English, proof of excellent study results and clear motivation for doing academic research.

The two-year research master's is a good option for students who are interested in pursuing a PhD after their MA, but also more in general for students who cherish critical attitude, arrive at original lines of questioning based on a profound knowledge of their research subject, and wish to develop their research skills.

Admission is based on a strict selection procedure. The Faculty’s Admission Board will decide upon your admission after having evaluated your complete online application. For further details regarding the admission requirements, see the Teaching and Examination Regulations.


Dutch students and international candidates with a Dutch degree can apply via Studielink before July 1st for the master programme Humanities (research).

After you have applied for the master in Studielink, you will receive two emails with your login details for VUnet (VU studentportal). Please complete your application in VUnet. Don’t forget to fill in your specialization on VUnet: Philosophy.

 Next to this, you'll need to provide several documents based on which we can decide whether you are admissible. The following required documents should be send to toelating.fgw@vu.nl:

  • Motivation Letter: a letter explaining your motivation for the application. Please also integrate in this letter your first ideas as to the subject or field you would like to focus your research on (for instance in the context of tutorials and/or your thesis).
  • Transcript of records: a certified list of the academic results obtained to date (qualifications and lists of grades). The transcript of records should show that you received an outstanding grade for your bachelor’s thesis (7.5 or higher), and an average of no less than 7.5 for a relevant selection of your bachelor’s programme (to be decided by the Admission Board). 
  • Curriculum Vitae

Not a student of the Faculty of Humanities at VU Amsterdam?

In addition to the above listed documents, you must also e-mail the following documents to toelating.fgw@vu.nl:

  • An application form (Dutch) 
  • A copy of your bachelor thesis or other papers/essays you have written that might be relevant for the research master’s programme of your choice.
    Your application will be reviewed by the Admission Board of the Faculty of Humanities. You will be informed whether you have been admitted via Studielink. Admission may also depend on the results of a personal interview with the Admission Board about your motivation.
Your application will be reviewed by the Admission Board of the Faculty of Humanities. You will be informed whether you have been admitted via Studielink. Admission may also depend on the results of a personal interview with the Admission Board about your motivation.



For questions concerning the programme
Please contact the coordinator:

Prof. dr. René van Woudenberg
E: R.van.Woudenberg@vu.nl

VU Amsterdam
International Office
De Boelelaan 1105
1081 HV Amsterdam

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

International students

Generally speaking, students must complete their Bachelor’s or pre-Master’s before starting on their Master’s programme. This is known as the ‘Bachelor's before Master's rule’. Due to the corona crisis, however, some students have had to partially stop their studies, resulting in an unfortunate delay.

In April a nationwide decision was taken to abandon the so-called “harde knip” because of Corona and to formulate alternative requirements for admission to master’s programmes. For this reason, and following general VU guidelines, the Humanities Faculty has opted for a smoother transition. Find out what this means for you below. Please note: if you are a non-EEA student, the Bachelor's before Master's rule does still apply.

Guidelines for Bachelor’s to Master's    
Non-EEA students enrolled in a VU Bachelor and EEA students   

•    Minimum percentage of EC’s: 90%    
•    Grade average of 7.5 on all Bachelor's courses at the start of the master's programme    
•    An approved thesis work plan     
•    The language requirements    

We strongly advise students to do everything possible to complete their Bachelor’s or pre-Master’s programme before the end of this academic year. The study load makes it very difficult to complete missing courses while on an intensive Master’s programme.

All students who enroll on the basis of the “zachte knip” will be invited by the academic advisor and will be assigned a mentor, who will have a finger on the pulse for the completion of the Bachelor's degree.

Due to the corona crisis, the requirements to enroll in this master programme have changed. For an overview of the requirements, we refer to the subsection 'Corona crisis: from a Bachelor’s to a Master’s'.

The Humanities Research Master programme is aimed at talented students who are exceptionally motivated to be trained in academic methods in their specific field of humanities. To be admitted to the programme, the student should have a bachelor’s degree in an academic degree related to their chosen specialisation. The student should also have a proficient level of academic English, proof of excellent study results and clear motivation for doing academic research. 

Specific admission requirements Philosophy
The Philosophy track of the Humanities Research Master programme is aimed at talented students who are exceptionally motivated to be trained in academic methods in the field of philosophy. To be admitted to the programme, the student should have a bachelor’s degree in philosophy or a related academic degree. The student should also have a proficient level of academic English, proof of excellent study results and clear motivation for doing academic research.

The two-year research master's is a good option for students who are interested in pursuing a PhD after their MA, but also more in general for students who cherish critical attitude, arrive at original lines of questioning based on a profound knowledge of their research subject, and wish to develop their research skills.

Admission is based on a strict selection procedure. The Faculty’s Admission Board will decide upon your admission after having evaluated your complete online application. For further details regarding the admission requirements, see the Teaching and Examination Regulations.

Additional language requirements for international students
You must always present official test results proving your proficiency in English. You can apply online without having the test results, but in case you haven’t taken a test yet we advise you to plan a test date as soon as possible. The qualification or test result must have been awarded no more than two years prior to the proposed date of enrolment. Below you will find the minimum English test scores for the English taught programmes at the Faculty of Humanities:

  • TOEFL score 600 paper based with a minimum of 55 in each of the subtests plus 4.0 in TWE, score 250 computer based or score 100 internet based with a minimum of 20-23 in each of the subtests).
  • IELTS score of 7.0 overall band score (with none of the separate section scores dropping below a minimum score of 6.5).
  • Cambridge English: Cambridge Proficiency Exam with score A, B, or C; or Cambridge Advanced Exam with score A, B, or C.

Exemptions from providing the English test scores are applicable to students, who:

  • have completed an English-taught secondary or higher education degree in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, Ireland, New Zealand or Australia; or
  • have earned a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree in an English-taught programme accredited by NVAO in the Netherlands, or
  • have earned a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree in an accredited English-taught programme in another member state of the European Union
  • hold a Bachelor’s degree in English Language and Culture from a Dutch university, or
  • hold a Bachelor’s degree in Literature and Society with a degree in English: Literature and Society obtained at the VU, or
  • completed a minor in English at the VU Amsterdam and obtained 30 EC or more.

The required evidence should, if possible, be included with the complete application. If either unsatisfactory or no evidence of English language proficiency has been provided with the application, admission will be conditional upon the provision of such evidence. This condition will be clearly indicated on the offer letter and must be fulfilled before enrolment at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.

Please check the Admission and language requirement page for the general requirements. 

If you have read the admission criteria and feel you are eligible for admission, please take the following steps to submit your application. Note that the initial application procedure is fully online and that scans of your relevant documents are required. 

Step 1: Meet admission criteria

Step 2: Prepare documents and apply online
Please prepare the following documents. You can find an explanation of each document on the application page. All documents should be provided in English. 

  • Copy of your valid passport or ID (ID only for EU residents)
  • Curriculum Vitae
  • Motivation Letter: a letter explaining your motivation for the application and an indication of your desired research focus.
  • Transcript of records
  • Thesis (or another sample of academic writing, at least 5 pages plus a list of used literature)
  • A description of the relevant courses you have taken during your previous higher education and a list of all the main literature

After having prepared the required documents, please follow the online application procedure. After you have completed the application, our international student advisors will contact you via email.

Step 3: Await decision on admission
The admission board will review your application as soon as it is complete. Normally this takes about four weeks, but it might take longer in busy periods so be sure to apply as soon as possible. If you gain admission, you will receive a letter of conditional admission by email. You can start planning your move to Amsterdam!

Step 4: Finalize your registration and move to Amsterdam!
Make sure to finalize your registration as a student before the start of the programme. You will find an explanation on what to do after admission on our Admission and language requirements page. When all conditions are met you will be ready to start your programme at VU Amsterdam!

Further information:
Accommodation
Visa
Tuition fees

For questions concerning the programme
Please contact the coordinator:

Prof. dr. René van Woudenberg
E: R.van.Woudenberg@vu.nl

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

Irena Paap
International Student Advisor
E: masters.hum@vu.nl
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

LANGUAGE OF INSTRUCTION

English

DURATION

2 years

APPLICATION DEADLINE

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

START DATE

1 September

STUDY TYPE

Full-time

FIELD OF INTEREST

Philosophy

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