Oxford is widely acknowledged to contain one of the leading groups, arguably the leading group, of ancient philosophers in the world: ancient philosophy at Oxford is ranked top in the Philosophical Gourmet Report's breakdown of programmes by speciality. Through the MSt in Ancient Philosophy the Faculty aims to attract and select the best possible national and international scholars in the subject.
The MSt in Ancient Philosophy offers a graduate education in ancient philosophy of the highest possible quality and provides a foundation from which candidates can go on to pursue doctoral work in the area.
The Faculty intends to admit around eight students for the course each year.
For information on how to make an application please see our Admissions Procedure and Entry Requirements webpage.
The course aims to allow students to specialise in at least two areas of ancient philosophy, and to write a thesis of 10,000-15,000 words. All students without adequate training in ancient Greek or Latin will be required to undergo specialist language training provided by the Faculty of Classics.
Subject Option A
The first subject option must be chosen from the list of undergraduate papers in ancient philosophy offered in the original language:
- 130. Plato: Republic
- 131. Plato on Knowledge, Language, & Reality in the Theaetetus & Sophist
- 132. Aristotle: Nicomachean Ethics
- 133. Aristotle on Nature, Life and Mind
- 134. Knowledge and Scepticism in Hellenistic Philosophy
- 135. Latin Philosophy
Tuition for this subject is normally provided in the form of one-to-one tutorials, usually in the first or second term. While the syllabi for these subjects are borrowed from the Faculty’s undergraduate courses, the teaching should be at Masters-level. Subject Option A is examined by one 5,000-word essay.
Subject Option B
The second subject consists of two classes, which run during the first and/or second term. The ‘subject options’ covered by the first class are different from those covered by the second class. Details of the classes and the subject options to be covered are published in the Graduate Student Handbook before the beginning of the academic year. Students must attend both classes.
Subject Option B is assessed by two essays of no more than 5,000 words on topics relevant to the subject options covered in the dedicated classes. The topics must be chosen by the student and approved by the Course Coordinator, and must not overlap substantially with the choice of option for Subject Option A. Students may choose either to write both essays on topics covered in one class or to write one essay on a topic covered in one class and the other essay on a topic covered in the other class.
The reading lists for both subjects will include texts both in the original language and in translation; students’ readings should be guided by their supervisor(s) according to their level of Ancient Greek and/or Latin.
Students are required to write a thesis (of 10,000-15,000 words) during the Easter vacation and their final term, to be submitted at the end of their final term. The thesis can be on a topic of the student’s choice, within ancient philosophy, but is subject to approval by the student’s supervisor and the Philosophy Graduate Studies Committee.
Other Options for Ancient Philosophers
Students interested in specialising in Ancient Philosophy may wish to note that there is the possibility of following the “Ancient Philosophy track” in the BPhil in Philosophy, Oxford's flagship (two-year) postgraduate philosophy course. This is not a separate degree, but a way of studying Ancient Philosophy within the existing BPhil structure.
BPhil students are required to submit six assessed essays (of no more than 5,000 words each) across at least five subjects (with no more than two essays on any one subject), together with a thesis of up to 30,000 words. The assessed essays must be chosen from three broad subject Groups: one essay must be on a subject from Group 1 (“Theoretical Philosophy”), one on a subject from Group 2 (“Practical Philosophy”), and two on a subject or subjects from Group 3 (“History of Philosophy”). Please see the BPhil in Philosophy webpage for more information. Students following the Ancient Philosophy Track would write two of the six essays on Ancient Philosophy in Group 3 and the thesis would be written on some aspect of Ancient Philosophy. They may also tailor some of their chosen topics from Groups 1 or 2 appropriately to match their interests: for example issues arising from Ancient metaphysics, epistemology, or ethics, etc. They may also apply to the Philosophy Graduate Studies Committee for a waiver for one essay’s worth of the usual BPhil distribution requirement.
Those applying for the Ancient Philosophy track should state their intention clearly in their Statement of Purpose when applying.
After the MSt in Ancient Philosophy
MSt in Ancient Philosophy students are eligible to apply for a place to study for a DPhil in Philosophy, initially as a Probationary Research Student (“PRS”), although progression is not guaranteed. Detailed guidance on how to apply for progression to the DPhil will be provided early on in the academic year in a special information session about applying to doctoral programmes here and abroad.
Candidates who achieve a distinction on the MSt in Ancient Philosophy are automatically eligible to progress to the DPhil, provided only that the Philosophy Graduate Studies Committee is satisfied that their proposed thesis topic and outline indicates that they can be adequately supervised by members of the Philosophy Faculty. Candidates who pass the MSt without a distinction can progress to the DPhil at the discretion of the Philosophy Graduate Studies Committee. To achieve a distinction, candidates must achieve an average of 70 or above on the three essays, as well as a 70 or above on the thesis.
During their PRS year students who have progressed from the MSt in Ancient Philosophy will be required to satisfy certain formal conditions, which are specified in the Graduate Student Handbook, in order to progress to DPhil status. It is envisaged that a typical student might finish a doctoral thesis within three years of completing the MSt.