What is freedom and why is it valuable? What makes an argument convincing? How do body and mind interact?
Philosophy is the systematic study of fundamental questions. Students are trained to think and write clearly about topics such as the relations between mind, body and cognition, the nature and basis of moral judgements, the limits of knowledge, or the principles of social justice.
The Research Master Philosophy offers you the opportunity to work with leading scholars in the history of philosophy, practical philosophy and theoretical philosophy (see staff pages). It prepares you for an academic career, but also teaches useful skills for other jobs.
The programme offers a core curriculum on philosophical problems
related to ongoing research in the faculty, as well as many
opportunities to pursue your own interests.
Our personal approach makes the Faculty a wonderful place to study, and our programme is consistently ranked highly by independent assessors. (Read about it here.)
The Master's programme in Philosophy is offered both on a full-time and part-time basis.
Attractions of the Research Master in Groningen
This programme prepares you for the next academic phase in every way.
While pursuing my Bachelor of Science in India, I noticed that when I did experiments I liked it better to explain what I did and why, than the practice itself. That's when I decided to switch to philosophy and pursued a Master's in Birmingham. Before deciding to come here, I participated in the Philosophy Winter School last year. I would advise everyone to do this as it is a good introduction to the Faculty.
'Throughout the programme, students are constantly encouraged to think and work as true insiders of academia.'
Starting his philosophical career from Jilin University in China, Chengying Guan joined UG's international Research Master's Programme in the autumn of 2013.
Philosophy is difficult, and to pursue the career of being a professional philosopher could be arduous. Indeed, this seems more real for those who come from a civilization that had no such thing in its pre-modern stage.
Perhaps to your surprise, although China had, of course, produced a lot of invaluable ‘ philosophical’ ideas for humankind, the very concept of ‘philosophy as an autonomous academic subject’ did not occur in Chinese language and intellectual life until about 120 years ago. This concept in its Chinese format, namely, 哲学 (zhé xué), was one of many Japanese-made Chinese words that we imported from our neighbour during the last two decades of the nineteenth century. Outside of academia, few know that the first user of it was the Japanese scholar Nishi Amane (1829-1897), an ardent participant of the Meiji Restoration.
Due to this historical background and also a series of social-political setbacks that happened in the twentieth century, philosophy in China suffered from slow development for many years. Notwithstanding, thanks to the effort of honourable pioneers, philosophical research is now no longer strange to Chinese people; our works are still short of international visibilities and thus need improvement. The Chinese philosophy community has a clear awareness of this situation and a resolute ambition to make a change.
Being included in that community, when finishing my undergraduate at Jilin University in Changchun, I realized I had better study abroad in order to go faster. As I see it, instead of transmitting—from a bird's eye view—what great Western philosophers had said, the real challenge is to—from a trench-eye view—‘do philosophy' directly on our own hands, that is, to engage in those ongoing debates, working face-to-face with our contemporary peers from all over the world.
I felt so lucky that I subsequently got the chance to enrol in the international Research Master's Programme here at the University of Groningen, which is an outstanding classic university rooted in the north of the Netherlands, a nation that stands in the frontier of philosophy. In fact, as even fewer people know, when Nishi Amane made his original translation, the object in front of him was shown in neither English nor German. Rather, it was the Dutch word ‘wijsbegeerte,' which literally means ‘desire for wisdom,' that fascinated this oriental young, during his stay for study in the Netherlands between 1862 and 1865.
More interestingly, Dutch people take ‘wijsbegeerte’ to be the synonymy of another more informal word which nonetheless indicates philosophy’s Greek origin in a more common way , namely, ‘filosofie’ (i.e. φιλοσοφία, or rather, ‘love of wisdom’). By specifically isolating ‘desire’ from ‘love,’ it seemed that they revealed a more active mentality about how to get along with philosophy , that is, the mentality that philosophy is more like a craft worth doing than simply something worth admiring . Considering that the physical size of the nation is so small, this mentality, which is also the point I think Chinese people should learn, is impressively unusual and perhaps has mattered a lot. Nowadays, Dutch philosophers consistently put out cutting-edge and internationally-recognized works. Every year, a considerable number of papers and books written in Dutch philosophy departments get published in world’s top journals and presses. To be part of this story is, in one word, delightful.
Three distinctive characteristics of the Faculty of Philosophy (Faculteit Wijsbegeerte) at Groningen and its international Research Master's Programme must be highlighted. First of all, the faculty is the largest one of its kind nationwide. This provides students with comprehensive possibilities to explore their own upgrading routines; that is to say, enrolling in the faculty, students can develop academic interests in almost all branches of philosophy and get appropriate supervision.
Secondly, the structure of the international Research Master Programme is wisely designed, prepares its participants well for getting surviving and thriving in the environment of ‘analytical tradition,' which is currently the dominating research paradigm. (Yet, at the same time, it also teaches us never to underestimate the value of other traditions.) To be precise, the programme is arranged in such a way that it does not only just pass on knowledge but it also has a strong emphasis on the mastery of research skills. Throughout the programme, students are constantly encouraged to think and work as true insiders of academia.
Related to this, thirdly and of the most importance, being ‘research masters,’ we are treated by Groningen professors as not merely students but their future colleagues. Such an atmosphere of mutual respect—not to mention their tremendous patience with those who need much time to grow—is highly exhilarating. To summarize, I think it would be quite fair to say that no matter how rough the path to a philosophical career may be, sitting at Groningen’s research master classes implies a good start-up. Especially, for those from China, like me, as well as—if I may venture to infer—for those from similar non-Western countries, this kind of feeling could be even stronger.
I got to present my papers at conferences in Berlin, Toronto and Nijmegen
This Research Master not only provides you with amazing reflexive and writing skills, but also allows you to get in touch with other philosophers in and outside of the Groningen department.
After my Bachelor’s programme I wanted to continue to study medieval and early modern philosophers. This is why I decided to do this 2-year, English-taught Research Master programme, a selective programme for those who want to pursue an academic career. As a part of this programme I spent a term abroad at the University of Toronto, and I got to present three of my papers at conferences in Berlin, Toronto and Nijmegen. This programme stimulated me to become an active member of the department and eventually even opened the door for me becoming a PhD student.
Since the male-female ratio in academia is still out of balance, I would hope to see more young female philosophers to join this great programme and to become part of the department, which, I think, forms a challenging and at the same time friendly community.
What could be better than the University of Groningen?
Before coming in Groningen I worked as a teacher of philosophy and Greek literature in secondary education in Greece. Continuing my studies in Philosophy was something that I wanted to do, since I finished my studies at the Philosophy department of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in Greece. I wanted to expand my horizons and get in contact with new ways of thinking and working. Hence, I decided to follow a programme abroad. What could be better than the University of Groningen?
The reason for choosing this specific faculty was that it is considered one of the best faculties in Europe and the best in the Netherlands.
I have to admit that the Faculty of Philosophy and the programme were more than I had expected. First of all, the programme is a very high level and competitive one, with a variety of subjects from almost all areas of philosophy. Secondly, it consists in high skilled, experienced, and specialized personnel. The very fact that it hosts a large group of PhD students and post-docs is a strong indication that it is a very active faculty in terms of research with a strong presence in the philosophical domain. What is more, the fact that there are regular colloquia and seminars organized, gives everyone the opportunity to present their research and discuss it with their colleagues. I think that this is very important for the prosperity and the progress of everyone individually and of the Faculty in total. I shouldn't omit to mention the extra-curricular activities, such as reading groups, which are regularly organised just for the sheer interest and engagement with a topic.
As for the atmosphere among the students and the teachers, I found it more relaxed and friendly than I was used to. The very fact that it is an independent Faculty gives it the leverage of a family atmosphere. The teachers are easily accessible and cooperative, while there is a good communication among the fellow students. What makes the whole atmosphere more comfortable and pleasant is the Kantine in which everyone gathers to have their lunch, relax and talk.
Nevertheless, there are quite a few difficulties that one faces by their arrival in Groningen. Even though both the University and the Faculty give a warm welcoming, and there is a general willingness to help on several levels, there are some objective difficulties that one has to face. Language and cultural differences are the most important ones. It is true that it takes time to adjust to the cultural differences and get used to speaking and talking in a foreign language. However, it is a minor obstacle that can be easily surpassed.
The search for accommodation and the bureaucratic issues that one has to deal with before and during staying in Groningen, are quite easily resolved. However, one must take care of them quite some time before arrival. Especially accommodation must be catered for before arrival due to the fact that the demand for housing is bigger than the offer. An easy and safe solution is staying during the first period in one of the student houses which are administered by the Housing Office. As for the bureaucratic issues (enrolment at the municipality hall, health insurance, bank account etc.), it is advisable to do some research beforehand as to what is required. I shouldn't fail to mention that I had quite some help from the Faculty and some fellow students.
Groningen is mainly characterized by its student life, since the RUG is a big university. Hence, it is the perfect place for someone to meet new people from different countries and cultural backgrounds from all over the world. Especially for someone easy-going, it is not difficult to make new friends and socialize a lot. Combined with the fact that Groningen is a city with a variety of options concerning entertainment and cultural events, I think that it offers great chances for new experiences. Even though it is considered a remote area within the Netherlands, it is a lively city with many facilities for almost every taste and an easy access to several places around Central and Northern Europe.
I am following the Research Master programme with a specialization in ancient metaphysics and epistemology (Plato and Aristotle). After the end of my studies at the Faculty of Philosophy I intend to continue research in my area of interest.
I immediately felt at home
After having finished my Bachelor Degree at the Université de Toulouse Le Mirail in France, I felt the deep need to explore new horizons, be they cultural or philosophical. Groningen was a great place for me to do so. I easily found a room in a student house through the Housing Office. Living in such a place has not only allowed me to quickly become fluent in English, but also to make great Dutch and international friends. Although I was away from my family, I immediately felt at home.
I should stress, however, that a stay abroad has to be prepared months in advance! Even though I had started making plans in January (for September), I still turned out to be late with some administrative issues in the end.
When I arrived at the Faculty, the staff welcomed me with open arms. I was also glad to see the freedom of thought and the genuine interest that was given to my work. The Faculty of Philosophy in Groningen is supported by a team of dedicated professionals, as they manage to make time and to properly advise each student.
I would even say that the Faculty of Philosophy stands out from other faculties because of its internal dynamics and variety of lectures and seminars. I remember specifically, that in June 2011, I went to a conference given by Peter Singer. It was quite an epiphany for me. I read The Life You Can Save and Animal Liberation in the week that followed, and that is when I realized how Practical Ethics are of central importance to me.
I then deepened my knowledge of the subject and was given the opportunity to express my views on Animal Ethics through my papers, a topic so dear to me. Moreover, it is during the time I spent in Groningen that I experienced the implications of long term research, especially through the elaboration and support of my Master’s thesis. I learned to appropriately use scientific data and fundamental philosophical opinions needed for researching. The Faculty's teachers and supervisors have been, and still are, of inspiration to me regarding these accomplishments. That is why today, I am more than happy to continue in the Research Master's programme in Groningen to perfect my researching skills.
Ingrid graduated with her research master's thesis: Veganism Light: The Feasibility of a Moral Ideal