Chairperson: Co-Chairs Jay CiaffaErik Schmidt
Director of the Philosophy Graduate Program: Danielle Layne
Professors: M. AlfinoK. Besmer, P. Burke, D. CalhounB. Clayton, B. Henning, T. Jeannot, D. Kries, W. Pomerleau, E. Schmidt, M. Tkacz, R.M. Volbrecht (Emeritus) 
Associate Professors: D. Bradley, J. Ciaffa, T. Clancy, S.J., T. Di MariaD. Layne, Q. Liu, E. Maccarone, J. Wagner
Assistant Professors: M. Howard, C. Lassiter, T. Tritten, M. TurnbullT. Weidel

Master of Arts in Philosophy

The Master of Arts program in Philosophy builds on the central place of philosophical study in Gonzaga's Jesuit, Catholic, humanistic identity. Through coursework, supervised study, examinations, and a thesis, the program stresses understanding of the main problems of philosophy as they emerge in the history of philosophy, knowledge of the major figures and movements of the history of philosophy, and attention to contemporary philosophy and social and applied ethics. The program's focus on fundamental questions of reality, knowledge, and the good promotes skills of reflection and self-examination, and prepares students for critical engagement with and across human cultures. These goals reflect the mission of the Philosophy Department and the mission and identity of Gonzaga University, particularly the goals of intellectual inquiry, development and discipline of the faculties of intelligence and moral judgment, and intelligent and morally informed leadership. The program provides students with resources to make use of philosophical concepts and skills in a variety of career contexts, including Ph.D. studies in philosophy and related disciplines, such as theology, law, and politics, and philosophy teaching at the introductory university or community college level.
The Master’s degree is offered on a full-time or part-time basis during the regular session. While many courses offered in the Gonzaga Master of Arts program are cross-listed with undergraduate courses, a Graduate Seminar restricted to graduate students only is offered each fall and spring semester. A limited set of graduate-level philosophy courses is also available during summer.


Each applicant must submit the following materials:

  1. 1. A completed application form and a non-refundable application fee.
  2. 2. Two official transcripts from each college or university attended (international applicants must submit foreign transcripts in the original language and an English copy). Only degrees and courses from a regionally accredited institution will be accepted.
  3. 3. Three letters of recommendation sent directly from the recommending individual.
  4. 4. Submission of an official TOEFL score of at least 100 ibt or 250 cbt or 600 pbt by each international applicant who has graduated from a foreign college or university and whose native language is not English.
  5. 5. Submission of a financial declaration form and supporting documentation by each international applicant.
  6. 6. Personal statement of philosophical background and interest.
  7. 7. A sample of philosophical writing (no more than 3500 words).


B.A. with major (or acceptable background) in Philosophy from a regionally accredited college or university.


Completion of the Master of Arts degree in Philosophy from Gonzaga University requires:

  1. 1. 30-credit program hours, including eight seminars (24 credits) and a Thesis requirement (6 credits). At least four seminars (12 credits) must be graduate-specific (PHIL 577 or 579). Students may also take up to four cross-listed Philosophy Major Seminars (PHIL 586, 587, or 588) and up to two Directed Study courses (PHIL 690 or 691) to complete their course requirements.
  2. 2. Registration in the Graduate Seminar each semester in which the student is taking course work.
  3. 3. Successful completion of a comprehensive examination (including written and oral components) (PHIL 697).
  4. 4. Successful completion of a logic exam, testing skills up to and including the predicate calculus (PHIL 695).
  5. 5. The M.A. program has no foreign language requirement, but a thesis director may require a student to have competency in translating texts from a foreign language into English depending on the student’s thesis topic.
PHIL 577 Graduate Seminar
3.00 credits
A seminar will be scheduled for graduate students in philosophy each fall and spring semester. Topics will vary. Class size is limited to allow for greater student participation and writing.
PHIL 579 Graduate Seminar
3.00 credits
A seminar will be scheduled for graduate students in philosophy each semester. Topics will vary. Class size is limited to allow for greater student participation and writing.
PHIL 586 Seminar
1.00- 3.00 credits
Topics will vary.
PHIL 587 Seminar
3.00 credits
Topics will vary.
PHIL 588 Seminar
3.00 credits
Topics will vary.
RELI 579A - OK if taken since Fall 1996
PHIL 611 Continuing Research
.00- 1.00 credits
Required of all graduate students to maintain continuous enrollment in the program while completing their final project.
PHIL 690 Directed Study
1.00- 7.00 credits
Credits and material to be arranged. Must have form completed before registering.
PHIL 691 Directed Study
.00- 3.00 credits
PHIL 695 Logic Requirement
.00 credits
PHIL 697 Comprehensive Examination
.00 credits
Students must register via ZAGWEB for comprehensive exams.
PHIL 698 Research
1.00- 9.00 credits
PHIL 699 Thesis
6.00 credits
Students must register via ZAGWEB for Thesis credits.

In addition to their major and minor areas of study, all undergraduate students follow a common program designed to complete their education in those areas that the University considers essential for a Catholic, Jesuit, liberal, and humanistic education. The University Core Curriculum consists of forty-five credits of course work, with additional designation requirements that can be met through core, major, or elective courses.

The University Core Curriculum is a four-year program, organized around one overarching question, which is progressively addressed through yearly themes and questions. Hence, core courses are best taken within the year for which they are designated. First year core courses encourage intellectual engagement and provide a broad foundation of fundamental skills. Second and third year courses examine central issues and questions in philosophy and religious studies. The fourth year course, the Core Integration Seminar, offers a culminating core experience. Taken at any time throughout the four years, broadening courses intersect with the core themes and extend students’ appreciation for the humanities, arts, and social and behavioral sciences. Finally, the designation requirements (writing enriched, global studies, and social justice) reflect important values and reinforce students’ knowledge and competencies.

Overarching Core Question: As students of a Catholic, Jesuit, and Humanistic University, how do we educate ourselves to become women and men for a more just and humane global community?
Year 1 Theme and Question: Understanding and Creating: How do we pursue knowledge and cultivate understanding?

  • The First-Year Seminar (DEPT 193, 3 credits): The First-Year Seminar (FYS), taken in the fall or spring of the first year, is designed to promote an intellectual shift in students as they transition to college academic life. Each small seminar is organized around an engaging topic, which students explore from multiple perspectives. The FYS is offered by many departments across the University (click here [PDF] for list of FYS courses).  
  • Writing (ENGL 101, 3 credits) and Reasoning (PHIL 101, 3 credits): The Writing and Reasoning courses are designed to help students develop the foundational skills of critical reading, thinking, analysis, and writing. They may be taken as linked sections. Writing (ENGL 101) carries one of the three required writing-enriched designations (see below).
  • Communication & Speech (COMM 100, 3 credits): This course introduces students to interpersonal and small group communication and requires the application of critical thinking, reasoning, and research skills necessary to organize, write, and present several speeches.
  • Scientific Inquiry (BIOL 104/104L, CHEM 104/104L, or PHYS 104/104L, 3 credits): This course explores the scientific process in the natural world through evidence-based logic and includes significant laboratory experience. Students pursuing majors that require science courses will satisfy this requirement through their major.
  • Mathematics (above Math 100, 3 credits): Mathematics courses promote thinking according to the modes of the discipline—abstractly, symbolically, logically, and computationally. One course in mathematics, above Math 100, including any math course required for a major or minor, will fulfill this requirement. MATH 100 (College Algebra) and courses without the MATH prefix do not fulfill this requirement.

Year 2 Theme and Question: Being and Becoming: Who are we and what does it mean to be human?

  • Philosophy of Human Nature (PHIL 201, 3 credits): This course provides students with a philosophical study of key figures, theories, and intellectual traditions that contribute to understanding the human condition; the meaning and dignity of human life; and the human relationship to ultimate reality.
  • Christianity and Catholic Traditions (RELI, 3 credits). Religious Studies core courses approved for this requirement explore diverse topics including Christian scriptures, history, theology, and practices as well as major contributions from the Catholic intellectual and theological traditions (click here [PDF] for a list of approved courses) .

Year 3 Theme and Question: Caring and Doing: What principles characterize a well lived life?

  • Ethics (PHIL 301 or RELI, 3 credits): The Ethics courses are designed to help students develop their moral imagination by exploring and explaining the reasons humans should care about the needs and interests of others. This requirement is satisfied by an approved ethics course in either Philosophy (PHIL 301) or Religious Studies (click here [PDF] for a list of approved courses).
  • World/Comparative Religion (RELI, 3 credits): Religious Studies courses approved for this core requirement draw attention to the diversity that exists within and among traditions and encourage students to bring critical, analytical thinking to bear on the traditions and questions considered. These courses carries one of the required two global-studies designations (see below) (click here [PDF] for a list of approved courses).

Year 4 Theme and Question: Imagining the Possible: What is our role in the world?” 

  • Core Integration Seminar (DEPT 432, 3 credits). The Core Integration Seminar (CIS) offers students a culminating core experience in which they integrate the principles of Jesuit education, prior components of the core, and their disciplinary expertise. Some CIS courses may also count toward a student’s major or minor. The CIS is offered by several departments across the University (click here [PDF] for list of CIS courses).

The Broadening Courses

  • Fine Arts & Design (VART, MUSC, THEA, 3 credits): Arts courses explore multiple ways the human experience can be expressed through creativity, including across different cultures and societies. One approved course in fine arts, music, theatre, or dance will fulfill this requirement (click here [PDF] for a list of approved courses).
  • History (HIST, 3 credits): History courses are intended to develop students’ awareness of the historical context of both the individual and the collective human experience. One course in History (HIST 101, HIST 102, HIST 112, HIST 201, HIST 202) will fulfill this requirement.
  • Literature (3 credits): Literature courses foster reflection on how literature engages with a range of human experience. One approved course in Literature (offered by English, Classics, or Modern Languages) will fulfill this requirement (click here [PDF] for a list of approved courses).
  • Social & Behavioral Sciences (3 credits): Courses in the social and behavioral sciences engage students in studying human behavior, social systems, and social issues. One approved course offered by Criminal Justice, Economics, Political Science, Psychology, Sociology, or Women and Gender Studies will fulfill this requirement (click here [PDF] for a list of approved courses).

The Designations
Designations are embedded within already existing core, major, minor, and elective courses. Students are encouraged to meet designation requirements within elective courses as their schedule allows; however, with careful planning students should be able to complete most of the designation requirements within other core, major, or minor courses.

  • Writing Enriched (WE; 3 courses meeting this designation): Courses carrying the WE designation are designed to promote the humanistic and Jesuit pedagogical ideal of clear, effective communication. In addition to the required core course, Writing (ENGL 101), which carries one of the WE designations, students must take two other WE-designated courses (click here [PDF] for a list of approved courses).
  • Global-Studies (GS; 2 courses meeting this designation): Courses carrying the GS designation are designed to challenge students to perceive and understand human diversity by exploring diversity within a context of constantly changing global systems. In addition to the required core course, World/Comparative Religion (RELI 300-level), which carries one of the GS designations, students must take one other GS-designated course (click here [PDF] for a list of approved courses).
  • Social-Justice (SJ; 1 course meeting this designation): Courses carrying the SJ designation are designed to introduce students to one or more social justice concerns. Students must take one course that meets the SJ designation (click here [PDF] for a list of approved courses).

Major-specific adaptations to the University Core Curriculum

All Gonzaga students, regardless of their major, will complete the University Core Curriculum requirements. However some Gonzaga students will satisfy certain core requirements through major-specific programs or courses. Any major-specific adaptations to the core are described with the requirements for the majors to which they apply.