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Philosophy, Political science, and no direction


penultimeta
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Hi all,

I've been perusing the board for a few days now. I recently graduated undergrad with a B.A. in Political science and a B.A. in Philosophy and I'm currently at an impasse of sorts. I adore philosophy, but my understanding is that not only are most philosophy PhD programs impossibly difficult to get in to (my GPA is mediocre, LORs would be from not necessarily notable {albeit incredible} professors, and I

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First, yes, Political Science is a little better. You have no idea how hard it is to get into top Philosophy programs.

Now, to the OP. I graduated with BAs in political science and philosophy, but was never interested in the kind of philosophy you wrote your thesis on. that is, straight up american analytic philosophy. i was always only interested in continental and political philosophy. i am doing my MA in philosophy now, and will be applying to PhD programs in political science this fall. so, we are in similar positions somewhat.

if you want to study political thought, you will have to abandon your interests in materialism. that is for sure. it might not be a bad idea to enroll in an MA Program in either political philosophy or political science. a good place to study hegel, for example, is the new school for social research, in either the political science or philosophy departments.

i entered an MA program to test the philosophy academic world to see if it was compatible with my interests. it is not. i have discovered political science to be a much better realm of inquiry for my interests than philosophy. HOWEVER, being in an MA program also has helped my application. i have now have a 4.0 graduate GPA, reccomendations from two department chairs, a better writing sample, and a coherent research project. this, with phi beta kappa and other undergrad awards, with a decent undergrad gpa of 3.8, i think will make me compettive for top political science phd programs. however, without my masters degree and, more importantly, the experience i earned earning it, i wouldnt be nearly as strong a candidate. so, if your grades and writing sample arent where you want them to be, graduate school could help.

so, for this reason, a masters program was good for me. in your case, i think a master program in political science or philosophy would help you estimate your level of dedication to academia, and your ability to become a professional academic. it would also give you some time to consider which direction you want to go in, that is, philosophy or polisci. on the other hand, i know students who have earned masters degrees in philosophy to make themselves more competitive for top philosophy programs and still struck out on applications.

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I would agree with readeatsleep about the benefit of a Masters degree. I did mine at LSE in Political Theory which ended up sitting nicely on the border between politics and philosophy.

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ziz, what are your research interests?

Right now I'm most interested in applying theories of justice to future people. But I'm also interested in applied ethics in all cases - non human animals, ethics of war, abortion, etc. etc. I also love metaethics and theories of moral motivation. So I sit on the ever-so-thin fence between political theory and philosophy as well. Most of the literature I end up reading for my research is by philosophers, but 'justice theory' is often housed in political science departments. Frankly I'd prefer a political science degree anyway in case I can't find an academic job at the end of this and I need to get a 'real world'' job. I just have a feeling that "PhD Political Science" makes people think you know things about the real world, whereas I think a lot of people see philosophy as belonging up in the ivory tower and graduates not having transferable skills. We all know that's not true, but it is the perception of my friends at least.

The LSE masters was great, though I think it has veered away from the philosophical side of things a bit since I was there. At the time we did courses in 'methods' of politlcal theory which was essentially some metaethics, relativism, theories of truth, reasons, and a dash of epistemology. The substantive courses included quite a bit of applied ethics, multiculturalism, etc. but there was always the "Liberalist Theory" and "Theory of Voting" to appease the less philosophically-inclined. There were also political thought courses available - reading Plato, Aristotle, etc.

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I'm a 4th year theorist at Rutgers University, we definitely DO NOT take an analytic approach, and I really love the program. Rutgers has a good theory reputation, a strong placement record, and is definitely easier to get into than the Ivies (further, most top programs nowadays lean towards formal/game theory--things in which I have absolutely no interest).

We're strongly focused on the canon, but depending upon your advisor that can take a lot of different directions.

For example: my dis uses canonical political theory (Locke, Kant, Hegel, Hayek, Foucault)as a frame for analyzing incarceration in the US.

Having a strong background in the canon is not a prerequisite though. All theorists have to go through Western canon bootcamp in their first year, so it all tends to even out after the first year.

If you think you're going to end up in a Phd program, I would recommend applying to some programs even if you're thinking MA this year. A MA is useful, but expensive.

If you (or anyone!) has any questions about political theory at Rutgers, you can drop me an email @ wlwrightru at gmail dot com.

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  • 3 months later...

Hi all,

I've been perusing the board for a few days now. I recently graduated undergrad with a B.A. in Political science and a B.A. in Philosophy and I'm currently at an impasse of sorts. I adore philosophy, but my understanding is that not only are most philosophy PhD programs impossibly difficult to get in to (my GPA is mediocre, LORs would be from not necessarily notable {albeit incredible} professors, and I�m not sure I have an adequate writing project), but the academic climate that seems to surround the academic philosophy world is not one that's necessarily appealing to me. I studied primarily epistemology and philosophy of mind as well as philosophy of science. My senior writing project was on Types A, B, and C materialism, defending type C and using that to reconcile with traditional physicalism.

My political science background is rooted in political thought. As an undergrad I took a total of 9 credits that were not first and foremost political philosophy. It's safe to say that if I were to pursue a doctorate in political science I would continue down this road and I think I would excel in such a program. However, I don't which schools have adequate political theory/philosophy programs that would sufficiently slake my lust for philosophy and combine it with a kind of real world application. I know that many political science departments focus on things like voter turnout, censuses, etc. I don't care too much for these things. I would rather discuss the Allegory of the Cave, than demographics of voters in 2008.

Here's where I feel that my education fails me. Having gone to a relatively small state school with almost zero penchants for humanities and social sciences, I feel that I have inadequate preparation to have discovered what I ought to pursue. For instance, I never studied Hagel, many of the political theorists that have been discussed on this board might as well be obscure Tajik royalty, and not one continental philosophy course was ever offered in my 4-year tenure.

Essentially I'm looking for some direction. For instance, would I be a candidate for a terminal MA in philosophy prior to pursuing a PhD? I'm open to all suggestions and they need not be confined into the two arenas that I've specified. I think that my career goal at this juncture is this: to secure a tenure track position at any university, but not before attempting some sort of actual application of my education.

Is there any hope for me or ought I start to look at being satisfied as a buffet style intellectual who will end up managing a Barnes and Noble or coffee shop recanting the days of what was and making excuses for what could have been?

For the record... I think its Hegel.

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Right now I'm most interested in applying theories of justice to future people. But I'm also interested in applied ethics in all cases - non human animals, ethics of war, abortion, etc. etc. I also love metaethics and theories of moral motivation. So I sit on the ever-so-thin fence between political theory and philosophy as well. Most of the literature I end up reading for my research is by philosophers, but 'justice theory' is often housed in political science departments.

God, that sounds amazing. Also, exactly the kind of things I love to study. I, personally, straddle the line between the two as well, but discovered that political thought is rapidly becoming dead in the academic world. It's become a sort of subgenre in philosophy, but even then, seems fairly rare.

I'm glad to hear LSE at least still has a dept/program for it. I'm feeling a bit torn right now and am considering actually slipping in applications for some philosophy PhD programs along with my poli sci ones next fall.

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God, that sounds amazing. Also, exactly the kind of things I love to study. I, personally, straddle the line between the two as well, but discovered that political thought is rapidly becoming dead in the academic world. It's become a sort of subgenre in philosophy, but even then, seems fairly rare.

I'm glad to hear LSE at least still has a dept/program for it. I'm feeling a bit torn right now and am considering actually slipping in applications for some philosophy PhD programs along with my poli sci ones next fall.

The difficulty I am finding with philosophy programs (in the States) is that they are very hesitant to admit students without a philosophy BA. I don't know what your situation is, but I only have 1 official philosophy course on my transcript. Most top programs accept 5% or so of students so I figured my chances without a philosophy BA were slim to none. However, I have had some luck in the UK and have now convinced 2 philosophy departments to take me. I think they're more open minded there.

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