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MA Placement / Testimonials

Here at Stony Brook University’s M.A. Program in Philosophy and the Arts, we are committed to helping our students succeed, and we draw upon a wide swath of interests, traditions, and lived experiences. Below, you will find testimonials from past and current students on their experiences in the program. We hope that these different lived perspectives will give a concrete sense of the practical impact of taking up study with us here in Brooklyn.

2005 Cohort
Nahum Brown
Assistant Professor of Philosophy and Religion, Miyazaki International College, located in Miyazaki, Japan
Ph.D. Philosophy, The University of Guelph, located in Ontario, Canada

I am writing to give a statement about my experience in Philosophy and the Arts M.A. program at Stony Brook University. I enrolled as part of the first cohort of the program in September 2005 and graduated from the program in June 2007. For my B.A., I had initially majored in 19th-century sociology and literature at a small liberal arts school in Vermont, Marlboro College. I became quite interested in philosophy as a senior and wanted to transition into a philosophy PhD degree program. The M.A. program at Stony Brook afforded me an excellent path for graduate work that prepared the way for me to do a PhD and eventually to become a professor in the field. I went on to do my PhD in Philosophy at the University of Guelph in Southern Ontario, where I wrote a dissertation on Hegel’s Science of Logic under Professor Jay Lampert. I am now an Assistant Professor of Philosophy and Religion at a liberal arts college – Miyazaki International College – in southern Japan. I have published two books on Hegel, edited two volumes on the philosophy of religion, and have published numerous articles and book chapters. The M.A. program at Stony Brook was a major component of my educational development and has significantly enabled my career path.

I was attracted, in particular, by the design of the curriculum, the educational use of the New York area location, and the vibrancy of the Stony Brook intellectual community. The M.A. course offerings emphasized a rich historical and comparative account of the trajectory of aesthetic thought in the Western tradition. I was able to take a mixture of survey and in-depth courses on the aesthetic theories of Plato, Aristotle, Shaftesbury, Kant, Hegel, Heidegger, Adorno, as well as the more recent phenomenological aesthetics of Merleau-Ponty, Levinas, Ingarden, Dufrenne, and Derrida. The design of the curriculum at Stony Brook also allowed me to develop my own research interests in phenomenology through a series of seminars and tutorials that led to my M.A. thesis on Levinas. I had the opportunity to study these topics under, among others, Edward S. Casey, Hugh J. Silverman, and Eduardo Mendieta. One of my favorite aspects of the M.A. program was that it made excellent use of Manhattan as an educational resource by incorporating museum events, public lectures, and guest speakers into the design of the curriculum. This aspect of the program was outstanding, since it helped to foster a creative, interdisciplinary approach to aesthetics. I genuinely cherish the time I spent in the M.A. program at Stony Brook and feel that it was one of the most important stages of my education.

2018 Cohort
Stafford Davis
accepted to Fordham University, fall 2021

I chose to pursue a degree at Stony Brook based on the overall graduate program’s reputation in philosophy and the attention given to aesthetics in the Master of Arts program. Now, after having spent two years in the program, I can genuinely say that this pursuit was satisfied and yet my philosophical horizons have enlarged in certain basic ways. This is to say that while I’ve changed my mind a few times on certain philosophical issues or interests, my overall education is better for it, and my confidence in the education I’ve received remains just as strong as my initial desire to come to Stony Brook.

In my time in the program I’ve taken courses in aesthetics, phenomenology, philosophy of mind, feminism, pragmatism, philosophy of emotion, and the philosophy of language, as well as seminars that put these areas into conversation. Every one of my professors had a distinct style of pedagogy and syllabi that were challenging and encouraged original thinking in the various written and oral assignments throughout the four terms. A particularly meaningful point for me, about halfway through the program, was when I developed a paper that I had written for a master’s seminar into a paper that I presented at a conference for the American Society for Aesthetics. Let me also mention that the support I received in these two years from the faculty and fellow students continued after graduation and has played a substantial role in my acceptance into Fordham University’s doctoral program in philosophy.

What initially drew me to Stony Brook’s M.A. program was its emphasis on aesthetics and the philosophy of art. Stony Brook is, of course, known for its focus in Continental thought; however, most of the faculty are equally well-versed in aesthetics and pursue diverse approaches to the subject. In my view aesthetics is special insofar as it comes into contact with all other major disciplines in philosophy and this breadth was reflected in the seminars I chose to take in the program. As for the philosophy of art, I appreciated the predominantly historical approach in the readings and coursework, as well as the frequent excursions to small art galleries, theaters, and museums such as The Met, MoMA, and Whitney. And I must say that these excursions were a mixture of formal assignments and informally planned and unplanned get-togethers. This camaraderie was a welcome surprise and I think it speaks to the friendly and engaging atmosphere of the program where professors, guest lecturers, and doctoral and master’s students alike often found ourselves continuing class conversations and sparking new discussions over food and drinks, or simply walking around the city. There was always an excitement whereby learning persisted beyond the classroom.

While a few master’s seminars are located at the main campus on Long Island, the bulk of courses take place in a quaint conference room above a coffee shop in downtown Brooklyn. I’ve been told the coffee is amazing and can attest firsthand to the bagels. To my mind, there is no better city to study philosophy and art than New York. It’s a place where the humanities are taken seriously, and both philosophy and art play a significant role in the character and allure of the city. That the location is conducive to the subject matter is indicative of the philosophy department’s choice to locate its M.A. program in Brooklyn. I don’t think it’s lost on many students as to how important is this unique convergence of study and place.

Thus, at the end of the day, and degree, I’m quite happy I chose Stony Brook to pursue a master’s degree and am equally elated that I’m able to participate in a dynamic philosophy community in the continuance of my education, as well as remain in touch with a very special department.

2019 Cohort
Daniel Apadula
previously Coordinator of Liturgical Music, St. Joseph’s Preparatory School, 2018 – 2019

My studies through the MA in Philosophy and the Arts at Stony Brook have been instrumental in fostering my growth as a writer and a thinker. I was initially drawn to the program because of my background as a musician and my research affinity for aesthetics, and my coursework over the last four semesters has both expanded and crystallized my interest in the field. Inside the classroom, I was afforded ample opportunity to grapple with interesting ideas through both leading and contributing to class discussion; outside the classroom, my professors took advantage of the vibrancy of NYC by incorporating performances and museum visits in their curricula.

The program’s flexibility enabled me to explore the boundaries of my interests. I was able to branch out into offerings from the Art History and Music departments, in addition to the doctoral level courses I took in the Philosophy department. The depth and breadth of the material I encountered, even over the short span of four semesters, have significantly enriched my knowledge of (and competence in) academic philosophy; I could not have asked for better preparation for doctoral study.

Daniel Beers
M.A. Social Ethics (co-study), Union Theological Seminary

I am currently pursuing my M.A. at Stony Brook University in Philosophy and the Arts as well as working towards my M.A. in Social Ethics from Union Theological Seminary. These are two completely different programs, but I believe they are complementary. At Union I am focused on racial justice and the history of the Black freedom struggle in the United States. But it is imperative for me that my education and my work has a philosophical foundation. Stony Brook has not only met my need for philosophy but has expanded my intellectual horizon to encompass art and aesthetic experience.

Stony Brook University’s MA program in Philosophy and Art offers a unique synthesis between rigorous philosophic thought and aesthetic imagination and aims to integrate both within the broad context of the history of ideas. My time in the MA program has taught me the value of deliberative, organized, and precise thinking about fundamental questions regarding our human experience. I love to ask questions and offer differing perspectives in relation to the primary source material we read in class. I am glad I chose the MA program for my studies because I have received encouragement as well as critical feedback for my efforts. I am now more confident in my reasoning abilities than before I enrolled, while being more attuned to the enormous space of all that I do not know. Curiosity and exploration are alive here. Friendly and serious dialogue are a constant at Stony Brook. The MA program demonstrates an overall emphasis on creating a quality of learning. In addition, the program provides a rare possibility for personal and thoughtful attention from faculty members. Instruction has been open minded, creative, and thoroughly researched. Without a doubt I am grateful to be a part of the Stony Brook philosophy community.

Nicholas Raffel
accepted to the University of Hawai'i at Mānoa, fall 2021

The Master’s Degree in Philosophy and the Arts at Stony Brook University provided for me a unique learning environment wherein students from diverse academic and professional backgrounds converged around the pursuit of multifaceted philosophical knowledge. Coming into the program right after finishing a bachelor’s degree in English, the MA program allowed me to continue to focus on literary theory and critical aesthetics, while at the same time exposing me to the world of philosophy proper. The professors were engaging and encouraging—they pushed me to ask questions and think critically about the material under consideration, to really make it my own. Today, as a current PhD student in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Hawai'i at Mānoa, I look back fondly on the formative years I spent in the MA program at Stony Brook. I learned invaluable lessons there that continue to serve me in my current pursuits. Whether you’re a philosopher or an artist, the Master’s Degree in Philosophy and the Arts at Stony Brook University has something to offer you.

Amanda Springs
Professor of Humanities, State University of New York at Maritime College
Ph.D. English Literature, The Graduate Center, City University of New York

When I first considered returning to graduate school to undertake a master’s in philosophy, I researched a variety of different programs. As an academic myself, I was looking for a program that was rigorous and stimulating, yet flexible enough to complete while working full time in my position as a Humanities Professor. I wanted a program that would expand and strengthen my understanding of philosophy, to both better teach my students and to feed my own intellectual curiosity.

The Master’s Degree in Philosophy and the Arts at Stony Brook University has proven to be an excellent fit. The program offers a broad range of courses, taught by experts in the discipline, who seamlessly weave theory and practice together. I feel both challenged and supported by the faculty, who have introduced me not only to new texts and thinkers, but to new modes of thought and application. My colleagues come from a wide variety of backgrounds, but are invariably brilliant and generous in the classroom, creating an atmosphere of open exchange and collegiality. My experience in the program has far exceeded my already-high expectations: I feel lucky to be a part of such a vibrant intellectual community.

Matthew Taibi
lyricist and drummer for Cryptodira

I had spent some years outside of academia, and despite a personal persistence in my studies during that time, I had struggled to find a way to get my foot back in the door five years after finishing my undergraduate degree. That was, of course, until I found the M.A. Program in Philosophy and the Arts at Stony Brook. For me, the program took high quality training and education in philosophy and made it accessible. Unlike other programs I looked into, the faculty were remarkably personable and made me feel welcome in the program before I had even decided to apply. And that feeling of belonging has only grown in proportion with the time spent in the program. Between the professors and fellow students, I have learned not only more about the philosophy which already impassioned me, but several professional skills as well. These include (but are not limited to) reading, summarizing and producing theoretical texts, public speaking, and essential time management skills.

The program has built around it a culture of philosophy which consolidates both the continental and pragmatist traditions, giving rise to its own uniquely American discipline. For me, the greatest strength of this program is its concentration on the philosophy of art. There is no shortage of need for such a philosophy, in an age where art is so important to our individual and social sense of self. If it’s true that today nothing about art is self-evident—not its inner life, not its relation to the world, not even its right to exist—then the only discipline which can offer an explanation for the continued and essential existence of art would be a philosophy of art. As a musician, I’ve known plenty of the practice of art, but familiarizing myself more with the aesthetic philosophy that runs parallel to it has reinforced my capacity to both produce and receive works of art. And as a musician, my voice has always been warmly received in the program’s seminar discussions. It can be easy, when discussing the philosophy of art, to get caught up in “Art” in the abstract, as opposed to specific works of art. But by having faculty who are themselves painters and musicians, by scheduling trips to art galleries in the NYC area, and by inviting poets and painters as guest speakers, the seminar discussions never sacrifice the particular to the universal.

The seminar discussions are always vibrant and profoundly interesting, underlining the level of passion and engagement shared by everyone taking part in them. At the Brooklyn Commons where they’re held, these discussions rarely stopped when the seminars themselves came to end. Rather, the spirit of philosophizing would spill over into the streets and often consolidate in a nearby bar. During my time in the program, these after-hour discussions always proved to be the greatest supplement to the seminars themselves, contributing to the curious feeling of both ease and engagement fostered by the program. With these warm memories in mind, I can confidently say that the program promotes—between readings, coursework, and community—a profound sense of creativity.