PCC's online MA and PhD programs aim to inspire thoughtful action by emphasizing the importance of linking theoretical reflection on world views to practical intervention in the world. Our programs offer students a rigorous, supportive, and transdisciplinary learning community in which to find their voice and vision as leaders. Unlike many graduate programs in philosophy where faculty are seldom accessible to students and an atmosphere of criticism and competition dominates, our faculty strive to provide genuine mentorship to students and to maintain a learning environment that balances scholarly rigor with encouragement for each student's unique strengths and value commitments.

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The online MA requires 36 units of online coursework. In addition, students are highly encouraged to participate in the annual residential retreat, intensive courses, and other program events held in and around the San Francisco Bay Area.

The online PhD also requires 36 units of online coursework. In addition to coursework, the online PhD requires two comprehensive exams, a dissertation proposal, and a successfully defended dissertation. Students are highly encouraged to participate in the annual residential retreat, intensive courses, and other program events held in and around the San Francisco Bay Area. Graduates of the PCC MA can apply for an accelerated PhD track requiring 18 units of coursework.

The annual retreat and other intensive offerings take place off-site in retreat centers in and around the San Francisco Bay Area. The retreat and intensives provide online students the opportunity to build community with one another as well as with residential students and alumni. In addition to presentations and workshops offered by students and faculty, the retreat includes special sessions for online students including in-person gatherings for the courses offered that semester; skill-building modules; advising sessions with faculty; and a variety of other co-curricular opportunities.

MA Program Learning Outcomes

The online MA program supports students in the cultivation of both intellectual rigor and sympathetic imaginative capacities which will better enable them to enter fruitfully into a plurality of worldviews, historical eras, and cultural sensibilities. By understanding transformative historical and contemporary ideas, students will develop the ability to discern creative possibilities for bringing about life-enhancing futures.

Goal 1: Agents of Change: To generate creative and effective thinking and action in response to the unprecedented evolutionary challenge of the ecological, cultural, and spiritual crises that are currently facing the human and nonhuman members of the Earth community.

  • Students will be able to articulate sophisticated critiques of the causes and consequences of the current planetary crises.
  • In response to the dominant worldview, students will be able to generate alternatives that promote a socially and ecologically just future for the entire Earth community.

Goal 2: Sophisticated Evaluation: To develop and apply appreciative and critical evaluations of major transitions in worldviews including those that have contributed to the current planetary situation.

  • Students will be able to speak and write cogently about the nature of worldviews for a variety of scholarly and popular audiences.
  • Students will be able to engage confidently as public intellectuals in conversation regarding the history of and interaction between Western, Asian, and indigenous perspectives, remaining sensitive to the dangers of appropriation while also developing an appreciation for the potential of newly emerging hybridizations of these perspectives.

Goal 3: Transdisciplinarity: To critique, evaluate, and apply transdisciplinary scholarship.

  • Students will demonstrate competence in transdisciplinary thinking by integrating content and frameworks from a variety of disciplines to create scholarly products.
  • Students will be able to engage critically and constructively with a diverse array of research topics (e.g., religious, spiritual, and esoteric traditions, historical and scientific paradigms, and other marginalized perspectives and ways of knowing).

Goal 4: Inner and Outer Evolution: To clarify and expand the relevance of ideas studied to one's personal life and aspirations, with an eye to their implications for the transformation of culture and society at large.

  • Students will be able to build connections between their studies, their personal lives, and the larger communities in which they are embedded.
  • Students will be able to tap into and express individual creativity through personal and/or scholarly communication.

PhD Program Learning Outcomes

The online PhD program supports students in the cultivation of both intellectual rigor and sympathetic imaginative capacities that will help them to enter fruitfully into a plurality of worldviews, historical eras, and cultural sensibilities. By understanding transformative historical and contemporary ideas, students will develop the ability to discern creative possibilities for bringing about life-enhancing futures.

Goal 1: Agents of Change: To generate creative and effective thinking and action in response to the unprecedented evolutionary challenge of the ecological, cultural, and spiritual crises that are currently facing the human and nonhuman members of the Earth community.

  • Student Learning Outcome 1: Students will be able to articulate sophisticated critiques of the causes and consequences of the current planetary crises.
  • Student Learning Outcome 2: In response to the dominant worldview, students will be able to generate alternatives that promote a socially and ecologically just future for the entire Earth community.

Goal 2: Sophisticated Evaluation: To develop and apply appreciative and critical evaluations of major transitions in worldviews, including those that have contributed to the current planetary situation.

  • Student Learning Outcome 3: Students will be able to speak and write cogently about the nature of worldviews for a variety of scholarly and popular audiences.
  • Student Learning Outcome 4: Students will be able to engage confidently as public intellectuals in conversation regarding the history of and interaction between Western, Asian, and indigenous perspectives, remaining sensitive to the dangers of appropriation while also developing an appreciation for the potential of newly emerging hybridizations of these perspectives.

Goal 3: Transdisciplinarity: To critique, evaluate, and apply transdisciplinary scholarship.

  • Student Learning Outcome 5: Students will demonstrate competence in transdisciplinary thinking by integrating content and frameworks from a variety of disciplines to create scholarly products.
  • Student Learning Outcome 6: Students will be able to engage critically and constructively with a diverse array of research topics (e.g., religious, spiritual, and esoteric traditions, historical and scientific paradigms, and other, marginalized perspectives and ways of knowing).

Goal 4: Inner and Outer Evolution: To clarify and expand the relevance of ideas studied to one's personal life and aspirations, with an eye to their implications for the transformation of culture and society at large.

  • Student Learning Outcome 7: Students will be able to build connections between their studies, their personal lives, and the larger communities in which they are embedded.
  • Student Learning Outcome 8: Students will be able to tap into and express individual creativity through personal and/or scholarly communication.

Goal 5: Historical Knowledge: To analyze the evolution of Western thought through the ideas of major figures of Western intellectual and spiritual history in relation to the challenges of the present moment.

  • Student Learning Outcome 9: Students will be able to pass two comprehensive exams, one of which will demonstrate comprehension of principal ideas and themes in the development of Western thought as reflected in the "PCC Guide to Important Texts" (available in the PCC office or on MyCIIS, https://my.ciis.edu/ICS/Academics/Philosophy_Cosmology_and_Consciousness.jnz). 
  • Student Learning Outcome 10: Students will be able to demonstrate familiarity with the relevant developments in the history of Western thought in the formal treatment of the dissertation topic.

Goal 6: Original Contribution: To produce a work of original scholarship of publishable quality that engages ideas from a transdisciplinary perspective, including a sufficient mastery in depth of at least one subject area, with an eye to the paradigmatic assumptions and implications for the transformation of culture and society at large.

  • Student Learning Outcome 11: Students will be able to present the research and ideas that will form the basis of a dissertation in a well-organized and persuasive public lecture to the PCC community of faculty and students.
  • Student Learning Outcome 12: Students will be able to write a dissertation that offers a substantial and original contribution to scholarship, and is certified as such by at least two PCC faculty members and one external committee member. Dissertation is not to exceed 250 pages.

Integral Ecology Track

This 36-unit MA allows students to study the complex character of the Earth community, the factors that threaten it, and possibilities for a better way forward. Students will explore vital links between ecology and fields including philosophy, religion, psychology, and cosmology, and will learn strategies for building a regenerative and ecologically just future among a community of planetary citizens.

The gravity and complexity of the global ecological crisis calls for an integral approach to ecology, one that broadens and deepens the study of ecology through active engagement with the humanities and social sciences. An integral ecology must draw from a whole spectrum of human inquiry, from the sciences (human, social, and natural), from the world's spiritual traditions (Asian, Western, and indigenous), and from collective wisdom and the insights of individual experience. 

The Integral Ecology track focuses on ecology in the context of a multi- and trans-disciplinary vision, central to which is the recognition that one of the key factors determining the health of the Earth's biosphere is the behavior of human beings, and therefore many of the most important issues in the study of a truly integral ecology lie in the areas of human thought, psychology, and culture. The search for solutions to ecological problems must include as a core concern the transformation of human conceptual, psychological, and cultural patterns that have become an imminent danger to the health of the entire Earth community, and the cultivation of new structures of human experience and action that are more harmoniously aligned with the natural world and the larger cosmic order within which we dwell. That said, part of task of transforming the human to meet the challenges of the ecological crisis will require becoming re-attuned to the needs and values of the non-human community of life on this planet. The integral ecology track therefore also enters into conversation with deep ecological perspectives that recognize the intrinsic value of every member of the Earth community and remains open to learning from non-humans about how our species might less destructively inhabit this planet.

Who Should Choose the Integral Ecology Track?

Students who choose the track in integral ecology may be established or aspiring scholar-activists and policy makers seeking a deeper understanding of the causes of the ecological crisis and viable pathways forward for addressing it. Program graduates who focused on integral ecology have developed pathways forward including documentary films (e.g., "The Call of Life" and, more recently, "The Future of Energy", undergraduate curricula, and local ecological activism (including permaculture initiatives and work with Interfaith Power and Light). The integral ecology track also includes a practicum seminar called "Touch the Earth" that invites students to work with and learn from environmental organizations in their local community (either as volunteers or paid interns)

Course of Study for the Integral Ecology Track

I. Residential Intensives--0 units 

Student are required to participate in three intensives at CIIS in San Francisco. The first two intensives occur at the start of each Fall semester in late August; the third intensive takes place at the end of the final Spring semester in mid-May.

Intensive I (Fall)
Intensive II (Fall)
Intensive III (Spring)

II. Introductory Course—3 units

  • Introduction to Philosophy, Cosmology, and Consciousness

III. Integral Ecology—15 units

1. Foundations (choose 6 units)

  • Philosophy and Ecology: Toward a Green Metaphysics, Phenomenology, and Epistemology 
  • Integral Ecologies
  • Toward an Integral Ecological Consciousness

2. Practicum (3 units, optional)

  • Touch the Earth

3. Applications (choose 6–9 units)

  • Cosmological Powers
  • Merleau-Ponty: The Body and the Earth
  • Next of Kin: Perspectives on Animal Ethics and Biodiversity 
  • Plants and People: Understanding the Plant World Through Relationship
  • Mind and Nature in German Idealism
  • Judaism and Ecology: Visions, Voices, and Practices (1 unit)
  • Spirit and Nature
  • The Great Turning 
  • Science, Ecology, and Contested Knowledge(s)
  • Environmental Ethics
  • Christianity and Ecology 
  • Buddhism and Ecology 
  • Earth Law: Toward a Flourishing Earth Community (1 unit)
  • Earth Law in Praxis (1 unit) 
  • Integral Gaia
  • Ecologies of Liberation
  • Integral Permaculture (1 unit)
  • The Earth Journey
  • Nature and Eros

IV. General Electives—15 units

  • Choose 15 units from our program's courses or from any CIIS program offering online courses.

V. Culminating Coursework—3 units

  • Integrative Seminar

VI. Optional Thesis—0 units

  • Advisor approval required.

Course Descriptions

Fall 2019 Online Course Offerings

Introduction to Philosophy, Cosmology, and Consciousness
Professor Sean Kelly

This course is the required introduction for all master's and doctoral PCC students in their first year of coursework. It has three goals: First, it allows students to become familiar with the scholarly work and world views of the several core PCC faculty, each of whom presents the key ideas and insights that teacher most wishes to emphasize as his or her contribution to the academic content and larger vision of the PCC program. Second, students meet each other at the start of their journey in the program and gain a sense of their cohort and the PCC community. Third, the course includes an introduction to essential skills in research, writing, and strategies for enhancing their learning experience throughout the course of the program. (3 Units)

Love, Death, and Annihilation
Professors Brian Swimme and Carolyn Cooke

Out of thirty million species of life on Earth, Homo sapiens is singular in its need for imaginative works in order to complete the movement from infancy to maturity. When we reflect on the devastation taking place throughout the Earth Community at this time, we need to ask the obvious question: Why have our symbolic works failed so spectacularly? Part of the answer can be seen in the shift in our universities from communities focused on awakening the deep qualities of humanity to training camps for attaining the particular cognitive skills required by our corporations. Departments of Philosophy throughout America are emblematic of this devolution. Instead of fostering the quest for truth, our academic philosophers convinced themselves they should make their field “scientific” by avoiding such, for them, embarrassing topics as “wisdom” or “the meaning of life”. The human impulse to reflect upon the deep questions of our existence does not cease because of the hyper specialization and fragmentation of the modern university. If philosophers are going to abandon this quest, the novelists, filmmakers, and other artists will take up the challenge to pro-vide the works of the imagination necessary for human development. (3 Units)

Science, Ecology, and Contested Knowledge
Professor Elizabeth Allison 

To understand the current ecological crisis, we need to investigate the ontological and epistemological foundations of our knowledge about the environment. The science of ecology, in its social and biophysical permutations, is a dominant way of understanding the natural environment. Examining the social construction of scientific and ecological knowledge will shed light on how we know and what we know about the natural environment. In this course, we will critically examine the social construction of scientific and ecological knowledge, coming to see Western scientific knolwedge as a particular cultural phenomenon. We will examine countervailing epistemological understandings, such as situated knowledge and traditional ecological knowledge, that challenge the idea of a dispassionate and omniscient scientific viewpoint. We will investigate the compatibility of religious and spiritual insights with ecological knowledge. Applying feminist and non-Western epistemologies to environmental issues, we will seek to generate alternative ways of understanding ecological crises, which may, in turn, generate healing alternatives. (3 Units)

Advanced Seminar - A. N. Whitehead's Process and Reality
Professor Matthew T. Segall

By the mid-1920s, the new quantum and relativity theories had already succeeded in turning the old mechanical philosophy of Nature inside out by transforming matter into light and merging space and time together with gravity. The classical explanations of Nature offered by a once confident scientific materialism no longer made any sense. A second scientific revolution was afoot. At the same time, in philosophy, Ludwig Wittgenstein tried to close  the door to further metaphysical speculation upon the ultimate nature of things: “Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.” The physicists struggling to come to terms with their discoveries could henceforth expect no help from philosophers. In protest against the logical positivism of his era, which decided to give up on understanding Nature and withdraw into the analysis of scientific formalisms and statistics, Whitehead awoke from  the dogmatic slumber of the Newtonian paradigm and attempted to make natural science philosophical again. He sought novel insight into depths of reality as yet unspoken. In Process & Reality: An Essay in Cosmology, Whitehead aims for nothing less than the construction of an organic system of the universe that not only brings quantum and relativity theories into coherence, but gathers up scientific truths, aesthetic feelings, and religious values into an integral vision of the whole.

 Students in this advanced seminar will engage in a close reading of Whitehead’s (350 page) “essay.” This text is widely considered to be one of the most obscure in the Western tradition. That is perhaps because Whitehead’s organic and process-relational way of seeing the world is so unusual. He often found it necessary to invent new words, or to use old words in new ways. His text will be supplemented with secondary readings by scholars skilled at elucidating the finer points of the “philosophy of organism” (e.g., Isabelle Stengers, Randall Auxier and Gary Herstein, Catherine Keller). (3 Units)

Modern Western Esotercism
Professor Robert Mcdermott

This course explores the biographies, non-ordinary ways of knowing, extraordinary ideas, and influence of three 20 thcentury esoteric teachers. There are excellent reasons for studying them as well as reasons why they are not studied by mainstream disciplines. Some of their claims and claims on their behalf clearly fall outside the dominant paradigm—and yet, and yet, they might be more true and more efficacious than established ways of thinking and accepted accounts of reality. In his classic text,  Varieties of Religious Experience, William James urged that in order to understand religious experience we should call in the experts. There are few if any spiritual teachers more expert than the three to be studied in this course: Madame Blavatsky (HPB), Rudolf Steiner, and Mirra Alfassa (The Mother). (3 Units)

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