I'm a prospective about to accept an admission. I'm doing this despite hearing, time and time again, not to go to graduate school for philosophy. I've never been dissuaded because in the back of my mind I've always assumed I could jump ship after two years or so with an MA. Now my question is whether this actually IS an option at most schools? I've begun to worry that schools might make it so difficult to actually do this that nobody does.First, let me make clear that I don't think that there aren't good reasons to go to grad school; there are. That said, the admonition to not go to graduate school is really just an elliptical way of saying: 'If you aren't prepared, after 4/5 years when your funding runs up and you have half a dissertation written, or even if you are completely done with your dissertation, to live your life on uncertain terms from year to year or semester to semester looking for funding, having most, if not all of your applications denied, and having all this adversely affect your psychological and physical well-being as well as your relationships with others, then don't go to graduate school. If you are prepared for that and aren't prone to self-deceptive episodes in which you convince yourself you are the exception to the rule, because it's highly likely you aren't, and the job market won't shit on you, because it will, then, by all means go to graduate school.'
Okay, with that out of the way, here's my answer to Seasick's question: I think what you describe is a live option at most places that offer the M.A. on the way to getting the Ph.D.; after all, it isn't like we sign our grad contracts with the blood of our first born. Moreover, keep this in mind: if you do end up going to graduate school and M.A.s are handed out after two years before you have to do any real heavy lifting (e.g., comprehensive exams, writing chapters, etc.) and you are finding that you hate graduate school, then that's the time to quit. People have been known to do exactly just that and if you are in a welcoming environment, most everyone should be supportive of your decision. There's a very real part of me that envies those people who have done exactly what you suggest.
That said, and I probably don't have to say this because you seem like a smart fellow, just don't start broadcasting these plans or thoughts until you are sure you want to jump ship.
Best of luck.