PhD in Philosophy

Field of Concentration

Candidates plan their own programs in consultation with their major professors.

Course Requirements

Post-bachelor’s PhD candidates must take a minimum of 16 graduate-accredited semester courses, of which at least 12 (44 credits) must be in philosophy, including at least four at the 800 or 900 level.

Post-master’s PhD candidates are required to take eight graduate-accredited semester courses (32 credits), of which at least five (20 credits) must be in philosophy, including at least three at the 800 or 900 level.

Note, however, that no more than three directed studies may be taken toward course requirements.

Language Requirement

By the end of the third year of graduate study, every graduate student must demonstrate a high level of proficiency in at least one language other than English. The language should be French, German, Greek, or Latin. If the student’s native language is French or German the requirement may be waived at the discretion of the director of graduate studies (DGS). Any language other than English may fulfill the requirement if (a) it is needed for dissertation work and (b) approval is granted by the DGS. Competence may be demonstrated by passing an examination administered by the department, by achieving a B+ or higher in an approved intermediate course (normally a translation course) administered by another department and approved by the DGS, or by passing the Graduate School Foreign Language test with a score of at least 600. Candidates are strongly advised to satisfy the language requirement as early as possible. Language courses offered at the graduate level will be given graduate credit. Two such courses may count toward the coursework requirement of 16 courses.

Students must possess a good reading knowledge of any language that is important for their dissertation work (e.g., students writing a dissertation on Plato must at least satisfy the requirements of an intermediate Greek course, with the expectation that the study of the language will be an ongoing activity). A dissertation proposal will not be approved until the relevant mastery has been demonstrated to the satisfaction of the dissertation director. The director will have the discretion of accepting a B+ or higher in a relevant language course as evidence of competence; or adequate performance on a translation examination; or any reasonable means of determining competence.

Logic Requirement

The candidate must demonstrate competence in logic by passing a designated logic course with a B+ or higher, or by passing a logic examination administered by the department.

Qualifying Papers

To remain in good standing, PhD students must submit their qualifying papers for the first time by the end of their third year (i.e., August 31), if they were admitted post-BA, or, if they were admitted post-MA, by the end of their second year (i.e., August 31). These papers must be substantial pieces of philosophical work, demonstrating a strong knowledge of the relevant topic and a good deal of original thought. The papers may (but need not) be derived from papers originally written for course credit. It should not be assumed that a paper that receives an “A” in a course will be of sufficient quality. The papers must be “self-standing” works. In other words, each must be intelligible to philosophers other than those who may have participated in a seminar on the topic of the paper. The papers must be on topics in substantially different areas of philosophy; for example, it is not acceptable to submit two metaphysics papers, or two papers on ancient figures, or two papers in ethics. The DGS will determine what qualifies as a “substantially different” area of philosophy. Papers should not be longer than 9,000 words.

The examining committee will be appointed by the chair of the department, who will consult with the DGS. Before consulting with the chair, the DGS may meet with the student for whom the committee is being formed. The committee will deliver its evaluation and a written report on the papers within three weeks of their submission.

Papers will receive one of two grades: “Pass” or “Not-pass.” If a paper does not pass, the committee will offer one of two directives: either to revise the paper based on comments contained within the report, or to submit an entirely new paper. The committee may request a meeting with the student.

NB: If the examining committee asks the student to revise the paper this implies that the paper has received a grade of “Not-pass.”

If students receive a Not-pass they will have until December 31 of their fourth year (for post-BA students) or of their third year (for post-MA students) to resubmit their qualifying papers. Students will have only two opportunities to submit each paper.

Dissertation Prospectus and Dissertation

After the candidate has passed the qualifying examination and has met the language and logic requirements, a dissertation prospectus must be submitted to the major professor, who will arrange for a preliminary oral conference on the proposal.

Upon satisfactory completion of the dissertation, the candidate will present it for defense in a final oral examination. (See General Requirements for the PhD for more information on the final oral examination.)

Get more details and a copy of the department’s Regulae from our department site.