Department of Philosophy Regulae

Requirements, Policies, and Procedures for the Ph.D. and M.A. Programs

Revised Sept 2023

I. Introduction

The policies, requirements, and procedures set forth on the following pages supplement the general policies, requirements, and procedures of the Boston University Graduate School of the Arts and Sciences as stated at and should be read in conjunction with them. The Philosophy faculty reserves the right to waive any departmental rule relating to these policies, requirements, procedures, or any other aspect of the graduate program in exceptional circumstances and upon petition by the student.


II. Graduate School Requirements

All graduate students are required to enroll in no less than one course (4 credits) during each semester until they have completed their course requirements. They must also be registered in both the semester in which they complete the degree requirements and the preceding semester. When the work of a course has not been completed within the semester of registration, the grade of I is used. This automatically becomes an F unless the coursework is completed within the following calendar year. (See VII. Below). Grades of I and C+ or lower are interpreted as failures. In other words, a course is successfully completed only if a grade of B- or better is achieved. A student receiving such grades in more than two semester courses (or more than a total of 8 credit hours) is terminated from the program.

Admission and General Departmental Regulations

The Department of Philosophy admits candidates to four programs of post-graduate study, leading to the Ph.D., terminal M.A., J.D./M.A., and B.A./M.A. In rare cases, students may be admitted to the program for the Spring rather than the Fall. Their examination schedules and other deadlines will be adjusted correspondingly at the discretion of the Director of Graduate Studies. The terminal M.A. may be pursued full-time or part-time students. However, part-time applications for the Ph.D. are strongly discouraged.

All applicants should have completed the equivalent of an undergraduate major in philosophy, typically with an average of B or higher. Students with minors in philosophy are also encouraged to apply. All applicants for admission to the terminal M.A. or the Ph.D. programs in Philosophy are required to submit their Graduate Record Examination scores and a sample of written work with their applications to the Committee on Admissions of the Department of Philosophy. Completed applications for admissions should reach the Graduate School Office no later than January 15. Financial aid is limited to Ph.D. candidates.

Special provisions for admission to the J.D./M.A. and the B.A./M.A. programs can be found below.

The faculty resolved in October 2011 that each incoming graduate student, whether in the terminal M.A. and Ph.D. programs, is henceforth to be assigned a faculty advisor by the DGS. The advisor is expected to (a) meet with the student at least once per year (preferably more often), (b) review the student’s grades in their courses, (c) ensure that the student satisfies the distribution, language, and logic requirements, and (d) address any special difficulties the student may be experiencing. The advisor is expected to communicate any concerns to the DGS, and to be responsible for discussing with the student areas of research interest. When students determine the area in which they plan to specialize they will be free to choose their own advisor (contingent of course on that faculty member agreeing to take on the role), who might well become the first reader of their dissertation.

If there are serious concerns about a student’s progress, these will be communicated in writing to her/him by the DGS, based on consultation with the advisor and the results of departmental discussion at the annual meeting (which normally takes place in the Spring of the academic year).

A student who is admitted to candidacy for the Ph.D. will count his or her thesis director as advisor. The faculty member directing an M.A. student’s thesis will count as advisor. Students in the J.D./M.A. program will be assigned advisors by those faculty responsible for administering that program.

IV. Summaries of Requirements for Programs


A candidate for the Ph.D. must successfully complete or satisfy within 7 years:

  1. Requisite coursework, including a specific distribution of courses
  2. The language requirement
  3. The logic requirement
  4. Qualifying Research
  5. Dissertation Prospectus (with oral defense)
  6. Dissertation (with oral defense)

Terminal M.A.

A candidate for the terminal M.A. must successfully complete within 3 years:

  1. Requisite coursework
  2. The logic requirement
  3. Master’s Thesis (with oral defense)


A candidate for the J.D./M.A. must successfully complete within 3 years:

  1. Requisite coursework, approved by a joint advisory board
  2. Requirements for the Terminal M.A. in Philosophy
  3. Requirements for the J.D. degree


A candidate for the B.A./M.A. must successfully complete within the first year after graduation with the B.A. degree:

  1. A major in philosophy or joint philosophy major at Boston University
  2. Requisite coursework
  3. Master’s Thesis (with oral defense)

NB: the deadline for applying for graduation with an M.A. degree (that includes the B.A./M.A., the terminal M.A., and the M.A. is part of a dual-degree program) is July 1 (for September graduation), November 1 (for January graduation), and February 1 (for May graduation). The deadline for applying for graduation with the Ph.D. is November 1 (for January graduation) and February 1 (for May graduation). See the Graduation Calendar on the GRS website for other deadlines pertinent to the completion of degree requirements.

The Dual-Degree Program with Classical Studies.

This program allows the student to earn both the Ph.D. in Philosophy and an M.A. in Classical Studies. Students must fulfill all degree requirements in both programs. The dual-degree program is a 19-course program of 76 credit hours. Eleven courses (44 credit hours) receive credit only for the Ph.D. in the Department of Philosophy; three courses (12 credit hours) receive credit only for the M.A. in the Department of Classical Studies; five courses (20 credit hours) receive credit for both the Ph.D. and the M.A.

For full details of the program, please see


V. Specific Requirements, Policies and Procedures


Coursework. Graduate students working towards a Ph.D. must successfully complete a certain number of courses, some of which must be distributed over courses in five categories, indicated in the table below. They must also register for at least one course per semester until the course requirements are completed. Students are, however, typically advised to register for at least two courses per semester. The specifics of coursework requirements are as follows:

  1. To complete successfully a minimum of 16 graduate-school accredited courses (64 credits) at the 600 level and above, of which at least 12 (44 credits) must be in Philosophy and at least 4 at the 800 or 900 level
  2. To select at least 2 courses each from the following 3 categories:
    1. Ancient & Medieval
    2. Modern
    3. 20th Century

and select at least 1 course each from the following 2 categories:

  1. Theoretical Philosophy
  2. Practical Philosophy

See Table of Categories of Courses for Distribution Requirements below.

To complete successfully PH 990 (Dissertation Workshop) each semester beginning in the Fall of the fourth year and ending after the Spring of the sixth year (or upon successful completion of the dissertation, whichever comes first). PH 990 does not count toward the 16 required courses and does not satisfy any distribution requirements.

No more than three directed studies (for a total of 12.00 credits) may be taken toward course requirements.

Students who have completed graduate-level philosophy courses at another institution prior to their enrollment in the BU Ph.D. program may request to count up to four courses (16.00 credits) toward their BU degree. Requests are subject to approval both by GRS and by the DGS. Requests must be submitted through the GRS transfer credit website:

All entering Ph.D. students must enroll in the Fall semester of their first year in the program in the graduate seminar designated for all and only entering students. The specific “first year seminar” will be a regular course designated on a yearly basis for this purpose.

(seen downloadable PDF of Regulae for Table of Categories of Courses for Distribution Requirements)

The following courses may satisfy different area requirements depending on the content of the course in the given semester:

880 Topics in Philosophy I

881 Proseminar for First Year Graduate Students

883 Topics in Philosophy

NB: students may petition the DGS in order to count a course not listed above as meeting a distribution requirement. Please note that some of these courses have not been offered for several years.


Logic Proficiency. Every graduate student must demonstrate competence in logic by:

  1. Passing PH 633, 661, 662, 667, 668, 674, or 864 with a “B+” or higher OR
  2. Passing a logic examination, administered by the department, that assumes the knowledge provided by PH 633.

With regard to the logic examination, students are expected to be able to solve problems in and/or answer basic questions about (at least):

  1. Representation of everyday arguments in first order quantificational logic and truth-functional logic, with knowledge of the presuppositions about pronomial constructions and treatment of predicates and singular terms;
  2. Elementary metatheoretic proofs and ideas in truth-functional logic (satisfiability, consistency of schemata and collections of schemata);
  3. Elementary characterizations of notions in basic axiomatics (the notions of a formal system, a recursively specified formalized language, an axiom, completeness, soundness);
  4. Problems concerning truth definitions, including the notion of a model (or structure).

Language Proficiency. By the end of the third year of graduate study, every graduate student must demonstrate a high level of proficiency in reading at least one language other than English. The language should be French, German, Greek or Latin (unless the student’s native language is French or German, in which case the requirement may be waived at the discretion of the 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.

This competence may be established in one of the following three ways:

  1. Passing a translation examination administered by the Department of Philosophy. The format for this examination is as follows:
    1. students will be given no more than two hours to complete the examination with the help of dictionary or lexicon;
    2. the examination is to have two parts;
    3. in Part One, students are required to give a literal translation in English of a passage from a primary source, and in Part Two, they are required to summarize in English the main points of another passage (from a secondary source).


  1. Achieving a “B+” or higher in an intermediate language graduate course (normally a translation course) administered by another department and approved by the DGS. Students may take a graduate reading course, which will be numbered as 621, to meet this requirement. If so, the student must be registered for at least two credits or for Continuing Study, since this is a zero credit course and does not generate any tuition charge. If a student intends to use this course to satisfy the language requirement, and if the instructor grades only on a pass/fail basis, then a “pass” will be deemed as equivalent to a “B+”.


  1. Passing the SAT Subject Test in a Foreign Language with a score of at least 600 (the test is administered for a small fee through the Geddes Language Center, normally in mid-October and mid-March; contact 353-2640). Eligible languages are French, Spanish, Italian, German, Hebrew, and Latin.

NB: any student for whom English is not a primary language must also be satisfactorily demonstrate to the DGS his or her proficiency in writing, reading, and speaking English. At his or her discretion, the DGS may accept a TOEFL score of 600 or higher. A student should contact the CELOP at BU office in connection with the TOEFL.

NB: in addition, students must possess a good reading knowledge of any language that is important for their dissertation work. For example, 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 grade of B+ or higher in a relevant language as evidence of competence; or adequate performance on a translation examination; or any other reasonable means of determining competence.

Qualifying Research. By the end of the third year at the latest, students should have finished their distribution requirements and secured the agreement of a faculty member to supervise their prospectus. The faculty member may also end up supervising the dissertation but that need not be the case.

By the end of the third year at the latest, students must also produce a document detailing specific research goals, including a timeline, for producing “qualifying research.” Student and advisor should produce this document together and have it approved by the DGS. The plan can be revised with the approval of the advisor and student. The plan can include a Directed Study for credit to facilitate the research goals.

This “qualifying research” could take one or more of the following forms:

  1. a draft of the prospectus
  2. a literature review
  3. a draft of a dissertation chapter
  4. some other document or documents that student and advisor mutually agree upon.

By the end of the first semester of the 4th year at the latest, the student will have produced said “qualifying research,” to the satisfaction of the advisor. Confirmation of the advisor’s approval should be submitted by the advisor to the DGS.

Students must defend the dissertation prospectus and submit the official paperwork to GRS before beginning their fifth year (ninth semester) in the Ph.D. program. For students who have not taken any leaves of absence, this means that the prospectus must be defended by August 31 of the summer following the fourth year. If the prospectus is not defended by this date, the student does not receive the fifth-year dissertation fellowship and instead receives a teaching fellowship. (Note: even if a student has additional sources of funding and therefore decides to defer the fifth-year dissertation fellowship, this fellowship will be converted to a teaching fellowship if the prospectus deadline is not met.)

Every semester after the distribution requirements are completed, the student will write a progress report, which will be reviewed by the advisor and if approved will be submitted by the advisor to the DGS.

In sum, there are three deadlines the student must meet:

  1. The first is securing an advisor and creating a timeline for the completion of specific research goals;
  2. The second is producing satisfactory “qualifying research”
  3. The third is the prospectus defense.

The dates stated above are all “outside” deadlines. It is strongly suggested that students complete these goals before the deadlines.

Dissertation Prospectus. After all other requirements for the Ph.D. have been completed, a dissertation prospectus (proposal) of twenty double-spaced or ten single-spaced pages (not including bibliography) must be submitted to the Graduate School by no later than August 31st after their fourth year.

The prospectus should demonstrate the viability of the proposed topic and the candidate’s ability to complete the dissertation within a specified schedule. The prospectus should include a statement of both the principal problems to be addressed in the dissertation and the importance of addressing them, a tentative outline and description of the subdivisions or chapters of the dissertation, and a bibliography of significant previous work relevant to the topic.

The proposal must be approved by the first reader. Upon being given approval, the student, together with the program coordinator, arranges an oral defense of the proposal. When the candidate’s prospectus is approved by the first reader for the oral defense, it must be submitted to the DGS two weeks in advance of the scheduled oral defense. The program coordinator will announce the time and place of the oral defense no later than one week in advance of the defense and make copies available to faculty and graduate students. It is the student’s responsibility to make sure that this happens. The defense is open to all members of the department but must include the student, the first reader, and two other faculty members, one of whom is normally asked to be the second reader.

If, at the end of the defense, the proposal meets with the approval of the first and second readers, they sign the Graduate School approval form. When the Graduate school has approved the proposal, the student officially becomes a philosophiae candidatus or, more popularly, an “ABD.”

Should the second reader not be a member of the GRS faculty, a “Request for a Special Service Appointment in the Graduate School” form must be submitted at the same time as the prospectus is submitted to GRS.

  1. Writing the Dissertation. The student should keep in mind that while most dissertations are not directly publishable, it has become a common practice to develop one’s dissertation into one’s first book or at least into a series of articles. The dissertation topic must therefore be chosen with care; it is likely that the student will continue working on that topic until his or her first sabbatical. Further, the choice of dissertation topic will have a decisive influence on the student’s opportunities in obtaining a position beyond graduate studies.
  2. Dissertation Completion and Defense. The completed doctoral dissertation must be submitted to the readers for approval. The physical format of the dissertation – typing or word processing, pagination, footnotes, title and approval pages, fees, copyright, etc. – should conform to directives to be found in the “Guide for Writers of Theses and Dissertations,” available in the GRS office. Standard resources include A Manual for Writers of Terms Papers, Theses, and Dissertations by Kate L. Turabian (University of Chicago Press), the Chicago Manual of Style, or the MLA style manual.

Once approved by the readers, the dissertation must be defended orally before a committee (“defense committee”).

Review of the Dissertation format:

  1. At least three weeks prior to the defense, the student must make an appointment with the Graduate School Records Officer for review of the format of the dissertation. Arrangements for the format review for students living at a distance can be made by contacting the Records Officer. Please note that the final approval of the dissertation format is made by Mugar Memorial Library staff. It is recommended that the dissertation be properly formatted prior to the defense, so that following the defense only corrections and revisions recommended by the defense committee need be made.
  2. Members of the defense committee must receive copies of the dissertation as well as an abstract of the dissertation at least two weeks before the scheduled defense. The committee may suggest or require final emendations to the dissertation. If the committee decides that the dissertation has been successfully defended, then it is up to the student to submit the dissertation in its final form, including any revisions mandated by the defense committee, to the Graduate School.
  3. Oral Defense. When the readers have approved the final draft of the dissertation, the student, together with the program coordinator, will schedule a final oral defense of the dissertation. Normally, the committee for the defense consists of three faculty members (chosen by the first reader) in addition to the first and second readers. One of the three serves as Chair of the committee. The student must submit copies of the approved dissertation as well as an abstract to the members of the defense committee two weeks before the scheduled defense. The student is responsible for finding a time convenient to all members. (All graduate students and faculty in the department are notified well ahead of time, in case anyone wishes to exercise his or her right to attend.) The date and time of the scheduled defense must conform to Graduate School deadlines. Early dates are preferable to allow sufficient time for minor changes in the dissertation that may be required by the defense committee. Family and friends of the candidate may attend the defense.
  4. The Graduate School requires an abstract of the dissertation to be submitted at least three weeks before the scheduled defense. The abstract must be typed in the same format as the dissertation and must be no longer than 350 words. The abstract is submitted in three copies along with the dissertation as finally approved by the student’s committee: one in each copy of the dissertation and a third for use by University Microfilms. The abstract should give a succinct account of the dissertation, including a statement of its thesis, procedure or methodology, and conclusions. Illustrative materials, formulae or diagrams should not be included.

(Note: because this abstract in some cases is the only published evidence of a Boston University dissertation, held in the University library, all abstracts are reviewed by the Associate Dean of the Graduate School.)

Schedule prior to the Oral Defense:

    1. Three weeks or more prior to the Oral Defense: Special Service appointment forms (for committee members not on CAS/GRS faculty) must be completed if necessary. These forms must be accompanied by the external professor’s C.V. and sent to the GRS Associate Dean’s Office.
    2. One week prior to the Oral Defense: the student must submit a copy of the entire dissertation to the DGS for faculty and graduate students to peruse. This copy does not need to be formatted exactly right, etc. – just so long as the text is complete.
    3. One-two weeks prior to the Oral Defense: an announcement of the defense will be distributed to faculty and graduate students in the Philosophy Department.

Procedures at the Oral Defense:

      1. Presentation and Examination. Customarily, the Chair of the Examination asks the candidate to sum up his or her dissertation in five to ten minutes, and then the First Reader examines the candidate, typically concerning the overall argument of the dissertation, for up to 20 minutes, followed by the Second Reader, who typically addresses specific points or parts of the dissertation for around 20 minutes. The three remaining members of the examining committee each take up to ten minutes. That done, the Chair opens the floor for general disputation, in which all members of the Graduate Faculty present can take part. The entire Oral Defense might take up to two hours.
      2. Discussion and vote. Upon conclusion of the Defense, the candidate and all but members of the committee are asked to withdraw. After appropriate discussion, the Chair asks each of those present to cast a vote on the dissertation and on the Defense. The options given to the Committee include:
        1. To approve;
        2. To approve subject to specific changes to be carried out to the satisfaction of the Readers;
  • To approve subject to specific changes to be carried out to the satisfaction of the committee at a future meeting;
  1. To adjourn for a specific period – usually one semester – while the candidate rewrites the dissertation;
  2. To fail the Defense and the dissertation. If the committee votes to fail the candidate, it can recommend either that the candidate be terminated or that he or she be permitted to recommence his or her studies with a new proposal.
  1. Submission to the Graduate School. After successful defense of the doctoral dissertation, the dissertation should be submitted in its final form, including any revisions mandated by the defense committee, to the Graduate School. See the Graduation Calendar on the GRS website for deadlines for submission to GRS:

(see downloadable PDF for Summary of Deadlines for Ph.D. Program.)

In order to make Satisfactory Academic Progress, students must meet all of the deadlines specified above. Students who fail to make Satisfactory Academic Progress will be placed on academic probation and will, absent extenuating circumstances, face loss of funding and/or dismissal from the program as described in Section VI.

Note on the Prospectus Defense deadline:

  • The prospectus must be successfully defended by August 31 following the student’s eighth semester.
  • In order to schedule a defense, the student must first receive approval of the final prospectus draft from the director/first reader.
  • The final draft of the prospectus must be submitted to the DGS and the student’s readers at least 14 days prior to the scheduled oral defense.
  • If the prospectus is not defended by the specified deadline, the student does not receive the fifth-year dissertation fellowship and instead receives a teaching fellowship.
  1. Time Limit. Candidates for the doctoral degree are required to complete the program within seven years after the first registration for doctoral study. Students may petition the Graduate School to extend these deadlines.
  2. A. for Doctoral Students. Students admitted into the doctoral program may also obtain the M.A. by satisfying the requirements set forth by the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences and the coursework requirements indicated for the terminal M.A.

Students who are candidates for the M.A. are required to submit a thesis similar to the one required for the terminal M.A. Writing a thesis permits the student to develop a degree of competence in a particular area of philosophy. It may also prove helpful for the student to be able to record this officially recognized competence on his or her curriculum vitae. The student’s advisor should be consulted about the usefulness of such a thesis in each individual case. The M.A. thesis for the Ph.D. student need not be orally defended. Note that the M.A. thesis must satisfy normal requirements for scholarly style, and also conform to the applicable “Guide for Writers of Theses and Dissertations.: The Guide is available in the GRS Office.

Completed M.A. theses are submitted to GRS and are on file in Mugar Library. At least three weeks prior to submission of the thesis to GRS, the student must make an appointment with the Graduate School Records Officer, for review of the format of the thesis. Arrangements for the format review, for students living at a distance can be made by contacting the Records Officer. Please note that the final approval of the dissertation format is made by Mugar Memorial Library Staff. See the Graduation Calendar on the GRS website for deadlines for submission to GRS:

The Terminal M.A. Degree.

The M.A. is a terminal degree for full or part-time students. Students must register for at least one course per semester until the course requirements are completed. It is recommended, however, that they register for two. Candidates for the terminal M.A. degree do not ordinarily apply to the Ph.D. program in Philosophy at Boston University. The terminal M.A. program is not conceived as a special preparation for or an avenue into the Ph.D. program. The terminal M.A. and the Ph.D. programs are entirely separate in this sense. Terminal M.A. students who apply for admission to the Ph.D. program are considered as forming part of the pool of applicants to the Ph.D. program.

8 courses, at least 5 of which must be in philosophy and 1 of which may be in a language. The requirements with respect to Incompletes and unsatisfactory grades are the same as for the Ph.D. program.

Logic Proficiency. Same as Ph.D. program; see above.

Language Proficiency. The foreign language requirement is contingent upon the nature of the M.A. thesis. Only if the student’s thesis director mandates it will the student be required to demonstrate competence in a foreign language. The standards for meeting this requirement will be determined by the thesis director.

Master’s Thesis. The Master’s thesis consists of an investigation or study of a specific problem, theme, or area of philosophy, and is composed under the direction of a current member of the Department of Philosophy. Aimed at helping prepare the student to make contributions to philosophical discussion and debate, the thesis should take the form of a scholarly publication or monograph, not over 19,000 words, with adequate documentation and bibliography as appropriate (those are included in the word limit). The thesis must be examined by two faculty members and defended at an oral examination before the same two professors. One of the professors will be the Thesis Director.

Note: the M.A. thesis must satisfy normal requirements for scholarly style, and also conform to the applicable “Guide for Writers of Theses and Dissertations.” The Guide is available in the GRS Office. At least three weeks prior to the submission of the thesis to GRS, the student must make an appointment with the Graduate School Records Officer, for review of the format of the thesis. Arrangements for the format review for students living at a distance can be made by contacting the Records Officer. Please note that the final approval of the dissertation format is made by Mugar Memorial Library staff. See Graduation Calendar on the GRS website for deadlines for submission to GRS.

Time Limit and Registration. Study must be completed within three years after the first registration for study leading to the terminal M.A. degree. Students must be registered in the semester in which the degree requirements are completed as well as in the preceding semester.

The J.D./M.A. Dual-Degree Program in Law and Philosophy.

The J.D./M.A. Dual-Degree Program in Law and Philosophy is administered by a joint advisory board consisting of at least two members of the faculty of the School of Law and two members of the faculty of the Department of Philosophy.

Admissions and Timing of Degree Awards. Candidates for the dual-degree program must apply and be admitted separately to the J.D. and M.A. programs. The two degrees will be awarded simultaneously.

Academic Requirements. Candidates for the dual degree must meet the requirements for the M.A. and the J.D. as established for those programs. For the dual degree, there are the following special provisions:

The student must take at least four graduate-level courses or seminars in the Department of Philosophy. Registration for these courses must be in the Graduate School rather than the School of Law.

The student must take a jurisprudence or legal-theory course that is cross-listed between the School of Law and the Department of Philosophy. That course must be one of the following:

JD 947 Recent American Legal Thought

JD 612 Philosophy of Law

Or a cross-listed course certified by the joint advisory board as sufficient to meet the requirements of this section.

This course may count as the student’s fifth course in Philosophy, required for the M.A. regardless of whether the student has registered for the course in the Graduate School or in the School of Law.

In addition to the courses required by paragraphs a. and b. above, the student may apply toward the M.A. degree any combination of (1) courses of substantial philosophical or content offered in the School of Law that have been included by the joint advisory board on a list of M.A.-eligible courses, or (2) additional graduate-level courses in the Department of Philosophy.

In order to receive the M.A. degree in this dual-degree program, the student must earn at least 32 credits in courses described under paragraphs a, b, or c above.

Each student’s choice of courses must be approved by the joint advisory board.

Up to 12 credits of graduate-level Philosophy courses may count, under the School of Law’s regulations, towards the J.D. degree. Courses for which the student has registered in the Graduate School count toward the 12-credit maximum for outside courses applied towards the J.D. degree.

Research Paper (thesis). Candidates for the dual degree must write a substantial research paper based upon their own research. Candidates may write a single paper to satisfy both the M.A. thesis requirement and the J.D. upper-class writing requirement. The paper must be on a topic accepted by the joint advisory board, and ordinarily it must be supervised by a faculty member appointed by the board. Under appropriate circumstances, however, the board may approve a paper written for publication in a law or philosophy journal to be accepted in lieu of a research paper supervised directly by a faculty member. If the student wishes to fulfill the M.A. and J.D. paper requirements with a single paper, then the research paper must provide a balance of philosophical and legal material. The expected maximum length for such a paper is 35 double-spaced pages (with ordinary fonts and margins). If the candidate does not wish to fulfill both requirements with a single paper, then the candidate must fulfill each unit’s paper requirement as provided within each unit.

The student need not satisfy the foreign language requirement, though he or she may be advised to do so depending on the nature of the research paper (“thesis”).

Duration and Composition of the Course of Studies. The intention behind the program is that the student should be able to satisfy J.D. and M.A. requirements concurrently, thus completing the dual degree in three years. Because the Law School prescribes a full-time core curriculum for the first year of study toward the J.D., the courses applicable toward the M.A. must be chosen in the second and third years. In addition to the jurisprudence/legal-theory course described in paragraph 3b. above, students must take at least four Philosophy courses towards the dual degree. (See paragraph 3a. above.) One such course in each of the upper-level J.D. semesters would produce the required four.



The purpose of the B.A./M.A. program is to provide exceptional undergraduate students with an opportunity to pursue the study of philosophy in greater depth than is possible within the B.A. major program and to earn a Master’s degree at Boston University before entering a Ph.D. program at another university. The program provides a continuing relationship with a faculty advisor and an opportunity to build up a systematic background in philosophy. However, since it is essentially an extension of the B.A. major program, it is conceived as terminating with the M.A. degree. While the Department is prepared, in exceptional cases, to consider applications for admission to the Ph.D. program from a B.A./M.A. candidate, normally the candidate, having completed his or her undergraduate education and M.A. studies at Boston University, is expected to complete his or her Ph.D. studies at another institution.

An undergraduate normally applies for admission to the B.A./M.A. program in the junior year of his or her undergraduate study. The student, with the help of his or her advisor, prepares an application and a proposed program of study, submitting it together with letters of evaluation from instructors in all philosophy courses he or she had taken during the first five semesters of undergraduate study to the Committee on Admissions of the Department of Philosophy. Admission to the program entitles the student to all prerogatives of graduate students in the Department. Continuation in the program is subject to maintaining satisfactory progress in meeting the program’s requirements. Applications are available in Room 112 in the CAS/GRS building. The student should consult with his or her major professor and prepare a program of study. The student should ask all of the professors with whom he or she has taken courses in philosophy to send a letter to the Director of Undergraduate studies in Philosophy, to whom the student should also bring the completed application no later than January 30th of the student’s junior year.

Prerequisites and Coursework.

Freshman and Sophomore years: to be eligible for the B.A./M.A. program, a student must have completed by the end of the sophomore year, at least two of PH 300 Ancient Philosophy, PH 310 Modern Philosophy, PH 350 History of Moral Philosophy, or PH 360 Symbolic Logic, with a grade of B or better in each course. Any of these courses not completed by the end of sophomore year must be taken in the junior year.

Junior and Senior years: during the junior and senior years, the B.A./M.A. candidate must complete all requirements for a B.A. degree with a major in philosophy or a philosophy combined major.

The M.A. year: during the M.A. year, the B.A./M.A. candidate must complete six graduate credit courses and two 900-level directed studies on a topic selected in consultation with his or her advisor. The two directed studies courses are intended to provide occasion for the student to write the thesis. Students who have written an Independent Work for Distinction thesis during the senior year may, with the permission of his or her advisor, turn that thesis into a Master’s thesis. The B.A./M.A. student will have satisfied logic and language requirements in the course of majoring in Philosophy at Boston University.

Master’s Thesis. Same as terminal M.A.; see above.

Time Limit and Residence. All the requirements for the B.A./M.A. must be at the same time as those for the B.A. degree.


Yearly Evaluation, Satisfactory Academic Progress, and Dismissal

Each Spring the faculty will review all Ph.D. students. The review may take place in conjunction with the departmental determinations of or recommendations regarding graduate financial aid. The review may include a meeting between a student and members of the faculty. A student may be requested to submit a paper completed during the preceding semesters or to submit other information or evidence as to his or her progress and achievements.


After reviewing a student’s progress and performance, the faculty will determine whether the student is making Satisfactory Academic Progress. The GRS definition of Satisfactory Academic Progress is:

Maintain a GPA of 3.0 or higher

Have no more than two failing grades and/or W grades

Meet all milestones of the degree, such as comprehensive exams and dissertation prospectus, on the schedule specified by the program

Meet all milestones of the degree with sufficient quality of work as specified by the program

Satisfactorily fulfill all service fellowship obligations, as specified by the program.


While (1) and (2) are self-explanatory, the Department of Philosophy offers the following clarifications on (3)-(5):


Notes on (3):

Some of the major deadlines for the Philosophy Ph.D. are:

Third year, end of Spring semester: produce Qualifying Research plan.

Fourth year, end of Fall semester: complete Qualifying Research.

Fourth year, by August 31: defend dissertation prospectus.


Notes on (4):

If your work is judged not to be of sufficient quality, you will be notified by the department and given a deadline for resolving the problem.


Note on (5):

The expectations for service fellowships are described in the section of the Regulae entitled “Teaching Fellow Obligations.”


Students who fail to maintain Satisfactory Academic Progress may be dismissed from the program. If a student is not on track to maintain satisfactory academic progress based on the quality of their work, the student will be placed on academic probation and given sufficient feedback, opportunity, and time to improve their performance. Students who fail to maintain Satisfactory Academic Progress also may be put on financial aid probation or have their financial aid discontinued until their academic progress is deemed satisfactory.


If a student fails to address concerns regarding satisfactory academic progress by the end of the probationary period, the Philosophy Department will submit a request for the student’s dismissal to the Associate Dean of the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences. The Associate Dean will then notify the department if the request for dismissal is valid. Following the program’s communication to the student of the dismissal and its rationale, the Associate Dean will then send a letter of dismissal to the student. A student who is dismissed for failure to maintain Satisfactory Academic Progress may appeal the decision to the Dean of the College of Arts & Sciences by submitting a written appeal that explains any mitigating circumstances within 14 days of the notice of dismissal. A dismissal that is upheld by the Dean may be appealed to the University Provost.


Teaching Fellow Obligations

Teaching Fellows have the following basic obligations. This is not intended to be a complete list; it specifies minimal requirements; it specifies minimal requirements. You should consult with the instructor to determine whether there are any additional expectations.

Preliminary Meeting:

Teaching fellows should contact the instructor before the first day of classes in order to discuss specific expectations.

Duration of the Teaching Fellowship:

Your duties begin on the first day of class and end when the final course grades are submitted.

Unless you make other arrangements with the instructor, you are expected to reside in the Boston area until the final grades are submitted. Leaving town before submitting final grades is not acceptable unless explicitly approved by the instructor, because it can lead to major problems in meeting grading deadlines.


  • You should expect to work up to 20 hours per week averaged over the course of the semester. There may be some weeks when you work 10 hours or less and others when you work 30 or more.
  • Minimally, you will attend all course meetings, run discussion sections, and hold office hours. This will amount to around 7 hours per week. In addition, you will need to allot time for reading the assigned material, preparing for discussion section, and grading assignments.
  • Given the above expectations, it would be rare to spend less than 10 hours per week on your TF duties. On weeks that include grading, you might work substantially more than 20 hours. However, the average should amount to no more than 20.
  • You should feel free to keep track of your hours and notify the professor or DFS if you have any concerns.
  • You must attend all meetings of the course.
  • You must attend the instructor’s lectures, read all of the assigned materials, and speak with the instructor if any questions arise.
  • If you are unable to attend a course meeting due to illness or other emergency, notify the instructor in advance.
  • Cancelling sections or office hours is prohibited without the prior approval of the instructor.
  • If you are unable to run a discussion section due to illness or other emergency, you must:
  • Contact the instructor
  • Secure the instructor’s permission to cancel the section
  • Notify the students via email
  • Attempt to make alternative arrangements (for example, ask another TF to cover the section that you miss).
  • The Department of Philosophy will assign specific courses to individual teaching fellows. You are not allowed to switch your teaching assignments with another TF unless you secure prior approval from the instructors.

Format of Discussion sections:

In general, discussion sections should be designed to encourage all students to reflect on the assigned course materials.

There are different ways of achieving this goal. Consult with your instructor to determine the best approach for the course.

Office Hours:

You must hold at least two office hours per week. Coordinate these with the instructor so that your office hours don’t overlap.

If certain students are unable to make your scheduled office hours due to scheduling conflicts (such as a course that meets at the same time as your office hours), make reasonable arrangements for meeting them outside of your scheduled office hours.



You are responsible for grading all of the student papers, assignments, and exams.

Unless the professor specifies an earlier deadline, papers must be returned to students no later than two weeks after submission. Two weeks is the maximum; you should aim for one week.

You must provide substantial commentary on the student papers.

What constitutes substantial commentary? This depends on the nature of the assignment, so you should discuss specific expectations with your instructor.

Final exams must be graded promptly. In some cases, grades will be due less than 48 hours after the final exam. Discuss the grading deadline with the instructor.

Monitoring Student Progress:

You have access to a list of all the students in your sections. You are responsible for monitoring the students’ performances. If a student in your section fails to submit assignments and/or misses a significant number of classes or discussion sections, contact the student in order to determine the source of the problem.

General Professionalism:

Arrive in time for all course meetings, discussion sections, and office hours.

Respond promptly (within one business day) to student emails.


Failure to comply with these guidelines will result in disciplinary action. Disciplinary actions can include loss of good standing, loss of future teaching fellowships, and dismissal from the program.


Instructor Obligations regarding Teaching Fellows:

Faculty are required to visit at least one meeting of each of their TF’s sections per term. Following the visit, faculty are required to discuss the section with each TF and write a brief report for each TF’s file. (Faculty unanimously approved this rule on 3-25-22).



Students may take only one “Incomplete” per semester. They will have one year (12 months) from the end of the course to complete the work of the course; after a year, the “I” turns into an “F”. Upon being petitioned by a student, the Director of Graduate Studies may determine that there are exceptional circumstances at work and that both the “one per semester” and the “one year” limit may be extended.


Attendance at Colloquia and Similar Events

The Department of Philosophy offers unusually rich and variegated colloquia (these include the colloquium of the Center for Philosophy and History of Science; the colloquium of the Institute for Philosophy and Religion; the Friday Colloquia; and the Boston Area Colloquium in Ancient Philosophy). In addition, the Benedict Lectures often treat philosophically of issues in political theory. Attendance and participation in these and similar lectures and events is an intrinsic part of a student’s graduate education. The department expects that every graduate student will attend at least two colloquia a semester for every semester he or she is in residence. Attendance at a larger number is desirable. The Graduate Student Association hosts talks by graduate students, and regular participation in those events by all graduate students is enthusiastically encouraged as well.



For graduate students who are applying for jobs (hereafter “applicants”), there are a number of steps and procedures that can be extremely useful in the search for teaching positions. A departmental Placement Director (hereafter “PD”), who coordinates a placement seminar each fall and spring, aids applicants in their searches. Applicants should work with the PD according to the schedule below. Students are ordinarily expected to register for the seminar sequence (GRS PH 993, GRS PH 994) during their first active year on the market if they wish to use the department’s placement resources.

Students who are in their first active year on the market but who will not be in residence during one semester or the other should:

Be prepared to register for the two course sequence even though they will not be in residence, and

Be in contact with the PD over the course of the semester to receive materials and coordinate their dossiers on the schedule other enrolled students will follow.


The seminar will also be open on an audit basis for both interested students not yet on the market and those who wish to attend in further years beyond their initial enrollment. The Department will not support a student’s job placement effort unless he or she registers for the seminar sequence. The seminar is free of charge for students paying the CSF or who have a fee waiver, pass/fail/ and two credits a semester. It does not count toward the credits needed for the Ph.D. degree.


The seminar will ordinarily meet weekly, but be more intensive in the fall, when most placement activity occurs. Two kinds of regular meetings will be featured:

Workshops on specific placement tasks

Mock paper presentations by each student, which will be critiqued by students and faculty.


The series of workshops will be focused on a graduated series of tasks concerned with dossier preparation (cover letter, CV, writings sample, etc.). Additional sessions will involve panels of recently placed graduate students who can offer experienced advice about the travails of the job search. Prospective applicants should make known to the PD as soon as possible (in the preceding spring or summer semesters) their intention to apply for jobs in the Fall and register for the placement seminar. The PD will then be able to apprise them of the nature of the process of applying for teaching positions.


Prospective applicants will be informed of:

The make-up of a dossier (including CV, letters of recommendation, writing samples, and teaching evaluations);

The necessity of assembling such a dossier and drafting a letter of introduction by September;

The ways in which the PD and the Department will attempt to support applications throughout the coming year;

The ways of determining job openings (e.g. the listings on PhilJobs);

The kinds of expectations normally held by the institutions to which application is made (e.g. interviews at the APA Meetings, course syllabi, on-campus interviews and lectures).

Students will also be advised to obtain feedback from advisors on the need for any revisions of writing samples. Preparation for going on the market, in other words, should begin during the summer before the Fall seminar (PH 93). It is a drawn-out process!


Each applicant’s curriculum vitae and accompanying dossier should be approved by the dissertation advisor, and be submitted to the PD by the second week of the seminar to the PD for review as well as, if necessary, for editing. The PD will then seek to meet with each applicant to discuss these and other possible materials to the institution receiving it, the writing sample to include with the letter, the areas of specialization and areas of competence to use, and the course syllabi to prepare). At this time the applicant should also make available to the PD any teaching evaluations, reports, and any other information pertinent to the applicant’s teaching credentials and experience so that the PD will, if appropriate, be in a position write a letter summarizing those credentials and that experience. At the earliest possible time, applicants should open an account with INTERFOLIO. The PD should review the applicant’s letters of recommendation.


Applicants should consult with the PD and their dissertation advisor about possible positions for which it would be appropriate to apply. These discussions should coincide with the first week after the publication of PhilJobs. As soon as applications are made to particular institutions, the applicant should provide the PD with a list of those institutions to which s/he is applying. By the middle of November the PD will seek to:

distribute to the faculty the names of applicants, their areas of specialization and competence, a brief description of their dissertation, and the names of departments and institutions to which they are applying;

solicit advice from members of the faculty on how applicants can be best served in their current searches.


The PD will, as appropriate:

phone relevant people in the faculties of the departments and institutions to which applicants are applying, or

see to it that someone in the Boston University department who is in contact with one or more of those relevant people makes the phone call (in order to encourage the interviewing and hiring of the applicant in question).


Mock interviews will be conducted in early December and in advance of a scheduled interview at other times during the school year. Applicants who have been invited as part of the hiring process to deliver a paper at another institution will be asked to give a “dry run” of the talk as part of the placement seminar. The PD, as well as the student’s dissertation advisor and the Department Chair, will be pleased to give counsel when the student negotiates for a position. The Spring semester part of the seminar (PH 994) will in a general way cover, among other issues, offers and negotiations.


While the department will do its best to support its students in their searches for positions, the ultimate responsibility in this process lies with the student. The student’s dissertation director is also expected to play a crucial role in this process. Given the vagaries of the job market, students should also apply for post-doctoral fellowships. They can provide a very comfortable – and prestigious – transition phase from completion of the doctorate to one’s first job. Many fellowships have early application deadlines (often, a year in advance). The student is urged to investigate the options during his or her third year of graduate study.


Financial Aid

For more information concerning financial aid, the student should consult and the department’s Director of Graduate Studies.