Philosophy Department Graduate Student Handbook
- Advisement and Registration
- Full-Time Status
- Logic Requirement
- Language Requirement
- Accelerated Master's Programs
- Registering for Graduation
- NYC Graduate Consortium
- Registering for a Consortium Class
Papers and Projects
Dissertation Area Reading List and Examination
- Reading List and the Oral Examination
- Expectations Regarding Reading List and Exam
- Grading Scale for Papers and Oral Examinations
- What Students Can Expect
- The Proposal
- Committee and Proposal Defense
- The Dissertation
- Defense of the Dissertation
- Graduate Assistantships and Teaching Fellowships
- Distinguished Fellowships
- Research Support Grants
- Graduate Student Association Travel Grants
About the Department
Fordham University's Department of Philosophy has a long and distinguished record, having offered programs in philosophy for more than 150 years. Renowned for its strengths in the historical areas of medieval philosophy and contemporary continental philosophy and the systematic areas of contemporary metaphysics and epistemology, philosophy of religion, and ethics, the department features a pluralistic program that recognizes the history of philosophy as the context informing contemporary philosophical debates. The department offers courses in all periods of the history of philosophy, and its pluralism manifests itself in the wide variety of schools and perspectives represented in its contemporary philosophy courses.
Philosophy graduate course requirements at Fordham, whether in the Ph.D., M.A., early admission M.A. or M.A.P.R. program, reflect the department's commitment to philosophical pluralism and to the value of philosophizing with a solid understanding of the history of philosophy. All students are, therefore, given serious exposure to ancient, medieval, and modern philosophy, as well as contemporary thought. Our aim in these requirements is to provide students a basis to converse with philosophical positions representing different schools and perspectives.
In the belief that philosophy graduate students should be encouraged from the outset to argue, to write, and, if they wish, to publish, the Fordham philosophy program's graduate degree requirements place an emphasis on papers rather than written examinations. Ph.D. students proceed to dissertation work following the successful submission of article-length studies and oral defenses. M.A. students gain their degree on the basis of course work and essays.
Philosophy students and faculty at Fordham together benefit from the exceptional academic and research environment provided by New York City. A number of regional philosophical associations provide an opportunity to pursue philosophical research well beyond the library and classroom, e.g., at symposia, conferences, and public lectures. Fordham is also a member of the New York City Graduate School Consortium consisting of several schools in the New York Metropolitan area and beyond (e.g., New York University, Columbia University, Princeton University, Rutgers). The departmental lecture series exposes students to outstanding scholars from all over the world, and (together with Fordham's distinguished School of Law) the department sponsors a Natural Law Colloquium.
The scholarly reputation of the Fordham philosophy faculty is recognized nationally and abroad. As well as publishing scholarly books and articles, the faculty serve as officers of philosophical organizations and as editors of philosophical journals and book series. The department is home to three significant philosophical societies: the Society for Medieval Logic and Metaphysics, the Nietzsche Society, and the Society for the Study of Process Philosophies. Members of the department edit several well-known journals: International Philosophical Quarterly, New Nietzsche Studies, and the New Yearbook for Phenomenology and Phenomenological Philosophy. In addition, numerous book series are edited by our faculty: Environmental Ethics and Philosophy (SUNY Press), Great Medieval Thinkers (Oxford University Press), Indiana Series in the Philosophy of Religion (Indiana University Press), Outstanding Christian Thinkers Continuum), Medieval Philosophy: Texts and Studies (Fordham University Press), Proceedings of the Society for Medieval Logic and Metaphysics, Historical-Analytical Studies on Nature, Mind and Action (Springer-Verlag), and Cambridge Hegel Translations (Cambridge University Press).
The Fordham philosophy faculty take special pride in actively assisting their graduate students insofar as they wish to prepare for careers as teacher-scholars. In addition to providing coursework and related research opportunities, the department strongly supports the professional development of its graduate students through yearly seminars on professional writing and on the teaching of philosophy. Graduate student teaching fellows also receive mentorship and periodic evaluations from senior faculty. Recent alumni of Fordham's graduate program now occupy positions at institutions such as Boston College (MA), Gonzaga University (WA), Loma Linda University (FL), College of Mt. St. Vincent (NY), Wheaton College (IL), St. Leo University (FL), California Polytechnic State University (CA), St. John's University (NY), University of St. Mary (KS), Hamline University (MN), Rockhurst University (IL), University of Witwatersrand (South Africa), Marymount University (VA), Chicago State University (IL), College of Mt. St. Joseph (OH), Manhattan College (NY), Creighton University (NE), Illinois State University (IL), Mount Allison University (Canada), Providence College (RI), Babson College (MA), St. Michael's College (VT), Augustana College (SD), Salve Regina College (RI), Texas Woman's University (TX), George Fox University (OR), St. John Fisher College (NY), University of San Diego (CA), University of St. Thomas (MN), Loyola Marymount University (CA), University of Wisconsin at Platteville (WI), and Mount Saint Mary's University (MD). View placement information for our most recent graduates.
Fordham Philosophical Society
Created and organized by students, the Fordham Philosophical Society (FPS) seeks, as its main purpose, to foster the professional development of students in the philosophy program. Our mission is to support and further the scholarly endeavors of students through a variety of established programs and activities, including topical and historical reading groups, biennial graduate philosophy conferences, and biannual symposia.
Its aim is not only to facilitate progress through the academic programs leading to the conferment of M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in philosophy, but also to enable the individual student to pursue and meet his or her personal professional and scholarly goals, including publication and professional presentation.
The FPS provides a forum for social and academic community among students, and a link to the faculty, acting as a liaison especially to the Department Chair and the Director of Graduate Studies.
Acting closely with department and university administrators, the FPS provides a voice to its graduate students, whereby concerns, problems, and suggestions may be brought to the appropriate forum for discussion. Finally, through the establishment of reading groups, symposia series, conferences, etc., the FPS seeks to open an avenue for ever greater scholarly and intellectual exchange between students and faculty, in the hope of creating and sustaining a true community of philosophical discourse.
Samir Haddad, Director of Graduate Studies
Email: [email protected]
Reed Winegar, Placement Officer
Email: [email protected]
Margaret Donovan, Administrative Assistant
Email: [email protected]
Suzanna Appenzeller, Executive Secretary
Email: [email protected]
Advisement and Registration
The Director of Graduate Studies (DGS) is the official advisor to all graduate students, and students must consult with the DGS before registering for classes to ensure that they are on track to fulfill their program requirements.
Before registration students must claim their Access IT IDs. In order to do so, log on to my.Fordham.edu and follow the instructions on the home page.
Once you have claimed your access IT ID, log on to my.Fordham.edu and select the Students tab. From there you can check your registration status, search for classes, and add or drop classes from your schedule.
All M.A. students in philosophy take 27 hours (9 classes) of coursework with at least one course in each of the following areas:
- Ancient philosophy
- Medieval philosophy
- Modern philosophy
- Contemporary philosophy (analytic, continental, American, contemporary Thomism, feminist, environmental, etc.)
To remain in the program, master’s students must maintain a minimum of a 3.0 GPA (based on a 4.0 scale).
Ph.D. students entering with an M.A. in Philosophy take 30 hours (10 classes) of coursework. Students entering the Ph.D. program without an M.A. in Philosophy take 48 hours (16 classes) of coursework. All students, regardless of whether they enter with a prior M.A., must take nine courses in the following fields:
- Ancient philosophy (2 courses)
- Medieval philosophy (2 courses)
- Modern philosophy (2 courses)
- Contemporary philosophy (1 analytic philosophy + 1 continental philosophy + 1
- other contemporary area, e.g., American, contemporary Thomism, feminist,
- environmental, etc.)
Students entering with an M.A. will have their graduate transcripts evaluated by the Director of Graduate Studies in order to determine which of these course requirements have already been satisfied at the graduate level.
Students entering without an M.A. may take only three 5000-level courses. Students entering with an MA may take only 6000-level courses or above.
To remain in the program, students must maintain a GPA of at least 3.5 (based on a 4.0 scale).
Ph.D. students earning an M.A. in cursu must satisfy the distribution requirement for the M.A. by the time they complete the qualifying paper requirement.
All first-semester Ph.D. students are required to take the proseminar Philosophical Research and Writing, which covers the basics of academic research and writing in the discipline. All students who wish to teach in the department must also take the Seminar in Philosophical Education ("Teaching Seminar"). Although both of these courses carry credit for purposes of maintaining full-time or part-time status, they do not count toward the 30 hour/48 hour coursework requirement.
To be considered full-time, students must be registered for 9 credits (three philosophy department courses). Students not registered for 9 credits but still wishing to be considered full-time students should fill out a "Matriculated Student Status Certification" form and have it signed by the DGS.
All Ph.D. students must demonstrate an understanding of the elements of symbolic logic, either by taking PHIL 5100 (Logic I), or by taking a departmentally administered logic exam. Students taking PHIL 5100 must earn a grade of B or higher to satisfy the requirement. Students preparing for the qualifying exam without having taken PHIL 5100 should become familiar with the following formal logical theories:
- The syntax and semantics of propositional logic
- The syntax and semantics of polyadic predicate logic with identity (including the representation of numerals and the elimination of definite descriptions)
They should also be able to use natural deduction, truth tables, and truth trees in analyzing and evaluating natural language arguments.
The recommended textbook for preparation is:
Merrie Bergmann, James Moor, and Jack Nelson, The Logic Book (5th ed., New York: McGraw-Hill, 2009), chapters 1-5, 7-10.
The departmentally administered logic exam is graded on a pass/fail basis, and students wishing to test out of PHIL 5100 must receive a passing grade on the exam to fulfill the requirement. There is no penalty for failing, and students may take the exam as often as necessary.
Ph.D. students must demonstrate reading competence in two languages other than English, normally French and German, though substitutions (e.g., Greek or Latin) may be approved in light of a student’s research needs. Students must fulfill the language requirement either through coursework or through examination.
The courses satisfying the language requirement are FREN 5090 (French) and/or GERM 5002 (German). Before taking GERM 5002, students must either take the prerequisite (GERM 5001) and receive a passing grade (P) or receive permission from the DGS to forgo GERM 5001. There is no prerequisite for FREN 5090. Students must receive a B or higher in FREN 5090 and/or GERM 5002 to complete the requirement.
Language exams are offered each semester and administered by philosophy department faculty. When a student feels she is prepared to take her language exam, she should contact the DGS, who will set up the exam with an appropriate faculty member. Language exams generally consist of translating about 600 words of academic prose from the relevant language to English. The student is given two hours to translate the material with the aid of a hard copy dictionary.
Language exams are graded on a pass/fail basis, and students must receive a passing grade to fulfill the requirement. There is no penalty for failing, and students may take an exam as often as necessary. Students who have received a B or higher in GERM 5002 or FREN 5090 do not need to take the respective language exam.
Accelerated Master's Programs
The accelerated master's program in philosophy allows academically strong philosophy majors presently enrolled in Fordham College Rose Hill or Fordham College Lincoln Center to attain both a Bachelor’s degree and a Master’s degree in philosophy in five years. Courses on the graduate level begin before completing the B.A., enriching the undergraduate departmental experience and serving to distinguish graduation transcripts. The accelerated master's program offers financial aid to a certain extent, since by double-counting three graduate courses, the M.A. total tuition bill is less than it would have been otherwise. Please consult the GSAS Accelerated Master's Programs page for more information.
Admission to the Program
The program is available to philosophy majors who have a cumulative 3.2 overall grade point average or above and at least a 3.5 in philosophy after five semesters of work in the College. Students who qualify will receive a description of the program and an invitation to apply from the Chair or Associate Chair of the department after grades for the Fall Semester (Junior Year) have been posted and before registration for Fall Semester (Senior Year) begins. In the Spring Semester of junior year, students interested in the early admission program will be required to formally indicate their desire to matriculate by filling out an application to the graduate program and submitting it to the Graduate School Admissions Office. Certain special conditions apply to these applicants:
- Two letters of recommendation are required.
- The application fee is waived.
- The GRE requirement is waived. (Students admitted to the early admission program must take the GRE if and when they apply for the doctoral program).
Applicants will be interviewed by the Chair or Director of Graduate Studies. The application will be reviewed by the department's Admissions Committee, which will make a recommendation to the Chair for or against admission to the MA program, and the department's recommendation will be forwarded to the Graduate School for final action.
Students admitted into the program take three 5000-level graduate courses in their Senior Year. The graduate courses count towards the completion of both the B.A. degree and the M.A. degree. Students will participate in the normal B.A. graduation ceremonies in May following their Senior Year. Students then take six graduate courses at the 5000-level or above in the fifth year in order to complete the required 27 credit-hours (9 courses) for the M.A. degree. All other requirements for the normal M.A. in Philosophy, including required course distribution, GPA, and the special project apply.
Registering for Graduation
When a student anticipates that all of the requirements for the degree will have been met by the end of the current semester, the student should file a "candidate for degree" card (available from the department office or the Office of Academic Records) with the Office of Academic Records, and inform the DGS of his or her intention to graduate. Degrees are granted in February, May, and August.
NYC Graduate Consortium
Fordham University participates in a graduate school consortium with several other universities in the New York Metropolitan area. With the permission of their advisers at the home institution and faculty at the host institution, Ph.D. students at any of the participating universities can take one or more courses at any other school in the consortium. Students register and receive credit at their home institution, and the home institution covers tuition costs.
Fordham's membership in the consortium means that Fordham graduate students have the opportunity to take courses not only from Fordham's own internationally recognized faculty, but also from New York-based philosophers and professors such as Richard Bernstein, Philip Kitcher, Saul Kripke, Alexander Nehamas, Graham Priest, Michael Smith, and Ernest Sosa. The institutions that participate in the graduate school consortium include:
- Fordham University
- Columbia University
- Graduate Center, City University of New York (CUNY)
- New York University
- The New School for Social Research
- Princeton University
- Rutgers University
- Stony Brook University
- Teacher's College, Columbia University
Registering for a Consortium Class
Fordham students who wish to register for courses through the consortium must be matriculated in a GSAS doctoral program and must have completed at least one year of full-time doctoral study before taking a consortium course. Only one consortium course may be taken each semester, and courses may not be taken through the consortium during the summer. To register for consortium courses, fill out the Inter-University Doctoral Consortium Registration Form. Then obtain the signature of the chair of the philosophy department as well as the signature of the GSAS director of academic programs and support. After obtaining these required signatures on the registration form, make a photocopy of the signed and completed form, and deposit the photocopy with the philosophy department's secretary; then bring the completed form to Keating Hall, Room 216. It is also the student's responsibility to register for ZZGA0920, Consortium Registration. Deadlines for making consortium course changes (add, drop, change of grade type) are governed by the GSAS academic calendar.
Papers and Projects
M.A. Special Project
All Master’s students must complete a three-credit special project, or they may select the six-credit thesis option (see below). Possibilities for the special project include, but are not limited to:
- Writing a research paper of 7,500 to 8,000 words;
- Writing a paper applying philosophical ideas or concepts to another discipline or to a student’s outside interest, professional work, or volunteer service;
- Writing a paper incorporating a series of interviews with philosophical commentary;
- A video or other media-based project with significant philosophical content; the project must be at least thirty minutes in length; or
- A project exemplifying or related to the digital humanities.
- [For students in the direct Ph.D. program, receiving a grade of at least Pass on two qualifying papers serves as a special project for purposes of receiving the M.A. in cursu.]
Two faculty members evaluate the special project on a Pass/Fail basis, and the student must receive a grade of Pass from both faculty evaluators. If one evaluator assigns a grade of Pass and the other assigns a grade of Fail, a third faculty member will evaluate the project, and the student must receive a grade of Pass from the third evaluator in order to complete the requirement successfully. Special Projects must be submitted no later than December 15 for the fall semester and April 15 for the spring semester.
M.A. students electing the thesis option will take 24 credit hours (8 courses) satisfying the M.A. distribution requirement and complete a six-credit thesis containing a minimum of 15,000 words and not exceeding 20,000 words.
Students selecting the thesis option must by the end of their penultimate semester have identified and secured a thesis director who will guide the student through the thesis. The student must also have prepared a two- to three-page thesis proposal for approval by the director and a second reader appointed by the Director of Graduate Studies. The director and reader will consider the student’s previous work in determining the acceptability of the thesis proposal. The completed thesis will be read and evaluated by the mentor and the same reader on a scale of High Pass/Pass/Fail. The student must receive a grade of at least Pass from both readers. If one reader assigns a grade of Fail, the thesis will be read by a third faculty member, and the student must receive a grade of at least Pass from the third reader in order to complete the requirement successfully. Theses must be submitted no later than December 10 for the fall semester and April 10 for the spring semester.
Students successfully completing the thesis-option M.A. program will be in a position to apply to Ph.D. programs. M.A. students wishing to pursue the Ph.D. at Fordham must apply separately to the Ph.D. program. Their applications will be evaluated with all the other applications received for the Ph.D. program.
Ph.D. Qualifying Papers
Ph.D. students must submit two papers of publishable quality in two different thematic areas (one of which must be metaphysics, epistemology, or ethics). The papers must be submitted no later that March 15 of the second semester for students entering with an MA or the fourth semester for students entering without an MA, but they may be submitted at any time before that. A paper will be deemed publishable just in case a reader judges that it is worthy of submission to a professional journal. Each paper must be between 5000 and 7500 words.
The papers will be blind reviewed by two readers chosen by the Director of Graduate Studies, and a High Pass grade from two readers is required for each paper. A paper will be graded High Pass when it is judged worthy of submission to a professional journal. Each reader will prepare a statement regarding the strengths and weaknesses of the paper and, if necessary, of what needs to be done to improve the paper so that it is of publishable quality. If one reader assigns a grade of High Pass and the other assigns a grade lower than High Pass, a third reader will be assigned, and the student must receive a grade of High Pass from the third reader. Students who not receive a High Pass grade on a qualifying paper may revise and resubmit once for reevaluation. If the resubmitted paper does not receive a High Pass, but both papers have received a grade of at least Pass, the student will be granted a terminal MA degree.
This requirement must be completed by the end of the relevant semester. This does not mean merely that the papers must be submitted by that time. Hence, students should plan accordingly and allow themselves time to revise their submitted papers and have them evaluated before the end of the fourth term. Students are strongly encouraged to have one paper completed in the first year or certainly no later than the fall semester of the second year. Students wishing to have the review of a qualifying paper completed by the end of a fall semester must submit the paper by October 15 and students wishing to have the review of a qualifying paper completed by the end of a spring semester must submit the paper by March 15. Students who successfully complete this requirement qualify for Ph.D. candidacy.
Evaluating Qualifying Papers
The following list of questions represents the kinds of questions that readers have in mind when evaluating qualifying papers. It is offered here only as a guidance to students, questions that they might have in mind when composing their papers. It is important to note that different qualifying papers might have different philosophical ends and styles, and this means that for different papers different kinds of questions will come to the fore while others recede into the background. It is also important to recognize that this set of questions is not exhaustive. Nor does this list—or any subset thereof—identify a set of sufficient conditions for a paper to receive a grade of High Pass.
With those caveats, here is the list of questions:
- Does the paper address an important problem or issue in current philosophical scholarship?
- Does it develop a clear philosophical approach or method in discussing the problem or issue at hand?
- Is it well organized and clear?
- Is the reasoning in the paper sound?
- Is the textual and historical scholarship sound?
- Does it take into account relevant existing scholarship and publications?
- Does it make a significant contribution to current philosophical scholarship?
- Does it use proper scholarly format and style?
- Are there any other comments about the paper relevant to the issue of its readiness for submission to a professional journal?
A paper needing only minor revision for publication merits a High Pass. A paper requiring substantial revision merits a Pass, whereas a paper that is deemed not publishable even with revisions merits a Fail.
Dissertation Area Reading List and Examination
Reading List and the Oral Examination
All Ph.D. students must pass an oral comprehensive examination based on a reading list connected to the student’s dissertation area. The student develops this reading list in consultation with the chair of the Dissertation Area Reading Exam, who is often the student's projected dissertation mentor, and two examiners appointed by the Director of Graduate Studies in consultation with the chair of the examining committee. Note that there is no presumption that the reading list committee will become the student’s dissertation or dissertation proposal committee. The reading list is then approved by the committee and the department chair or the Director of Graduate Studies. Once the reading list is approved, the student is responsible for having a Reading List Approval Form signed, by all the members of the committee and by the chair (or, if designated, the Director of Graduate Studies). The reading list should meet the following qualifications:
- Comprises primary and secondary sources in the dissertation area
- Is broad enough to cover three approaches. This may take the form of one historical period and two contemporary approaches, or two historical periods and one contemporary approach.
- The reading list must be both substantial and manageable. A list is "substantial" insofar as it includes readings that present major alternative positions that characterize the research area. The list should be ordered toward the area rather than some problem or topic within an area of philosophy. In this way, the area reading list is distinct from a dissertation bibliography. A list is "manageable" insofar as it limits itself to the most important representatives of the alternative positions within the area. It might be the case, for example, that a work would be included in a dissertation bibliography because it was an important commentary on a work that had originally stated an alternative for that field, even though the commentary does not delineate an alternative position. Such a work would not be included in the area bibliography.
Students entering with an MA must have their reading list approved by their committee by the end of their third semester. Students entering without an MA must be approved by the end of their fifth semester. In both cases, students must sit for their oral exam within a year of their reading list being approved (i.e., end of the fifth semester for students entering with an MA and end of the seventh semester for students entering without an MA). Oral exam dates for the fall must be set by October 15th and for the spring by March 15th. This will qualify a student to complete the requirement in that semester even if scheduling conflicts dictate that the examination be moved into the early part of the following semester. It is strongly recommended that students work to set a date with their committee as early as possible in the semester (for the fall, in September, and for the spring, in January) so that the date can be set before faculty calendars are filled.
After the oral exam, each member of the committee will write a report detailing the reasons for the grade he or she assigns. These reports must be submitted to the Director of Graduate Studies within three days of the examination. Students must earn a grade of High Pass on the exam by earning a grade of High Pass from at least two of the examiners. No student receiving a grade of Fail from any examiner can achieve an overall grade of High Pass for an exam. Students may retake this examination no more than once, and a retake must be completed in the semester following the original examination.
Expectations Regarding Reading List and Exam
Graduate students studying at Fordham have every reasonable expectation that faculty, particularly those involved in graduate teaching, will be involved in the various aspects of their progress through the program, including reading list exam committees, proposal committees, and dissertation committees. Having found a faculty member who agrees to serve as mentor for the reading list and its exam, students should, in consultation with the mentor, find two further faculty members who agree to serve on that committee. Mentors should supervise the student's progress throughout the development of the reading list; other committee members should be willing to consult and offer feedback as needed in developing the list. All three members must approve the reading list, as well as the department chair or Director of Graduate Studies.
During the process of developing the list, the mentor and other two committee members should provide timely feedback when requested. Under normal circumstances, a reasonable response time for responding to a proposed reading list will be no longer than 1-2 weeks. Students should schedule a reading list exam in consultation with the mentor and committee members, who should make an effort to be flexible in their scheduling.
It is expected that faculty members who agree to participate on a reading list committee will be involved for the duration of the project. If a faculty member must withdraw from the committee due to unforeseeable circumstances, he or she will give notice to the graduate student as early as possible and consult with the Director of Graduate Studies or Department Chair.
Grading Scale for the Oral Examination
The grading scale for oral examinations is High Pass, Pass, and Fail.
What Students Can Expect
Shortly after completing the dissertation area reading list oral examination, students need to select both a topic and a mentor (director) for their dissertation. As they seek to sharpen the topic to the place where it can become a written proposal, students should discuss their ideas with a variety of faculty members (by no means to the exclusion of fellow students). In this way they will get a breadth of input and also get a better sense of the faculty member with whom they would like to work. Discussing a possible topic with a faculty member does not commit either party to a mentoring relationship. When the student has decided with whom she or he wants to work, they need to ask that person specifically whether he or she will be their mentor. Once an agreement is in place the student and mentor will work together to bring the topic to the form of a written proposal.
Having found a faculty member who agrees to serve as a mentor, students should, in consultation with the mentor and the Director of Graduate Studies, find two further faculty members (readers) who agree to serve on the Proposal Defense Committee, to read the dissertation in its entirety, and to serve on the Dissertation Defense Committee. These faculty members are usually, but not necessarily, drawn from the Reading List committee. In addition, one additional faculty member (examiner) should be identified for the Proposal Defense Committee, but the examiner is not committed to reading the dissertation in its entirety. See below for more details about the dissertation proposal and dissertation.
The mentor and student should set a provisional target date for the completion of the dissertation, and they may also agree on a provisional or working timeline for the completion of particular chapters and a draft of the whole.
Mentors should supervise the student’s progress throughout the writing process. Readers should be willing to read and offer feedback as needed on individual chapters or portions of the dissertation. The mentor and readers should provide timely feedback when requested. During the academic year, mentors and readers, if materials have been submitted to the readers, should provide feedback on chapters or larger drafts within a month of submission. The mentor (and readers, if appropriate) and the student should discuss the schedule for returning work during the summer months. If the feedback cannot be given within this time frame, mentors and/or readers should communicate with the student about when feedback can be expected.
Mentors on leave should work out with the student a plan for continued involvement during the leave period. Readers going on leave should communicate with the student and her or his mentor about expectations of involvement during the leave period.
It is expected that faculty members who agree to participate on a reading list or dissertation proposal committee will be involved for the duration of the project. If a faculty member must withdraw from the committee due to unforeseeable circumstances, he or she will give notice to the graduate student as early as possible and consult with the Director of Graduate Studies or Department Chair.
Dissertating students, for their part, should remain in contact with their mentors and readers, respond to communications and feedback for revisions in a timely manner, and keep mentors and readers informed of any needed alterations to the working timeline or target completion date.
Students expecting spring defense date and graduation should aim to submit a draft of the dissertation by the end of the fall semester, to allow time for revisions. Students expecting a fall defense date should aim to submit a draft of the dissertation before the start of the fall semester, to allow time for revisions.
The body of the written, double-spaced dissertation proposal should be at least 3,000 but no more than 6,000 words and should include:
- a working title
- an account of the topic and of its philosophical importance
- a strategic overview or plan of attack, normally including a tentative sequence of chapters or sections
- a statement of the relation of the project to previous, especially current, discussions
- a word count at the end of the body of the proposal
In addition, the proposal should include a bibliography of appropriate primary and secondary sources (this need not be formal, and can include simply authors and titles).
Committee and Proposal Defense
The Dissertation Proposal Defense Committee comprises the mentor, the readers, and a fourth faculty member (examiner) chosen in consultation with the mentor and Director of Graduate Studies. The faculty members designated as readers agree to read the completed dissertation and possibly to be involved in the process of its production. The student is responsible for securing the agreement of all the faculty members to serve. The student is also responsible for negotiating a two-hour time slot agreeable to all five parties involved and for reserving a room. While the "defense" may not take a full two hours, it should not go longer than two hours.
The "proposal defense" comes near the beginning of the dissertation process and is not intended as a presentation and defense of the conclusions the dissertation will reach. Its focus is perhaps more on the questions being asked in the dissertation than on the answers being given, though this is not incompatible with having one or more working hypotheses or tentative theses. The purpose is to determine whether the topic is "big" enough to be of significant philosophical import and "small" enough to be manageable in the time and space available. The discussion is not so much an exam as an attempt to formalize the earlier discussions, giving faculty persons with some interest and expertise related to the topic the opportunity to make suggestions for approaches to the topic, bibliography to be explored, pitfalls to be avoided, and so forth. This meeting is not open to the public.
The written proposal should be in the hands of each member of the committee at least two weeks prior to the scheduled "defense." They should also be given some advance notice of when they will be receiving the proposal. Proposals should be presented during the fall and spring terms and not requested during vacation periods.
The dissertation proposal will normally by defended by the end of the eighth semester (sixth semester for students who enter with an M.A. in philosophy). A date for the dissertation proposal defense must be set by October 15 for a defense in the fall semester and by March 15 for a defense in the spring semester. This will qualify a student to complete the requirement in that semester even if scheduling conflicts dictate that the defense by moved into the early part of the following semester. It is strongly recommended that students work to set a date with their committee as early as possible in the semester (for the fall, in September, and for the spring, in January) so that the date can be set before faculty calendars are filled.
In all technical respects, the dissertation must meet the requirements of the Graduate School. These standards can be found in the GSAS Academic Policies and Procedures Guidebook. While the department does not have a policy about inclusive language, some associations and journals within the profession do. The APA guidelines on this topic are available from the department secretary, and students are encouraged to be familiar with them.
The dissertation itself should be an original work of philosophical interpretation and/or argument, written in clear prose, as jargon free as the topic permits. It should demonstrate a high level of philosophical comprehension and an extensive mastery of the appropriate primary and secondary sources. The relevant literature is often far too large to be exhaustively mastered, but the dissertation should demonstrate the student’s ability to locate a significant body of texts appropriate to the topic and to employ them effectively (though not excessively) in developing the topic. It should demonstrate language skills appropriate to its subject matter.
During the writing of the dissertation the student should be in regular conversation with his or her mentor, submitting written drafts of chapters or sections from time to time for feedback and refinement. At or near the time of the proposal defense, the mentor, student, and two readers should come to an agreement on how the two readers will be involved. It is given that they will read the final draft of the completed dissertation and be questioners at the oral defense; but the nature and extent of their involvement during its writing are negotiable.
The dissertation should not exceed 350 pages, including notes and bibliography, in standard 12-point typeface. The purpose of this limitation is to compel the author to exercise judgment about what is essential to the project. Longer is often easier, but not necessarily better.
Defense of the Dissertation
When a student and her or his mentor and readers believe that the dissertation is ready to defend, the student should set a date for the defense and notify the DGS and departmental secretary. A defense occurs only when the mentor and the readers agree that the completed version that they have read is ready to be defended.
The student's defense committee consists of her dissertation mentor, two readers, and two examiners. The mentor and the two readers will read the entire dissertation. The examiners will read a summary of about 20-25 pages. This can be taken directly from the Introduction and Conclusion of the dissertation or can be a separate essay.
The mentor and the student, in consultation with the Director of Graduate Studies, agree together on whom to invite to fill the other four slots. Normally, but not necessarily, those who served on the proposal committee will be on the defense committee as well. Once again it is the student’s task to secure the agreement of any new members of the committee and to arrange for the time and place of the defense.
The defense is scheduled for two hours, during which all five members of the committee will question the author in turn. Typically the mentor and readers will question the student for thirty minutes each, and the examiners will question the student for fifteen minutes each. It is not necessary that the author secure the agreement and consent of the committee members (even the mentor) to his or her main conclusions, but it is expected that these will be defended cogently and knowledgeably. Since the author is on the verge of passing from student to professional colleague of the examiners, she or he can expect to be pressed hard on central points in the manner that the examiners would press each other when presenting papers.
The defense is open to the public, and students are invited to attend the defenses of other students prior to their own so as to get a sense of what it is like. At the conclusion of the defense the committee members will ask everyone else, including the author, to leave the room while they make their official decision whether or not the defense has been satisfactory.
The complete dissertation should be in the hands of the mentor and two readers at least four weeks prior to the defense. The summary should be in the hands of the examiners at least two weeks prior to the defense. Again, all members of the committee should also be given some advance notice of when they will be receiving the dissertation or summary essay.
A date for the dissertation defense must be set by October 15 for a defense to occur in the fall semester and by March 15 for a defense to occur in the spring semester. Students should remember that the GSAS will not guarantee May graduation for students defending their dissertations after April 15. After the defense and after all corrections are made, the dissertation must be submitted to the GSAS in electronic format; any student wishing a hard copy stored in the departmental library must arrange for the submission of an appropriately bound and formatted hard copy.
Students register for PHIL 0950 Proposal Development (one credit) each semester during the process of preparing their proposal. In the semester during which the proposal is accepted by the department, the dean’s office will change the student’s registration to PHIL 0960 Proposal Acceptance (three credits; be prepared for sticker shock).
In the semester after the proposal is accepted, students are registered for PHIL 0970 Dissertation Mentoring and PHIL 9999 Dissertation Direction. Thereafter, they register for PHIL 9999 Dissertation Direction.
Graduate Assistantships and Teaching Fellowships
The Graduate School of Arts and Sciences at Fordham University offers approximately seven financial aid awards per year to students entering the doctoral program in philosophy. Each award is guaranteed for six years (five years for students entering with an M.A.) provided that students make satisfactory progress toward the degree. Students serve as graduate assistants for the first two years, assisting a faculty member in his or her teaching and research, instructing undergraduates in the University Writing Center, or working in an academic administrative office. A graduate assistant is expected to perform these duties for approximately eighteen hours per week.
After completing their qualifying papers and the Seminar in Philosophical Education, graduate assistants become teaching fellows for the next four years. As such, they have responsibility for their own courses. Stipends are increased when an assistantship changes to a fellowship.
Fellowships and assistantships include tuition remission and a stipend for up to twelve credits per semester and for six credits in the summer.
A student who will have exhausted her eligibility for a regular assistantship or teaching fellowship (one year on the M.A. level and three years on the Ph.D. level) may apply for a distinguished fellowship, offered on a competitive basis by GSAS. GSAS currently offers the following fellowships, usually applied for in the following order:
The Research Fellowship is for students beginning work on their dissertation research projects – either pre- or post-proposal. The grant is awarded on a competitive basis and will reward students who have presented papers at conferences, published articles or book reviews, and submitted proposals for external fellowships.
The Senior Teaching Fellowship is designed for students who have already completed a teaching fellowship within their department and have demonstrated effective teaching skills.
The Alumni Dissertation Fellowship allows students to devote full-time work to the dissertation and is meant to enable them to complete it during the fellowship year.
Each year, the DGS will inform students of the deadline and procedures for applying for the distinguished fellowships.
Research Support Grants
The GSAS Summer Research Fellowship provides support to students who wish to devote the summer to work on articles for publication, conference papers, and proposals to apply for prestigious fellowships. Recipients of the fellowship are required to present papers at the annual GSAS Student Research Weekend. Any doctoral or masters student may apply.
The GSAS Travel Grant is for masters or doctoral students who have completed 24 credits by the time the grant begins. Grants cover 100% of the costs (up to $1000) incurred in travel to present papers at national and international conferences and in travel to research sites.
The GSAS Dissertation Expenses Grant is for doctoral students at the dissertation stage. Grants of up to a total of $2500 throughout one’s graduate career cover special expenses students may incur to distinguish the dissertation in its field nationally or internationally and increase the competitiveness of an application for external funding. Please note that standard expenses associated with the dissertation (i.e. photocopying costs) are not covered by these grants, nor is the acquisition of any software or equipment that the University owns. Travel expenses may be included. Each year the DGS will inform students of the deadlines and procedures for applying for these grants.
Graduate Student Association Travel Grants
The Graduate Student Association administers small grants to assist students with travel to conferences and research sites. Please consult the GSA office concerning this program, which is not administered through the department.