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Ph.D. in Philosophy - Courses and Degree Requirements

Ph.D. students entering with a master's in philosophy take 30 hours (10 classes) of coursework. Students entering the Ph.D. program without a master's in philosophy take 48 hours (16 classes) of coursework. All students, regardless of whether they enter with a prior master's, must take nine courses in the following fields:

  • Ancient philosophy (two courses)
  • Medieval philosophy (two courses)
  • Modern philosophy (two courses)
  • Contemporary philosophy (one analytic philosophy + one continental philosophy + one other contemporary area, e.g., American, contemporary Thomism, feminism)

Students entering with a master's in philosophy will have their transcript evaluated to determine which of these requirements have been satisfied in their master's coursework.

Ph.D. students earning a master's in cursu must satisfy the distribution requirement for the master's by the time they complete the qualifying paper requirement.

Students entering without a master's may take only three 5000-level courses. Students entering with an master's may only take 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).

Proseminar and education seminar

All first-semester graduate 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 are required to teach by the terms of their financial aid awards must also take the “Seminar in Philosophical Education.” The credits for these two seminars do not count toward satisfying the 48-credit requirement.

Language requirement

Ph.D. students must demonstrate a reading knowledge of two languages other than English, either through graduate reading courses or by taking departmentally administered language exams. Students who satisfy the requirement by taking a graduate reading course must earn a grade of B or higher in the course. For more details, see the Graduate Student Handbook.

Logic requirement

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. For more information, see the Graduate Student Handbook.

Qualifying papers

By the end of the second semester for students entering with an M.A. or the end of the fourth semester for students entering without an M.A., you must submit two papers of publishable quality in two different thematic areas (one of which must be metaphysics, epistemology, or ethics). Each paper must be between 5,000 and 7,500 words. The papers will be reviewed blindly 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.  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 student must receive a grade of High Pass from the third reader. Students who do 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 M.A. degree. For more details, see the Qualifying Papers page of the Graduate Student Handbook.

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 student’s dissertation mentor and two examiners (appointed by the director of graduate studies in consultation with the mentor). The list is then approved by the committee and the department chair or the director of graduate studies. The reading list should meet the following qualifications:

  • Comprises primary and major secondary sources in the dissertation area
  • Is broad enough to cover three approaches; this may take the form of one historical period + two contemporary approaches OR two historical periods + one contemporary approach.
  • Oriented toward the dissertation area rather than a particular problem or issue in philosophy.
  • It should present the major alternative positions that characterize the research area.
  • It should limit itself to the most important representatives of alternative positions within the research area.

Students entering with an M.A. must have their reading list approved by their committee by the end of their third semester. Students entering without an M.A. 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 M.A. and end of the seventh semester for students entering without an M.A.). Oral exam dates for the fall must be set by October 15 and for the spring by March 15. For more details, see the Oral Examination page of the Graduate Student Handbook.

Dissertation

The dissertation is the cornerstone and culmination of your graduate career and demonstrates your ability to write and research at a professional academic level. The dissertation process begins with the dissertation proposal, which is defended before a panel of four faculty members by the end of the sixth semester for students entering with an M.A. and the eighth semester for students entering without an M.A. Fall defense dates must be set by October 15 and spring dates by March 15.

Once completed, the dissertation is defended publicly before a panel of five faculty members comprising the dissertation mentor, two readers, and two examiners. As with oral examinations and proposal defenses, fall semester dissertation defenses must be scheduled by October 15 and spring defenses by March 15. Students wishing to graduate in May must defend by April 15. After making any corrections or edits as suggested by the defense committee, the final dissertation is submitted electronically to the GSAS. For more details, see the Dissertation page of the Graduate Student Handbook.

Graduate handbook

For detailed descriptions of the program’s requirements and expectations, see the Philosophy Graduate Student Handbook.