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Ph.D. In Philosophy Requirements


Although the student's doctoral committee is in every case the final arbiter, the normal course requirements for the doctoral degree include:

  • with an MA in philosophy, whether from our department or another: normally 24 hours of additional graduate coursework;
  • with an advanced degree in another field: to be determined in consultation with the Director of Graduate Studies as approved by the Graduate Committee, but minimally 24 additional hours.
  • without an advanced degree: normally 48 hours of graduate coursework;

To be included within the total graduate coursework (including MA work):

  • The Proseminar (required of all first-year students)
  • History of Philosophy (3 courses, at least one each in modern and ancient/medieval)
  • Contemporary ELMS ( epistemology, philosophy of language, metaphysics, or philosophy of science) (2 courses)
  • Value Theory courses (e.g., Theories of Justice, Consequentialism) (2 courses)

(For students with graduate work in philosophy from elsewhere, normally at least one course in each of the above three areas must be taken here.)

  • Intermediate Logic (PHIL 435)
  • 600 level courses (two seminars in addition to the Proseminar).

In addition to the above coursework, you are normally expected to demonstrate a reading knowledge of one foreign language, normally French, German, Latin, or Classical Greek.  Bi-lingual or multi-lingual students with a native foreign language in which there exists a significant body of philosophical literature are normally exempted from the requirement. However, the final authority as to requirement of a specific language or languages rests with the doctoral committee, according to its perception of the demands of the research project.  The foreign language requirement may also be waived in favor of other appropriate research skills if approved by the Graduate Committee upon the recommendation of the student's doctoral committee. A minimum of 24 hours of dissertation credit (Philosophy 600) are also required.

Portfolio Comprehensive Examination

Many philosophy departments require their doctoral students to write a series of exams, scheduled over one or two days, after their coursework is complete. Instead of requiring such exams, we have adopted a portfolio system.

Ph.D. students spend one semester working with our faculty members to write or revise three papers; typically, each was originally written as part of their graduate coursework. One paper must focus on a historical topic; one on a topic in epistemology, mind, philosophy of language, or philosophy of science; and one on value theory. The portfolio is expected to demonstrate broad disciplinary competence, including the ability to write philosophical papers at a level approximating what is expected of a dissertation. A paper does not need to be publishable in order to pass. However, the model for its production should be the sorts of papers typically published in top journals. If this portfolio of papers is judged by the department to be of acceptable quality, the student passes the comprehensive exam and proceeds to the dissertation preliminary examination (prospectus defense) and the writing of his or her dissertation, the final step in earning a Ph.D.

There are several advantages to a portfolio comprehensive exam. First, our Ph.D. students will be even more marketable and better prepared for professional life. Second, given the work to revise them, some of these papers should be of publishable quality. Others will be suitable for conference presentation or be serious drafts of papers that can become publishable. Third, the portfolio system will serve as a better bridge between taking classes on a full-time basis to writing a dissertation on a full-time basis. And finally, it is typical for the kinds of papers that will qualify as portfolio papers to evolve into being the basis for the dissertation.

More detailed information on this program can be found in the Graduate Handbook.

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