The Ph.D. Program in Philosophy provides opportunities for advanced training and research in a wide range of areas, both historical and contemporary. The primary intent of the program is to prepare qualified candidates for academic careers in their areas of specialization.
Students are required to complete 5 graduate courses in philosophy (10 half-credit courses) during their first two years of study, and to satisfy a distribution requirement (see below) with these courses. One of the half-credit courses must be a reading course that will lead to the preparation of a thesis prospectus; typically this 'prospectus course' will be taken in the winter term of the second year of Ph.D. coursework. A second half-credit course may be taken as an independent study or reading course. In addition, where appropriate to the program of study, approval may be given for students to take courses in disciplines other than philosophy and to receive credit for up to 1.5 courses (3 half-credit courses) in philosophy.
Distribution Requirement for Courses
It is expected that students will specialize in one of the following broad areas: History of Philosophy, Value Theory (including moral, political, legal, and social philosophy), Metaphysics and Epistemology (including language and mind), and Philosophy of Science (including logic and foundations of math). Students must take at least two courses in each of two areas outside of their specialization. It is required that history will be one of these areas for students who lack a demonstrable competence in history.
Competence Requirement (Logic)
The Department regards a certain level of competence in elementary symbolic logic as essential for effective participation in many courses and for making full use of the philosophical literature in any area of specialization. Consequently, all students in the Ph.D. program must demonstrate competence in this area within one year of joining the program. Students are invited to sit the examination upon entering the program. Should they not wish to do so, or should they fail, they will have opportunities to strengthen their background as needed and to write the examination later in their first year or to take a course to satisfy this competence requirement. Students who have not met the requirement by the end of the first year may be withdrawn from the program.
Area Comprehensive Examination
All students must pass one comprehensive examination in the area in which they plan to write a dissertation by the end of the second year in the program. Each respective area committee will decide on the format for the exam in its area and will administer this exam. Comprehensive exams are offered in the areas of:
- Feminist Philosophy
- History of Philosophy
- Logic and Foundations of Math
- Moral, Political, and Legal Philosophy
- Philosophy of Mind and Language
- Philosophy of Science
- Prospectus and Dissertation
Students are required to submit and defend a dissertation prospectus to the intended supervisor and two readers. The required prospectus course (mentioned above) provides students with an opportunity to develop the background necessary for meeting this requirement. The prospectus must be successfully defended early in the third year of doctoral study; students then will devote their third and fourth years in the program to dissertation research and writing. Ph.D. dissertations must exhibit significant scholarly research and originality and must be submitted and approved in accordance with the regulations of the School of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies, as set out in their Graduate Calendar and Thesis Regulation Guide.
Students must give a departmental seminar on the subject of their thesis prior to the oral defense of their thesis.
Although the Department does not require students in the Ph.D. program to meet any foreign language requirements, a reading knowledge of a language other than English is often necessary for research in the student's area of specialization. A student may be required to demonstrate competence in relevant languages before their dissertation topic is approved. Instruction in philosophical Greek and Latin can be provided, and the French Department and the German section of the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures offer courses designed for graduate students whose thesis research requires a basic knowledge of these languages. Similar considerations may apply in other areas: for example, technical competence in some aspects of statistics or mathematics may be essential to a particular dissertation topic and may be required before a prospectus in the area is accepted.