PhD Program

Requirements for the PhD

  1. A minimum of 45 credits with the following distribution:
    • Completion of the three required Proseminars, in Ethics, Epistemology, and Metaphysics
    • Three courses in the history of philosophy: one in ancient, medieval, or renaissance philosophy; one in modern philosophy; and a third course in any period of the history of philosophy. An appropriately historical course in twentieth century philosophy may be counted as the third course.
    • At least one course in a systematic normative area of philosophy, one in a non-normative area. These courses must be taken at the 500+ level.
    • Satisfaction of the Logic Requirement, either by completing Intermediate Logic (551) with a grade of B or higher, passing a test administered by the Department, or having passed an equivalent course at another institution.
    • No more than one-fifth of the credits earned towards the degree may be from courses below the 500 level, and courses below the 350 level may not count for graduate credit.
  2. Further, to earn a PhD, a student must successfully defend a doctoral dissertation.
  3. Proficiency in a foreign language or other technical skill may also be required depending upon the area of concentration of the student’s dissertation. The decision whether to impose such a requirement is at the discretion of the student’s doctoral committee.

Timeline for the PHD Program

The timeline below assumes that students are on financial aid. Those who are not should consult with the Director of Graduate Studies and develop a personalized plan of study that is realistic given the student’s other commitments. Additionally, this timeline applies (only) to students who matriculated in the PhD program in or after Fall 2018. Finally, there are variations on this pattern in virtue of alternative funding plans (special or outside fellowships, research assistantships tied to faculty grants) or advanced standing.

Year One

  • You will take four courses per semester and so complete 8 of the required 15 courses (24 of the required 45 credits).
  • Complete all three Proseminars, PHIL-551 (Intermediate Logic, unless you satisfy the requirement in another fashion), and four courses of your choice.
  • Participate in the non-credit First-Year Seminar, an informal seminar where you will learn about the department’s expectations for graduate students and how to navigate life as a grad student.
  • Financial aid: first-year students on financial aid have a non-service “fellowship” year.This means that they are supported to devote themselves full-time to their coursework.

Year Two

  • You will take three courses per semester, and so complete an additional 6 of the required 15 courses (18 of the required 45 credits), for a running total of 14 of the 15 required courses (42 of the the required 45 credits).
  • Course selection is at your discretion, but you must have a plan to satisfy the requirements in the history of philosophy and the two required systematic courses at the 500+ level, one in normative philosophy, one in non-normative philosophy. You should consult with the DGS on this plan.
  • Financial aid: the second year in the program is a service stipend year. This typically entails serving as a Teaching Assistant for a large introductory course both semesters. You will be responsible for leading two weekly discussion sections of 22–25 students each, grading your students’ work, holding office hours, attending the course plenary lectures, and other duties as assigned.

Year Three

  • Complete your final course, ensuring that all coursework requirements for the PhD have been completed.
  • Participate in the non-credit Third-Year Seminar, where you will begin to think about your dissertation proposal with fellow third-year students, the leader of the seminar, and perhaps with other faculty.
  • You must hold a “pre-proposal” or dissertation organization meeting by the end of the third year. In this meeting, you will plan a path toward a formal dissertation proposal with a proposed dissertation committee and mentor.
  • Financial aid: service responsibilities resemble those of second-year students, with the additional possibility of serving as a teaching assistant for PHIL-099, Political and Social Thought, the introductory philosophy course for first-year students in the School of Foreign Service. (You may apply for this position during the second year in the program. Three students are chosen each year. The position comes with summer preparation and a summer stipend.)

Year Four

  • You must defend a formal dissertation proposal by the end of the fall semester of the fourth year (your seventh semester in the program). This requires writing a formal proposal according to the regulations of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences and defending that proposal in a formal oral defense. Students who do not pass the oral defense may try a second (and final) time during their eighth semester in the program.
  • Financial aid: during your fourth year, you will begin to teach your own courses as an instructor of record (a “Teaching Associate”). You will choose a Teaching Mentor, who along with the Department’s Coordinator of Teaching Associates will guide you through the process of designing and teaching courses. There is also substantial teacher training available through the University’s Center for New Designs in Learning and Scholarship.

Year Five

  • Financial aid: your fifth year in the program will be a second non-service fellowship year. You will devote yourself entirely to writing your dissertation, with the goal of putting yourself in a position to complete and formally defend the dissertation during the sixth year

Year Six

  • Financial aid: funding is not guaranteed for the sixth year, but it has usually been available to students who have made good progress through the program. If funded, you will teach again as a Teaching Associate, gaining additional valuable experience as an instructor.
  • You should defend your doctoral dissertation during this sixth year, as well as prepare for seeking post-doctoral employment.

Years Seven and Eight

  • You may, if needed, take a seventh year to complete and defend your dissertation, and it is permissible to apply for an eighth year in the program if necessary.
  • However, no financial aid is available (beyond student loans) for the seventh and eighth years.