PhD Program

The Ph.D. program is designed to be completed in six years or less. 


Breadth Requirements

The graduate curriculum covers a set of breadth requirements designed to provide both a common experience on which students can build their individual projects and a shared framework within which they can exchange ideas. In the first year, students will take at least one course in:

  • metaphysics and epistemology
  • history of philosophy
  • moral philosophy
  • 3 electives (any three graduate seminars in philosophy)


During their first year of study all students must pass a logic competency examination with a grade of B or better. The examination will cover material typically taught in a first course in formal logic. With approval from the Graduate Program Director completion of Philosophy 9, Introduction to Logic may be taken in lieu of the exam.


Ph.D. students must take a minimum of 12 graduate courses. Up to two courses may be taken from the offerings of other departments and up to two may be independent studies. Coursework is expected to be completed by the end of year two in the program. After year two, students engage in independent studies with faculty.

To facilitate the professionalization of students in the exchange and development of academic knowledge and skills, all first and second year doctoral students will be required to enroll in Philosophy 280 and 281 each quarter.

Philosophy 280 Graduate Colloquia Course provides preparation for and requires attendance at all department sponsored colloquia and works-in-progress presentations.

Philosophy 281 The Pedagogy of Philosophy will provide training in university-level teaching in general and in the pedagogy of philosophy specifically.

Language Requirement

The foreign language requirement will be individually determined based on the relevance of such linguistic skills to the research interests of the student. Proficiency can be demonstrated either by passing a written examination administered by the department or by successfully completing a language course approved by the graduate committee.

TA Requirement

PhD students are required to serve as a Teaching Assistant (TA) or a Graduate Student Instructor (GSI) at least one quarter in their academic career.

Qualifying Examination and Research Seminar

Near the end of the required coursework, doctoral students will develop a research project resulting in a substantial paper. The paper is required to enroll in the research seminar, Philosophy 270, which must be completed during or before winter quarter of the third year. The seminar will allow students to make substantial progress on a qualifying essay and cultivate their ability to assess and provide critical feedback on other author's philosophical work. Philosophy 270 is only offered in winter quarter and will normally be taken in the third year, though with permission of the instructor, it may be taken earlier than the third year. It is optional for M.A. students.

The qualifying examination, taken during the third year of enrollment, is centered on a qualifying essay that demonstrates the candidate's ability to do extended, dissertation-level research and analysis relevant to the proposed thesis topic and dissertation plan. The examination focuses on the student's research project and on the fields of scholarship it presupposes.


Within one year of passing the qualifying examination, i.e., usually during the fourth year, doctoral students will submit and defend a dissertation prospectus, consisting of some written foundation and a plan for completion of the dissertation. The committee for the prospectus defense is normally the dissertation committee.


The public defense and submission of a dissertation representing a contribution to philosophical research is the final requirement for the doctoral degree.