Doctoral and Masters Programs — Description
For information on how to apply, see our Guide for Prospective Graduate Students.
0. Catalog Information
For current catalog listings, see the Philosophy pages of the University’s Graduate Catalog.
1. Degrees offered
The philosophy department offers the M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in philosophy. For students without a prior M.A., the M.A. degree constitutes the first two years of study toward the Ph.D.
The graduate curriculum is divided into 5000, 6000, and 7000- level courses. 5000-level courses provide advanced coursework in central areas in philosophy; 6000-level courses consist of advanced research seminars and independent research courses; 7000-level courses are reserved for advanced independent work toward the Ph.D. degree. The 6000-level seminars are rotating- topic seminars, which are repeatable up to six times for credit as long as the seminar deals with a different topic in its subject area. For a listing of courses constituting the core curriculum, see the Appendix.
3. Masters degree
The M.A. degree requires 36 hours of coursework and a Final Examination. The coursework is subject to two distribution requirements: the Basic Distribution Requirement and the Additional Distribution Requirement.
3.1 Course requirements
To satisfy the Basic Distribution Requirement, each M.A. student must complete
- Proseminar (PHI 5935)
- Graduate Logic (PHI 5135)
- either Ancient I (PHP 5005) or Ancient II (PHP 5015)
- either Modern I (PHH 5405) or Modern II (PHH 5406)
- either Epistemology (PHI 5365) or Foundations of Analytic Philosophy (PHP 5785)
for a total of fifteen credit hours.
To satisfy the Additional Distribution Requirement, each M.A. student must complete another fifteen credit hours chosen from the following in any combination, including, for example, fifteen hours of 6000-level seminars.
- Ethical Theory (PHI 5665)
- One additional course from either Epistemology or Foundations of Analytic Philosophy
- One additional course from Ancient I, Ancient II, Modern I or Modern II
- Any number of 6000-level seminars (taken on a graded basis)
A course counted towards satisfying the Basic Distribution Requirement cannot also count towards satisfying the Additional Distribution Requirement.
The Basic and Additional Distribution Requirements together require thirty credit hours. Six additional hours of elective coursework in philosophy complete the 36 hours required for the degree.
The Proseminar, which is taken on a satisfactory/unsatisfactory basis and must be taken in the first semester of full-time enrollment in the program, is an intensive course on philosophical method and writing which takes as its subject matter some important recent or classical texts in philosophy. Graduate Logic must also be taken in the first year of full-time enrollment. The course requirements are intended to provide M.A. students with skills needed for advanced work in philosophy, with a broad competence in the history of philosophy, and with the background necessary to pursue advanced study in the analytic tradition.
With permission of the graduate committee, some of the elective requirements may be fulfilled by courses in other departments which are relevant to a student’s research interests. Depending on scheduling considerations, the graduate committee may also allow students to take the Graduate Logic course in their second year of full-time enrollment.
All but one of the specific courses mentioned above includes a final written comprehensive examination on the subject matter of the course. These are:
- Graduate Logic, Ancient Philosophy I, Ancient Philosophy II, Modern Philosophy I, Modern Philosophy II, Epistemology, Foundations of Analytic Philosophy, and Ethical Theory
The Proseminar does not require a final examination but does require a final substantial paper that must be of satisfactory quality for the student to receive a passing grade for the course.
3.2 Final Examination
The M.A. degree requires a Final Examination. This examination shall be normally taken either immediately after Spring Break (for students graduating in the spring or summer) or shortly before the Thanksgiving Break (for students graduating in the fall). The requirement consists of an oral examination administered by the Graduate Committee or its representatives. There will normally be three faculty conducting the actual examination, but under no circumstances will there be fewer than two faculty conducting the examination.
The oral examination will use questions that fit into a list of topics drawn from those courses other than Graduate Logic and Proseminar that are named as satisfying Basic and Additional Distribution Requirements, namely:
- Ancient Philosophy I, Ancient Philosophy II, Modern Philosophy I, Modern Philosophy II, Epistemology, Foundations of Analytic Philosophy, and Ethical Theory
Faculty who have taught these courses in recent semesters must provide the graduate committee with a copy of the syllabus used and the details of exam questions given. Graduate students scheduled to take the Final Exam shall be given the list of topics from which the questions are to be drawn two weeks prior to their examination.
The Final Exam is a pass/fail exam. Those faculty conducting the oral examination shall be responsible for determining whether the students have passed. The Graduate Committee is responsible for determining exactly which faculty are to conduct the oral examination. The faculty conducting the oral examination shall provide, in addition to judgments of individual students, a summary report to the Graduate Committee on their collective performance as a means of discerning areas in which improvement is needed.
3.3 Expected progress and time limits
Students must complete the M.A. within four semesters of full-time enrollment. (Summer enrollments, if there are any, do not count towards this total.) Special exception to this rule would require that a letter specifying an extended deadline be obtained from the graduate committee. Under no circumstances may more than one extension be permitted.
4. Ph.D. degree
Students without a prior M.A. degree in philosophy must submit a portfolio of work to the graduate committee for evaluation. The deadline for this is the first day of their fifth semester in the program. Students who have done prior graduate coursework may have an earlier deadline, as determined by the graduate committee.
The portfolio will consist of two papers in philosophy, each of which should usually be between 3000 and 6000 words long. At least one of the two papers must be a revised version of a paper written for a class in the program. Typically, both papers will be that.
The portfolio will be evaluated by the graduate committee (who will consult other members of the faculty as necessary) to determine whether the student should continue in the PhD program.
The initial submission will be evaluated as either passing or as requiring revisions (in one or both papers).
If revisions are required, the deadline for submitting a revised portfolio will be the first day of classes of the next semester (so usually the sixth semester).
The revised submission will be evaluated as either passing or failing.
Students whose revised portfolios fail may not continue beyond their current semester in the PhD program. They may however, presuming they have completed appropriate coursework, take the MA oral exam and graduate with an MA degree.
4.2 Course requirements
90 hours of coursework are required for the Ph.D. degree.
The Ph.D. course requirements include the basic course requirements for the M.A. In addition, to complete the Ph.D. breadth requirement, Ph.D. students are required to take
- Ethical Theory
- Foundations of Analytic Philosophy
- One additional 5000-level history course or 6000-level history seminar beyond the basic course requirements.
The 5000-level history courses that count are Ancient I, Ancient II, Modern I, and Modern II only. The 6000-level seminars that count automatically are Seminar in History of Ancient Philosophy, Seminar in History of Modern Philosophy, and Seminar in Kant. Seminar in Special Topics in Philosophy and Seminar in a School or Thinker (but only these) may count depending on the topic, the determination being made by the graduate committee.
Each of the 5000-level courses listed here requires a final written examination. (One of Foundations of Analytic Philosophy and Epistemology must be taken for the basic course requirements for the M.A. The others may have been chosen to satisfy the distribution requirement for the M.A. All must be taken to complete the Ph.D. course requirements.)
The Ph.D. requires a total of six 6000-level seminars taken on a graded basis. 6000-level seminars taken in to satisfy the M.A. requirements count toward the total required for the degree.
The remaining coursework must include at least 3 hours (but no more than 12 hours) of Advanced Research for preparation of the proposal and 12 hours of Research for Doctoral Dissertation. With permission of the graduate committee, some of the elective coursework may be fulfilled by courses in other departments which are relevant to the student’s research interests.
After advancement to candidacy and satisfaction of the six graded 6000-level seminar requirement, students must enroll in at least one 6000-level seminar on a S/U basis in each semester of full-time enrollment, unless they are otherwise taking a course that satisfies a course requirement that term. Students may not take 6000-level seminars on a S/U basis until they have fulfilled the six graded 6000-level seminar requirement. After they have fulfilled that requirement, they must take 6000-level seminars on a S/U basis.
4.3 Forming a committee
Students must form a dissertation committee upon admission to the Ph.D. program. The dissertation committee is chosen in consultation with, and formally approved by, the graduate committee. Changing the chair or membership of the dissertation committee requires the approval of the graduate committee.
4.4 Committee composition and responsibilities
The student’s dissertation committee consists of at least three faculty members in philosophy, one of whom is designated the chair of the dissertation committee, and a member from another department. The committee advises the student on the choice of a suitable dissertation topic, and guides the student’s research and writing. The dissertation committee helps the student to prepare a dissertation proposal, and it is responsible for scheduling and conducting the student’s qualifying examination on that proposal. The primary responsibility for guidance of the dissertation rests with the chair of the dissertation committee. The chair of the dissertation committee meets with the student on a regular schedule, during terms when the student is enrolled, to assess and guide the student’s progress. The chair of the dissertation committee is responsible for writing a yearly letter of evaluation for the student.
4.5 Dissertation proposal and qualifying examination
After advancement from the M.A. segment of the Ph.D. program, the student prepares a dissertation proposal in consultation with his or her dissertation committee. The dissertation proposal forms the basis for the oral qualifying examination. The purpose of the qualifying examination is to determine whether the student is prepared to advance to candidacy for the Ph.D. The qualifying examination is administered and evaluated by the student’s dissertation committee.
Students who enter the program without a prior M.A. in philosophy must prepare a dissertation proposal and take the qualifying examination by the end of the sixth semester of full-time enrollment. Students who enter the program with an M.A. will be assigned a deadline for completion of the proposal by the graduate committee, which will in no case be later than the end of the fourth semester of full-time enrollment in the program.
If the student fails to pass the qualifying examination, at the discretion of the student’s dissertation committee, it may be retaken once. If the qualifying examination is retaken, it must be retaken in the semester following the semester in which it is first taken (excluding summer terms).
4.6 Language requirement
If competence in one or more languages other than English is determined by a student’s dissertation committee to be necessary for the student’s dissertation research, the student will be required to demonstrate proficiency in the relevant languages prior to advancement to candidacy by (1) passing the Princeton Foreign Language examination for the language or languages, or (2) passing a translation examination administered and graded by a member of the philosophy department and a faculty member of the appropriate language department or departments.
4.7 Teaching requirement
A Ph.D. student must complete two semesters of service as a teaching assistant. In at least one of these semesters, the student must teach an independent course under the guidance of a faculty member.
4.8 The dissertation
The Ph.D. degree requires successful completion of a Ph.D. dissertation, which represents a substantial piece of independent research which makes an original and significant contribution to the field. The dissertation is expected to be between 100 and 250 pages. The dissertation research and writing is guided by the student’s dissertation committee, which is responsible for determining whether the dissertation meets the dissertation requirement for the Ph.D. degree. After completion of the dissertation, the dissertation committee schedules and conducts a final oral defense of the dissertation, which is open to the public.
4.9 Satisfactory progress
Graduate students in Philosophy must meet university requirements for satisfactory progress. See the General Regulations section of the Graduate Catalog. In particular, the Graduate School requires all graduate students to maintain a GPA of at least 3.00.
In addition, Ph.D. students in Philosophy must follow the departmental timeline for satisfactory progress, as described below. Failure to make satisfactory progress could result in loss of funding, or in dismissal from the program.
This timeline is for full time students who have not done previous graduate work in philosophy. The timeline for other students will be adjusted by the graduate committee.
The timeline counts only fall and spring semesters, not summers.
In order to be making satisfactory progress as a Ph.D. student, you must
- Complete 6 graduate classes (18 credits) by the end of your second semester in the program, including the Proseminar (PHI5935) and Graduate Logic (PHI5135).
- Complete 12 graduate classes (36 credits) by the end of your fourth semester, including the Proseminar (PHI5935), Graduate Logic (PHI5135), Modern Philosophy I or II (PHH5405 or PHH5406), Ancient Philosophy I or II (PHP 5005 or PHP5015), and Epistemology or Foundations of Analytic Philosophy (PHI5365 or PHP5785).
- Submit an advancement portfolio by the first day of classes in your fifth semester.
- Have an official dissertation advisor by the end of your fifth semester.
- If required, submit a revised advancement portfolio by the first day of classes in your sixth semester.
- Successfully defend a dissertation proposal by the end of your sixth semester. Students may petition the graduate committee to be allowed to defend this proposal in their seventh semester and still be counted as making satisfactory progress.
Completion of degree:
The expected length of time for the completion of the Ph.D. for students entering without an M.A. is five years, or ten semesters, of full-time enrollment. The expected length of time for completion of the Ph.D. for students entering the program with an M.A. in philosophy is four years, or eight semesters, of full-time enrollment.
By the graduate school’s rules, candidacy for the degree lapses five years after successful completion of the qualifying examination. That means, applied to the philosophy Ph.D. program, five years after your dissertation proposal defense.
In each of the years during which the student is pursuing the M.A. degree, the department as a whole evaluates the student’s performance at the end of the year. The evaluation becomes part of the student’s file and the graduate coordinator communicates the substance of the evaluation to the student. The purpose of this is to track each student’s progress and to keep the student informed of his or her progress toward the degree. The graduate committee decides for each student after the end-of-the-year evaluation whether to continue the student in the program. As indicated above, a decision to continue a student in the Ph.D. program is made after the completion of the M.A. After formation of a dissertation committee, a yearly letter of evaluation is prepared by the chair of that committee. This letter also becomes part of the student’s file. In addition, in each of the courses in which a student assists or teaches, the student’s faculty advisor prepares a report on the student’s performance, which is included in the student’s file.
6. Graduate committee
The graduate committee administers the graduate program, is responsible for maintaining student files, advising students of program requirements, and monitoring their progress toward their degree goals. At the graduate committee’s discretion, specific degree requirements may be waived to take account of special circumstances for individual students.
- Ancient I
- Ancient II
- Modern I
- Modern II
- Foundations of Analytic Philosophy
- Studies in Continental Philosophy
- Graduate Logic
- Ethical Theory
- Philosophy of Language
- Philosophy of Mind
- Philosophy of Science
- Philosophy of Social Science
- Individual work (3; max: 6)
- Seminar in History of Ancient Philosophy
- Seminar in History of Modern Philosophy
- Seminar in Kant
- Seminar in Metaphysics
- Seminar in Epistemology
- Seminar in Ethics
- Seminar in Political Philosophy
- Seminar in Philosophy of Mind
- Seminar in Philosophy of Language
- Seminar in Philosophy of Science
- Seminar in Analytic Philosophy
- Seminar in Continental Philosophy
- Seminar in Special Topics in Philosophy
- Seminar in a School or Thinker
- Individual Work (3; max: 12)
- Supervised Teaching (3; max: 12) S/U
- Advanced Research (1–9)
- Research for Doctoral Dissertation (1–20) S/U