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As a PhD student in the Harvard philosophy program, you’ll have the opportunity to develop your ideas, knowledge, and abilities. You'll work with other doctoral students, our faculty, and visiting scholars, all in a stimulating and supportive environment. The program has strengths across a broad range of topics and areas, so you'll be able to pursue your interests wherever they may lead, especially in moral and political philosophy, aesthetics, epistemology, philosophy of logic, philosophy of language, the history of analytic philosophy, ancient philosophy, Immanuel Kant, and Ludwig Wittgenstein. In addition, students can pursue joint degrees with classics, Harvard Law School, and in Indian philosophy.

Incoming cohorts consist of five to eight students per year. You will have substantial access to our renowned faculty and all the resources that Harvard makes available. This relatively small size also gives students a sense of intellectual community.

The curriculum is structured to help you make your way towards a dissertation: graduate-level coursework, a second-year research paper, a prospectus to help you identify a dissertation topic, and then the dissertation itself. Past dissertations in the department have addressed a broad range of topics: Aristotle, Kant, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau; contemporary moral and political philosophy; metaphysics; epistemology; and logic.

In addition to your research, you will also have the opportunity to develop your teaching skills in many different settings across the University.

You can find graduates of the PhD program in many universities. Some of our students have gone on to faculty positions at Yale University, Princeton University, Brown University, and Stanford University. Other graduates have gone on to diverse careers in, among others, the arts, the law, secondary education, and technology.

In addition to the standard PhD in philosophy, the department offers a PhD in classical philosophy in collaboration with the Department of the Classics and a coordinated JD/PhD program in conjunction with Harvard Law School.

Additional information on the graduate program is available from the Department of Philosophy and requirements for the degree are detailed in Policies .

Areas of Study

Philosophy | Classical Philosophy | Indian Philosophy 

For information please consult the Department webpage on the  graduate program overview .

Admissions Requirements

Please review admissions requirements and other information before applying. You can find degree program specific admissions requirements below and access additional guidance on applying from the Department of Philosophy .

Academic Background

Applicants to the program in Philosophy are required to have a solid undergraduate background in philosophy, indicating that they have a good grounding in the history of philosophy, as well as familiarity with contemporary work in ethics, epistemology and metaphysics, and logic.

Standardized Tests

GRE General: Optional

Writing Sample

A writing sample is required as part of the application and should be between 12 to 30 pages long. The sample must address a substantial philosophical problem, whether it is an evaluation or presentation of an argument, or a serious attempt to interpret a difficult text. The upload of the writing sample should be formatted for 8.5-inch x 11-inch paper, 1-inch margins, with double-spaced text in a common 12-point font, such as Times New Roman.

Applicants seeking admission to the coordinated JD/PhD program must apply to and be separately admitted to Harvard Law School and the Department of Philosophy.

Theses & Dissertations

Theses & Dissertations for Philosophy

See list of Philosophy faculty


Questions about the program.

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Ph.D. Philosophy

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Earn your doctorate from one of the most distinguished philosophy programs in the English-speaking world. Graduates from our program hold faculty positions at colleges and universities around the world.

About the Program

The study of philosophy is central to the mission of every great university. Through an excellent undergraduate major and our internationally distinguished graduate program, we offer students abundant opportunities to think deeply, analytically, and autonomously about questions fundamental to the place of the person in the natural and social world. As one of the nation's premier centers for original philosophical research, we are the academic home to a wonderfully dynamic and engaged community of students in daily interaction with a faculty of world-renowned philosophers.

Currently, the Ph.D. in Philosophy program is not offered to any online students. All degree requirements must be completed in-person. If you have any questions about this, feel free to email [email protected]

Areas of Study

Current areas of excellence in the doctoral program include ethics, political philosophy, the philosophy of mind and cognitive science, epistemology, metaphysics, the history of philosophy, the philosophy of science, the philosophy of law, experimental philosophy, aesthetics, and the philosophy of language. Faculty are very accessible to students and are keenly interested in their philosophical development and professional success.

In addition to traditional areas of philosophy, concentrations are available that bridge philosophy with other disciplines such as law or cognitive science.

See degree requirements

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Department of Linguistics and Philosophy

Ph.d. program.

The program of studies leading to the doctorate in philosophy provides subjects and seminars in such traditional areas as logic, ethics, metaphysics, epistemology, philosophy of science, philosophy of language, philosophy of mind, aesthetics, social and political philosophy, and history of philosophy. Interest in philosophical problems arising from other disciplines, such as linguistics, psychology, mathematics and physics, is also encouraged.

Before beginning dissertation research, students are required to take two years of coursework, including a proseminar in contemporary philosophy that all students must complete in their first year of graduate study. Students are also required to pass general examinations and demonstrate competence in the following areas: value theory, logic and the history of philosophy.

Interdisciplinary study is encouraged, and candidates for the doctorate may take a minor in a field other than philosophy. There is no general language requirement for the doctorate, except in those cases in which competence in one or more foreign language is needed to carry on research for the dissertation.

Below is a detailed description of the philosophy Ph.D. program. For information about applying, see our admissions page ; we have also compiled data on placement , retention, and average completion times .

1. Your Advisor

When you join the Department you will be assigned a faculty advisor who will supervise your course of study. Your advisor must approve your program at the beginning of each term, and you should keep them abreast of your progress and problems. When forming a Fifth Term Paper committee the chair of your committee becomes your advisor. Similarly, when you form a dissertation committee.

Your teachers will write comments on your performance in subjects which you complete. These comments will be placed in your file in the Department office (your file is open to you), and they will be discussed at a meeting of the faculty at the end of each term. You should see your advisor at the end of each term to review your progress.

You may change your advisor at any time. Similarly you may change the composition of your fifth year paper and dissertation committees, as well as adjust the topics of those projects. To make a change first ask the relevant faculty if they are willing, then notify the Chair of the Committee on Graduate Students (COGS).

The current composition of COGS is: Brad Skow (Chief Cog), Kieran Setiya , and Roger White .

2. Requirements

2.1 overall course requirements.

Students must pass (with a grade of C or higher) at least 10 graduate subjects in philosophy (unless you earn a minor, in which case see section 4 below ). At least 7 must be subjects at MIT.

Students may petition COGS to use undergraduate subjects at MIT to satisfy the overall course requirement (except: in the case of an undergraduate logic subject more advanced than 24.241, no petition is needed).

Students must take at least 2 subjects in philosophy at MIT during each term of their first year, and at least 1 subject in philosophy at MIT during each term of their second year. Normally, students take 4 subjects during their second year.

2.2 Teaching Requirement

All graduate students must acquire some teaching experience. This requirement is normally satisfied by serving as a Teaching Assistant in an undergraduate subject in philosophy at MIT.

2.3 Logic Requirement

The Department has a standing committee which is charged with administering the logic requirement; the requirement may be satisfied in one of the following ways:

(a) by auditing Logic I and completing the work (Logic I may not be taken for graduate credit); (b) by successfully completing a logic assessment set by the committee; (c) by successfully completing an alternative or more advanced subject in logic at MIT (for example, modal logic or Logic II) approved by the committee. (d) by being exempted from the requirement by COGS. Such exemption does not affect the overall course requirements (2.1 above).

The level of knowledge of logic expected for exemption, or tested on the examination, is what is covered in Logic I at MIT: proof procedure and semantics for first-order predicate logic with identity, and some acquaintance with standard metalogical results (for example, those concerning completeness, incompleteness and decidability).

Students are normally expected to satisfy the logic requirement by the beginning of their second year.

2.4 Distribution Requirement

2.4.1 proseminar.

All first-year students are required to complete the two-semester sequence 24.400-24.401, Proseminar in Philosophy. The first semester is an intensive seminar on the foundations of analytic philosophy from Frege to roughly 1960. The second semester is an intensive seminar on highlights of analytic philosophy from roughly 1960 to the present. The two-semester sequence counts as two subjects.

2.4.2 History of Philosophy

Students must complete two graduate subjects in the history of philosophy. For the purposes of this requirement, the history of philosophy means philosophers or philosophical schools that flourished before 1879.

A subject that spends a substantial part of, but not all of, its time on history counts toward this requirement provided the student’s term paper focuses on the history part. If there is doubt about whether a subject qualifies, consult COGS.

History subjects designed for a mixture of graduate and undergraduate students, like 100-level courses at Harvard, also count.

COGS permission is required in order to satisfy this requirement by taking two subjects on the same philosopher. (COGS will likely reject using two subjects on Descartes’ Meditations to fulfill the history requirement; COGS will likely approve using two subjects on Kant, one focused on ethics, the other on metaphysics and epistemology.)

Students wishing to fulfill this requirement by some other means should contact COGS.

2.4.3 Value Theory

Students must complete one graduate subject in ethics or political philosophy or aesthetics.

2.5 Fifth Term Paper Requirement

By the end of a student’s third term (usually fall of the second year) the student should select a paper topic for their Fifth Term Paper and form a committee to advise them on their work. The committee will consist of two faculty members (a supervisor and a second reader). The proposed topic and names of committee members should be submitted to COGS before the end-of-term meeting.

During the student’s fourth term, the student, in consultation with the committee, should assemble a reading list on the chosen topic. As a guideline, the reading list might consist of roughly twenty papers or the equivalent; the faculty recognizes that lengths of lists will vary. The final list must be approved by the committee and submitted to COGS by the end-of-term meeting.

During the fifth term, the student will write a polished paper on the chosen topic, roughly 25 pages long, in consultation with their committee. After submitting a final version of the paper that the committee deems satisfactory, the student will sit for an oral examination with the committee on both the paper and, more generally, the paper’s topic, as defined by the reading list.

The fifth term paper project is graded pass-fail. Students must pass the oral exam by the end-of-term meeting of their fifth term. After a student passes the exam their committee will write a report on the project to be given to the student and placed in the student’s file. Successfully completing this project constitutes passing the written and oral general examination requirements imposed by MIT’s Graduate School.

2.6 Petitions

A student may petition COGS to waive a requirement in light of their special circumstances.

3. Independent Studies

While in the normal case a student’s 10 graduate subjects will be seminars, students may also take an independent study with a faculty member. Students wishing to register for 24.891 or 24.892 must obtain permission from the Chief COG. After talking with the faculty member they wish to supervise their independent study, the student should write a proposal describing how often they will meet, how long the meetings will last, a tentative list of readings, and the amount of writing they will do. The Chief COG will approve an independent study only if the amount of work proposed equals or exceeds the usual amount of work in a seminar.

Students can minor in a field outside philosophy of their choosing (for example, linguistics, psychology, science technology and society, physics, feminist theory…). To earn a minor in field X a student must (i) pass 3 graduate subjects in field X, (ii) pass one graduate philosophy subject on a topic related to field X, and (iii) obtain COGS approval. (It is best to seek approval before all 4 subjects have been taken.) A student may receive no more than two minors; in the case of two minors, a single philosophy subject may (in rare cases) be used to satisfy clause (ii) for both minors.

Students who earn a minor need only pass 8, rather than 10, graduate philosophy subjects (7 must be taken at MIT). The subject used to satisfy (ii) counts as one of these 8.

Our faculty uses pluses and minuses, but the grades on your official transcript will be straight letter grades. Here are the meanings that MIT assigns to the grades:

A Exceptionally good performance, demonstrating a superior understanding of the subject matter, a foundation of extensive knowledge, and a skillful use of concepts and/or materials.

B Good performance, demonstrating capacity to use the appropriate concepts, a good understanding of the subject matter, and an ability to handle the problems and material encountered in the subject.

C Adequate performance, demonstrating an adequate understandingof the subject matter, an ability to handle relatively simpleproblems, and adequate preparation for moving on to more advanced work in the field.

D Minimally acceptable performance.

When the faculty determines the status of a student in the program, it does so on the basis of a review of the student’s total performance, which includes weighing the strengths and weaknesses of the student’s whole record. Thus it is in principle possible to redeem a weakness in one area by excellence in others.

An Incomplete (a grade of I) indicates that a minor part of the subject requirements has not been fulfilled and that a passing grade is to be expected when the work is completed. The grade I for the term remains permanently on the student’s record even when the subject is completed. In subjects in which the major work is a term paper, students may earn an I for the subject only if they submit a draft to the instructor(s) by midnight on the day before the end of term meeting. If a student does not hand in a draft by midnight on the day before the end of term meeting, the instructor is required to give the student an F. (The end of term meeting is shortly after the beginning of exam week.)

Any uncompleted incompletes on registration day of the following term will be converted to an F.

6. Ph.D. Thesis

A student is normally not allowed to begin work on a Ph.D. thesis until they have completed all of the requirements listed above. Students must complete all of those requirements by the end of their fifth term; exceptions will be made only after petition to COGS.

Once a student has completed the requirements listed above, there is the option of taking a terminal Master’s Degree instead of the Ph.D. This requires completing a Master’s thesis — students should consult COGS for more details.

The Ph.D. thesis is a substantial piece of original and independent research that displays mastery of an area of philosophy. A student may plan to write a sustained piece of work on one topic; they may instead plan to write three or more papers on connected topics. By the second month of the student’s sixth term they will submit to COGS a short (three to five pages) description of the projected thesis.

When the plan is approved, COGS will appoint a thesis committee consisting of a thesis supervisor and two additional readers, who shall be members of the philosophy faculty chosen by the student and willing to undertake the responsibility. The student will then meet with the members of the thesis committee for discussion of the material to be dealt with in the thesis. COGS approval is required if the student wants to include a non-MIT professor, or an MIT professor who is not on the philosophy faculty, on the committee. COGS approval is also required for a committee whose members include fewer than two MIT philosophy faculty (and this will be approved only in exceptional circumstances).

The student will meet regularly with their thesis supervisor throughout the writing of the thesis, and will provide all members of the thesis committee with written work by the end of each term. This requirement holds for nonresident as well as resident students.

The following rules govern completion of the thesis.

6.1 Final Term

The student will meet with their thesis committee during the first week of the term to assess the feasibility of completing the thesis during that term. The student and the committee will agree on a table of contents for the thesis, and on a schedule of dates for meeting the following requirements; a copy of the contents and the schedule should be given to COGS.

6.1.1 MIT Deadline

MIT requires that the completed thesis be delivered to the Department office by a date set by the Registrar for all Departments. (Early in January for February degrees, early in May for June degrees.) The Department regards this requirement as met by delivery to the thesis committee by that date of what the student regards as the final draft of their thesis.

6.1.2 Thesis Defense

The student will meet privately with their thesis committee to defend the thesis and to discuss any needed revisions. This meeting constitutes the official oral examination of the thesis.

The private defense must be scheduled for a date which will leave time for the student to make revisions before the MIT deadline. Once a student has completed the oral examination, and made any requested revisions, the decision whether to recommend award of the PhD is made by unanimous vote of the thesis committee.

6.1.3 Public Defense

The public defense is open to all members of the Department and their guests; it is chaired by the thesis supervisor, and normally runs for an hour, starting with a twenty-minute presentation by the student of the main results of the thesis. The public defense is the one occasion on which the entire Department has an opportunity to learn about and participate in the student’s work, and is a central part of the Ph.D. program.

The public defense is to be held after the student’s committee has voted to recommend awarding the PhD. One week before the public defense, the student should email the revised version to the chief COG, to be made available to members of the Department. A copy of the abstract should be emailed to the Academic Administrator for distribution when announcing the public defense to the Department.

6.1.4 Final Library Copy

The final library copy must be given to the Departmental representative to MIT’s Committee on Graduate School Policy (CGSP) by the day before that committee’s end-of-term meeting at which it approves the final degree list.

6.2 September Degrees

Students who will be unable to complete their theses during the spring term may wish to petition COGS for consideration for award of the degree in September. Such petitions will be granted on condition that an appropriate thesis committee can be constituted to work with the student during the summer. A schedule analogous to that described under 6.1 — including the scheduling of private and public defenses — must be given to COGS by the end of the spring term. The final library copy of the thesis must be given to the Departmental representative to CGSP by the day before that committee’s September meeting at which it approves the September degree list.

7. Policies on Satisfactory Progress and Good Standing

A student is in good standing so long as they have not fallen behind on any deadline mentioned in this document. The most salient of these is the deadline for the 5th term paper.

If a student is not in good standing, they will be unable to use their travel funds. If a student is not in good standing or has received a grade of B or lower in two classes in the previous semester, they are at risk of failing to make satisfactory academic progress.

If a student is at risk of failing to make satisfactory academic progress, the faculty will discuss the matter at the next end of term of meeting. (If any of the student’s advisors are not present at the meeting, they will be consulted before any action is taken.) The faculty will consider the work the student has produced, or failed to produce, so far, and the progress it represents. If there are serious doubts about the student’s prospects of completing the PhD, which includes writing a thesis that meets the conditions in section 6 , the student’s academic progress will be deemed unsatisfactory, and they will be issued a written notice from the Chief COG. The notice will explain how the student’s progress is unsatisfactory, what the student should accomplish in the following semester in order to avoid an official warning from the Vice Chancellor, and what steps the faculty will take to help the student accomplish these things. If a student fails to meet the conditions of the notice by the end of the following semester, as determined by the faculty, the student will receive an official warning from the Vice Chancellor. This warning will explain why the student’s progress continues to be unsatisfactory, what the student should accomplish in the following semester in order to continue in the program, and what steps the faculty will take to help the student accomplish these things. If the student is in a position to receive a terminal Master’s Degree, the conditions for doing so will be detailed. If the student fails to meet the conditions of the warning by the end of the semester, as determined by the faculty, the student will be denied permission to continue in the program.


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The  Guide to Graduate Programs in Philosophy , published biennially until the early 2000s, was relaunched in 2012 as an annual online resource. The guide compiles data on both doctoral and master’s degree programs in philosophy at institutions throughout the US and Canada, offering prospective students, job candidates, and other members of the profession a rich resource on post-graduate education and employment in philosophy. 

All data in the guide are self-reported by representatives of the institutions. Any changes or corrections should be sent directly to them.

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Doctoral Program

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Stanford's Ph.D. program is among the world's best. Our graduate students receive their training in a lively community of philosophers engaged in a wide range of philosophical projects. Our Ph.D. program trains students in traditional core areas of philosophy and provides them with opportunities to explore many subfields such as the philosophy of literature, nineteenth-century German philosophy, and medieval philosophy.

Among other areas, we are exceptionally strong in Kant studies, the philosophy of action, ancient philosophy, logic, and the philosophy of science. We attract some of the best students from around the world and we turn them into accomplished philosophers ready to compete for the best jobs in a very tight job market.

The most up-to-date requirements are listed in   t he Bulletin .  


From the 2020-2021 edition of Explore Degrees:

Doctor of Philosophy in Philosophy

Prospective graduate students should see the  Office of Graduate Admissions  web site for information and application materials. 

The University's basic requirements for the Ph.D. degree including candidacy, residence, dissertation, and examination are discussed in the " Graduate Degrees " section of this bulletin.

University candidacy requirements, published in the " Candidacy " section of this bulletin, apply to all Ph.D. students. Admission to a doctoral degree program is preliminary to, and distinct from, admission to candidacy. Admission to candidacy for the doctoral degree is a judgment by the faculty in the department or school of the student's potential to successfully complete the requirements of the degree program. Students are expected to complete department qualifying procedures and apply for candidacy at the beginning of the seventh academic quarter, normally the Autumn Quarter of the student's third year.

Admission to candidacy for the doctoral degree is granted by the major department following a student's successful completion of qualifying procedures as determined by the department. Departmental policy determines procedures for subsequent attempts to become advanced to candidacy in the event that the student does not successfully complete the procedures. Failure to advance to candidacy results in the dismissal of the student from the doctoral program; see the " Guidelines for Dismissal of Graduate Students for Academic Reasons " section of this bulletin.

The requirements detailed here are department requirements. These requirements are meant to balance structure and flexibility in allowing students, in consultation with their  advisors , to take a path through the program that gives them a rigorous and broad philosophical education, with room to focus on areas of particular interest, and with an eye to completing the degree with an excellent dissertation and a solid preparation for a career in academic philosophy.

Normally, all courses used to satisfy the distribution requirements for the Philosophy Ph.D. are Stanford courses taken as part of a student's graduate program.  In special circumstances, a student may petition to use a very small number of graduate-level courses taken at other institutions to satisfy a distribution requirement.  To be approved for this purpose, the student’s work in such a graduate-level course would need to involve an appropriate subject matter and would need to be judged by the department to be at the level of an 'A' in a corresponding graduate-level course at Stanford.  

Courses used to satisfy any course requirement in Philosophy (except Teaching Methods and the summer Dissertation Development Seminar) must be passed with a letter grade of 'B-' or better (no satisfactory/no credit), except in the case of a course/seminar used to satisfy the third-year course/seminar requirement and taken for only 2 units. Such a reduced-unit third-year course/seminar must be taken credit/no credit. 

At the end of each year, the department reviews the progress of each student to determine whether the student is making satisfactory progress, and on that basis to make decisions about probationary status and termination from the program where appropriate.

Any student in one of the Ph.D. programs may apply for the M.A. when all University and department requirements have been met.

Proficiency Requirements

  • First-year Ph.D. Proseminar : a one quarter, topically focused seminar offered in Autumn Quarter, and required of all first-year students.
  • two courses in value theory including ethics, aesthetics, political philosophy, social philosophy, philosophy of law. At least one of the courses satisfying this distribution requirement must be in ethics or political philosophy.
  • Two courses in language, mind, and action. One course satisfying this requirement must be drawn from the language related courses, and one from mind and action related courses.
  • two courses in metaphysics and epistemology (including metaphysics, epistemology, philosophy of science). At least one of the courses satisfying this requirement must be drawn from either metaphysics or epistemology.
  • Instructors indicate which courses may satisfy particular requirements. If a course potentially satisfies more than one requirement the student may use it for only one of those area requirements; no units may be double-counted. Students must develop broad competencies in all these areas. Those without strong backgrounds in these areas would normally satisfy these distribution requirements by taking more basic courses rather than highly specialized and focused courses. Students should consult with their advisor in making these course decisions, and be prepared to explain these decisions when reviewed for candidacy; see requirement 6 below.
  • Logic requirement:  PHIL 150  Mathematical Logic or equivalent.
  • History/logic requirement. One approved course each in ancient and modern philosophy, plus either another approved history of philosophy course or  PHIL 151  Metalogic.
  • Students should normally take at least 64 graduate level units at Stanford during their first six quarters (in many cases students would take more units than that) and of those total units, at least 49 units of course work are to be in the Philosophy department. These courses must be numbered above 110, but not including Teaching Methods ( PHIL 239  Teaching Methods in Philosophy) or affiliated courses. Units of Individual Directed Reading are normally not to be counted toward this 49-unit requirement unless there is special permission from the student's advisor and the Director of Graduate Studies.
  •  Prior to candidacy, at least 3 units of work must be taken with each of four Stanford faculty members.

Writing Requirement: Second Year Paper

The second year paper should demonstrate good scholarship and argumentative rigor, and be a polished piece of writing approximately 8000 words in length. The second year paper need not bear any specific relationship to the dissertation. It may be a version of a prospective dissertation chapter, but this is not required. The final version must be turned in on the last class of the Second Year Paper Development Seminar in Summer Quarter of the second year. Extensions of this deadline require the consent of the instructor of the Second Year Paper Development Seminar and the Director of Graduate Studies and are only granted in exceptional cases (e.g., documented illness, family crisis). The final paper is read by a committee of two faculty members and it is an important consideration in the department’s decision on the student’s candidacy. 

Teaching Assistancy

A minimum of five quarters of teaching assistancy are required for the Ph.D. Normally one of these quarters is as a teaching assistant for the Philosophy Department's Writing in the Major course,  PHIL 80  Mind, Matter, and Meaning. It is expected that students not teach in their first year and that they teach no more than two quarters in their second year. Students are required to take  PHIL 239  Teaching Methods in Philosophy during Spring Quarter of their first year and during Autumn Quarter of their second year. Teaching is an important part of students’ preparation to be professional philosophers.

Review at the End of the Second Year for Advancement to Candidacy

The faculty's review of each student includes a review of the student's record, an assessment of the second year paper, and an assessment of the student's preparation for work in her/his intended area of specialization, as well as recommendations of additional preparation, if necessary.

To continue in the Ph.D. program, each student must apply for candidacy at the beginning of the sixth academic quarter, normally the Spring Quarter of the student's second year. Students may be approved for or denied candidacy by the end of that quarter by the department. In some cases, where there are only one or two outstanding deficiencies, the department may defer the candidacy decision and require the student to re-apply for candidacy in a subsequent quarter. In such cases, definite conditions for the candidacy re-application must be specified, and the student must work with the advisor and the DGS to meet those conditions in a timely fashion. A failure to maintain timely progress in satisfying the specified conditions constitutes grounds for withholding travel and discretionary funds and for a denial of advancement to candidacy.

  • Writing Seminar : In the Summer Quarter after the second year, students are required to attend the Second Year Paper Development Seminar. The seminar is intended to help students complete their second year papers. 
  • Upon completion of the summer writing seminar, students must sign up for independent study credit,  PHIL 240  Individual Work for Graduate Students, with their respective advisors each quarter. A plan at the beginning, and a report at the end, of each quarter must be signed by both student and advisor and submitted to the graduate administrator for inclusion in the student's file. This is the process every quarter until the completion of the departmental oral.
  • In Autumn and Winter quarters of the third year, students register in and satisfactorily complete  PHIL 301  Dissertation Development Proseminar. Students meet to present their work in progress and discuss their thesis project. Participation in these seminars is required.
  • During the third and fourth years in the program, a student should complete at least three graduate-level courses/seminars, at least two of them in philosophy (a course outside philosophy can be approved by the advisor), and at least two of them in the third year. The three seminars can be taken credit/no-credit for reduced (2) units. Courses required for candidacy are not counted toward satisfaction of this requirement. This light load of courses allows students to deepen their philosophical training while keeping time free for thesis research.

Dissertation Work and Defense

The third and following years are devoted to dissertation work. The few requirements in this segment of the program are milestones to encourage students and advisors to ensure that the project is on track.

  • Dissertation Proposal— By Spring Quarter of the third year, students should have selected a dissertation topic and committee. A proposal sketching the topic, status, and plan for the thesis project, as well as an annotated bibliography or literature review indicating familiarity with the relevant literature, must be received by the committee one week before the meeting on graduate student progress late in Spring Quarter. The dissertation proposal and the reading committee's report on it will constitute a substantial portion of the third year review.
  • Departmental Oral— During Autumn Quarter of the fourth year, students take an oral examination based on at least 30 pages of written work, in addition to the proposal. The aim of the exam is to help the student arrive at an acceptable plan for the dissertation and to make sure that student, thesis topic, and advisors make a reasonable fit. It is an important chance for the student to clarify their goals and intentions with the entire committee present.
  • Fourth-Year Colloquium— No later than Spring Quarter of the fourth year, students present a research paper in a 60-minute seminar open to the entire department. This paper should be on an aspect of the student's dissertation research. This is an opportunity for the student to make their work known to the wider department, and to explain their ideas to a general philosophical audience.
  • University Oral Exam— Ph.D. students must submit a completed draft of the dissertation to the reading committee at least one month before the student expects to defend the thesis in the University oral exam. If the student is given consent to go forward, the University oral can take place approximately two weeks later. A portion of the exam consists of a student presentation based on the dissertation and is open to the public. A closed question period follows. If the draft is ready by Autumn Quarter of the fourth year, the student may request that the University oral count as the department oral.

Below are yearly lists of courses which the faculty have approved to fulfill distribution requirements in these areas: value theory (including ethics, aesthetics, political philosophy, social philosophy, philosophy of law); language; mind and action; metaphysics and epistemology (including metaphysics, epistemology, philosophy of science); logic; ancient philosophy; modern philosophy.

The most up-to-date requirements are listed in  t he Bulletin .  

Ph.D. Minor in Philosophy

To obtain a Ph.D. minor in Philosophy, students must follow these procedures:

  • Consult with the Director of Graduate Study to establish eligibility, and select a suitable  advisor .
  • 30 units of courses in the Department of Philosophy with a letter grade of 'B-' or better in each course. No more than 3 units of directed reading may be counted in the 30-unit requirement.
  • Philosophy of science
  • Ethics, value theory, and moral and political philosophy
  • Metaphysics and epistemology
  • Language, mind and action
  • History of philosophy
  • Two additional courses numbered over 199 to be taken in one of those (b) six areas.
  • A faculty member from the Department of Philosophy (usually the student's advisor) serves on the student's doctoral oral examination committee and may request that up to one third of this examination be devoted to the minor subject.
  • Paperwork for the minor must be submitted to the department office before beginning the program.

Interdisciplinary Study

The department supports interdisciplinary study. Courses in Stanford's other departments and programs may be counted towards the degree, and course requirements in Philosophy are designed to allow students considerable freedom in taking such courses. Dissertation committees may include members from other departments. Where special needs arise, the department is committed to making it possible for students to obtain a philosophical education and to meet their interdisciplinary goals. Students are advised to consult their advisors and the department's student services office for assistance.

Graduate Program in Cognitive Science

Philosophy participates with the departments of Computer Science, Linguistics, and Psychology in an interdisciplinary program in Cognitive Science. It is intended to provide an interdisciplinary education, as well as a deeper concentration in philosophy, and is open to doctoral students. Students who complete the requirements within Philosophy and the Cognitive Science requirements receive a special designation in Cognitive Science along with the Ph.D. in Philosophy. To receive this field designation, students must complete 30 units of approved courses, 18 of which must be taken in two disciplines outside of philosophy. The list of approved courses can be obtained from the Cognitive Science program located in the Department of Psychology.

Special Track in Philosophy and Symbolic Systems

Students interested in interdisciplinary work relating philosophy to artificial intelligence, cognitive science, computer science, linguistics, or logic may pursue a degree in this program.

Prerequisites—Admitted students should have covered the equivalent of the core of the undergraduate Symbolic Systems Program requirements as described in the " Symbolic Systems " section of the Stanford Bulletin, including courses in artificial intelligence (AI), cognitive science, linguistics, logic, and philosophy. The graduate program is designed with this background in mind. Students missing part of this background may need additional course work. In addition to the required course work listed in the bulletin, the Ph.D. requirements are the same as for the regular program, with the exception that one course in value theory and one course in history may be omitted.

Joint Program in Ancient Philosophy

This program is jointly administered by the Departments of Classics and Philosophy and is overseen by a joint committee composed of members of both departments:

  •         Christopher Bobonich , Philosophy (Ancient Greek Philosophy, Ethics)
  •         Alan Code , Philosophy, Philosophy (Ancient Greek Philosophy, Metaphysics)
  •         Reviel Netz , Classics (History of Greek and Pre-Modern Mathematics)
  •         Andrea Nightingale , Classics, (Greek and Roman Philosophy and Literature)
  •        Josh Ober , Classics and Political Science (Greek Political Thought, Democratic Theory)

It provides students with the training, specialist skills, and knowledge needed for research and teaching in ancient philosophy while producing scholars who are fully trained as either philosophers with a strong specialization in ancient languages and philology, or classicists with a concentration in philosophy.

Students are admitted to the program by either department. Graduate students admitted by the Philosophy department receive their Ph.D. from the Philosophy department; those admitted by the Classics department receive their Ph.D. from the Classics department. For Philosophy graduate students, this program provides training in classical languages, literature, culture, and history. For Classics graduate students, this program provides training in the history of philosophy and in contemporary philosophy.

Each student in the program is advised by a committee consisting of one professor in each department.

Requirements for Philosophy Graduate Students: These are the same as the proficiency requirements for the Ph.D. in Philosophy.

One year of Greek is a requirement for admission to the program. If students have had a year of Latin, they are required to take 3 courses in second- or third-year Greek or Latin, at least one of which must be in Latin. If they have not had a year of Latin, they are then required to complete a year of Latin, and take two courses in second- or third-year Greek or Latin.

Students are also required to take at least three courses in ancient philosophy at the 200 level or above, one of which must be in the Classics department and two of which must be in the Philosophy department.

Ph.D. Subplan in History and Philosophy of Science

Graduate students in the Philosophy Ph.D. program may pursue a Ph.D. subplan in History and Philosophy of Science. The subplan is declared in Axess and subplan designations appear on the official transcript, but are not printed on the diploma.

1.  Attendance at the HPS colloquium series. 2.  Philosophy of Science courses.  Select one of the following:

  • PHIL 263 Significant Figures in Philosophy of Science: Einstein
  • PHIL 264: Central Topics in the Philosophy of Science: Theory and Evidence
  • PHIL 264A: Central Topics in Philosophy of Science: Causation
  • PHIL 265: Philosophy of Physics: Space and Time
  • PHIL 265C: Philosophy of Physics: Probability and Relativity
  • PHIL 266: Probability: Ten Great Ideas About Chance
  • PHIL 267A:  Philosophy of Biology
  • PHIL 267B: Philosophy, Biology, and Behavior

3.  One elective seminar in the history of science. 4.  One elective seminar (in addition to the course satisfying requirement 2) in philosophy of science.

The PhD program provide 5 years of  financial support . We also try to provide support for our sixth year students and beyond though we cannot guarantee such support. In addition to covering tuition, providing a stipend, and covering Stanford's health insurance, we provide additional funds for books, computer equipment, and conference travel expenses. Some of the financial support is provided through requiring you to teach; however, our teaching requirement is quite low and we believe that this is a significant advantage of our program.

Stanford Support Programs

Additional support, such as advances, medical and emergency grants for Grad Students are available through the Financial Aid Office. The University has created the following programs specifically for graduate students dealing with challenging financial situations.

Graduate Financial Aid  homepage :

Cash Advance:

Emergency grant-in-aid :, family grants:, housing loans:, program characteristics.

Our program is well known for its small size, streamlined teaching requirements, and low average time to degree.

The program regulations are designed to efficiently provide students with a broad base in their first two years. In the third year students transition to working on their dissertations. During the summer prior to the third year, students are required to attend a dissertation development seminar. This seminar introduces students to what is involved in writing a dissertation. During the third year the course load drops to just under one course per quarter.

The rest of the time is spent working closely with a faculty member, or a couple of faculty members, on the student's area of research interest. The goal of the third year is that this process of intensive research and one-on-one interaction will generate a topic and proposal for the dissertation. During the fourth and fifth year the student is not required to take any courses and he or she focusses exclusively on research and writing on the dissertation.

aerial view of Stanford campus

Stanford University

Being a part of  Stanford University  means that students have access to one of the premier education institutions in the world. Stanford is replete with top departments in the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences. In addition, our professional schools, such as the  Stanford Law School , are among the best. The range of research in a variety of areas, many of which touch on or relate to philosophical issues, is simply astounding. Students have the freedom to take courses across the university. Graduate students also regularly earn joint degrees with other programs.


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