Area Requirements Toward a PhD in Philosophy

Graduate students are required to demonstrate competence in each of the four traditional sub-disciplines of philosophy:
  1. history of philosophy;
  2. metaphysics and epistemology;
  3. ethics, social and political philosophy, and aesthetics;
  4. logic, language, and science.
However, within these major areas, options are provided to allow the student to give particular attention to those problems that are of special interest to him or her. Each area requirement can be satisfied in one of two ways:
  • through an examination (the “examination option”)
  • by taking a thematically appropriate series of courses (the “course option”).
Both of these options are explained in further detail below.

Area 1: History of Philosophy


Examination Option
: Pass a comprehensive examination covering two of the following three periods:
    (i)  Ancient and Medieval;
    (ii)  from the Renaissance to Kant;
    (iii)  from Kant to Early 20th Century.

Course Option
: Take at least four approved courses covering at least two of the three periods stated above. Courses in the History of Philosophy include:
   
    501: Studies in Greek Philosophy
    502: Studies in Medieval Philosophy
    503: Studies in Early Modern Philosophy
    505: Islamic and Jewish Philosophy and the Classical Tradition
    514: 20th Century Analytic Philosophy I
    557: Medieval Political Thought and Philosophy
    601: Special Topics in Ancient Philosophy
    683: Studies in Continental Rationalism
    684: Studies in British Empiricism

    685: The Philosophy of Kant

Area 2: Metaphysics and Epistemology


Examination Option
: Pass a comprehensive examination in both metaphysics and epistemology.

Course Option
: Take at least four approved courses in metaphysics and epistemology including at least two courses in each area. Courses in Metaphysics and Epistemology include (with sub-area listed in parentheses, where applicable):

    506: Advanced Philosophy of Religion
    507: Recent American Philosophy
    510: Phenomenology
    514: 20th Century Analytic Philosophy I
    515: 20th Century Analytic Philosophy II
    525: Studies in Metaphysics
    532: Studies in Theory of Knowledge
    535: Studies in Philosophy of Mind (Metaphysics)
    551: Philosophy of the Natural Sciences (Epistemology)

Area 3: Ethics, Social and Political Philosophy, and Aesthetics


Examination Option
: Pass a comprehensive examination either solely in ethics or in a combination of ethics and some approved sub-area of value theory.

Course Option
: Take at least three approved courses in ethics or value theory, at least one of which must be in ethics. Courses in Ethics, Social and Political Philosophy, and Aesthetics include:

    520: Existentialism
    524: Contemporary Ethical Theory
    530: Deconstructionist and Postmodernist Philosophy
    540: Studies in Social and Political Philosophy
    557: Medieval Political Thought and Philosophy
    575: Problems in Aesthetics
    576: Philosophy and Literature
    624: Seminar in Ethics
 

Area 4: Logic, Language and Science


Examination Option
: Pass a comprehensive examination either solely in Logic or in a combination of Logic and one of the following:
     (i)  Induction and Philosophy of Science
     (ii)  Philosophy of Logic and Language

Course Option
: Take at least one approved course in logic, plus at least two additional courses from the following areas (they need not be from the same area):
    (a)  Deductive Systems;
    (b)  Induction, Probability, & Philosophy of Science;
    (c)  Philosophy of Logic and Language.

Courses in Logic, Language and Science include (with sub-area listed in parentheses, where applicable):

    450: Symbolic Logic
    514: 20th Century Analytic Philosophy I (Language)
    515: 20th Century Analytic Philosophy II
    550: Advanced Symbolic Logic
    551: Philosophy of the Natural Sciences
    552: Philosophy of the Social Sciences
    580: Metalogic
    650: Advanced Topics in Logic
    665: Philosophy of Language
    672: Philosophy of Logic

Variable Courses


The Department of Philosophy offers several variable courses that may be applied toward satisfying any of the above area requirements. The student will need the approval of his/her Advisory Committee to determine how these variable courses may be applied. Variable Courses include:

    542: Rationality and Relativism: African American Perspectives
    545: Recent Analytic Philosophy
    555: Critical Theory
    560: Studies in Eastern Philosophy
    610: Recent Continental Philosophy

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The Department of Philosophy Graduate Student Manual appendix "Courses Satisfying Area Requirements" also lists the areas, and sub-areas, which all of the courses listed above satisfy toward these requirements. Students are encouraged to reference the Graduate Student Manual, in addition to consulting with their Advisory Committee, when registering for courses to be sure they are meeting the necessary area requirements.



Satisfying the Area Requirements


Below are guidelines and further details covering how students may successfully meet their area requirements toward the PhD in Philosophy, as well as details covering the event of failed area requirements.

The Course Option

The Course Option Grade Rule

When choosing the course option, the following rule applies:

When a student chooses the course option for any area requirement, the grade average of all courses in that area must be at least a B+. A course with a final grade lower than B- does not count towards satisfaction of the course option.
 
The student's Advisory Committee, in consultation with other appropriate faculty members and with the student, will decide whether a given area requirement is to be met by examination or by following the course option. Each student must satisfy at least one area requirement by examination, the others are usually satisfied by courses but any and all may be satisfied by examination. All students must complete 12 courses.

No Double-Dipping

A course used to satisfy one area requirement will not count towards satisfying any other area requirement.

Substitution Requests

In addition to the area requirements the department’s courses satisfy (listed above), if a student wishes to have a course counted towards satisfaction of an area requirement other than the one indicated, the following rules apply:
  • The student must submit a substitution proposal to his or her Advisory Committee for approval.
  • The student should consult with the instructor in charge of the course before the beginning of the semester. The instructor, at his or her discretion, may tailor course requirements to better match the student's work with the area requirement being fulfilled.
  • In problematic cases, the student’s Advisory Committee should consult with the Director of Graduate Studies. The authority to approve or deny a substitution request lies with the Graduate Committee and ultimately with the Department Head.

Directed Reading Courses

Normally, at most one 590 (Directed Reading Course) will be counted towards the fulfillment of area requirements (one total, not one per area). Exceptions may be made if a course needed to fulfill a requirement is not available.
 
Logic Course Requirement for the Logic, Language, and Science Area

It is expected that students will have taken the approved course in logic for this area requirement, which is normally PHIL 450, 550, or 650, by the end of their second year, unless they plan to satisfy the Logic, Language, and Science requirement by examination.

FAILURE TO SATISFY THE COURSE OPTION

The Course Option Grade Rule, introduced above, states: When a student chooses the course option for any area requirement, the grade average of all courses in that area must be at least B+. A course with a grade lower than B- does not count towards satisfaction of the course option.

Consequently, if in a course approved for satisfaction of an area requirement a student receives a grade of C or lower, then that student’s Advisory Committee will review the student’s other work and make a recommendation to the Director of Graduate Studies and the Department Head as to whether the student should be allowed a second attempt to pass the area requirement in question, or whether the student should be asked to withdraw from the program. If the Director of Graduate Studies and the Department Head decide to grant the student a second attempt to satisfy the requirement, the student may be required either to take additional courses or to take a general examination in the area.


The Examination Option

Grades

The grades for an area requirement examination are 'pass' and 'fail.' The faculty members on the Examination Committee may note in writing or oral communication whether a pass was 'high' or 'low.'

Preparation for an Area Examination

Students should prepare for an area requirement exam by studying a wide range of material, guided by examples of past exams and lists of recommended readings in each area. Both of these are available from the department's graduate secretary. Since an area examination need not be limited to the readings on its list, students should view these readings merely as suggestions.

The Structure of an Area Examination

An area requirement examination consists of two components:
  1. a written "take-home" exam worth 60% of the total grade, and
  2. an oral exam worth 40% of the total grade.
Both components are administered by the same Examination Committee.

Scheduling An Area Examination

Examination periods are in August and January, falling within the week prior to the beginning of Fall and Spring classes. Students intending to take an area examination in an upcoming examination period must notify the Director of Graduate Studies during the preceding semester. The Director will then convene a faculty committee to administer the examination.

Excusing Oneself from a Scheduled Examination

Students who have registered their intention to take an area examination in an upcoming period are expected to take the exam in that period. Requests to be excused from a scheduled examination must reach the Chair of the Graduate Committee no later than four weeks prior to the start of the examination period. Except in extraordinary circumstances, failure to take a scheduled examination without a proper excuse will count as failing the exam.

The Written Component

At the beginning of the exam period, students taking a particular exam will be given a list of questions and asked to write essays responding to a specific number (typically 3) of those questions. The student's response should be between 1225-1750 words, with a maximum of 2500 words each. The essays are due three days from the time the questions are made available. Questions will be designed and graded with the understanding that students are being tested for familiarity with, and ability to come to grips with, philosophical issues and problems.

The Oral Component

Except for unusual circumstances, the oral exam takes place during the first week of classes (the week following the written component of the area requirement examination). Questions should focus on the topics of the essays, but may be broad enough to test the student's understanding of the context in which those topics and issues arise. Upon completion of the exam, the committee will file a written report, which will be given to the student. A copy of it will also be placed in the student's file.

Failed Examinations

A student who fails an area requirement examination may repeat it, provided the student’s work is otherwise of good quality. However, normally no student will be permitted to attempt passing an area requirement examination more than twice. An exception to this Two Attempts Only Rule may be granted when a student’s performance in satisfying the remaining area requirements has been exceptionally good. In such circumstances, the student's Advisory Committee may grant permission to choose the course option as an alternative to an examination the student failed to pass. However, one area requirement must still be satisfied by examination.

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