Area Requirements

Graduate students are required to demonstrate competence in each of the four traditional sub-disciplines of philosophy:

i.    history of philosophy; 
ii.   metaphysics and epistemology;
iii.  ethics, social and political philosophy, and aesthetics;
iv.  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:
     (A)  through an examination (the “examination option”)
     (B)  by taking a thematically appropriate series of courses (the “course option”). 

When choosing the course option, the following rule applies:

The Course Option Grade Rule

When a student chooses the course option for any area requirement, the grade average of all courses in that area must be B+. A course with a 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.   

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.

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 
507: Recent American Philosophy* 
510: Phenomenology*

514: 20th Century Analytic Philosophy I *
515: 20th Century Analytic Philosophy II*
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.

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 
551: Philosophy of the Natural Sciences*

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.

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:
     (a)       Induction and Philosophy of Science
     (b)       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.

450: Symbolic Logic  
515: 20th Century Analytic Philosophy II* 
550: Advanced Symbolic Logic 
650: Advanced Topics in Logic 
665: Philosophy of Language 
672: Philosophy of Logic 

Variable Courses

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



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 graduate secretary of the department. 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: 

     (a)       a written "take-home" part worth 60% of the total grade, and
     (b)       an oral exam worth 40% of the total grade.
Both components are administered by the same 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 on a specific number (usually 3).  These essays should typically be 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. 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 be placed in his or her 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. 


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 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 students 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. 

No Double Dipping

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

Substitution Requests

The Appendix to this document indicates which area requirements the department’s courses satisfy. If a student wishes to have a course counted towards satisfaction of an area requirement other than the one indicated in the Appendix, the following rules apply:

(a) The student must submit a substitution proposal to his or her Advisory Committee for approval.

(b) 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.

(c)  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.  

Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN 47907 (765) 494-4600

© 2018 Purdue University | An equal access/equal opportunity university | Copyright Complaints | Maintained by CLA

If you have trouble accessing this page because of a disability, please contact the College of Liberal Arts Webmaster.

Some content on this site may require the use of a special plug-in or application. Please visit our plug-ins page for links to download these applications.