Ph.D. Program Requirements

The Department of Philosophy is committed to helping its graduates find their own philosophical voices, so that over the course of their graduate student career they grow into original philosophers able to make their own independent contributions to the subject. At the same time, our Ph.D. program is also committed to instilling certain forms of professionalization. In particular, it is structured so as to allow a graduate student to acquire the following three sorts of basic disciplinary competence during their tenure in the program: (1) a broad literacy across a number of different areas of philosophy and in the history of philosophy, (2) the oral and writing skills requisite to authoring professional-level talks, articles and books on philosophical topics, (3) the ability to teach philosophy to students in both a lecture and a seminar setting.

Though such division into discrete temporal parts involves a degree of idealization and artificiality, it is perhaps nonetheless helpful to view a graduate student career in our program as consisting of four successive phases. Thus viewed, the first phase of our graduate program extends over the first two years and is almost entirely devoted to instilling the first of the three aformentioned forms of competence, mostly by having our graduate students take a variety of courses for credit. We believe strongly that in order to be a good philosopher and in order to be able to do good work in a particular specialized area of the subject, you have to know something about the rest of philosophy, as well as something about its history. So, before we will allow you to specialize, we require you to achieve some grounding in a number of different areas and to attain some overview of the field as a whole along with its history. An additional purpose of this phase of the program is to ensure that you enter into a working relationship with a wide range of the faculty in the Department, so that when it comes to forming a dissertation committee, you are able to make an informed choice about which members of the faculty are best qualified to assist you in your project.

The second phase of the our graduate program begins at the end of the second year of the program and extends into the beginning of the fourth year and is concerned with the transition to Ph.D. work. It is our experience that it is especially at this stage that graduate students in other programs tend to go into limbo and remain stuck there. We have therefore broken up this stage of the process into a number of clearly delineated steps -- among them, the preliminary essay, the dissertation chat, and the topical exam -- that are meant to ensure that graduate students move through this part of our program smoothly and that we are able to measure their degree of progess at each step. This phase culminates in the passing of the topical exam and the admission of the graduate student to candicacy for the Ph.D.

The exact timing of the third and fourth phases depends upon the particular graduate student and the precise rate of his or her progress through the program. Ideally, the third phase of our program is confined to the fourth and fifth years in the program and consists primarily of the following three activities: (1) writing of the Ph.D., (2) intensively participating in workshops in which one discusses one's own and other students' Ph.D. chapters in a colloquium setting, and (3) serving as a course assistant and a stand-alone instructor for undergraduate philosophy courses.  The fourth phase of our program is ideally (but, alas, not always) limited to a sixth year in which you complete the dissertation and work your way through the stages of our intensive placement process, designed to prepare you qua prospective job candidate to present yourself and your work in the best possible light on the academic job market. 

Please note that, in addition to the Department's requirements, the Humanities Division also has requirements for the Ph.D. They are given in the current year's University of Chicago Graduate Programs in the Divisions: Announcements and on the Humanities Division's website.

Please use the subnavigation to the left to view the required components of the Philosophy Department Graduate program.