Joint PhD Programs

Our Philosophy of Joint Programs

Square peg, round hole

Joint programs are always between two partners: the Department of Philosophy and one other graduate program (at UChicago, the programs are Classics, Germanics, Linguistics, and Social Thought). The purpose of such programs is to allow a graduate student to come into sustained and rewarding dialogue with faculty and graduate students working in a related field. The programs thus grow out of a recognition that the serious study of certain areas within the discipline of philosophy itself requires literacy outside the discipline and, in particular, in the fundamentals of a wholly different discipline.

With the exception of the Joint Program with Social Thought, all our joint programs are not technically joint PhD programs: they do not provide students with equally in-depth training in two different exacting and distinct disciplines, thereby leading to a degree which would equip a graduate student to be hired in either kind of department. Our experience is that most such joint PhD programs either fail to be properly balanced or lead to a student staying in graduate school much longer than is advisable. Most of our joint programs, therefore, fulfill a somewhat more modest mission: to give graduate students working within two different departments with a degree of involvement in the intellectual life of the other department and to provide these two different communities of inquirers with enriching, cross-fertilizing, and overlapping interests.

In the case of each of the joint programs between the Department of Philosophy and the Departments of Classics, Germanic Studies, and Linguistics, respectively, we have therefore established cooperative programs: ones in which students will enroll either in the PhD program of the allied department or in Philosophy, but will also be required to take certain courses in the department in which they are not enrolled. Faculty of both departments in these cooperative programs are committed to training students in the other department; all students and faculty involved in joint programs participate in both seminars and specially dedicated workshops, which both serve as central locations for the programs’ intellectual exchanges.

Applying to the Joint Programs

Applicants should apply directly to the PhD program they feel will be their primary intellectual and future disciplinary home. They should indicate in their personal statement, however, that they are potentially interested in a particular joint program—and why. Once they are here on campus, they should talk to the professors who run that program about the program’s details and procedures. Students usually apply to be in a joint program at the University of Chicago after they have finished one year of coursework in their primary PhD program.