Skip to main content
Indiana University Bloomington

Graduate Program

Ph.D. Requirements (effective through January 14, 2005)

Note: On January 14, 2005, new regulations governing our Ph.D. program were officially approved. Those regulations, which were effective from January 14, 2005 to Spring 2008, may be found here. They have since been replaced in Spring 2008 by another set of requirements, which may be found here.

The requirements listed below are those in effect until January 14, 2005. Students admitted under these older regulations may, at their option, choose either to continue under them through the remainder of their program or else to proceed under the new regulations. (You must choose one set or the other; you cannot mix and match.) Students admitted henceforth will be subject to the new regulations.

Students pursuing a Ph. D. in Philosophy should be aware of the requirements stated below and also those stated in the section "Requirements for the Degree Doctor of Philosophy" in the University Graduate School Bulletin.

Steps for Completing a Ph.D. in Philosophy

Nine units of distribution requirements (see below): These requirements are intended to insure that the successful Ph.D. candidate has a well-rounded and broad understanding of philosophy. They are to be satisfied by the end of the third year.

Four units of specialization requirements (see below): These requirements are intended to insure that the successful Ph.D. candidate has a deeper understanding of at least one branch of philosophy. They are to be satisfied by the end of the third year.

First-year course: Each fall semester, one graduate course is designated as a required course for all incoming graduate students. An aim of this course is to convey a sense for the depth of research and the level of writing needed for success in the graduate program. Satisfactory completion of this course is required. This course can be counted toward the student's nine units of distribution requirements.

Language requirement: Each student is required to show proficiency in at least one approved foreign language. Some specializations require additional foreign languages of some students, when needed for the student's work.

Minor: Each student in philosophy is required to have a minor in another department or program. The minor should typically be completed by the beginning of the student's fourth year.

Qualifying exam (see below): An essay, together with an oral exam, on a topic which the student plans to pursue further in the dissertation. The Qualifying Exam will test whether the student is ready to write a dissertation on the chosen topic.

Dissertation prospectus: A one- or two-page plan of the proposed dissertation. This is to be submitted to the Graduate School after it has been approved by the dissertation committee. The prospectus should be completed by the end of the first semester of the fourth year, normally earlier.

Dissertation chapter exam (see below): A long essay (about twenty-five pages long) on the dissertation topic, with an optional oral component. This should be taken within one year of passing the Qualifying Exam.

Dissertation defense: The University's final examination, based on the student's completed dissertation. This will normally be taken in the student's fourth or fifth year.

Distribution and Concentration Requirements

For the purposes of stating these requirements, philosophy is considered as falling into four areas. Each of these areas has an Area Committee to administer the requirements in that area.

  • Area 1, Metaphysics & Epistemology: Metaphysics, epistemology, philosophy of language, philosophy of mind and action.
  • Area 2, Logic: Logic, philosophy of logic and mathematics, philosophy of science, semantics.
  • Area 3, History of Philosophy: Ancient, medieval, modern, recent.
  • Area 4, Value Theory: Ethics, social and political philosophy, legal philosophy, aesthetics.

Each graduate student is required to specialize in at least one area and satisfy distribution requirements in all four, though some exceptions are possible for students pursuing an interdisciplinary track (see below). Unless stated otherwise, courses used to satisfy the distribution requirements in an area will count towards the specialization requirements for that area.

Distribution Requirements

Distribution requirements in the four areas are defined below. For the purposes of satisfying these requirements, P590 courses and courses given in other departments must be approved by the relevant area committee. A grade of B or better is required to satisfy a distribution requirement.

  • Area 1: (Two units) Two graduate courses in the area. The two courses should be in different sub- areas.
  • Area 2: (Two units) Two graduate courses in the area, including at least one logic course. The student must demonstrate a thorough understanding of first-order logic. Successful completion of P505 will be taken as demonstrating such understanding.
  • Area 3: (Three units) A unit in history can consist of any of the following: a graduate course, a written paper on a topic in one of the four historical periods (ancient, medieval, modern, and recent), a written examination on a topic in one of the four periods, or a written examination covering a broad range within the history of philosophy. At least one unit must be in ancient or medieval history and one in modern history. The third "wild card" unit in history may be in any of the four historical periods. It may also be such a course as history of ethics, history of aesthetics, history of logic, etc., provided that such course is approved by the history committee.
  • Area 4: (Two units) Two graduate level courses in ethics, social and political philosophy, aesthetics, or legal philosophy. At least one of the courses must be in ethics.

Distribution requirements should normally be satisfied by the end of the student's second year, but in all cases should be satisfied by the end of the student's third year of graduate study.

View the Distribution Requirements Form PDF

Interdisciplinary Track Distribution Requirements

An interdisciplinary track is considered to be 18 credit hours in a department or program outside of philosophy of importance to the student's area of specialty. It is usually in the area of the student's minor. Graduate students pursuing an interdisciplinary track may request an ad hoc exemption of one or two of the above nine units of the department's standard distribution requirements. The written request should be made to the Director of Graduate Studies before the end of the student's second year. A good case must be made for the usefulness of the outside work being proposed, either for the student's dissertation or for other career objectives. The specific courses being taken, as well as the distribution units to be dropped, must be described in the application. If the request is to drop two units from one area, the Director of Graduate Studies will seek the approval of the Area Committee before granting the request. [Note concerning cross-listed courses. If more than three credits of the 18 interdisciplinary track credits are from cross-listed philosophy courses, the above exemption will not be granted; if one to three credits are from such courses, then the exemption cannot be granted for more than one unit of the distribution requirements.]

Specialization Requirements

Specialization requirements in each of the four areas are defined below. For the purposes of satisfying these requirements, P590 courses and courses given in other departments must be approved by the area committee. Unless stated otherwise, courses used to satisfy the distribution requirements in an area will count toward the specialization requirements for that area.

  • Area 1: (Four units) Four courses from at least three different sub-areas.
  • Area 2: (Four units) Students specializing in this area are required to do the following: (i) Take at least four courses in logic/formal areas of philosophy. (Note: P505 will not count for the requirement.) These courses must be well distributed; students are advised to consult the Logic Committee to ensure this. Students can have a B+ in at most one of these four courses, and an A- in another. In two of the courses they must have received an A (or better). (ii) Show mastery of the material of P505/P506. This requirement will be deemed as satisfied if a student has taken courses equivalent to P505/P506 with a grade of A- or better.
  • Area 3: (Four units) The history units are as defined above, except that the "wild card" is not an option here. Students specializing in history must pass four regular history units, at least one in each of the four historical periods.
  • Area 4: (Four units) Four courses. At least one must be in ethics, one must be in one of the sub-areas other than ethics, and two of the courses must be in a single sub-area, known as the "field of emphasis." Approval by the Area Committee of the courses in the field of emphasis is required. No more than one course in the field of emphasis may be taken outside the Department of Philosophy. A grade of B or better is required in each course.

View the Specialization Requirement Form PDF

Qualifying Exam

The Qualifying Exam consists of an essay (about fifteen pages long), together with an oral, on a topic that the student plans to pursue further in the dissertation. The Exam will test whether the student is ready to write a dissertation on the chosen topic.

The Qualifying Exam is normally taken after the student has completed all the course work for the Ph.D. and has satisfied the language requirement. Once the student has passed the Qualifying Exam and has satisfied the course and language requirements, he or she will be nominated to candidacy. (For information on candidacy, see the section titled, "Requirements for the Degree Doctor of Philosophy" in the University Graduate School Bulletin.)

Notes: (a) The Qualifying Exam will be administered by an ad hoc committee, consisting of at least three members, that will later evolve into the student's dissertation committee. A representative of the Minor may be included in the exam, if the Chair of the committee finds it desirable. Note that the University requires that a member representing the student's minor must belong to the dissertation committee. (b) The essay written for the Qualifying Exam will contain indication of the further work that the student wishes to pursue in the dissertation. (c) If the Qualifying Exam committee passes the student, then it may issue questions that the student is to address in the Dissertation Chapter Exam (see below). (d) And it may recommend immediate submission of the Prospectus to the Graduate School. If it does not recommend immediate submission, then the Prospectus will be submitted after the student passes the Dissertation Chapter Exam. (e) The Qualifying Exam should be taken by the end of three and one-half years of graduate study.

View the Qualifying Exam Form PDF

Dissertation Chapter Exam

The Exam consists of a long essay (about twenty-five pages long) on the dissertation topic, with an optional oral.

Notes: (a) A request by a student for an oral exam will be honored. (b) Normally the Dissertation Chapter Exam should be taken by the end of the fourth year of graduate study. (c) In any case, it should be taken within one year of passing the Qualifying Exam.

View the Dissertation Chapter Exam Form PDF

Dissertation Requirement

The dissertation is the most important and substantial piece of work during the candidate's student career. It is to be seen as a piece of apprenticeship, one that demonstrates:

  • the student's familiarity with the literature in his or her area of specialization,
  • an understanding of the standard tools of the area, and
  • a substantial original contribution to the area.

It is to be completed in a timely fashion. Normal expectations are that it will be completed by the end of the fourth or fifth year.