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Indiana University Bloomington

Graduate Program

Ph.D. Requirements

Note: The regulation governing our Ph.D. program presented below reflect changes that go into effect beginning with the fall 2015 semester. Differences with earlier requirements are noted.

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 PDF.

Steps for Completing a Ph.D. in Philosophy

Proseminar: The proseminar is taken in the first fall semester of enrollment in the program. The proseminar is a variable topics course which requires writing a paper each week for the first 10 to 12 weeks of the term and presenting to the seminar.

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 concentration 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.

Minor: Each student in philosophy is required to have a minor (typically four courses) in another department or program. All coursework listed above, including the minor, 15-16 courses altogether, should normally be completed within the first six semesters of fulltime enrollment.

Minimum Grade Requirement: The student must receive a grade of B or better in any course that receives credit toward the 90 credit hours required for the Ph.D.

Language requirement: There is no general foreign language requirement for the Ph.D. However, a student's Qualifying Committee or Dissertation Committee may require the student to achieve proficiency in a foreign language relevant to the student's research and may set the level of proficiency to be attained and the means of establishing that the required level has been attained. A student should consult with the DGS about whether he or she will need competence in a foreign language, and this consultation should begin in the student's first year, to allow adequate time for the student to develop competence.

Qualifying exam and Dissertation Prospectus Course (see below): The qualifying examination consists of an essay with an oral exam on a topic which the student plans to pursue further in the dissertation. The Qualifying Exam tests whether the student is ready to write a dissertation on the chosen topic. The Qualifying Exam is taken in conjunction with P804, the dissertation prospectus course, which must be taken by the sixth semester of fulltime enrollment. Passing the qualifying examination is necessary and sufficient for passing P804.

Prior to 2014: No dissertation prospectus course requirement.

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 sixth semester of fulltime enrollment.

Prior to 2014 only: 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.

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.

  • Metaphysics and Epistemology has four subareas:
    • metaphysics
    • epistemology
    • philosophy of language, philosophy of logic, or philosophy of mathematics
    • philosophy of mind and action
  • Logic: Logic.
  • History of Philosophy: Ancient, medieval, modern, recent.
  • Value Theory: Ethics, social and political philosophy, legal philosophy, aesthetics.

Each graduate student is required to concentrate 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 concentration requirements for that area.

Distribution Requirements

Distribution requirements in the four areas are defined below.

Metaphysics and Epistemology, Logic: Students are to satisfy a disjunctive requirement regarding Metaphysics and Epistemology and Logic:

1. Metaphysics and Epistemology: Three graduate courses. The three should be in different subareas of Metaphysics and Epistemology, as defined above. At least one of the three courses must be on the list of automatically approved courses. P590s will not count toward the Metaphysics and Epistemology Distribution Requirement.
AND
Logic: One graduate logic course. The student must demonstrate a thorough understanding of first-order logic. Successful completion of P505 will be taken as demonstrating such understanding.

OR

2. Metaphysics and Epistemology: Two graduate courses. The two should be in different subareas of Metaphysics and Epistemology. At least one of the two courses must be on the list of automatically approved courses. P590s will not count toward the Metaphysics and Epistemology Distribution Requirement.
AND
Logic: Two graduate logic courses. The student must demonstrate a thorough understanding of first-order logic. Successful completion of P505 will be taken as demonstrating such understanding.

History of Philosophy: (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 post-medieval 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. In addition to the automatically approved courses listed below, P710 can count for any of the periods, depending on its content. Students must seek approval for P710 from the History Area Committee, and the Area Committee will decide whether the course counts based on course content and the student's competence in the philosophy of the relevant period. Other courses may be counted depending on Committee approval.

Value Theory: (Two units) Two graduate level courses, at least one in ethics. At least one course should be either P540, P541, or P740. The second course should come from the list of automatically approved courses below. Students may petition to substitute for one or possibly both of the courses a course not on the list of automatically approved courses, but there is no presumption that any other courses will count. The decision whether to count any other courses will be made on the basis of what other courses the student has taken, the opportunities the student has had for taking automatically approved courses, and the student's Area of Concentration. Two courses with the same number can count toward the Distribution Requirement provided their course content is sufficiently different; students must petition for the second course to count. 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 none 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 or to drop one unit from Logic under option (1) of the disjunctive requirement, the Director of Graduate Studies will seek the approval of the Area Committee before granting the request. If the student on an interdisciplinary track is given a one unit exemption in any Area, then the expectation is that the remaining unit (or units) that count toward the distribution requirements in that Area will be courses on the list of automatically approved courses. (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.)

Concentration Requirements

Concentration requirements in each of the four areas are defined below. Unless stated otherwise, courses used to satisfy the distribution requirements in an area will count toward the concentration requirements for that area. A student must achieve an average of A- in the courses that count towards the Concentration Requirement.

  • Metaphysics and Epistemology: (Four units) Four courses from at least three different sub-areas. At least two of the four courses must be on the list of automatically approved courses below. At most one P590 will count toward the M & E Concentration Requirement, with high standards (for M & E area centrality, rigor and breadth of reading, and written work). At most one course outside the philosophy department (including courses taken at an institution other than Indiana University) will count, with high standards (for clear philosophical content, M & E area centrality, rigor and breadth of reading, and written work). (The caliber of the department at another institution at which a course is taken will be an important consideration in granting petitions for approval of courses taken in other institutions.)
  • Logic: (Four units) Students concentrating 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. (ii) Show mastery of the material of P505/506. This requirement will be deemed as satisfied if a student has taken courses equivalent to P505/P506 with a grade of A- or better.
  • History of Philosophy: (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. In addition to the automatically approved courses listed below, P710 can count for any of the periods, depending on its content. Students must seek approval for P710 from the History Area Committee, and the Area Committee will decide whether the course counts based on course content and the student's competence in the philosophy of the relevant period. Other courses may be counted depending on Committee approval.
  • Value Theory: (Four units) Four courses. At least one course should be P540, P541, or P740. At least one course should be in aesthetics, political philosophy, or philosophy of law. Students must take two or more courses in a single sub-area known as "the field of emphasis," and no more than one course in the field of emphasis may be taken outside the philosophy department. Students may petition to substitute a course not on the list of automatically approved courses below, but there is no presumption that any other courses will count.

Automatically Approved Courses

All of the following courses automatically count towards the Distribution and Concentration Requirements for the Area and Subarea under which they are listed, subject to the general description above of the requirements in each Area. Courses on the list may also satisfy the Distribution and Concentration Requirements for Areas or Subareas other than the ones under which they are listed. Approval for satisfying the Distribution or Concentration Requirements in an Area or Subarea other than the one for which the course is listed must be sought from the relevant Area Committee, either prior to taking the course or afterward:
  • Metaphysics and Epistemology
    • Metaphysics: P560, P571
    • Epistemology: P562
    • Philosophy of Language, Philosophy of Logic, and Philosophy of Mathematics: P520, P551, P552, P720
    • Philosophy of Mind: P561, P570
    • P730 and P760 would count toward metaphysics, epistemology, or either, depending on content. P750 counts as either logic or philosophy of mathematics, depending on content
  • Logic
    • Logic: P505 (counts toward the Distribution Requirement in Logic, but not the Concentration Requirement), P506, P550, P751
    • P750 counts as either logic or philosophy of logic and mathematics, depending on content
  • History of Philosophy
    • P710
    • Ancient: P511, P512
    • Medieval: P515
    • Modern: P522
    • Recent: P526, P530, P531, P535
  • Value Theory
    • Ethics: P540, P541, P740
    • Social and Political Philosophy: P543, P544, P743
    • Legal Philosophy: P545
    • Aesthetics: P546

Approval for satisfying the Distribution or Concentration Requirements for any course not on this list-including P590 course and courses given in other departments-must be sought from the relevant Area Committee, either prior to taking the course or afterward. Approval after the fact will only be granted in exceptional circumstances. No course may be counted as satisfying more than one unit of one Distribution or Concentration Requirement.

Area Committees decide whether to approve outside courses in part on the basis of whether the student has acquired a grounding in the Area by taking the sum total of the courses proposed to satisfy the Requirement. Because of this, it could happen that one student receives approval for a course and another student is denied approval for the same course.

Regarding P590 courses that are taken concurrently with an undergraduate course, it is expected that a graduate student will use no more than two such courses to satisfy the Distribution and Concentration requirements as a whole, and no more than one such P590 course in any given area.

No course (understood as a particular course, not a course number) may be counted as more than one unit of one distribution or concentration requirement.

Qualifying Exam and Dissertation Prospectus Course

The qualifying exam consists in an essay of roughly 25 pages, together with an oral exam, on a topic that 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. Passing the qualifying exam is the final step before advancing to candidacy. To schedule the qualifying exam in a term, the student must be enrolled concurrently in the dissertation prospectus course, P804. Successfully passing the qualifying exam, both the oral and written components, is necessary and sufficient for passing the dissertation prospectus course. The dissertation prospectus course and qualifying exam should be taken no later than the second semester of the third year of fulltime study. This may be postponed only with the approval of the qualifying exam committee chair and the Director of Graduate Studies. If a student fails to pass the qualifying exam during the term in which he or she is first enrolled in P804, he or she will be placed on academic probation. He or she may retake the exam in conjunction with the prospectus course in the immediately following semester (excluding summer terms). If the student does not pass the qualifying exam on the second try, the student will be dismissed from the doctoral program. If a student fails to enroll in the dissertation prospectus course (and hence fails to take the qualifying exam) by the end of the third year of fulltime study, and a delay has not been approved by the chair of the qualifying exam committee and the Director of Graduate Studies, the student will be placed on academic probation. The student will then be required to take the dissertation prospectus course the immediately following semester (excluding summer terms). If the student does not pass the qualifying exam in that semester, the student will be dismissed from the doctoral program, without an opportunity to retake the examination.

The Qualifying Exam will be administered by an ad hoc committee, consisting of at least three members, that will typically 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 belong to the Dissertation Committee.

Students should provide the members of their Qualifying Committee with a copy of their Qualifying Exam essay at least three weeks in advance of the date scheduled for the oral exam.

Prior to 2014 only: Students entering the program prior to fall 2014 who have not yet take the qualifying examination may opt to complete the program under the requirements that came into effect fall 2014 or to complete the program under the requirements in place at the time they entered the program. If they opt to complete the program under the requirements that came into effect in fall 2014, then they follow the procedures outlined above, but do not have to take the chapter examination described below. If they opt to complete the program under the requirements of their entering year, they do not have to take the dissertation prospectus course and its provisions do not apply to them. They are still expected to take the qualifying examination by the end of the second semester of the third year of fulltime enrollment. If the Qualifying Committee passes the student, then it may issue questions that the student is to address in the Dissertation Chapter Exam (see below). 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.

View the Qualifying Exam Form PDF

Prior to 2014 only: 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 concentration,
  • 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 fifth or sixth year. Students should provide the members of their Dissertation Committee with a complete copy of their dissertation at least 30 days in advance of the date scheduled for the dissertation oral exam.