Doctor of Philosophy Program in Philosophy - Rules and Requirements

The Department of Philosophy also offers a program leading to the degree of Doctor of Philosophy. The degree requires 72 points. The department requires that 44 points (the "basic points") be as specified below. A minimum of 36 of the 44 basic points must be taken in the NYU Department of Philosophy. Twenty-eight of the total 72 points may be in dissertation research, although the student may include other courses toward that total as well. Transfer credit is apportioned on a case-by-case basis and is normally restricted to courses taken in philosophy Ph.D. programs. Normally, credit for a maximum of 12 basic points is allowed for work done elsewhere. Except in unusual circumstances, transfer credit may not be used to satisfy the area distribution requirements described below under "Basic course work."

Coursework: The required 44 basic points consist of the following:

  1. Proseminar, PHIL-GA 1000, (8 points). It includes frequent short writing assignments, and the mode of instruction emphasizes discussion rather than lecture. The topics are determined by the instructors but include basic texts and ideas in analytic philosophy.
  2. Basic course work (28 points; typically seven 4-point courses) These seven courses are drawn from advanced introduction courses, intermediate-level courses, topics or advanced seminar courses, and research seminar courses. These must include at least one course in value theory (ethics, aesthetics, philosophy of law, or political philosophy); at least one course in metaphysics, epistemology, philosophy of language, or philosophy of mind; and at least one course in the history of philosophy (ancient, medieval, modern, or 19th century). At least three of the courses must be outside value theory.
  3. Two Associated Writing courses (8 points). There are two main forms that an Associated Writing course may take. In the first, most common form, the student works with a faculty member to develop and refine an already existing paper. (The paper is often, but not always, a paper written for a previous graduate seminar.) During the semester, the student submits drafts of the developing paper, discussing each draft with the instructor before moving on to the next draft. The aim is for students to receive individual mentoring in the craft of writing a professional-level philosophy paper; to have a chance to develop a paper more deeply and thoroughly than is typically possible in the more rushed context of a one-semester seminar; and to be provided with a formally structured opportunity to prepare papers for the third-year review. Although this is the paradigmatic form of an Associated Writing course, the student needn't always start with a preexisting paper. In some cases, an Associated Writing may take a form more akin to an "Independent Study," in which the student (with faculty guidance) reads up on an area of interest and writes a new paper from scratch. While this is sometimes a good option, students should be aware that to go this route is potentially to saddle themselves with extra work in a way that could slow their progress through the program. To go this route is also to forgo a formally structured opportunity to work on polishing an existing paper for the third-year review. It is expected that the student and faculty member will meet roughly every two weeks during the semester. Students needn't have prior acquaintance with a faculty member to ask him or her to supervise an Associated Writing. Under no circumstances may a student submit one and the same paper for credit in both a graduate seminar and an Associated Writing course. If an Associated Writing paper develops out of an existing seminar paper, as will often be the case, the expectation is that it will constitute a substantial development of that paper. An Associated Writing course may in some cases be used to fulfill a distribution requirement, but only if the course is done on the "Independent Study" model and permission is obtained in advance from the Director of Graduate Studies and the course instructor.


Third-Year Review: By the date one week prior to the first day of the fifth semester in the program, students must submit two papers (normally the product of courses in the first two years). To satisfy the requirement, papers should be substantial pieces of work of 15-30 pages in length and should demonstrate that the student is able to take his or her philosophical research and writing to the high level appropriate for writing a dissertation. Students should also be in good standing at the time of the review.

Thesis Prospectus: By the fifth week of their fifth term in the program, students must designate a prospectus advisor and report that designation to the Director of Graduate Studies. (The designation of a prospectus advisor takes place by this time regardless of whether the student has successfully completed the third-year review.) It is understood that the designation of "prospectus advisor" is provisional and subject to change depending on the evolving nature of the thesis project. The prospectus advisor's role is to guide the student through the prospectus-writing process; the prospectus advisor may or may not ultimately serve on the dissertation committee, though of course often he or she will.

By the tenth week of their sixth term in the program, students must submit a draft prospectus document to their prospectus advisor, copying the Director of Graduate Studies. It is hoped that this draft can serve as the final, or near-final, version of the prospectus and be defended by the end of the sixth term, but it is understood that this will not always be possible; to remain in good standing, however, the student must submit a draft, which may then serve as the basis for ongoing work and discussion. The prospectus document should be between five and a strict maximum of fifteen pages long. It should not be a philosophy paper, but rather a thesis plan that (1) clearly articulates an interesting philosophical problem in a way that (2) displays the student's knowledge of the problem's place in the space of philosophical ideas and, in particular, of the leading attempts to resolve the problem, and (3) gives as clear an indication as the student can give at this early stage of how he or she intends to organize the thesis, and of what he or she expects his or her contribution to be, that is, of what the thesis will add to the existing literature. (Students writing a thesis consisting of three linked papers should apply these guidelines to each of their topics. The prospectus document should still not exceed fifteen pages, however.)

No later than the fourteenth week of the sixth term in the program, each student must notify the Director of Graduate Studies of the composition of his or her full prospectus committee. The prospectus committee ordinarily consists of three, and no more than three, faculty members. The prospectus committee often becomes the dissertation committee, but this needn't always be the case and uncertainty about the ultimate composition of the dissertation committee should not stand in the way of the designation of the prospectus committee by the end of the sixth term. Dissertation committees also ordinarily consist of three, and no more than three, faculty members. Exceptions to this rule require special justification and must be approved by the Director of Graduate Studies.

To remain in good standing, students must complete the prospectus and pass the prospectus defense no later than the fourteenth week of their seventh term in the program. While the prospectus defense takes the form of an oral examination, its principal purpose is to reach an agreement with prospective future members of the student's thesis committee as to the shape and substance of the project. The thesis prospectus examination should satisfy the committee that the candidate can write a passing thesis meeting the description in the candidate's submitted prospectus.

Logic Requirement: Students should satisfy the department of their competence in the following: formalization of English sentences; derivations within a system of predicate logic; formal definition of truth and validity for a first-order language; basic metalogical tools, including the use-mention distinction, the concept of rigor, and proof and definition by mathematical induction; statement and proof of basic metalogical results, including the deduction theorem, soundness and completeness for sentential and predicate logic, and completeness for predicate logic. The Director of Graduate Studies will count the student as having passed the requirement when presented with appropriate evidence (e.g., of a pass in a relevant course at NYU or elsewhere).

Thesis and Oral Examination: The dissertation can consist of a monograph or, alternatively, of three outstanding papers. The department envisions that, in most cases, the dissertation will grow out of work done for the topics or advanced seminar and Associated Writing courses and that there will be no sharp distinction between years of course work and years of dissertation writing. Students who entered in the year 2010 or later are expected to complete all degree requirements, including the dissertation, within six years (or five if the student elects not to participate in the teaching program).