Important Note: this page describes current requirements and policies for the Philosophy PhD program. Pending approval from New York State, these requirements will be superseded by those described on the “Anticipated Philosophy PhD Requirements” page. We expect that these revised requirements will be approved in time to apply to students entering the PhD program in September of 2019.
Doctor of Philosophy Program in Philosophy
The Department of Philosophy offers a program leading to the degree of Doctor of Philosophy. During the course of their studies, PhD philosophy students complete a range of requirements in the way detailed as follows.
Courses: The University 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. 8 basic points worth of courses that are taken while enrolled in the NYU philosophy PhD. program can be satisfied through courses taken outside of the NYU Department of Philosophy. Transfer credit is apportioned on a case-by-case basis and is normally restricted to courses taken in philosophy Ph.D. programs. Normally, a maximum of 12 basic points of transfer credit is allowed and any transfer credits must first be used against the permitted 8 points that can be taken outside of the NYU Department of Philosophy while enrolled in the program. Except in unusual circumstances, transfer credit may not be used to satisfy the area distribution requirements described below under “Basic course work.” Note that GSAS rules stipulate that all transfer credit applications must be submitted within the first academic year of attendance as a matriculant at NYU.
The required 44 basic points are to be earned by taking the following courses (‘basic-point courses’):
1. Proseminar (8 points)
Each year, the department offers a full-year Proseminar required for all first-year Ph.D. students. It is open to first-year Ph.D. students only. 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. In special circumstances, students may earn 4 points (but no more than 4 points) of basic coursework by completing an Independent Study with a faculty member, in which they read up on an area of interest and write a paper with faculty guidance. The seven basic courses 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. Students who want to use an Independent Study to satisfy an area distribution requirement must obtain prior approval by both the faculty member supervising the Independent Study and the Director of Graduate Studies. Associated Writing courses (to be described below) do not count as basic coursework, and cannot be used to satisfy area distribution requirements. A logic course at NYU that is used to satisfy the logic requirement counts towards the seven basic courses
3. Two Associated Writing courses (8 points)
In an Associated Writing course, students work with a faculty member to develop and refine an already existing paper or project. (Such a 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.
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.
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 written while enrolled in the NYU PhD program. To satisfy the requirement, papers should be substantial pieces of work that demonstrate that the student is able to take his or her philosophical research and writing to the high level appropriate for writing a dissertation. While there is no suggestion that papers should be approaching this limit, papers longer than 12,000 words (excluding bibliography) will not be accepted. Each paper is reviewed by at least two faculty members; our ambition is to review all papers blindly, although we cannot guarantee it; both papers must pass in order for the student to pass. If a student fails to submit a paper by the deadline, he/she will receive a ‘fail’ on the paper unless an extension was granted previously on grounds of extenuating circumstances. Except for emergency situations, extension requests must be filed at least one week prior to the deadline. If a paper fails, the student must submit a revised version of the paper, or a new paper; the usual deadline for this second submission is by the end of the fifth semester in the program but may be extended in special circumstances. If a student fails to submit the new, or revised, paper by the agreed upon deadline, or if this paper also fails, their eligibility to continue in the program will be jeopardized.
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.
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 clearly articulates an interesting philosophical project, situates the project in the space of philosophical ideas, and gives an indication of the main relevant literature. The sketch of the thesis plan can take various different concrete forms. Some students may find it helpful to indicate how they intend to organize the thesis, and what they expect the main contribution to the existing literature to be. Others may prefer to focus on motivating and explicating the main questions that they want to address, and indicating the kind of inquiry that they are planning to undertake in order to answer these questions. Students should consult with their prospectus advisors to decide what concrete form of prospectus would be most suitable for them and their particular working style. (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 third 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 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 third week of the sixth term. Dissertation and prospectus committees 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. Chairs of prospectus and dissertation committees must be members of the Philosophy Department, though someone appointed chair while in the Department can continue in this role even if she should subsequently leave.
Prospectus Meeting, to be held no later than the last day of classes of the sixth term: While the prospectus meeting 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.
Policy on Advising: Ordinarily, all advisors (thesis, prospectus, pre-prospectus) will meet with their advisees at least twice per semester (for example, once toward the beginning of the semester, and once toward the end before the graduate student review). Other members of thesis committees will typically meet with their students at least once per semester. Practice may vary between individual cases and it will sometimes be appropriate to meet more or less often. Nevertheless, except in very unusual circumstances, advisors and advisees should meet at least once per semester. Students and their advisors are encouraged to set aside some meeting time for unstructured discussion, conducted without a fixed agenda.
Logic Requirement: The department’s logic requirement can be satisfied in four ways. One way is to take a graduate-level logic course in the NYU philosophy department. A second way is to take an upper-level undergraduate course at NYU or elsewhere, or a graduate-level course elsewhere, but in both cases the appropriateness of the course must be approved by the Director of Graduate Studies. A third way is to satisfy the department that some course or courses taken previously meets the required standard. A fourth way is to schedule an oral examination covering an appropriate range of topics. In deciding whether to approve courses under the second and third headings, and in determining the content of the oral examination under the fourth heading, the department will be looking for competence in the following topics: formalization of English sentences in first-order logic; derivations within a proof system for first-order logic; formal definitions of models, truth in a model, and validity for first-order logic; basic meta-logical tools, including proof by mathematical induction and recursive definition; the statement of, and the basic methods for proving, basic meta-logical results, including soundness and completeness for systems of first-order or modal logic, and results concerning the decidability of some formal systems. The upper-level undergraduate courses at NYU that satisfy the logic requirement currently are: Advanced Logic (PHIL-UA 72), Set Theory (PHIL-UA 73), and Modal Logic (PHIL-UA 74).
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. Only work that was written while enrolled in the NYU philosophy PhD. program can be included in the dissertation. 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).
Students must submit a preliminary final draft of the dissertation at least six weeks before the date on which they wish to defend. The date will be finalized once the submitted dissertation has been judged defensible. The dissertation committee typically will read the preliminary final draft within three weeks of submission, and may request changes to be made before the defense.
Residence Requirement: In addition, in order to receive the Ph.D., a student must be in residence as a full-time student for two full years at NYU.
Ph.D. Requirements for Good Standing:
• University requirements must be met. To be in good standing, the Graduate School requires that students maintain a minimum GPA of 3.0 and must have successfully completed 66 percent of credits attempted while at NYU, not including the current semester. Courses with grades of incomplete, W, and F are not considered successfully completed. MacCrackens must maintain a 3.3 average in order to keep their fellowships.
• There are strict departmental and university requirements governing incompletes. When an incomplete is issued, the University requires that the student must complete the course within twelve months of the beginning of the course, if the grade is not to convert to an F. For departmental requirements, see the department’s September 1, 2010 policy on incompletes.
• Submission of two third-year review papers by the date one week prior to the first day of the fifth semester in the program or by the deadline agreed upon if an extension was granted; successful completion of the third-year review by the last day of classes of the sixth semester.
• Successful completion of the prospectus meeting by the last day of classes of the sixth semester. 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.
• Normally, cumulative average grade of A- after the end of the second year.
• Successful completion of 3 basic-point courses by the Course Completion Date of the second semester in residence; of 6 basic-point courses by the Course Completion Date of the third semester; of 8 basic-point courses by the Course Completion Date of the fourth semester; and of 11 basic-point courses as well as of the logic requirement by the Course Completion Date of the fifth semester. (For a description of what counts as a basic-point course, see the NYU Philosophy Department PhD. Program requirements.) The Course Completion Date in the fall semester is the first day of term; in the spring semester it is the beginning of the sixth week of classes.
• The University requires that students who fail the university criteria for good standing be placed on academic probation. A student who has not met stated departmental program requirements may also be placed on academic probation. For details about academic probation, see http://gsas.nyu.edu/page/grad.pp.manual.
A student who is not in good standing is not eligible to teach or assist in any course (regular or summer) starting in the term after the student has lost good standing.
Meaning of Grades
A VERY GOOD
A- GOOD: It is expected that this will be the most common grade.
In all Philosophy Department graduate courses, including Associated Writing courses, the following policy on incompletes applies:
The course instructor sets all course deadlines and determines the course policy on incompletes. In many cases, that policy may be to permit no incompletes whatsoever, so it is imperative that you consult your instructor for specific guidelines. However, in all Philosophy Department graduate courses, the following limiting condition on incompletes applies. Subject to the exception described below, all coursework must be completed and submitted by the first day of class of the semester immediately following the semester in which the course was taken, on penalty of receiving an F in the course. This means that all work for fall courses must be submitted by the first day of spring classes, and all work for spring courses must be submitted by the first day of fall classes. Absolutely no incompletes beyond this are permitted except by filing, in advance, a formal written request with both the Director of Graduate Studies and the course instructor. The request should be filed by e-mail, and must (1) explain the reason for seeking the extension; (2) detail a specific plan for completion, describing the work that has been completed to date and the work that remains to be done; and (3) propose a new deadline. Requests will not be granted automatically. Moreover, except under extraordinary circumstances, the written request must be filed with both the DGS and the course instructor at least one week in advance of the relevant deadline (the first day of class of the semester immediately following the semester in which the course was taken).
Everyone should also be aware of the Graduate School of Arts and Science policy on incompletes, which sets further limiting conditions on how long an incomplete may be carried before it goes to an F. An unresolved grade, “I”, reverts to F one year after the beginning of the semester in which the course was taken unless an extension of the incomplete grade has been approved by the Vice Dean. At the request of the departmental DGS and with the approval of the course instructor, the Vice Dean will review requests for an extension of an incomplete grade. A request for an extension of incomplete must be submitted before the end of one year from the beginning of the semester in which the course was taken. An extension of an incomplete grade may be requested for a period of up to, but not exceeding, one year. Only one one-year extension of an incomplete may be granted.