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Department of Philosophy

Department Website:


  • Gabriel Richardson Lear

Director of Graduate Studies

  • Kevin Davey

Director of Undergraduate Studies

  • Agnes Callard


  • Matthew Boyle
  • Daniel Brudney
  • James Conant
  • Arnold Ira Davidson, Divinity
  • Michael Kremer
  • Gabriel Richardson Lear, Social Thought
  • Jonathan Lear, Social Thought
  • Martha C. Nussbaum, Law
  • Robert Pippin, Social Thought
  • Robert J. Richards, History
  • Candace A. Vogler

Associate Professors

  • Jason Bridges
  • Agnes Callard
  • Kevin Davey
  • David Finkelstein
  • Anton Ford 
  • Anubav Vasudevan
  • Malte Willer

Assistant Professors

  • Matthias Haase
  • Raoul Moati
  • Thomas Pashby

Full-Time Lecturers

  • Benjamin Callard
  • Ben Laurence
  • Bart Schultz

Emeritus Faculty

  • Howard Stein
  • Josef J. Stern
  • William W. Tait
  • William C. Wimsatt

The programs in philosophy are designed to develop skill in philosophical analysis, to enable the student to think clearly, systematically, and independently on philosophical issues, and to achieve a thorough acquaintance with major classics and contemporary works in philosophy. Philosophy classes are conducted so that students may develop philosophical skills by class discussions and by the writing of carefully directed papers.

The following is an outline of the main features of the graduate program. For full details, please write the Department of Philosophy directly.

Graduate Degrees

The graduate program in philosophy is primarily a doctoral program. Admission as a graduate student normally implies that, in the opinion of the department, the student is a promising candidate for the Ph.D. degree. The Master of Arts degree, however, may be awarded to students in the program who meet the requirements specified below.

The application process for admission and financial aid for all graduate programs in the Division of the Humanities is administered through the divisional Office of the Dean of Students. The Application for Admission and Financial Aid, with instructions, deadlines and department specific information is available online at:

Questions about admissions and aid should be directed to or (773) 702-1552.

International students must provide evidence of English proficiency by submitting scores from either the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or the International English Language Testing System (IELTS). Current minimum scores, etc., are provided with the application. For more information, please see the Office of International Affairs website at, or call them at (773) 702-7752.

Students admitted to doctoral study are typically awarded a five-year fellowship package that includes full tuition, academic year stipends, summer stipends, and medical insurance. Teaching training is a vital part of the educational experience at the University, so all fellowships include a required teaching component. 

The Degree of Master of Arts

The objective of the program is the Ph.D. degree. Students seeking a master’s degree should apply to the Master of Arts Program in the Humanities (MAPH), a three-quarter program of interdisciplinary study in a number of areas of interest to students.  Further details about the MAPH program are available at

Doctoral students who are enrolled in a Ph.D. program at the University of Chicago may receive an M.A. in Philosophy. These can be either:

  • Doctoral students in another discipline who seek a “secondary” M.A. in Philosophy, in conjunction with their doctoral studies in that other discipline; or
  • Doctoral students in Philosophy who want to receive the M.A.

The requirements for the degree are the same in either case. The requirements can be satisfied entirely by course-work; no thesis is required. They are specified in five clauses:

  • Quality: No course for which the student received a grade lower than a B+ will satisfy any requirement for the M.A.
  • Level: Only courses taken at the graduate level (that is, with a course-number of 30000 or higher) can satisfy any requirement for the M.A.
  • Quantity: The student must complete at least eight courses in Philosophy at the University of Chicago. (Reading and research courses do not count toward satisfying this requirement, nor do courses taken pass/fail—except the first-year seminar, which counts as one course if passed.)
  • Distribution: The student must have taken at least one designated course in each of the Philosophy Department’s five “areas” — namely:
    • Area I: Value theory
    • Area II: Philosophy of science, philosophy of language, and logic
    • Area III: Epistemology and metaphysics
    • Area IV: Ancient or Medieval philosophy
    • Area V: Modern philosophy (17th-19th centuries)
  • Elementary Logic: The student must demonstrate competence in elementary logic. This can be achieved by an interview in which the candidate satisfies one of the Department’s logicians that he or she has the required competence, or by taking the Elementary Logic course (PHIL 30000 Elementary Logic), or any more advanced logic course offered by the Department. Philosophy 30000 can count as one of the minimum eight courses, but it does not satisfy the Area II requirement. A more advanced logic class does both.

Application Procedure

Doctoral Students in the Department of Philosophy may apply for the M.A. at any time after they have completed the requirements. 1. Contact the Department Coordinator so that the proper paperwork is submitted verifying your courses (above) and 2. contact the office of the Humanities Dean of Students in order to gain access to the degree application in  Keep your expected graduation date set to the date you anticipate receiving the Ph.D.

Students in a Ph.D. program at the University of Chicago in a department other than Philosophy who wish to receive a “secondary” M.A. in Philosophy must first apply for admission to the M.A. program in the department of Philosophy. No student can apply unless she has taken at least three Philosophy courses, and it is expected that the student will apply soon after completing that number of courses. To initiate the application process, the student should set up an appointment with the Assistant Dean of Students for Admissions in the Division of Humanities who will direct the student through the required paperwork and obtain:

  • The applicant’s transcript of courses taken for the B.A.
  • His/Her GRE scores
  • A transcript of the applicant’s courses at the University of Chicago taken up to the time of the application.
  • A sample of her best philosophical writing. This may but need not be a paper written for one of the applicant’s already completed Philosophy courses at the University.
  • A brief letter from the chair or director of graduate studies of the applicant’s home department supporting the application. The letter should explain why the student is seeking an M.A. in philosophy to complement her doctoral studies.
  • Names of two faculty in the Dept. of Philosophy who can comment on work done by the applicant and on her philosophical potential.
  • A statement by the applicant that explains why she is seeking an M.A. in Philosophy.

The Degree of Doctor of Philosophy

The divisional and University requirements for the Ph.D. degree must be fulfilled. Departmental requirements are as follows:

Course Requirements

The Course Requirement has seven parts concerning:

  • The number of required courses
  • The distribution of required courses
  • The logic requirement
  • Required progress
  • Policies concerning incompletes
  • Grades
  • Transfer credits

Number of required courses

Students must complete at least thirteen courses in their first two years of study: the first year seminar and twelve graduate courses.

First-year students must enroll in the first-year seminar. The exact organization and scheduling varies from year to year according to the instructor’s discretion. It is graded on a pass-fail basis.

In addition, twelve graduate courses must be completed with a grade of B or better:

  • At least ten of these courses must be in the Philosophy Department listings;
  • Reading and research courses do not count among these twelve classes
  • At least one must be a graduate seminar in Philosophy

Distribution of required courses

Students are required to take one course in each of the following three areas of contemporary philosophy:

  • Value theory (listed in the course descriptions as I)
  • Philosophy of science, philosophy of language, and logic (listed in the course descriptions as II)
  • Epistemology and metaphysics (listed in the course descriptions as III)

and three courses on the history of philosophy as follows:

  • A figure or movement in either Ancient or Medieval Philosophy (listed in the course descriptions as IV)
  • A figure or movement in Modern Philosophy from the 17th through 19th centuries (listed in the course descriptions as V)
  • One additional course on a figure or movement in either IV or V.

It should be noted that not all graduate courses satisfy a field distribution requirement; those not classified in the published course descriptions as belonging to I-V cannot be used to satisfy the distribution requirement. Nor can Philosophy 30000 (Elementary Logic) be used to satisfy a field distribution requirement.

Logic requirement

There is a requirement in logic that can be satisfied in several ways.

  • By passing PHIL 30000 Elementary Logic with a grade of B or higher.
    Philosophy 30000 is offered every Autumn quarter. It counts toward the twelve course requirement but does not satisfy the field II distribution requirement.
  • By passing a course equivalent to or better than Philosophy 30000 (Elementary Logic), at another institution or in another department at Chicago, with a grade of B+ or higher. The equivalence of the course in question to Philosophy 30000 will be determined by the instructor in Philosophy 30000 in the year in question, on the basis of an interview with the student, and such evidence as the syllabus for the course, the textbook for the course, and any other course materials which the student can provide. Note that satisfying the logic requirement in this way will count neither towards one of the twelve required courses nor towards satisfying the field II distribution requirement.
  • By passing an advanced graduate course in logic with a grade of B or higher.
    Passing an advanced graduate course in logic would both satisfy the logic requirement and count towards the field II distribution requirement.

Required progress

Courses must be completed, with a grade of B or better, according to the following timetable.

  • Two courses should be completed by the beginning of the Winter quarter of the first year
  • Four courses (at least three in the Philosophy Department) should be completed by the beginning of the third quarter
  • Six courses should be completed by 30 September of the second year
  • Ten courses should be completed by the end of the fifth quarter
  • All thirteen courses (twelve plus the first year seminar) must be completed by 30 September following the sixth quarter.

In addition to this timetable, students should keep in mind that because they are expected to be working on their Preliminary Essay over the summer following their sixth quarter, they would be ill-advised not to have completed their course requirements by the early part of the summer.


At the discretion of the instructor, coursework not completed on time may be regarded as an “incomplete.” This means that the instructor will permit a student to complete the work for a course after the normal deadline.

The instructor sets the time period for completion of the incomplete, subject to the following limitation: all coursework must be submitted by September 30th following the quarter in which the course was taken in order to count toward fulfillment of the requirements for the M.A. and Ph.D. This date is an absolute deadline and is not subject to further extensions by individual faculty members.

Note: Students in their first year in the program are not permitted to take any incompletes in their first quarter.


Satisfactory grades for work toward the Ph.D. in Philosophy are A, A-, B+, and B.

For Philosophy faculty, those grades mean the following. A: pass with distinction; A-: high pass; B+: pass; B: low pass.

Transfer Credits

The following policy applies to the Philosophy Ph.D. program. Special requirements of joint programs take precedence over this policy.

  1. Of the required 12 graduate courses, no more than 2 can be taken at the University, but outside the Philosophy Department.
  2. Of the required 12 graduate courses, no more than 3 can be transferred from other institutions.
  3. Of the required 12 graduate courses, at least 9 must be taken within the Philosophy Department's course offerings.
  4. Only courses taken while enrolled in a doctoral program in Philosophy can be counted towards the required 12 graduate courses.

For example, a student might transfer 2 courses from another institution and take one course from another department within the University, with the remaining 9 courses taken within the Philosophy Department. Or a student might transfer 3 courses from another institution, with the remaining 9 courses taken within the Philosophy Department. 

Students wishing to obtain credit for graduate courses taken from the listings of other departments within the University toward the required 12 course do not need to petition the department, within the two-course limit specified above.

Students wishing to obtain transfer credit for courses taken at other institutions must petition the Graduate Program Committee. Students should be prepared to provide evidence in support of their transfer application at the request of the Committee. Such evidence may include course descriptions, syllabi, assignments, written work completed for the course, and so on.  Students who are transferring from other graduate programs must make such a request upon their entry into the Philosophy Department. Students who take a course at another institution while enrolled in the PhD program should consult with the Director of Graduate Studies beforehand, but must still petition the Graduate Program Committee to have the course accepted for transfer credit upon completion of the course.

Note that elementary logic courses taken outside the department may fulfill the elementary logic requirement but may not be used to meet the 12 course requirement. See “Logic Requirement” above for further details.

Foreign Language Exam

All students must pass an examination in French, German, Latin, or Greek by the end of Spring quarter of the fourth year or before the topical examination, whichever comes first. (There is a special rule for students who wish to write theses on ancient Greek or Roman philosophy; this is detailed below).

There are two kinds of language examinations: those administered by the Department and those administered by the University. Departmental language exams will be given twice a year and may not be taken more than twice.

Students who take the University language examination must receive a “High Pass.” These are offered every quarter and there is a fee for taking them.

There is a special requirement for those working in ancient philosophy or German philosophy, since work in these fields depends heavily on one’s ability to use the relevant languages.

Any student intending to write a thesis on ancient philosophy must pass the Departmental or University exam in Greek (the latter with a “High Pass”). Any student intending to write a thesis on Hellenistic or Roman philosophy must also pass the Departmental or University exam in Latin (the latter with a “High Pass”). Any student intending to write a thesis on German philosophy must pass the Departmental or University exam in German with a "High Pass".

Such students may take the Departmental exam in Greek or Latin or German a maximum of three times (as opposed to two times, which is the rule for other languages).

Preliminary Essay

In the Spring quarter of their second year students will register for the first quarter of a two-quarter (Spring, Autumn) workshop on the preliminary essay. The workshop involves discussion of general issues in writing the essay and student presentations of their work. Although students do not register for the Summer quarter, they are expected to make significant progress on their preliminary essay over the summer.

By the end of the eighth week of the Spring quarter at the latest each student will submit to the Director of Graduate Studies a proposed topic and a ranked list of possible readers in the Philosophy Department. The Graduate Program Committee will evaluate proposed topics along the following lines:

  • Is the topic philosophically interesting?
  • Can a paper on the topic be completed within the given time?
  • Can a committee be formed to supervise an essay on the topic?

If the topic is approved, the Graduate Program Committee will form a preliminary essay committee for the student in question consisting of two faculty readers, each of whom the student is expected to consult regularly and each of whom have equal responsibility in directing the preliminary essay. The student's primary responsibility in this process is regularly to provide each of the faculty readers with a new draft of the essay and then rewrite the most recent draft in accordance with their instructions. The primary responsibility of the faculty readers is to provide the student with prompt and focused instructions about how to rewrite each draft, while ensuring that it remain within the page-length requirement. The preliminary essay should be no longer than 8,000 words in the body of the text, with an additional 1000 words of philosophical prose permitted in the footnotes. The word-count does not include bibliographical and philological footnotes or block quotations in the text.

In addition to the supervision furnished by the student's preliminary essay committee, further direction and structure is provided through participation in the Preliminary Essay Seminar, which runs for two quarters. Every student enrolled in the PhD program is required to take the Preliminary Essay Seminar for credit during the Spring Quarter of their second year and the Fall Quarter of their third year. The seminar is taught by the Director of Graduate Studies, who offers additional supervision and oversight throughout the entire preliminary essay process, from beginning to end. One of the primary purposes of the Preliminary Essay Seminar is to provide a forum in which students can present their ongoing work on the essay in a seminar-environment, in order to discuss it with their peers and receive additional oral feedback on their work.

From the point of view of the faculty, the aim of the exercise of the preliminary essay is to enable the student to acquire the following two skills before embarking upon a full-scale dissertation: (1) to learn to improve a piece of philosophical prose by subjecting it to many rounds of revision, without in the process permitting it to grow in length, and (2) to learn to work with a committee of faculty advisors whose distinct forms of supervision are to be synthesized and harmonized in that single piece of writing. From the point of view of the student, the exercise of the preliminary essay affords the following two opportunities: (1) to test out a possible dissertation topic, without having immediately to make a costly investment of time and effort in it, and (2) to test out a pair of possible dissertation advisors, without immediately having to commit to these individuals as final choices for members of the student's dissertation committee. If, after completing the preliminary essay, a student wishes to change (one or more of) their faculty advisors or their topic or both, then they are utterly free to do so.

The final draft of the Preliminary Essay must be submitted by the first day of the Winter quarter of the student's third year. Essays submitted late are penalized as follows: A letter grade is reduced by one notch if the essay is submitted after the deadline but before the first day of the sixth week of the Winter quarter (e.g. an 'A' is reduced to an 'A-'). A letter grade is reduced by two notches if the essay is submitted after the first day of the sixth week of the Winter quarter but by the end of Exam Week of the Winter quarter (e.g. an 'A' is reduced to a B+). Essays submitted after the end of the Winter quarter do not count toward satisfaction of the requirement.

Topical Examination

Following the Preliminary Essay, students begin work toward their dissertations. During the Winter and Spring quarters of their third year, they should be meeting with various faculty members to discuss and refine possible dissertation topics, and possible dissertation committees.

By the end of the seventh week of the spring quarter, each student should meet with a prospective committee for an informal "dissertation chat," based on a "dissertation sketch" submitted to those faculty and to the Graduate Program Committee. The character of that sketch will vary from case to case; but, in any case, is not expected to be long or elaborate. Some sketches may be more definitive than others; some may be seriously disjunctive; some students may submit more than one sketch. The point of the sketch and preliminary meetings is to provide some faculty guidance for the more independent research that begins over the summer. After the "dissertation chat" the student should submit to their committee a document that describes the work toward formulating a dissertation project and lays out a plan of research for the summer that will lead to a "Topical Examination" by the beginning of the Winter quarter of their fourth year.

At the beginning of the following fall (fourth year), students will again meet with their advisors (optimally all together), to discuss progress and developments over the summer, and make concrete plans for the Topical Examination (to be held later that quarter, or, if necessary, early in the Winter quarter). Those plans will include:

  • a tentative timetable
  • a determination of the dissertation committee
  • the expected character of the materials to be submitted by the student, on which the Examination will be based.

Though the details will vary (depending on the subject matter, the state of the research, individual work habits, and so on), these materials must include a substantial piece of new written work by the student (something on the order of twenty-five double-spaced pages) -- perhaps a draft of a chapter, an exposition of a central argument, a detailed abstract (or outline) of the whole dissertation, or whatever the committee as a whole agrees upon. (It is expected that students will abide by these agreements; but, if there are unanticipated problems, they may petition their advisors and the DGS, in writing, for a revision).

The Topical Examination is an oral examination administered by the members of a student's dissertation committee with the aim of evaluating the viability of the proposed dissertation project and the student's ability to complete it within a reasonable amount of time. Students will be admitted to candidacy for the Ph.D. only once they have officially passed their Topical Examination.

Note: students must have scheduled their Topical Examination by the end of their fifteenth quarter (normally the end of the fifth year) to remain in the Program. (For students admitted before 2010: students must have scheduled their Topical Examination by the end of their sixth year to remain in the Program.)

Students cannot take their Topical until they have met all other program requirements including passing their foreign language exam or exams. Students must finish their language exams by the end of their fourth year in the program (independently of their status with regard to any other requirements).
The Department's normal expectation is that students will have advanced to candidacy (including passing their Topical Examination and their language examination(s)) by the end of third week of their 11th quarter (normally the Winter quarter of their fourth year). Summer funding at the end of the fourth year is contingent on satisfying this expectation.

The Department requires that each student submit a written progress report on his or her progress by the end of the winter quarter of each year, beginning with his or her fourth year in the program. The report should be submitted to the Director of Graduate Studies and (after the Topical) to the student's dissertation committee. In addition to this report, students who have advanced to candidacy must submit a substantial piece of new writing (25-30 pages in length) to the chair of their dissertation committee. The student will be notified whether or not he or she is making good progress following the annual review meetings in Spring.
It is very much in each student's own interest to be well along with his or her dissertation early in the fifth year, for several related reasons. First, of course, all students are obligated to teach a stand-alone course that year as part of their GAI teaching requirements. This is inevitably time and energy consuming. Second, GAI funding runs out at the end of that year; and some students will not get any more support from the University. And, finally, such sixth-year support as there is from the University is systematically directed to those applicants whose work is not only of the best quality, but also the furthest along (as documented not only by faculty testimonials but also by submitted chapters). Keep in mind also that so-called "dissertation-year fellowships" are awarded competitively on a Division-wide basis, and there are not enough to go around. Though Philosophy students have often done well in this competition, there is no guarantee for the future; and, in any case, not all applications will be successful.
To be sure, supporting oneself without aid, while finishing up a dissertation, is a time-honored academic tradition. But, for most students, the available opportunities are far from deluxe (either inside or outside the University), and it is clearly wise to minimize one's dependence on them, if possible.

NOTE: The Department Coordinator must be informed of the date and time of your Topical Exam, and documentation of the Topical. This is so that department and university can record the exam and admit the student to candidacy.  Students need to email the Department Coordinator the names of the members of the committee, the sample chapter on which the Topical examination is based, and the working title of the dissertation.

Teaching Requirements

The Philosophy Department views the development of teaching competence as an integral part of its overall Ph.D. program and takes various steps to train its doctoral students to become excellent teachers of philosophy. It offers different types of teaching opportunities, which gradually prepare its students to teach their own classes.  These opportunities are enhanced by the department's pedagogical support through individual faculty mentorship and year round discipline-specific pedagogical events offered through its pedagogy program. The first teaching opportunities come in the form of course assistantships. The professor responsible for the course in which a doctoral student serves as an assistant is also responsible for monitoring the doctoral student's teaching progress in that course and preparing a written report of her teaching performance therein. Once a doctoral student has proven herself as a teaching assistant, she is permitted to do stand-alone teaching. In these cases, too, however, the design of the syllabus of the course is developed in consultation with a member of the faculty. Here, too, that faculty member is responsible for further monitoring the doctoral student's teaching progress over the duration of the stand-alone course and preparing a written report of her teaching performance as a solo instructor.

The initial guaranteed funding for five years awarded to students admitted to the program includes a teaching obligation. That obligation standardly takes the form of the student serving four times as an instructor -- usually three times as a course assistant and once as an instructor of a stand-alone course. Normally, students complete one teaching assistantship in their third year, after completion of the Preliminary Essay, and two in their fourth year.  Normally, students give their stand-alone course in the fifth year.  These first four teaching stints are not further compensated: they are a component of the five-year fellowship package. This four-time teaching obligation is a requirement of the Department of Philosophy's Ph.D. program.

These first four teaching opportunities are built into the basic requirements of the Ph.D. program in order to ensure that students in the program acquire a certain minimum degree of teaching competence. However, the Department views the teaching obligation as a bare minimum with regard to teaching preparation. Doctoral students in the program are encouraged to do more teaching in the later years.

The Department's primary responsibility with respect to doctoral students is to support their work toward the doctoral degree. Teaching preparation is a crucial aspect of that responsibility and any additional teaching must be consistent with timely progress toward the doctoral degree.  Accordingly, the policy on teaching beyond the departmental teaching obligation is as follows:

  1. In Years 1 & 2, when doctoral students are expected to satisfy their course and logic requirements as well as to formulate topics, find readers, and begin research toward their Preliminary Essays, doctoral students are not given departmental teaching and will not be permitted to accept extra-departmental teaching.  The students may, however, complete the Training Course for Writing Interns and Lectors offered by the University of Chicago Writing Program before Autumn of Year 3.
  2. In Years 3-5, students may petition the DGS for permission to apply for extra teaching.  If, and only if, the following conditions are met, the Department (normally through the DGS) may petition the Dean of Students in the Humanities  and the Master of the Humanities Collegiate Division to allow the student to apply for extra-departmental teaching:
    1. The student is making exemplary progress toward the degree in Philosophy (that is, the student has met every deadline set in the time to degree expectations and the students' work toward the degree is strong).
    2. There is a sound pedagogic reason to allow the student to seek extra teaching.
  3. Students must make their petitions to the DGS by the second week of the term prior to the term in which they hope for extra-GAI teaching—students must make their petitions by the second week of Spring quarter for extra teaching in Autumn, by the second week of Autumn quarter for extra teaching in Winter, and by the second week in Winter quarter for extra teaching in Spring.  The Department must make its petition to the DOS and Master of the HCD by the end of the third week of the term prior to the term in which students seek extra-GAI teaching.
  4. If the DOS and the HCD approve the Department's petition, and if the students are offered extra teaching appointments, funding for these positions cannot be drawn from the students' fellowship teaching obligation monies.
  5. Extra teaching permissions may be withdrawn if students cease to make exemplary progress toward their degrees.

Petitions to the DOS and Master of the HCD will attest to the students' progress and provide the rationale for allowing these students to seek teaching beyond the departmental teaching obligation.

Students do not need departmental permission to seek extra teaching assignments after their fifth year of residence.

Over the course of a doctoral student's career, that student together with the Department builds a teaching dossier, containing the syllabuses of the courses that she has taught, written reports by faculty teaching mentors on those courses, and last but not least, undergraduate evaluations of those courses. When doctoral students prepare to go on the job market, the Department sees to it that one member of the faculty undertakes the responsibility of writing a teaching letter for the student that documents and surveys the highlights of her teaching career at the University of Chicago.

The Department of Philosophy offers a non-credit and not required Pedagogy Program for PhD students. For more information, click here.

Dissertation and Final Oral Exam

Students must inform their committee members of their intention to schedule a defense during the term PRIOR to the term in which they plan to defend. Committee members will consult concerning whether the dissertation is in sufficiently final form to warrant the fixing of a date for the oral examination. Committee members will normally have seen the bulk of the work of the dissertation before making this judgment. Students should consult with their Dissertation Director and other Committee members about the amount of material they will need to see, the state of completion needed, and the time required for this judgment to be made. When the Dissertation Committee judges that the student is ready to defend, the student must coordinate with the Dissertation Committee and the Department Co-ordinator to settle the date and time for the dissertation.

Students should consult with their Committee concerning a precise deadline for submission of the final draft of the dissertation for the defense. This is normally several weeks to a month before the defense date. Students should be aware that, in practice, in order to graduate in a given quarter, the final draft of the dissertation must be submitted to the Dissertation Committee in the first week or two of that quarter, so that the defense can take place prior to the Library's deadline for submitting the final form of the dissertation, leaving time for any necessary revisions noted during the defense. For information regarding the precise deadline by which your approved dissertation must be submitted in a given quarter for the degree to be granted in that same quarter, please click here. Note also that an exam cannot be scheduled for at least two weeks after the formal request has been submitted.

The defense must take place at the University of Chicago, preferably in the Autumn, Winter, or Spring quarters. Summer defenses are scheduled at the discretion of the student's Dissertation Committee.

The student and at least one member of the Dissertation Committee must be physically present at the defense.

The student should submit, within the timeline notes, to the Department Coordinator:

  • the scheduled date, time, and the members of the committee, and any special room requirements, at least 3 weeks prior, or as soon as the date and time are settled
  • an electronic copy (.doc or .docx) of a 1-2 paragraph abstract, at least 3 weeks prior
  • an electronic copy of a 10-page abstract of the dissertation, at least 2 weeks prior

The final oral exam is a public event. The examining committee consists of the members of the dissertation committee, along with an appointed member of the Humanities Division faculty who serves as a representative of the Dean's Office. Other faculty and graduate students from the Philosophy Department may and generally do attend. Family members of the doctoral candidate and other members of the general public are also welcome.

If a student passes, then it is customary in the final phase of the exam for the members of the student's dissertation committee to request a final round of revisions to the dissertation. The final granting of the degree is conditional upon the completion of these final revisions.  These are to be made promptly after the exam and prior to the formal submission of the PhD document. After the dissertation is submitted, the student is required to provide each member of the dissertation committee with an electronic version of the document in its final form.

Philosophy Courses

PHIL 30000. Elementary Logic. 100 Units.

An introduction to the concepts and principles of symbolic logic. We learn the syntax and semantics of truth-functional and first-order quantificational logic, and apply the resultant conceptual framework to the analysis of valid and invalid arguments, the structure of formal languages, and logical relations among sentences of ordinary discourse. Occasionally we will venture into topics in philosophy of language and philosophical logic, but our primary focus is on acquiring a facility with symbolic logic as such.

Instructor(s): K. Davey     Terms Offered: Autumn
Note(s): Course not for field credit.
Equivalent Course(s): PHIL 20100, CHSS 33500, HIPS 20700

PHIL 30210. Kant's Ethics. 100 Units.

In this course we will read, write, and think about Kant's ethics. After giving careful attention to the arguments in the Second Critique, portions of the Third Critique, the Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals, the Metaphysics of Morals, and several other primary texts, we will conclude by working through some contemporary neo-Kantian moral philosophy, paying close attention to work by Christine Korsgaard, David Velleman, Stephen Engstrom, and others. (A) (V)

Instructor(s): B. Laurence     Terms Offered: Winter
Equivalent Course(s): FNDL 20210, PHIL 20210

PHIL 31002. Human Rights: Philosophical Foundations. 100 Units.

Human rights are claims of justice that hold merely in virtue of our shared humanity. In this course we will explore philosophical theories of this elementary and crucial form of justice. Among topics to be considered are the role that dignity and humanity play in grounding such rights, their relation to political and economic institutions, and the distinction between duties of justice and claims of charity or humanitarian aid. Finally we will consider the application of such theories to concrete, problematic and pressing problems, such as global poverty, torture and genocide. (A) (I)

Instructor(s): B. Laurence     Terms Offered: Spring
Equivalent Course(s): MAPH 42002, HIST 39319, PHIL 21002, LLSO 21002, INRE 31602, HMRT 31002, HMRT 21002, HIST 29319

PHIL 31414. MAPH Core Course: Contemporary Analytic Philosophy. 100 Units.

The goal of this course is to have MAPH students explore the historical origins of analytic philosophy. Beginning with Frege, we will look at the development of analytic philosophy through the work of figures such as Russell, Wittgenstein, looking also at the rise and fall of positivism and the philosophical traditions that emerged afterwards with figures such as Quine, Kripke, Putnam and beyond. At the end of the course, MAPH students should have a more solid understanding of the central issues that have shaped modern American-European analytic philosophy, and some of the important ways in which this tradition diverges from contemporary continental philosophy.

Instructor(s): K. Davey     Terms Offered: Autumn
Prerequisite(s): This course is open only to MAPH students. MAPH students who wish to apply to Ph.D. programs in philosophy are strongly urged to take this course.
Equivalent Course(s): MAPH 31414

PHIL 31900. Feminist Philosophy. 100 Units.

The course is an introduction to the major varieties of philosophical feminism. After studying some key historical texts in the Western tradition (Wollstonecraft, Rousseau, J. S. Mill), we examine four types of contemporary philosophical feminism: Liberal Feminism (Susan Moller Okin, Martha Nussbaum), Radical Feminism (Catharine MacKinnon, Andrea Dworkin), Difference Feminism (Carol Gilligan, Annette Baier, Nel Noddings), and Postmodern "Queer" Gender Theory and trans femism (Judith Butler, Michael Warner and others). After studying each of these approaches, we will focus on political and ethical problems of contemporary international feminism, asking how well each of the approaches addresses these problems. (A)

Instructor(s): M. Nussbaum     Terms Offered: Spring
Prerequisite(s): Undergraduates may enroll only with the permission of the instructor.
Equivalent Course(s): PLSC 51900, GNSE 29600, HMRT 31900, PHIL 21901, RETH 41000

PHIL 49700. Workshop: Preliminary Essay. 100 Units.

The workshop involves discussion of general issues in writing the essay and student presentations of their work. Although students do not register for the Summer quarter, they are expected to make significant progress on their preliminary essay over the summer.

Instructor(s): K. Davey     Terms Offered: Autumn,Spring
Prerequisite(s): All and only philosophy graduate students in the relevant years. A two-quarter (Spring, Autumn) workshop on the preliminary essay required for all doctoral students in the Spring of their second year and the Autumn of their third year.

PHIL 49900. Reading & Research. 100 Units.

Reading and Research.

Instructor(s): Staff     Terms Offered: Autumn,Spring,Winter
Prerequisite(s): Consent of Instructor.

PHIL 50100. First-Year Seminar. 100 Units.

This course meets in Autumn and Winter quarters.

Instructor(s): D. Finkelstein     Terms Offered: Autumn Winter
Prerequisite(s): Enrollment limited to first-year graduate students.

PHIL 51200. Workshop: Law and Philosophy. 50 Units.

The topic for 2018-19 will be "Enlightenment liberalism and its critics," the critics coming from both the left and the right. Enlightenment liberalism was marked by its belief in human freedom and the need for justifications on any infringements of that freedom; by its commitment to individual rights (for example, rights to expression or to property); and by its faith in the rational and self-governing capacities of persons and their basic moral equality. The Workshop will begin in the fall with several classes just for students to discuss foundational readings from liberal thinkers like Locke, Kant and Mill (we may also have some outside speakers taking up Kantian and Millian themes). In the Winter quarter, we will consider critics from the left, notably Marx and Frankfurt School theorists like Herbert Marcuse. In Spring, we will turn to critics from the "right" such as Nietzsche (who rejects the moral equality of persons) and Carl Schmitt. There will be sessions with the students discussing primary texts and then sessions with outside speakers sometimes interpreting the primary texts, sometimes criticizing the critics of liberalism, and sometimes developing their ideas.

Instructor(s): B. Leiter; N. Lipshitz; M. Nussbaum     Terms Offered: Autumn Spring Winter
Prerequisite(s): Open to PhD students in philosophy, and to J.D. students and other graduate students who submit an application to Prof. Leiter detailing their background in philosophy.
Note(s): Students must enroll for all three quarters to receive credit.
Equivalent Course(s): HMRT 51301, PLSC 51512, RETH 51301, GNSE 50101

PHIL 53021. Knowledge of Agency. 100 Units.

The title of this course is ambiguous. It might be thought to refer, either, to the knowledge of which the agent is the object, or, alternatively, to the knowledge of which the agent is the subject. This course will consider how these two forms of knowledge are related to each other. Its guiding conjecture will be that the knowledge of which the agent is the subject is prior in the order of understanding to that of which the agent is the object. After considering Ryle's account of "knowledge-how" and Anscombe's investigation of the reason-requesting question "Why?", we will widen our focus to consider the general tendency of analytic philosophers to theorize human agency in terms of the way that agency is explained, rather than from the standpoint of the agent in the midst of action. This research seminar will presuppose some familiarity with the philosophy of action. (III)

Instructor(s): A. Ford     Terms Offered: Winter

PHIL 55510. Knowing How. 100 Units.

In "Knowing How and Knowing That" (1945) and The Concept of Mind (1951), Gilbert Ryle famously argued for a sharp distinction between practical and propositional knowledge. This distinction was settled philosophical orthodoxy for several decades, but has more recently come under attack, beginning with Jason Stanley and Timothy Williamson's "Knowing How" (2001). Responses to their arguments have spawned a rich literature, from replies by such authors such as Alva Noe, and Ian Rumfitt, to Stanley's full presentation of their view in his book Know How (2011), to further discussions by authors such as Kieran Setiya, Jennifer Hornsby, Carlotta Pavese, Ellen Fridland, Julia Annas, and many others. This course will delve into this literature, beginning with a careful reading of Ryle, and then turning to a discussion of Stanley and Williamson, their allies, their critics, and recent developments. This is a state of the art seminar on a topic of great current scholarly interest. (III)

Instructor(s): M. Kremer     Terms Offered: Spring

PHIL 59950. Workshop: Job Placement. 000 Units.

Course begins in late Spring quarter and continues in the Autumn quarter.

Instructor(s): M. Willer     Terms Offered: Autumn Spring
Prerequisite(s): This workshop is open only to PhD Philosophy graduate students planning to go on the job market in the Autumn of 2018/2019. Approval of dissertation committee is required.

PHIL 70000. Advanced Study: Philosophy. 300.00 Units.

Advanced Study: Philosophy