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This archived information is dated to the 2009-10 academic year only and may no longer be current.

For currently applicable policies and information, see the current Stanford Bulletin.

Doctor of Philosophy in Philosophy

Prospective graduate students should see for information and application materials. Applicants should take the Graduate Record Examination by October of the year the application is submitted.

The University's basic requirements for the Ph.D. degree including residence, dissertation, and examination are discussed in the "Graduate Degrees" section of this bulletin. The requirements detailed here are department requirements.

All courses used to satisfy all requirements must be passed with a letter grade of 'B-' or better (no satisfactory/no credit).

At the end of each year, the department reviews the progress of each student to determine whether the student is making satisfactory progress, and on that basis to make decisions about probationary status and termination from the program where appropriate.

Any student in one of the Ph.D. programs may apply for the M.A. when all University and department requirements have been met.


  1. Course requirements—To be completed during the first two years:
    1. four core graduate courses: philosophy of language (381); philosophy of mind, metaphysics, and epistemology (380); value theory (370); and philosophy of science (360)
    2. three of the four items listed below:
      1. three history courses, each consisting of an approved graduate-level course in the history of philosophy. Courses satisfying this seven-out-of-eight requirement must include at least one history course in ancient philosophy, one in modern.
      2. PHIL 151 (formerly 160A)
    3. PHIL 150 (formerly 159) or the equivalent
    4. A total of at least 49 units of course work in the Department of Philosophy numbered above 110, but not including Teaching Methods (PHIL 239) or affiliated courses. Units of Individual Directed Reading (PHIL 240) may be included only with the approval of the Director of Graduate Study.
  2. Teaching Assistance—A minimum of five quarters of teaching assistance, usually during the second and third years. As part of the training for being a teaching assistant, Ph.D. students are required to take PHIL 239 during Spring Quarter of their first year and during Autumn Quarter of their second year.
  3. Candidacy—To continue in the Ph.D. program, each student must be approved for candidacy during the sixth academic quarter, normally the Spring Quarter of the student's second year. Students may be approved for candidacy on a conditional basis if they have only one or two outstanding deficiencies, but are not officially advanced to candidacy until these deficiencies have been removed. Approval for candidacy indicates that, in the department's judgment, the student can complete the Ph.D. In reaching this judgment, the department considers the overall quality of the student's work during the first six quarters and the student's success in fulfilling course requirements.
  4. During the third year of graduate study, and after advancement to candidacy, a Ph.D. student should complete at least three graduate-level courses/seminars, at least two of which must be in philosophy. Courses required for candidacy are not counted toward satisfaction of this requirement. Choice of courses/seminars outside philosophy is determined in consultation with a student's adviser. Except in special circumstances, one, but no more than one, of these courses/seminars may be taken for reduced units, if that option is provided by the faculty teaching that course/seminar.
  5. During the summer of their second year, students are required to attend a dissertation development seminar given by the department.
  6. Dissertation work and defense: the third and fourth, and sometimes fifth, years are devoted to dissertation work. Students should make every effort to conform to the following deadlines.
    1. Dissertation Proposal—By Spring Quarter of the third year, students select a dissertation topic, a reading committee, and some possible thesis relative to that topic. The topic and thesis should be sketched in a proposal of three to five pages, plus a detailed, annotated bibliography indicating familiarity with the relevant literature. Individual faculty on the committee may impose further requirements on the proposal. The proposal should be approved by the reading committee before the meeting on graduate student progress late in Spring Quarter.
    2. Departmental Oral—During Autumn Quarter of the fourth year, students take an oral examination, called the "departmental oral," based on at least 30 pages of written work, in addition to the proposal. The aim of the exam is to help the student arrive at an acceptable plan for the dissertation and to make sure that the student, thesis, topic, and adviser make a reasonable fit.
    3. Fourth-Year Colloquium—No later than Spring Quarter of the fourth year, students present a research paper in a seminar open to the entire department. This paper should be on an aspect of the student's dissertation research.
    4. University Oral Exam—Ph.D. students must submit a completed draft of the dissertation to the reading committee at least one month before the student expects to defend the thesis in the University oral exam. If the student is given permission to go forward, the University orals take place approximately two weeks later. A portion of the exam consists of a student presentation based on the dissertation and is open to the public. A closed question period follows. If the draft is ready by Autumn Quarter of the fourth year, the student can request that the University oral count as the department oral.


The department recognizes that some students may need to spend a large amount of time preparing themselves in some other discipline related to their philosophical goals, or in advanced preparation in some area within philosophy. In such circumstances, the department may be willing to waive some of the Ph.D. requirements. Such an exemption is not automatic; a program must be worked out with an adviser and submitted to the department some time in the student's first year. This proposal must be in writing and must include:

  1. The areas to be exempted (see below).
  2. A program of additional courses and seminars in the special area, usually at least 12 units.
  3. A justification of the program that considers both intellectual coherence and the student's goals.

The department believes there is plenty of room for normal specialization within the program as it stands, and that all students specialize to some extent. Thus, the intent is not to exempt courses on a one-to-one basis, but only to grant exemptions when a student plans an extensive and intensive study of some relevant area.

Special program students may be exempted from the following:

  1. One additional item from the items listed above in Proficiency requirement 1(a) in the general Ph.D. program
  2. PHIL 150 (formerly 159); but in this case, a student must take PHIL 50 (formerly 57)

If a student's special program involves substantial course work outside of philosophy, the student may, with the approval of the adviser, petition the department to reduce requirement l(d), the Philosophy unit requirement for the first two years. Normally this requirement is not reduced below 32 units.



The program participates in the Graduate Program in Humanities† leading to a Ph.D. degree in Philosophy and Humanities. At this time, the option is available only to students already enrolled in the Graduate Program in Humanities. Although the Graduate Program in Humanities is not currently accepting new students, it continues to provide advising for students already enrolled as well as courses, open to all students. The University remains committed to a broad-based graduate education in the humanities, the courses, colloquium, and symposium will continue to be offered,and a successor program is under discussion by the faculty of the Division of Literatures, Cultures, and Languages. Courses for students already enrolled in the program are listed under the subject code HUMNTIES and may be viewed on the Stanford Bulletin's ExploreCourses web site.


Philosophy participates with the departments of Computer Science, Linguistics, and Psychology in an interdisciplinary program in Cognitive Science. It is intended to provide an interdisciplinary education, as well as a deeper concentration in philosophy, and is open to doctoral students. Students who complete the requirements within Philosophy and the Cognitive Science requirements receive a special designation in Cognitive Science along with the Ph.D. in Philosophy. To receive this field designation, students must complete 30 units of approved courses, 18 of which must be taken in two disciplines outside of philosophy. The list of approved courses can be obtained from the Cognitive Science program located in the Department of Psychology.


Students interested in interdisciplinary work relating philosophy to artificial intelligence, cognitive science, computer science, linguistics, or logic may pursue a degree in this program.

Prerequisites—Admitted students should have covered the equivalent of the core of the undergraduate Symbolic Systems Program requirements as described in that section of this bulletin (Symbolic Systems), including courses in artificial intelligence (AI), cognitive science, linguistics, logic, and philosophy. The graduate program is designed with this background in mind. Students missing part of this background may need additional course work. Aside from the required course work below, the Ph.D. requirements are the same as for the regular program.

Courses of Study—The program consists of two years of courses and two years of dissertation work. Students are required to take the following courses in the first two years:

  1. Six philosophy courses:
    1. two of the following: 360, 370, 380, 381
    2. one course in the history of modern philosophy
    3. two quarters of graduate logic courses from among 350A, 351A, 352A, 353A
    4. at least one additional seminar in the general area of symbolic systems: such as, 354, 358
  2. Five cognitive science and computer science courses:
    1. at least two courses in cognitive psychology
    2. two or three graduate courses in computer science, at least one in AI and one in theory
  3. Three linguistics and computational linguistics courses:
    1. graduate courses on natural language that focus on two of the following areas: phonetics and phonology, syntax, semantics, or pragmatics
    2. one graduate course in computational linguistics, typically LINGUIST 239
  4. At least two additional graduate seminars at a more advanced level, in the general area of the program, independent of department. These would typically be in the area of the student's proposed dissertation project.

The requirements for the third year are the same as for other third-year graduate students in philosophy: a dissertation proposal, creation of a dissertation committee, and at least three approved graduate courses and seminars. The dissertation committee must include at least one member of the Department of Philosophy and one member of the Program in Symbolic Systems outside the Department of Philosophy.

The requirement for the fourth year is the same as for the other graduate students in philosophy: a department oral on an initial draft of part of the dissertation, a fourth year colloquium, and a University oral exam when the dissertation is essentially complete.


This program is jointly administered by the Departments of Classics and Philosophy and is overseen by a joint committee composed of members of both departments. It provides students with the training, specialist skills, and knowledge needed for research and teaching in ancient philosophy while producing scholars who are fully trained as either philosophers with a strong specialization in ancient languages and philology, or classicists with a concentration in philosophy.

Students are admitted to the program by either department. Graduate students admitted by the Philosophy department receive their Ph.D. from the Philosophy department; those admitted by the Classics department receive their Ph.D. from the Classics department. For Philosophy graduate students, this program provides training in classical languages, literature, culture, and history. For Classics graduate students, this program provides training in the history of philosophy and in contemporary philosophy.

Each student in the program is advised by a committee consisting of one professor in each department.

Requirements for Philosophy Graduate Students—These are the same as the proficiency requirements for the Ph.D. in Philosophy with the following exception: if the student has already taken two courses in modern philosophy, there is no need to take a course in modern philosophy to satisfy proficiency requirement 1.b.1.

One year of Greek is a requirement for admission to the program. If students have had a year of Latin, they are required to take 3 courses in second- or third-year Greek or Latin, at least one of which must be in Latin. If they have not had a year of Latin, they are then required to complete a year of Latin, and take two courses in second- or third-year Greek or Latin.

Students are also required to take at least three courses in ancient philosophy at the 200 level or above, one of which must be in the Classics department and two of which must be in the Philosophy department.


See the description in the "History and Philosophy of Science and Technology" section of this bulletin.

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