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This archived information is dated to the 2011-12 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.

Courses used to satisfy any course requirement in Philosophy must be passed with a letter grade of 'B-' or better (no satisfactory/no credit), except in the case of a course/seminar used to satisfy the third-year course/seminar requirement and taken for only 2 units. Such a reduced-unit third-year course/seminar must be taken credit/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. First-year Ph.D. Proseminar—A one quarter, topically focused seminar offered in Autumn Quarter, and required of all first-year students.
  2. Distribution requirements during the first six quarters—
    1. six courses distributed across three areas as follows:
      1. two courses in value theory including ethics, aesthetics, political philosophy, social philosophy, philosophy of law. At least one of the courses satisfying this distribution requirement must be in ethics or political philosophy.
      2. Two courses in language, mind, and action. One course satisfying this requirement must be drawn from the language related courses, and one from mind and action related courses.
      3. two courses in metaphysics and epistemology (including metaphysics, epistemology, philosophy of science). At least one of the courses satisfying this requirement must be drawn from either metaphysics or epistemology.
      • Instructors indicate which courses may satisfy particular requirements. If a course potentially satisfies more than one requirement the student may use it for only one of those area requirements; no units may be double-counted. Students must develop broad competencies in all these areas. Those without strong backgrounds in these areas would normally satisfy these distribution requirements by taking more basic courses rather than highly specialized and focused courses. Students should consult with their adviser in making these course decisions, and be prepared to explain these decisions when reviewed for candidacy; see requirement 6 below.
    2. Logic requirement: PHIL 150 or equivalent.
    3. History/logic requirement. Three of the four courses listed below.
      1. Three approved history courses
      2. PHIL 151
      • To satisfy this history/logic requirement it is necessary to take at least one course in ancient philosophy and one course in the history of modern philosophy.
    4. Students should normally take at least 64 graduate level units at Stanford during their first six quarters (in many cases students would take more units than that) and of those total units, at least 49 units of course work are to be in the Philosophy department. These courses must be numbered above 110, but not including Teaching Methods (PHIL 239) or affiliated courses. Units of Individual Directed Reading are normally not to be counted toward this 49-unit requirement unless there is consent from the student's adviser and the Director of Graduate Study.
  3. Writing requirement—A qualifying paper of professional quality and approximately 8000 words. Students must complete a version of the paper, which is itself likely to be a revision of a paper written during the first year of course work, by the beginning of their fourth quarter. The paper is read by a committee of two faculty who make suggestions for additional revision. The final version must be submitted by the first day of the sixth quarter, normally Spring Quarter of the second year.
  4. Teaching Assistancy—A minimum of five quarters of teaching assistancy are required for the Ph.D.†Normally one of these quarters is as a teaching assistant for the Philosophy Department's Writing in the Major course, PHIL 80. It is expected that students not teach in their first year and that they teach no more than two quarters in their second year. Students are required to take PHIL 239 during Spring Quarter of their first year and during Autumn Quarter of their second year.
  5. Review at the End of the Second Year for Advancement to Candidacy—By the fourth week of the sixth quarter students must submit a one-page explanation of their first- and second-year course plan and their writing requirement paper. The faculty's review of each student includes a review of the student's record, an assessment of the qualifying paper, and an assessment of the student's preparation for work in her/his intended area of specialization, as well as recommendations of additional preparation, if necessary.
  6. 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 and writing requirements.
  7. During the Summer Quarter of the second year, students are required to attend a dissertation development seminar given by the department.
  8. During the third year of graduate study, and after advancement to candidacy, a Ph.D. student must complete at least three graduate-level courses and/or seminars, at least two of which must be in Philosophy. Courses required for candidacy are not counted toward satisfaction of this requirement. Courses and/or seminars outside Philosophy are determined in consultation with a student's adviser. Except in special circumstances, one of these courses and/or seminars may be taken for reduced units if that option is provided by the faculty teaching the course or seminar. Courses used to satisfy these requirements must be passed with a letter grade of 'B-' or better, except in the case of a course or seminar used to satisfy the third-year course and/or seminar requirement and taken for only 2 units. Such a reduced-unit third-year course or seminar must be taken credit/no credit.
  9. Dissertation Work and Defense—The third and fourth, and normally 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 choose a dissertation topic, a reading committee, and a possible thesis relative to that topic. The topic and thesis should be sketched in a proposal of 3-5 pages, along with a detailed, annotated bibliography demonstrating 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 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 consent to go forward, the University oral 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 may request that the University oral count as the department oral.


The department supports interdisciplinary study. Courses in Stanford's other departments and programs may be counted towards the degree, and course requirements in Philosophy are designed to allow students considerable freedom in taking such courses. Dissertation committees may include members from other departments.†Where special needs arise, the department is committed to making it possible for students to obtain a philosophical education and to meet their interdisciplinary goals. Students are advised to consult their advisers and the department's student services office for assistance.



The department participated 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; no new students are being accepted. The University remains†committed to a broad-based graduate education in the humanities; the†courses, colloquium, and symposium continue to be offered, and the Division†of Literatures, Cultures, and Languages provides advising for students†already enrolled who may contact DLCL Student Affairs at 650-724-1333 or for further information. Courses 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 the "Symbolic Systems" section of this bulletin, 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, with the exception that one course in value theory and one course in history may be omitted.

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

  1. Philosophy courses:
    1. at least three graduate seminars in the general area of symbolic systems other than logic, such as philosophy of mind and philosophy of language.
    2. two quarters of graduate logic courses from among 350A, 351A, 352A, 353A
  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 288
  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 and subsequent years are the same as for other third-year graduate students in philosophy: 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.


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 2.c.

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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