Philosophy Program Description


Student Body, Facilities, Advising and Mentoring, Meetings, Admissions, and Financial Aid. 


A. Course Work 

B. Teaching 

C. Logic Requirement

D. Language Requirement 

E. Qualifying Papers 

F. Prospectus  

G. Admission to Candidacy

H. Dissertation 

I. M.A., M.Phil. Degrees


The department aims, first, at developing the philosophical capacities and interests of each student, and, second, at offering a diverse program of instruction dealing with philosophers and philosophical issues both historically and in terms of the logic of arguments. Attention is also given to the bearing of philosophical ideas on other disciplines.

Student Body

During 2016-17 academic year, 32 students are in residence.  Of the 32 PhD students 19 are in the process of coursework and being admitted to candidacy.  13 students have been admitted to candidacy are are working on their dissertations.


In addition to the strong holdings of Sterling Memorial Library, there is one room devoted solely to philosophy books and journals.  

Among the offices in Connecticut Hall there is a departmental lounge and a seminar/study room for graduate students and faculty.

Advising and Mentoring

The Director of Graduate Studies serves as official advisor to all graduate students.

During the registration period of each semester, students should consult with the Director of Graduate Studies to plan their courses and/or discuss their programs. All schedules for first and second year students must be approved by the Director of Graduate Studies.

A faculty member will be assigned for each student as a mentor.  The mentor does not have to be in an area in which the student is especially interested.  He/She is responsible for checking on the student’s progress, especially, writing qualifying papers, and for keeping the Director of Graduate Studies informed about any problems, until the student and the Director of Graduate Studies has chosen a dissertation advisor.


Once a semester there is a general meeting with students, the Chair, and the Director of Graduate Studies.  We welcome input from the students for the agenda.


The department considers applications by all qualified applicants who have completed undergraduate training before matriculation. Admission is not restricted to students who have concentrated on philosophy. No particular language background is required. All evidence of analytical and conceptual skill is relevant and weighed. The Graduate Record Examination Aptitude Test and a writing sample of approximately 15-25 pages are required.

Financial Aid

Students are normally given at least five years of full support – tuition, plus stipend, plus health care – in the form of non-teaching fellowships for the first two years and the fifth (or sixth) year, and teaching fellowships for the third and fourth year.  In past years, the stipends have increased every year for both incoming and current students. This great mix of teaching and non-teaching fellowships allows students to get the teaching experience they need to prepare them for teaching careers, while also providing for much time where the student is not teaching, and so can devote himself/herself more completely to his/her own research.

Top of the Page


Sections A-I specify requirements for the PhD degree. Section I contains requirements for the M.A. and M.Phil. degrees.

A. Course Work

A total of 12 term courses, including a course in logic, must be completed in two years.   The First Year Seminar, Philosophy 705a, must be taken by all students in their first year.  Graduate courses are grouped (1) metaphysics, theory of knowledge, philosophy of science; (2) ethics, aesthetics, philosophy of religion, political philosophy, and theory of value; (3) history of philosophy. No more than six and no fewer than two courses may be taken in each group.

From time to time a graduate student may want to take an intermediate undergraduate course when there is no available graduate-level alternative. Approval by the instructor of the course is required. Normally this will involve additional work.

Every graduate student in residence in the philosophy Ph.D. program who has not been advanced to candidacy must be enrolled in at least one course in each semester of residence. When the 12-course requirement has been met, the student must be enrolled in a reading course with a faculty member holding primary or secondary appointment in philosophy; the requirement in such a course is to make progress in satisfying degree requirements.

We have a work-in-progress seminar where students present their work-in-progress (for qualifying papers, chapters of the thesis, or other publications) and discuss other students’ work.  We strongly encourage those who are advanced to candidacy to take the seminar.

If a student wants to take a course outside the department for credit towards the degree, he/she will need the permission of the Director of Graduate Studies.


The Graduate School requires that a student have at least two “Honors” grades in the total record. The department requires that these two grades be in courses given by two different instructors and not in tutorials.

Due Dates for Course Work

Course work should be completed by the end of the semester. The department and the graduate school due date for fall-term grades is January 2nd, and for spring-term grades, June 1st.

Instructors have the responsibility for assigning dates for submission of course work to meet these grade deadlines. If a student and instructor have agreed that an extension is appropriate, the student must submit a request for the Temporary Incomplete (TI) with the intended completion date, signed by the instructor and the director of graduate studies. The instructor will indicate the mark of TI on the grade sheet, which is to be submitted to the Office of the Registrar by the appropriate grade submission deadline. Only one TI for courses taken in a single term is permitted.  If papers are not submitted by September 1 of the following academic year, a TI will be converted to a permanent Incomplete (I) on the student’s record.

Credit for Course Work Done Elsewhere

In recognition of previous graduate-level work done at Yale or elsewhere, the department may waive a portion of the course requirement.   To petition for course credit, a student must have completed the first year of courses.  It is customary that we do not give more than a semester of course credit for work done elsewhere.  Credit for course work done elsewhere does not reduce the tuition or residency requirement of the Graduate School.

B. Teaching

Every student is required to have teaching experience in at least two different areas. The areas are to be understood as noted above under “Course Work,” except that logic is considered a fourth area. Teaching assistantships will be determined by the Teaching Fellow Committee consisting of the Chair, the Director of Graduate Studies, the Director of Undergraduate Studies and a graduate student member of the Committee, in consultation with the instructor, whose preferences are given great weight in the deliberation. Students are not eligible for assistantships unless they are in good standing and are proceeding satisfactorily towards the degree. Most students have assistantships in their third and fourth years. Teaching assistantships are part of the fellowship package, thus fellowship holders will have first claim to TA openings. TA appointments must be approved by the Graduate School and by Yale College.

C. Logic Requirement

The logic requirement is to be fulfilled by suitable course work. In content, the work must minimally include propositional and predicate logic and discussions of some standard metalogical notions, e.g. consistency, completeness, as well as topics in philosophy of logic. When there is evidence that comparable work has been done elsewhere, a student may petition for a waiver. Philosophy 567 and 627 meet the requirement.

D. Language Requirement

In most cases students must satisfy a language requirement in either French, German, Greek, or Latin, or in some other foreign language, if it can be shown that this other language will be important to the student’s philosophical work. This requirement can be met (a) by passing French 110a, and 120b, German 110a and 120b, Greek 110a and 120b, or Latin 110a and 120b with a grade of at least a B; (b) by passing equivalent authorized courses with a grade of at least a B; or (c) by passing a language/translation exam at the appropriate level.

Where appropriate and with the agreement of their Advisor and the Director of Graduate Studies, a student may replace satisfaction of the language requirement with an authorized equivalent course of study devoted to the acquisition of extra-philosophical research tools needed for their intended program of research. (For example, a student working in Philosophy of Language might complete courses in the Linguistics department; a student working in Philosophy of Mind might complete courses in Psychology.)  Students intending to pursue this research tools option should consult their Advisor and/or other Faculty Members working in the relevant area, along with the Director of Graduate Studies, early in their graduate careers before embarking on the alternative course of study.

Students must read the original language of any literature that constitutes a large part of the subject of their dissertation: this is the case for both primary and secondary literature.   In such cases, students will need to develop a deeper mastery of a foreign language than is needed to satisfy the general requirement and may need a reading knowledge of more than one foreign language.  Early in their graduate careers, students who will or might specialize in such an area of philosophy should consult with the faculty members in the department who work in the area the student is contemplating, or with the Director of Graduate Studies, about what knowledge of foreign languages will be required to do research in that area and agree upon an appropriate course of study, through classes and independent study, to acquire and demonstrate such knowledge.

Classics and Philosophy

Students wishing to pursue graduate study in ancient Greek and Roman philosophy should refer to the Classics and Philosophy Program  page for more information about the combined Ph.D. program offered with the Department of Classics. Application to the Classics and Philosophy Program should be made at the time of application for admission. Admission to the Classics and Philosophy Program is sufficient for entry to the general Philosophy PhD program, but not vice versa.

E. Qualifying Papers

 Qualifying Papers are expected to demonstrate the writer’s capacity for intellectually responsible work in philosophy. A Qualifying Paper should make plain the philosophical motivation for its choice of topic; it should discuss the topic more fully then is expected in a piece of course-work; it should be addressed to an “ideal reader” rather than any particular professor. The ideal reader is not someone with preconceptions about your chosen subject, but is someone who cannot be relied on to know, through personal acquaintance with you, that you “really know” or “really understand” moves, concepts, assumptions etc. which you use but don’t make clear in your paper. In this sense, a Qualifying Paper should be “self-sufficient”. Ideal readers (unlike actual readers of Qualifying Paper’s) are not a captive audience. They go on reading a paper if and only if it commands their attention as a convincing philosophical performance in its own right. (‘Convincing’ implies that the writer is in control, consequently that the paper is organized; it doesn’t imply that the reader will end up agreeing. ‘In its own right’ does not imply that the ideas are original in the sense of never having appeared before; it does imply that the paper visibly expresses the author’s own working through of the thoughts put forward, whatever their ultimate source.)

Two qualifying papers written in English must be submitted, one in history, the other in another distribution area.  The first should be submitted by the second Monday of the Fall semester of a student’s third year; the second by the first Monday in December, the same year.  These papers, which should be no longer than 30 pages or 9000 words long, usually originate in course work done during the first two years; but the reworked papers should be more substantial and professional than an ordinary term paper.  At the end of the term, the instructor will give a written indication whether the paper is suitable as a qualifying paper.  Students should consult with the original instructor about how to improve their papers.  

Each paper must be graded either as Pass or Fail by two faculty members other than the person for whom the paper was originally written.   If one of the readers finds a paper unsatisfactory, it is assigned to a third reader. If warranted, failed papers may be returned for possible revision, in light of the readers’ comments.

Top of the Page

F. Prospectus

When the other pre-dissertation requirements have been satisfied, a student must submit to the Director of Graduate Studies a dissertation prospectus, written in consultation with his/her advisor. An oral examination of the prospectus will be arranged by the Director of Graduate Studies. The examining committee consists of the advisor and two examiners selected by the Director of Graduate Studies. If the prospectus needs to be revised, the revised version, approved by the examining committee, is submitted to the Director of Graduate Studies.

The prospectus should take the form of a clear statement concerning the basic subject of the dissertation, the specific problems or issues to be addressed and their importance, the approach the thesis intends to take, and the literature or other materials to be used.  The function of the prospectus, not being the outline or the summary of the thesis, is to focus as clearly as possible, for both student and examining committee, on the content and scope of the research he or she plans to carry out. In preparing a prospectus, students are encouraged to keep in mind that it will serve as a guide to the committee in deciding (1) whether the topic is manageable within the prescribed limits; (2) whether the necessary materials are available; and (3) whether any specific background, such as some knowledge of another field, foreign language, etc., is required for the successful completion of the project.

Prospectuses will obviously vary, depending on the topic, but the final version should be between 15 and 20 pages (i.e. 4,500 – 6,000 words), without the bibliography.  In addition to this, an advisor may require the following: an essay that should demonstrate the ability to put forth his/her own arguments on the issue.  Even though it does not have to be conclusive, the student should show some of the main arguments of the thesis.  In this case, it can be more or less a chapter of the thesis. 

Final approval of the prospectus by the committee may be understood as a kind of contract committing the student to the pursuit of the specified topic and the department to the acceptance of that topic (not the dissertation!) as a legitimate area of inquiry. Since all research is an open-ended affair, it is understood that should a dissertation develop along lines that differ significantly from the original prospectus, a revised prospectus will be filed.

It is expected that the prospectus will be approved by the end of the student’s third year. Students must seek an advisor ahead of time and prepare at least a preliminary draft for the advisor’s consideration. The Graduate School requires that the prospectus be approved not less than six months before the student intends to submit the dissertation. 

G. Admission To Candidacy

A student is admitted to candidacy after successful completion of all pre-dissertation requirements including approval of the prospectus. In order to register for a seventh term, a student must have been admitted to candidacy.  Beginning the semester after the prospectus exam, the prospectus committee checks in on the candidate and the advisor sends a dissertation progress report to the Director of Graduate Studies every semester.

H. Dissertation


Candidates should expect to complete their dissertations within 6 years of entering the program. In order to facilitate work on the dissertation, Yale has instituted dissertation fellowships. A dissertation fellowship is available to every graduate student in good standing; it may be taken in either the 5th or the 6th year.


A student must have an official advisor to be chosen from the department’s faculty. Any exception will have to be approved by the Director of Graduate Studies.


It is recommended that the dissertation not exceed 75,000 words.

No dissertation should be bound or submitted to the Graduate School until a PDF copy has been seen by the dissertation advisor. The dissertation will be made available to the committee of readers after it has been submitted to the Graduate School. (See Submission Procedures for Dissertation available from the Graduate School Registrar’s Office. This document also includes format instructions for dissertations). An oral defense of the thesis is required.

I. M.A., M.Phil. Degrees

M.A. The M.A. is awarded to students in the Ph.D. program after completion of seven term courses with an average grade of High Pass.

M.Phil. Upon completion of all predissertation requirements, including the prospectus, students are admitted to candidacy for the Ph.D. program, which must take place by the end of the third year of study.  After they are admitted to candidacy students will be awarded a M.Phil.

Top of the page