Philosophy Program Description


Student Body, Facilities, Combined Programs, Mentoring and Advising, Admissions, and Financial Aid.


A. Course Work 

B. Teaching 

C. Logic Requirement

D. Skills 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 within other disciplines.

Student Body

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


In addition to the 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 for graduate students and faculty and a seminar/study room for graduate students.

Combined Programs

The department has two combined PhD programs, one with classics and one with psychology. Students wishing to pursue a combined program should refer to the descriptions of these programs at Classics and Philosophy Combined PhD Program and Philosophy and Psychology Combined PhD program.

Mentoring and Advising

The Director of Graduate Studies serves as official advisor to all graduate students. In addition, students in the first two years have a faculty mentor, and later a dissertation committee.

Incoming graduate students are assigned a faculty mentor. The faculty mentor meets with the student at the beginning of each semester to discuss course selection, and at other times as requested. At the end of the fourth semester, the faculty mentor meets with the student to give recommendations about which of the term papers might be turned into qualifying papers.

At the beginning of the fifth semester graduate students choose a dissertation committee. The committee normally consists of a main advisor and two readers. The composition of the committee can be changed any time before the dissertation defense. Main advisors are expected to meet with their advisees regularly and at least once every month. Every year at the end of the spring semester the entire dissertation committee meets with the graduate student.

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


The department considers applications by all qualified applicants who will 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 six years of full support – tuition, plus stipend, plus health care. One year of support is a dissertation fellowship available to every graduate student in good standing; it may be taken in either the 5th or the 6th year. The others are two non-teaching fellowship years, which must be taken in the first and second years, and three teaching fellowship years. In past years, the stipends have increased every year for both incoming and current students.

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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. Course Work

A total of 12 term courses 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 into (1) metaphysics, theory of knowledge, philosophy of mind, philosophy of language, philosophy of science; (2) ethics, aesthetics, philosophy of religion, political philosophy, philosophy of law, and theory of value; (3) history of philosophy. No more than six of the twelve and no fewer than two courses may be taken in each group. At least one of the twelve courses taken must be logic (unless the logic requirement is satisfied in some other way) and this course does not count towards the required minimum of two within any of the three categories.

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 a primary or secondary appointment in philosophy; the requirement in such a course is to make progress in satisfying the 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 possible 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 Director of Graduate Studies may recommend waiving a maximum of three courses of the requirement (including logic). Graduate students must take at least one class in each of the three categories listed in the Yale Philosophy department. Credit for course work done elsewhere does not reduce the tuition or residency requirement of the Graduate School. Whether a waiver is granted is ultimately be decided by 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

At least one of the twelve courses taken must be in logic or, with permission, other formal methods, and this course does not count towards the required minimum of two within any of the three categories. All graduate students may fulfill this requirement by taking a graduate-level course in logic (e.g. PHIL 567, PHIL 627). When a student’s research involves a different formal method (e.g. probability theory, game theory, statistics), the student can petition the DGS for permission to fulfill the requirement by taking a course in this other method.

D. Skills Requirement

Before the dissertation defense students must take at least one class that is not listed in Philosophy on a subject that is relevant to their research. The class should be selected in consultation with the committee and must be approved by the Director of Graduate Studies. This requirement cannot be waved for work done before starting the PhD program.

E. Qualifying Papers

Two qualifying papers written in English must be submitted, one in history, the other in another distribution area.  One qualifying paper would normally be submitted at the end of the fourth semester, the other at the beginning of the fifth semester. 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 warranted, failed papers may be returned for possible revision, in light of the readers’ comments.

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F. Prospectus

At the end of the fourth semester graduate students should find a faculty member who will work with them in the fifth semester to help identify a thesis topic and work toward preparing a dissertation prospectus. Normally the format of the preparation is a tutorial that covers material that is essential for the prospectus. The tutorial must result in some form of written work which will be shared with the prospective dissertation committee.

At the beginning of the sixth term the committee meets to discuss the written work prepared during the prospectus tutorial. At some point during the sixth semester, a student must submit a dissertation prospectus to his/her dissertation committee. An oral examination of the prospectus will be arranged by the student in consultation with the dissertation committee and the Director of Graduate Studies. If the prospectus needs to be revised, the revised version, approved by the dissertation committee, is submitted to the Director of Graduate Studies.

The prospectus should take the form of a clear statement concerning the central subject of the dissertation, the specific problems or issues to be addressed and their importance, the approach the dissertation 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 dissertation, is to focus as clearly as possible, for both student and dissertation 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 indicate 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, the (possibly changed) dissertation committee may request a new prospectus.

It is expected that the prospectus will be approved by the end of the student’s third year. 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.

H. Dissertation


Candidates should expect to complete their dissertations within 6 years of entering the program.


Candidates should expect to complete their dissertations within 6 years of entering the program.


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 committee. (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 pre-dissertation 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.

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