Philosophy Program Description


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


A. Course Work 

B. Teaching 

C. Formal Methods

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

There are approximately 35  students in the PhD degree program every year.  Students in years 1-3 are doing coursework and preparing to be admitted to candidacy. Students in year 4+ 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.  

In the philosophy department building, we have TF offices, graduate students study room, and the department lounge.

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. 


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.  A writing sample of approximately 15-25 pages is 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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A. Course Work

A total of 12 term courses must be completed in two years (except a work-in-progress seminar which may be during a third year).  The 12 courses must include the First Year Seminar (Phil 705) and a Formal Method course.   Graduate courses are grouped into

(1)   metaphysics, theory of knowledge, philosophy of mind, philosophy of language, philosophy of science, philosophy of logic, philosophy of mathematics

(2)   ethics, aesthetics, philosophy of religion, political philosophy, philosophy of law, 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. Neither the First Year Seminar nor a Formal Method course counts towards the required minimum of two within any of the three categories.  All of these 12 courses should be letter-graded.

When submitting their teaching preferences to the Curriculum Committee, instructors of 500-700 level classes declare what course work requirement the proposed class could satisfy. Instructors convey this information to graduate students before the students sign up for these courses. If a course can satisfy multiple requirements students indicate to the instructor which one they intend to satisfy. The course work is evaluated accordingly and the information whether the instructor considers the work as fulfilling the requirement is conveyed to the DGS. (Students are advised to consult with the instructor as to how best to frame their paper(s) in view of the requirement they intend to fulfill.) Students can request subsequent reclassification of the course; the decision will be based on re-assessment of the written work by the instructor and the DGS.

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.

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.  This seminar is letter-graded. 

If a student wants to take a graduate course not cross-listed in philosophy to count toward fulfillment of the course requirements, the student will need the permission of the Director of Graduate Studies.

Co-authored seminar papers are permitted at the discretion and prior approval of the relevant Instructor. Full disclosure to all co-authors of the use of shared work for evaluation is required.

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 usually enrolls for the course “CAND 999.”


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 completed after receipt of the bachelor’s or bachelor’s-equivalent degree at Yale or elsewhere, the Director of Graduate Studies may recommend waiving a maximum of two courses of the requirement (including a formal method course).  This request must be made by the end of the first year at Yale. 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 decided by the Graduate School. The course waiver must be requested before the student is registered for their second year of classes.


A student may take tutorials with faculty affiliated with the Philosophy Department and count towards the 12 course requirements.  These tutorials should be letter-graded and the maximum number of tutorials which fulfill a course requirement is two.

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 TF openings. TF appointments must be approved by the Graduate School and by Yale College.

C. Formal Methods 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, and is not part of the regular 12 course requirement.  The skills requirement cannot be fulfilled earlier than the fifth semester.

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. By the end of the fifth semester both qualifying papers should be deemed to have fulfilled the requirement. Two qualifying papers should be submitted before the prospectus. Qualifying papers should be no more than 30 pages or 9000 words long. They 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, instructors will give a written indication whether in their judgment the term paper is suitable for development into a qualifying paper.  

In special circumstances, at the discretion of the DGS, one co-authored Qualifying Paper may be permitted. Such permission will be granted only when the student can show how their proposed pair of Qualifying Papers speaks to the general program requirement to demonstrate across the pair of papers qualifying-level work by the candidate in both historical and systematic philosophical work.

The process of evaluation for qualifying papers is as follows:

  1. At least ten weeks prior to the submission due date, each student submits to the Director of Graduate Studies a paper they hope to develop as a qualifying paper. They also identify a faculty member they wish to see as a reader. If the submitted paper is a term paper students are encouraged (but not required) to pick as reader the person for whom it was written.
  2. The Director of Graduate Studies identifies a second reader and sends the paper to both readers for initial evaluation.
  3. Each faculty reader decides, within two weeks, whether they are willing to evaluate the paper and whether they deem it suitable for development into a qualifying paper. If the answer to either question is negative the Director of Graduate Studies will approach a new reader. This process continues until two willing readers are found unless the Director of Graduate Studies decides (based on negative feedback) to halt it. In the latter case, the Director of Graduate Studies informs the student that the paper is not admissible as a qualifying paper and invites the student to submit a different paper. In the former case, the Director of Graduate Studies informs the student who the readers will be. Each reader writes up their recommendations for revisions. The readers share their recommendations with each other and, except in the event of inconsistent recommendations, with the student. If the recommendations are inconsistent, the Director of Graduate Studies will facilitate achieving consistency. The timeline for this part of the process is ordinarily four weeks.” 
  4. Based on the recommendations, the student revises the paper and submits it within the existing program deadlines for qualifying papers.
  5. Upon submission, the paper is evaluated by the same two readers as to whether the paper successfully addressed the recommendations for improvement and the paper deemed to have fulfilled the requirement in the event that it does. The Director of Graduate Studies informs the student about the outcome.


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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. After submitting two qualifying papers, a student is required to take a prospectus tutorial. The grading for the prospectus tutorial is pass/fail. The tutorial covers material that is essential for the prospectus, and 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. After being admitted to candidacy, a student needs to enroll “DISR 999” every semester.

H. Dissertation


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


Registered doctoral candidates must have a principal adviser with an appointment on the Graduate School faculty. The Graduate School requires that each dissertation be read by at least three people but not more than five, at least two of whom hold faculty appointments in the Graduate School. All readers must hold the Ph.D. degree as well as a faculty position or be considered otherwise qualified to evaluate the dissertation


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

Joint work

Dissertations that rely on joint work must include in their Preface a detailed description of which parts of the thesis are the result of joint work and what the candidate’s contribution was to the joint work. The primary advisor must verify the description in a message sent to all readers of the dissertation. We leave it to the readers to factor this information into their judgment about the merit of the dissertation.

No dissertation should be 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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