PhD Requirements

The doctoral program consists of two stages. The first stage is that leading to admission to candidacy; the second, to the awarding of the degree. Normally, the first involves at least two years of course work beyond the MA in preparation for departmental and language examinations. The second stage involves writing a dissertation and passing an oral examination in its defense. Students must attain certification for PhD candidacy — that is, fulfill all the requirements for the PhD except for the writing and oral defense of the dissertation — within four years of admission to the PhD program.

The PhD student learning outcomes are the following: 

  • Students demonstrate philosophical reading competence in a philosophically significant language other than English.
  • Students demonstrate reading and research competence in English.
  • Students demonstrate their knowledge and understanding of the Western philosophical tradition and, where applicable, in a non-Western tradition.
  • Students demonstrate their knowledge and ability to participate in a field of contemporary philosophic endeavor.
  • Students gain mastery of a specific topic.
  • Students develop the ability to conduct and write publishable research.
  • Students develop the ability to express and defend their views in oral presentations.
Admissions Requirements

Students seeking admission to the PhD program must hold an MA degree or the equivalent in philosophy and have earned a grade point average of courses taken for the MA of not less than 3.3 or equivalent. Students may be required to make up deficiencies upon entry into the PhD program (see requirements for MA degree above). This will be determined by the Graduate Chair in consultation with the Graduate Admissions Committee of the Department. The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) is required of all students to whom it is accessible in applying for admission to the program. Three letters of recommendation and a sample of the applicant’s written work in philosophy must accompany the application.

The deadline for applications from U.S. citizens applying for admission is February 1 for the Fall Semester and September 1 for the Spring Semester. Applications from international students are due January 15 for the Fall Semester and August 1 for the Spring Semester.

Course Requirements

To be eligible for conferral of the Doctor of Philosophy degree, a student must maintain a grade point average of not less than B+ (3.3), while completing at least 30 hours of course work, which may be non-Western or comparative in character, beyond the MA. Students may count up to 15 credit hours at the upper-divisional undergraduate level towards their required 30 hours of course work, the remainder must be at or above the 600 level. Graduates from our own MA program are allowed to transfer 6 credits of MA coursework towards the satisfaction of doctoral coursework requirements. One of those two courses may be a history course, but no other doctoral distribution requirements can be satisfied in this way.

Directed Research, PHIL 699V, may be used for (a) independent research; (b) remedial work; and (c) supplementary work. No more than 12 hours of PHIL 699V may be counted as credit for the Ph.D. Students taking PHIL 699V must meet with their instructor at least three times during the semester and must either take an examination (oral or written) or write a paper on the material covered.

Course Distribution Requirements

Among the 10 courses which MA and PhD students complete in satisfaction of their course work requirements, they must take: (a) at least one course (which can be either a Western-focus or a comparative, but not an Asian-focus, course) in the field represented by metaphysics, epistemology, and the philosophy of science (or MELPOS); (b) at least one course (which can be either a Western-focus or a comparative, but not an Asian-focus, course) in the field represented by political, ethical or social theory, and aesthetics (or PESTAE); and (c) at least three text-intensive, Western-focus courses in the History of Philosophy. For a course to satisfy this last designation it must be dedicated to a close and thorough (that is, complete or almost complete, and with due attention paid to historical context) reading of a restricted number of key texts by one to three (related) authors writing prior to 1940.

Admission to Candidacy

Students shall pass a canonical history examination administered by the examination committee in consultation with the student in an area related to the subject matter of their prospective dissertations (typically ethics, epistemology, metaphysics, or aesthetics). This exam will be take-home for 3 days, followed by an oral examination. Doctoral students are also expected to complete two contemporary issue (CI) courses during their coursework phase, and to pass the exam for each which is held at the end of the semester. These exams will also be take-home for 3 days, but there will be no oral examination to follow.

Additionally, students shall demonstrate proficiency in at least one (and where deemed necessary, two) philosophically significant foreign language(s): typically, classical Greek, Latin, French, German, Arabic, classical Chinese, Japanese, Sanskrit, or Pali. In some cases, language proficiency examinations will be conducted through the Graduate Division and the department of the UH responsible for teaching that language (this applies to European languages, Chinese, and Sanskrit). In the case of examinations in Japanese, examinations will be administered by Department of Philosophy faculty members. For any specialist mastery relating to the subject of the student’s research, certification will be conducted by the student’s dissertation committee.

Finally, to be admitted to candidacy, a student shall pass a comprehensive oral defense of a dissertation proposal.

For more information, please refer to the Graduate Student Handbook on the PSA website.