Philosophy Ph.D.


The Ph.D. program provides students with closely monitored training in philosophy. The program is designed to be completed in six years or less. Graduate work in philosophy can lead to careers both inside and outside academia. Because most doctoral students will be preparing for a career that involves teaching philosophy, they are encouraged to be teaching assistants for at least three quarters.

The department has three distinguishing characteristics: a focus on philosophy understood through its history, an emphasis on the relation of philosophy to science, and an eclecticism regarding philosophical styles.

The department’s faculty recognize the importance of doing philosophy in a way that is sensitive to its history. Their commitment to the history of philosophy extends from Ancient Philosophy to several of the main figures and topics in 20th century philosophy, and covers a wide range of topics and historical figures in between.

The department also has a focus on the relation of philosophy to science. Every member of the department is currently engaged in empirically informed philosophical research, or research in the history of science or the philosophy of science, or both.

Finally, while grounded in the analytic tradition, the department has an eclectic philosophical profile, manifested in its openness to a variety of philosophical styles, including continental philosophy, and in the importance it places on making philosophy relevant, beneficial, and accessible to the public. This eclecticism, which, among other things, fosters an academic environment that allows our students and faculty to make intellectual connections with academics in other disciplines and members of the general public, makes UC Santa Cruz a unique and attractive place to study philosophy.

Relationship of the M.A. and Ph.D. Programs

Students in the M.A. and Ph.D. programs will be in the same classes and work on the same course distribution requirements. Enrollment in the M.A. program confers no advantage for admission to the Ph.D. program.

Applications and Admissions

Application materials are available online. Further information regarding the program may be requested from the Department of Philosophy at (831) 459-4578, fax: (831) 459-2650 or by visiting the department website.

Advancement to Candidacy

Course Requirements

Requirements in the First Year

During their first year, all graduate students are expected to fulfill a set of breadth requirements. These requirements are designed to provide both a common experience on which students can build their individual projects and a shared framework within which they can exchange ideas. Six courses, to be completed in the first year, are required of every graduate student in philosophy.

This minimal core set of courses will consist of (i) three graduate seminars, designated by the department each year as mandatory for every first year student, and (ii) three electives (any three graduate seminars in philosophy). Of the three required seminars, one will be in metaphysics/epistemology, one in the history of philosophy, and one in moral philosophy.

No courses labeled PHIL 294 or higher will satisfy any of these minimum core requirements. This restriction is redundant for PHIL 299 (since that course is open only to students who have advanced to candidacy). The point of this restriction is to limit the use of independent studies, reading groups or student seminars for graduate seminar credit.

During their first year of study all students must pass a logic competency examination with a grade of B or better. This examination will cover material typically taught in a first course in formal logic.

To facilitate the professionalization of students in the exchange and development of academic knowledge and skills, all first- and second-year doctoral students will be required to enroll in:

PHIL 280Graduate Colloquia Course


PHIL 281The Pedagogy of Philosophy


PHIL 280, Graduate Colloquia Course, provides preparation for and requires attendance at all department-sponsored colloquia and works-in-progress presentations each quarter.

PHIL 281, The Pedagogy of Philosophy, provides training in university-level teaching in general and in the pedagogy of philosophy specifically. It meets during the fall quarter only.

For further details, see the graduate program statement on the department’s web page or consult with the department’s graduate advisor.

A minimum of 12 graduate courses

Up to two courses may be taken from the offerings of other departments, and up to two courses may be independent studies. PHIL 270 does not count toward these 12 required breadth courses in years 1 and 2, but is required for successful completion of the Ph.D.

Foreign Language Requirements

The foreign language will be individually determined based on the relevance of such linguistic skills to the research interests of the student. Proficiency can be demonstrated either by passing a written examination administered by the department or by successfully completing a language course approved by the graduate committee.

Qualifying Examination

Qualifying examination and Research Seminar

The qualifying examination, normally taken during the third year of enrollment, is centered on a qualifying essay that demonstrates the candidate's ability to do extended, dissertation-level research and analysis relevant to the proposed thesis topic and dissertation plan. The examination focuses on the student's research project and on the fields of scholarship it presupposes.

Near the end of the required coursework, doctoral students will develop a research project resulting in a substantial paper. The paper is required to enroll in the research seminar, PHIL 270, which must be completed during or before winter quarter of the third year. The seminar will allow students to make substantial progress on a qualifying essay and cultivate their ability to assess and provide critical feedback on another author’s philosophical work. PHIL 270 is only offered in winter quarter, and will normally be taken in the third year, though with permission of the instructor, it may be taken earlier than the third year. It is optional for M.A. students.




Within one year of passing the qualifying examination (usually during the fourth year) doctoral students will submit and defend a dissertation prospectus, consisting of some written foundation and a plan for completion of the dissertation. The committee for the prospectus defense is normally the dissertation committee.

The prospectus will be submitted at least one month prior to the defense. It will normally consist of:

  1. A detailed outline or table of contents of the entire dissertation
  2. A bibliography indicating knowledge of the scope of the relevant literature
  3. A paper that would be suitable as a chapter of the dissertation and that (a) clearly shows the potential for developing the rest of the dissertation, or (b) lays out the central problem which the dissertation will address.


The final requirement for the Ph.D. degree is a dissertation representing a contribution to philosophical research. Students submit their dissertation committee to the department for approval once they complete their qualifying exam. They may change their committee at a later time pending department approval. This committee is submitted to Graduate Division for final approval.

Applying for Graduation

Students apply to graduate by contacting the department graduate advisor and completing the relevant paperwork from graduate division.