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Graduate Program Rules and Requirements

The PhD Program in Philosophy at Vanderbilt University is designed to be completed in five years. Here is a sketch of standard progress. Please consult the Director of Graduate Studies, Julian Wuerth, for further details about the program requirements.

The following five requirements compose the PhD Program in Philosophy at Vanderbilt.

  1. Coursework Requirement 1
  2. Logic Requirement
  3. Foreign Language Requirement
  4. Field Exam and Project Abstract Requirement
  5. Prospectus and Dissertation Requirement

Semester 1: At the end of the first semester, students must have completed at least 11 credits, including three three-credit courses and the two-credit Proseminar. Students are advised to sit for the Logic exam (and to audit Phil 3003, “Formal Logic & Its Applications,” if necessary).

Semester 2: At the end of the second semester, students must have completed at least three additional three-credit courses, thereby bringing the student’s total number of coursework credits to at least 20, and they must have attempted to satisfy the Logic Requirement.

Semester 3: Students must take the Language Exam by September 1st of the third semester. At the end of the third semester students must have completed at least three additional three-credit courses, thereby bringing the student’s total number of coursework credits to at least 29, and they must have satisfied the Logic Requirement.

Semester 4: At the end of the fourth semester, students must have completed at least three additional three-credit courses, thereby bringing the student’s total number of coursework credits to at least 38. They must have passed the Foreign Language Exam by April 15th.

Semester 5: At the end of the fifth semester, students must have completed at least three additional three-credit courses, thereby bringing the student’s total number of coursework credits to at least 47, and satisfied all aspects of the Coursework Requirement. They must also have assembled the Field Exam Committee, started a bibliography, and submitted the committee names and bibliography to the DGS by December 1st.

Semester 6: In the sixth semester, students must register for at least nine research hours, thereby bringing their total number of graduate credits to at least 56, and they must meet all specified deadlines for the Field Exam (which must be passed by April 1st) and Project Abstract (which must be submitted by April 15th).

Semester 7: In the seventh semester, students should register for nine research credits, thereby bringing their total number of credits to 65. By September 30th, students must have passed the Qualifying Exam (Prospectus Oral Defense) and satisfied all preceding requirements, thereby achieving ABD status.

Semesters 7-10: During this time, students must register for a sufficient number of research credits to ensure the completion of the required 72 credit-hours by the time they are ready to defend the Dissertation. Once students have reached 72 credit hours, they should continue in subsequent semesters to register for research hours at zero credits in order to maintain active student status.

Semester 10: By the end of the tenth semester, students should have passed the Final Defense (Dissertation Oral Defense), thereby completing all requirements for the PhD.


 1. Course Distribution Requirement

Students will take at least 5 seminars in the History of Philosophy and at least 5 seminars in Topical Areas of Philosophy, with the additional stipulation that students must take seminars from at least 3 different categories in each. The Topic and History categories are as follows, and the categorization of each graduate seminar in any given semester will be designated on the departmental course schedule.

Topical Area Categories
T1. Mind and Language
T2. Ethics, Politics, and Aesthetics
T3. Metaphysics and Epistemology
T4. Race, Gender, Identity
T5. Contemporary Philosophical Movements

Historical Categories
H1. Ancient Philosophy
H2. Medieval Philosophy
H3. Modern Philosophy
H4. 19th Century Philosophy
H5. 20th Century Philosophy
H6. Trans-era History of Philosophy


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