Graduate students are required to complete at least three three-credit courses each semester, from among those courses approved by the Department for credit toward the Ph.D., for each of the first five semesters. During their first fall semester, students also are required to take a two-credit seminar focusing on research and teaching (see D. below). By the end of the fifth semester, therefore, students will have taken a minimum of 47 credits of course work, with 11 in the first semester and 9 in each of the following four semesters. In addition to this requirement, it is usually advisable for students to register for additional hours of research (the grade for which would be postponed as per University policy) so as more quickly and cost-effectively to complete the total number of credit hours required for completion of the Ph.D.
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 Area 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:
The following areas are understood to be inclusive of the full range of philosophical approaches: continental, analytic, pragmatist, and so on. So, for example, Philosophy of Mind is not understood to be presumptively exclusively “analytic”; a course focused on, say, continental approaches to embodiment and consciousness will be understood as Philosophy of Mind. Parenthetical lists provide a rough guide to the kinds of courses that count under each category; they are offered as examples of course areas that would fit under each category rather than exhaustive lists of such courses.
T1. Mind and Language
(Philosophy of Mind; Philosophy of Language; Cognitive Science;
Philosophy of Logic; Psychoanalysis)
T2. Ethics, Politics, and Aesthetics
(Ethics; Meta-ethics; Applied ethics; Social and Political
Philosophy; Philosophy of Law; Aesthetics; Philosophy of Art; Philosophy of History)
T3. Metaphysics and Epistemology
(Metaphysics; Epistemology; Ontology; Philosophy of Religion; Philosophy of Science; Argumentation Theory)
T4. Race, Gender, Identity
(Race Theory; Philosophy of Sex & Gender; Feminist Philosophy; Post-colonialism)
T5. Contemporary Philosophical Movements
(Critical Theory; Constructivism; Deconstruction; Discourse Analysis; Environmental Philosophy; Experimental Philosophy; Existentialism; Hermeneutics; Naturalism; Phenomenology; Postmodernism; Pragmatism; Structuralism and Post-structuralism; Realism)
H1. Ancient Philosophy
H2. Medieval Philosophy
H3. Modern Philosophy
H4. 19th Century Philosophy
H5. 20th Century Philosophy
H6. Trans-era History of Philosophy
By the end of the fifth semester, graduate students must have taken courses from at least eight different tenured faculty, tenure-track faculty, and/or visiting faculty approved as satisfying this requirement by the tenured and tenure-track faculty of the department.
By the end of the fifth semester, graduate students must have taken at least twelve regularly-scheduled graduate seminars from among those approved by the Department for credit toward the Ph.D.
Graduate students should note that tenured and tenure track philosophy faculty may offer independent studies only as follows: a) in academic years in which a faculty member does not teach any philosophy course numbered 294 (open to graduate students) or higher, that faculty member may offer independent studies in either semester of that academic year; b) in academic years in which a faculty member teaches a philosophy course numbered 294 (open to graduate students) or higher in only one semester (and not both semesters), that faculty member may offer independent studies only in that one semester (and not during the other semester); and c) in academic years in which a faculty member teaches a philosophy course numbered 294 (open to graduate students) or higher in both semesters, that faculty member may not offer independent studies at all during that academic year. These restrictions do not apply to (a) independent studies taught to fifth- and sixth-semester graduate students on topics directly tied to expected future dissertation projects and approved by the director of graduate studies, and (b) foreign language independent studies.
Policy on Incompletes
If a student wishes to get a grade of “Incomplete” for a given course, the student must meet with the instructor at least one week before the final week of classes. In that meeting a specific plan for completion of the work, including a submission date, must be approved by the instructor. The instructor should also specify the grade the student will receive if s/he does not meet the deadline for the incomplete. For final approval, the student must then submit to the DGS an Incomplete Request Form signed both by the student and the instructor (such form specifies the agreed-upon completion plan and the student's current incompletes).
All graduate students must satisfy the department's logic requirement in one of two ways: a) by passing a double-blind departmental logic competency exam, or b) by receiving a “B” or better in PHIL 202.
The logic exam and the work in PHIL 202 will cover the following three areas and will require a demonstration of competence at a level sufficient to teach an introductory symbolic logic course: 1)informal concepts of logic; 2)translation into symbolic notation for both propositional and predicate logic; and, 3)natural deduction proofs for both propositional and predicate logic.
The Director of Graduate Studies will arrange for the administration of the double blind-reviewed exam by department faculty with special competence in logic. The exam will be given only once at the end of each semester.
Students who fail the exam or who fail to receive a grade of “B” or better in PHIL 202 may re-take the exam or re-do the exam and related work for PHIL 202 the next time the department schedules the exam and/or the course.
Students must first take the logic exam or receive a grade of “B” or better in PHIL 202 by the end of the second semester, and must complete the logic requirement no later than the end of the third semester. The Director of Graduate Studies will counsel students who do not satisfy the logic requirement by the end of the second semester about their best options for satisfying it by the end of the third semester.
Students may not take additional course work beyond the third semester, or take the comprehensive exams, or defend a prospectus until and unless they have satisfied the logic requirement.
PHIL 202 does not qualify for graduate credit, and so does not count toward the minimum of 47 credits students must accumulate by the end of the fifth semester.
Foreign Languages Requirement
All graduate students must satisfy the department's two-tiered foreign language requirement.
The first “competence” part of the foreign language requirement must be satisfied by passing a departmental foreign language translation exam in one language other than English. The Director of Graduate Studies will arrange for the administration of the double-blind-reviewed, timed translation exams by faculty (typically but not necessarily philosophy department faculty) with special competence in the given foreign language. The exam will be given following a student's request for an exam. The exam will consist of the student translating into English i)a text (selected by the faculty member administering the exam, in consultation with and approval by the Director of Graduate Studies) by or about a single philosopher (selected by the student) and ii)a second text (selected by the faculty member administering the exam, in consultation with and approved by the Director of Graduate Studies) by or about a different philosopher (selected by the faculty member administering the exam). During the exam, students may use a hard-copy dictionary. The translation exam will be marked pass or fail; passing it requires a demonstration of competence as measured by quality and quantity of translation.
Students must first take the foreign language competence exam by the end of the fourth semester, and must pass the exam no later than the end of the fifth semester. Students may not take comprehensive exams or defend a prospectus unless they have passed this exam. Students who fail the exam may re-take it at any time approved and arranged by the Director of Graduate Studies.
The second “proficiency” part of the foreign language requirement must be satisfied by the student’s successfully completing work that demonstrates proficiency in the use of a foreign language in research in philosophy in that language and displays an understanding of the philosophical issues raised by the special features of that language. This work may take one of three forms: a)an independent study conducted in and designed to include significant research in that language; b)a final paper or similar project in a regular graduate seminar (not otherwise focused on foreign language issues and resources), at the discretion of and with the approval of the instructor of the seminar; or, c)in conjunction with and as part of PHIL 399 research in the sixth semester aimed at producing a dissertation prospectus and constituting initial dissertation research, at the discretion of and with the approval of the dissertation director. The foreign language in which this portion of the foreign language requirement is satisfied must be a language philosophically relevant to, and important in, the student’s dissertation topics and/or their history.
Students must first take the credit work necessary to complete this proficiency requirement by the end of the sixth semester, and must pass this requirement no later than the third week of the seventh semester. The department strongly encourages all students to seek to meet this requirement by the end of the fifth semester so as not to impede dissertation work. Students who attempt but fail to meet this “proficiency” part of the foreign language requirement may re-attempt it at any time approved and arranged by the Director of Graduate Studies. Students may not engage in dissertation work in the seventh semester or beyond unless they have satisfied the complete foreign language requirement.
Teaching and Research Methods Seminar
In their first semester of graduate study, all graduate students must pass a two credit department seminar on teaching and research methods. This course is designed both to develop the teaching abilities of graduate students and to instruct them in the discipline's research methods, interdisciplinary connections, and resources for research support as they begin research duties. This course, graded on an A/F basis, will be taught by a tenured faculty member in philosophy and will include guest participation by many members of the faculty.
All graduate students must pass the departmental comprehensive written exam.
The comprehensive exam is administered at the beginning of a student's sixth semester of graduate study, and must be completed during the first half of that semester.
The comprehensive exam consists of two parts. The first part, typically a paper (with any other format requiring specific faculty approval), will be devoted to a period of the history of philosophy -- ancient, medieval, modern, 19th-century, or 20th- century -- chosen by the student. The second part, also typically a paper (with any other format requiring specific faculty approval), will be devoted to a systematic area of philosophy -- for example, ethics, aesthetics, social and political philosophy, metaphysics, epistemology, logic, philosophy of religion, philosophy of science, philosophy of language, and others as approved by the tenured and tenure-track department faculty -- also chosen by the student.
The individual student’s exam is constructed from a reading list created by early in the student’s fifth semester by the student and the student’s comprehensive exam committee in consultation with the Director of Graduate Studies. These committees consist of four or five tenured or tenure-track faculty members in the department of philosophy. The reading lists and exams will be constructed on the basis of the student's past coursework and planned dissertation project. The exam questions and the student’s answers will be made available by the Director of Graduate Studies to the entire faculty.
Passing exams shall display broad knowledge and critical philosophical ability in the given historical period and systematic area.
If and only if a majority of the philosophy department faculty members who constitute the comprehensive exam committee members grade both of the two parts of the exam as passing, the student passes the exam.
If a student fails the comprehensive exam, after consultation with the Director of Graduate Studies and the comprehensive exam committee, and at the consent of the Director of Graduate Studies, the student may pursue, or may be required to pursue, one or more of several courses of action that include but are not limited to re-taking part or all of the exam; assembling a different comprehensive exam committee to prepare for a different exam and perhaps a different course of study and different anticipated dissertation project; or, withdrawal from the graduate program. Students may not defend a dissertation prospectus unless they have passed the comprehensive exam. The comprehensive exam must first be administered at the very beginning of the sixth semester, and must be passed no later than the start of the seventh semester.
Qualifying Papers System
[Adopted by Philosophy Faculty May 2011]
Beginning with students entering the PhD Program in fall 2011, students are required to write two qualifying papers (QP’s); one historical in nature, one topical in nature. This requirement replaces the Comprehensive Examination Requirement for students entering the program in fall 2011; all other students must satisfy the Comprehensive Examination Requirement as described in the 2005 program.
General Rationale: The aim of the exercise is to have students complete a writing project that is more sustained than the writing they do for their seminars and as close as possible to the kind of writing required for journal publication. Thus the papers are to reflect a degree of engagement and scholarship that goes beyond a term paper for a graduate seminar, and must display a level of command of current relevant secondary literature that would be required for professional publication. Note that the exercise does not require students to produce papers of "publishable quality"; that standard is too ambiguous, variable, and contestable. The requirement rather is to produce work that demonstrates mastery of the requisite research, exegetical, dialectical, and analytic skills employed in professional publications within its sub-field. In completing the exercise, then, students will have to exercise not only their philosophical skills, but employ the techniques of professional research. Successful completion of the exercise will, along with cognate coursework, form the basis for a plausible claim to an AOC (at least). Although QP's may have their origins in especially promising term papers written for graduate seminars, the explicit expectation will be that the level of philosophical detail and scholarly engagement will go beyond what is required for an "A" term paper. Accordingly, students will be encouraged to devote an entire summer to researching and writing a QP. Although submissions of QP's will not be accepted until students have successfully completed a full year of course work, students will be encouraged to begin thinking about the requirement in their first year, and students who enter the program with a Master's Degree may be explicitly encouraged to devote their first summer (viz., following their first year of coursework) to the completion of one qualifying paper.
Historical / Topical Distinction: The distinction between historical and topical papers reflects the distinction employed in our course requirements. An historical paper is primarily aimed at exploring an interpretive issue within discussion of a key text (or texts), argument, debate, or movement in the history of philosophy. A topical paper may also invoke considerations from historical sources, but must have as a primary aim the examination of a dispute, debate, or controversy, that is central to a topical area of philosophy. In both cases, papers must engage with a sufficient portion of the current literature.
Approval of Topic: Prior to submitting a QP, students must get approval from the Director of Graduate Studies. In order to get approval, students must submit a brief description of the paper, and declare its Historical or Topical designation. Approval from the DGS is required mainly for purposes of tracking student progress and preventing the program from becoming unwieldy; “approval” is not to be understood as a philosophical evaluation by the DGS of the proposed paper project.
Paper Types: There are different types of paper that may count as satisfying the QP requirement. For example, one type is what may be called an argumentative paper, in which the student confronts a philosophical problem, question, or issue, considers an range of leading responses to it, offers criticisms of those responses, and defends a proposal of his or her own. Another type is what may be called a situating paper, in which the student identifies a philosophical problem, question, or issue, surveys a broad range of approaches to it (drawing, as needed, from a range of different philosophical methodologies, historical periods, and key texts), and proposes an overarching hermeneutic or framework for understanding or conceptualizing the problem, question, or issue in a novel way. Another type is what might be called a literature review paper, in which a student surveys a broad field of research into a current problem, question, or debate. There are other options as well.
Submission: Papers will be submitted to the DGS in both hardcopy and electronic form. To keep the administration orderly, the department will accept QP’s only at the beginning of the fall semester, the beginning of the spring semester and the end of the spring semester (September 1, January 1, and May 1). At the time of submission, the submitting student will discuss with the DGS the topic of the submission, and will be allowed to suggest three appropriate faculty members as potential evaluators of the submission. Except under special circumstances (such as leaves, travel, general over-commitment, etc.), the DGS will choose at least one evaluator from the student’s list of suggested faculty. The student will be made aware of the identities of the evaluators.
Evaluation: Each submission will be reviewed by two faculty members. The DGS will facilitate the review of submissions; and evaluators will report directly to the DGS. It will be understood that papers are to be evaluated according to the criteria suggested above (roughly: philosophical competence and depth of research). QP’s will receive one of three possible evaluations: (1) Pass; (2) Revise and Resubmit; and (3) Fail. Students who submit a failing paper will be required to devise a new topic. It will be understood by the faculty that “revise and resubmit” will be a common result. Final evaluations will be accompanied by two brief reports (one by each reviewer) explaining the evaluation. In the case of “revise and resubmit,” the reports will identify specific shortcomings of the submission and make suggestions for revision. In the case of “fail,” the reports will specify specific shortcomings of the paper, and offer an explanation of why the submission does not merit a “revise and resubmit” verdict. In the case of “pass,” the reports will identify strengths of the paper while making suggestions for further development towards publication. The process, then, will be much like the process that is used by professional journals in our discipline.
Conflicts: In cases where evaluating faculty give different verdicts on a QP, the evaluators will be asked to meet to discuss the paper together with a view towards coming to agreement. If that meeting does not result in agreement, the DGS will appoint a third, “tie-breaking” faculty member to read the paper. Where there a majority evaluation, it will prevail. If the result is three different evaluations, the default will be a decision of revise and resubmit. The student will be given all three evaluative reports.
Timeline: Students in good standing will be encouraged to submit their first QP at the beginning of their second year of coursework and their second QP at the beginning of their third year of coursework, so that in their sixth semester (or shortly thereafter) they will have passed (or are finishing the revisions of) these papers. To repeat: the department will accept submissions only on September 1, January 1, and May 1. Results for September submission will be posted by November 1. Results for January submissions will be posted by March 1. Results for May submissions will be posted by July 1. Those who receive “revise and resubmit” will be expected to resubmit on the next date upon which submissions are accepted. Students will not be allowed to submit a dissertation prospectus without having passed the Qualifying Papers requirement.
Remedies for Non-Passes: Students receiving a Fail on a QP must devise a new topic and begin the process anew (including getting approval from the DGS of the new topic). Students who fail a second time will be dropped from the program. A revised and resubmitted paper may receive one of three evaluations: (1) Pass; (2) Revise and Resubmit; (3) Fail. A student whose revised and resubmitted QP receives a fail will devise a new topic and begin again. A revised and resubmitted QP should receive an additional revise and resubmit evaluation only if significant progress has been made between the original submission and the first revised and resubmitted version.
All graduate students must pass a dissertation prospectus exam. This oral exam will be given near the end of the student's sixth semester of graduate study, and this exam should be passed during this semester and must be passed by the fifth week of the seventh semester.
The dissertation prospectus exam is administered by the student's dissertation committee in consultation with and approval by the Director of Graduate Studies. It is conducted by the dissertation committee and led by the dissertation director.
The oral examination will test the student’s mastery of the proposed dissertation topic as well as the student’s overall knowledge of the sub-field within which the proposed dissertation project resides. The dissertation prospectus must be distributed well in advance to the dissertation committee and should reflect prior consultation, though not necessarily agreement, with each member of the committee. The prospectus should address issues specified by the dissertation committee. These issues may include, for example: a clear statement of the dissertation topic or problem and a case for its philosophical importance, a critical review of existing relevant scholarship on the topic, an outline of the student’s own position on this topic, and an indication of how this position will be developed and supported. The student will be evaluated on both the dissertation prospectus and his or her mastery of the requisite sub-field. [Adpoted by the Philosophy Faculty, May 2011]
If a majority of dissertation committee members, including the dissertation director, grade the dissertation prospectus exam as passing, the student passes the exam.
If a student fails the dissertation prospectus exam, after consultation with the Director of Graduate Studies and the dissertation committee, and at the consent of the Director of Graduate Studies, the student may pursue, or may be required to pursue, one or more of several courses of action that include but are not limited to: re-taking the exam; re-writing the prospectus and then re-taking the exam; assembling a different dissertation committee to prepare for a different exam and perhaps a different course of study; or, withdrawal from the graduate program.
The default position for all graduate students admitted with full funding is that if the dissertation prospectus is not successfully defended by the end of the spring semester of the student’s fifth year, the student will be dropped from the program.
Standards of Progress for Graduate Students
Although students begin graduate study with different backgrounds, confront different situations, and develop in different ways at different speeds, all students should meet the following standards of reasonable progress to ensure successful and timely completion of the Ph.D. requirements. In rare cases, and only with the approval of a majority of tenured and tenure track department faculty, students may develop a different timetable of progress designed to address special situations and individual differences. In any case, a student’s funding and membership in the graduate program are conditional upon the student’s meeting appropriate standards of progress. In usual cases, these standards are as follows:
At the end of the first semester: Completed eleven credits, including three three-credit courses and the required two credit research and teaching seminar. (Graduate students typically will not have instructional, research, or any other assistantship duties during this semester.)
At the end of the second semester: Completed three additional three-credit courses for nine additional credits this semester (and twenty credits overall at the end of this semester); taken the logic exam for the first time by the end of this semester.
At the end of the third semester: Completed three additional three-credit courses for nine additional credits this semester, and twenty nine credits overall at the end of this semester; passed the logic requirement, if not already passed at the end of the second semester.
At the end of the fourth semester: Completed three additional three-credit courses for nine additional credits this semester, and thirty-eight credits overall at the end of this semester; taken the departmental foreign language competence exam.
By the middle of the fifth semester: Constituted a comprehensive exam committee. (Graduate students who plan to seek internal or external financial support for study-abroad or other off-campus study during their fourth year need to plan carefully no later than the start of this semester with their comprehensive exam committee and the Director of Graduate Studies.)
At the end of the fifth semester: Completed three additional three-credit courses for nine additional credits this semester, and forty-seven credits overall at the end of this semester; received reading lists and other relevant instruction from the comprehensive exam committee; completed the department foreign language translation exam, if not already passed at the end of the fourth semester; taken and passed courses from at least eight different tenured, tenure-track, or visiting faculty approved by tenured and tenure-track faculty; taken and passed at least one course in each of the five areas of the history of philosophy.
By the middle of the sixth semester: Passed the comprehensive exam.
At the end of the sixth semester: Passed the dissertation prospectus; completed the second or “proficiency” part of the foreign language requirement. (Graduate students typically will not have instructional, research, or any other assistantship duties during this semester.)
By the third week of the seventh semester: Passed the proficiency part of the foreign language requirement (if not already passed by the end of the sixth semester).
During the seventh, eighth, ninth, and tenth semesters: Have registered for full-time dissertation research designed for the completion of the required 72 credit-hours, the dissertation, and its oral defense.
By the end of the tenth semester: Complete and defend the dissertation and all requirements for receipt of a Ph.D. in philosophy. Graduate students for whom the faculty have approved longer courses of study shall complete and defend the dissertation and all requirements for receipt of a Ph.D. in philosophy according to that schedule of dissertation research and writing.
Teaching, research, editing, and other assistantship and fellowship work
No student who enters the program with a bachelor’s degree will be required to teach or satisfy related or similar assistantship or fellowship obligations during semesters one (first term at VU) or six (term in which comprehensive exams and dissertation prospectus are to be completed). Students who apply unsuccessfully but in a timely manner and in good faith for major competitive study opportunities off-campus for dissertation-related research during their fourth year will be released from fellowship work duties during one semester of their fourth year in order to allow them to pursue a study opportunity similar to the one for which they applied. Students who apply successfully for funded off-campus study opportunities may, but only with the approval of the Director of Graduate Studies, stop their Vanderbilt funding clock during the duration of this external support.