Requirements for the Ph.D. Degree in Philosophy

The doctoral program is designed to be completed in five years of full-time work. In addition to the minimum degree requirements of the Graduate School, the following are required:

A. Seminars

Seminar coursework will be required from the following three areas: history of philosophy, interface studies, and contemporary philosophy. Each of the three areas has a minimum number of required courses. The student will also take at least two additional seminars in one of the three areas to fulfill the concentration of studies requirement.

1. Three seminars in the history of philosophy from four groups of courses concentrating on ancient philosophy, medieval/Renaissance philosophy, modern philosophy, and 19th-century philosophy. These courses will feature an intensive writing component. For those students wishing to pursue a concentration of studies in the history of philosophy, a minimum of two additional courses may be taken from these areas or from seminar studies directed to special topics in the history of philosophy (which draw upon specific authors, texts, themes, or problems from the history of philosophy).

2. Two interface seminars in interdisciplinary areas between philosophy and another discipline pertaining to the natural sciences, to the social sciences, or to the humanities. This requirement may be met either by taking interdisciplinary seminars team-taught by philosophy faculty with faculty from another discipline or by taking regular graduate courses in another discipline. Two additional courses from this category may be taken to fulfill concentration requirements.

3. Five seminars in contemporary philosophy are required. Two seminars in the preeminent styles or modes of philosophy are required: one in continental philosophy (PHI 630) and one in analytic philosophy (PHI 631). These two seminars will explore the methods, presuppositions, and operational modes of the contemporary philosophy involved. Two additional seminars, chosen from a list of subjects, must be taken to fulfill the basic requirement. Two more seminars from the contemporary category may be taken to fulfill concentration requirements.

4. A practicum in the teaching of philosophy. This involves a supervised teaching seminar, along with additional teaching experience in the undergraduate program.

5. A series of prospectus workshops taken in the spring semester of the third year. The primary goal will be to produce a dissertation proposal.

6. An overall average grade of B or better is required, with no more than six credits of B- grades counting toward the degree.

B. General Requirements

  1. The student must pass an examination in the History of Philosophy. Although the student may take the exam any number of times prior to the deadline, the examination must be passed by the end of the second year. The history of philosophy examination is constructed and read by the faculty on the History of Philosophy Committee.
  2. The student must submit an essay, judged acceptable by a committee, in one of the areas of contemporary philosophy.
  3. The student must submit an essay, judged acceptable by a committee composed of at least one Philosophy faculty member and a faculty member from the relevant second discipline, in one area of interface studies.

General reviews of student progress based upon a portfolio (courses taken, courses completed, grades, faculty evaluations of seminar work sample papers, teaching evaluations and performance in the above general requirements) will be undertaken at the end of the first and third years and in the second year after the deadline for passing the history of philosophy examination. The second-year review is the milestone requirement of the program. These reviews will assess the progress of students and determine qualifications for continuance or non-continuance in the program.

The Graduate Program Director will guide students in planning their program of studies to assure that general requirements are completed prior to their advancement to candidacy.

C. Ph.D. Candidacy

Official Ph.D. candidacy is attained when, in addition to the requirements listed above, a student fulfills the following competency requirements:

  1. Competence in symbolic logic. Sufficient knowledge of concepts and notations of first-order logic for understanding and applying them to problems in philosophy.
  2. Competence in a foreign language. This is shown by translating a previously untranslated philosophical article (or the equivalent).
  3. Competence to undertake a dissertation project. This is shown by (a) a prospectus (10-15 pages) outlining projected study, expected findings, and relevant arguments and evidence (e.g., bibliography), and (b) an oral defense of the projected study before a faculty examining committee.

Upon the recommendation of the Examining Committee and the Graduate Program Director that the dissertation project be initiated, the student becomes a candidate for the Ph.D.

D. Dissertation

After advancement to candidacy, the student will concentrate on a dissertation (the written results of specialized study and research) under the supervision of a dissertation committee. After the dissertation is completed, it is read by a committee of four members, consisting of the director, two other members of the philosophy faculty, and one faculty member from outside the department who has specialized in related areas. Before final approval can be granted, the student must present the results of the dissertation research at an oral examination convened for that purpose by the department and open to interested faculty members and graduate students. If the dissertation defense is successful, the candidate is recommended to the University for the Doctor of Philosophy degree.

Doctoral students may be awarded the M.A. degree upon completion of the minimum coursework of 30 graduate credits of graded coursework.


Detailed course descriptions for the doctoral program are available from the Philosophy Department office each semester. Please refer to the current undergraduate and Graduate Class Schedules for specific semester offerings.

Requirements for the MA Degree in Philosophy

Given its commitment to philosophical pluralism and its triple focus on the history of philosophy, interdisciplinary studies, aesthetic and the philosophy of art, Stony Brook's Master of Arts in philosophy has been recognized throughout the profession as distinctive and innovative. The curriculum of the program embodies this commitment and focus.

A. Administration

The administration of the MA Program is carried out by the MA Director in consultation with the Chair of the Philosophy Department, the Graduate Program Committee, the Graduate Coordinator and the core faculty of the Philosophy and Arts program.

B. Course of Study

The primary purpose of the Master of Arts Program in Philosophy is to prepare students for original and independent research and scholarship in the field, and to prepare them for further postgraduate work in either philosophy or other humanistic disciplines. As an MA Program with special emphasis on the fine arts, it is also designed to provide artists with access to philosophical and intellectual resources not generally available in the art field.

In order to graduate, the student must have earned a total of 30 credits. Of these 30 credits:

  1. 6 credits may be transfer credits (so long as they were not used toward earning another degree).
  2. 6 credits may be earned either by taking 2 independent study courses, or by taking 1 independent study course and PHI 599 (Master’s Thesis Research).
  3. In order to be able to register for the MA Thesis course, students must fill out the MA Thesis Approval form, and have it signed by the MA Program Director as well as the Advisor of the MA thesis. The MA Thesis Advisor must be a permanent faculty member of the Philosophy Department.
  4. All MA students must take at least one 500 or 600 level seminar on the Stony Brook University Campus
  5. First year MA students may not take either Ph.D. seminars or independent studies. A second year MA student wishing to enroll in a PhD seminar must first obtain approval from the program director to request permission from the teaching faculty member. Only the teaching faculty member can give permission to enroll in the seminar.
  6. If students enroll inPHI 520, it must be done with a permanent faculty member of the Philosophy Department.

Note the difference between PHI 520: Advanced Studies in Philosophy (3 credits, ABCF grading, variable and repetitive credit) and PHI

521: Independent Study (may be repeated for credit, S/U grading). If the Independent Study is intended to reach the required 30 credits for graduation, enrollment in PHI 520 is recommended (as only ABCF graded courses count towards cumulative credits).

C. The MA Thesis Option

Students are strongly encouraged to fulfill all of their MA degree requirements by taking the regularly scheduled graduate courses. Under certain conditions, however, a student may wish to pursue the MA thesis option by requesting the formation of a faculty committee for the thesis project. Such a Thesis Committee will consist of a thesis advisor, and at least one other member of the departmental faculty or a reader from the faculty of another discipline. The MA Thesis Advisor is selected by the student, while the Second Reader (and possibly third reader) is selected by the advisor and student together. The Thesis Committee must be approved by the MA Program Director upon submission of the appropriate form and a brief thesis proposal summary. This form must be submitted to the MA Program director at least four weeks before the beginning of the semester in which the student is registering for PHI 599: Masters Thesis Research. The student will not be able to register for the MA thesis course without this form having been fully filled out and signed.

An MA student who takes the thesis option (see above) must notify the MA Program Director when submitting the thesis document to her/ his thesis director. Once a student has submitted the thesis, the faculty thesis director has 3 weeks in which either to approve it for graduation purposes or require further revisions. In either case, the thesis director will notify the MA Director of the decision to approve or to require revisions. In the event that a thesis director fails to act within the time frame just specified, the MA Director will notify the student of her/his right to be assigned a different thesis director. The MA Director will also inform the Department Chair in case further administrative action is required.