Department of Philosophy
Michael A. Smith
Director of Graduate Studies
Gilbert H. Harman
ProfessorJohn P. Burgess
Kwame Anthony Appiah, also University Center for Human Values
John M. Cooper
Adam Newman Elga
Delia Graff Fara
Gilbert H. Harman
Thomas P. Kelly
Alexander Nehamas, also Council of the Humanities, Comparative Literature
Gideon A. Rosen
Michael A. Smith
Associate ProfessorElizabeth Harman, also University Center for Human Values
Associate Professor (continued)
Benjamin C. A. Morison
Assistant ProfessorShamik Dasgupta
Boris C. Kment
Sarah E. McGrath
Lecturer with Rank of Professor
Frank C. Jackson
Associated FacultyCharles R. Beitz, Politics
Robert A. Freidin, Council of the Humanities, Linguistics
Robert P. George, Politics
Sanjeev R. Kulkarni, Electrical Engineering
Edward Nelson, Mathematics
Alan W. Patten, Politics
Philip N. Pettit, Politics, University Center for Human Values
Peter Singer, University Center for Human Values
Jeffrey L. Stout, Religion
Christian Wildberg, Classics
Edwin S. Williams III, Council of the Humanities, Linguistics
The graduate program in philosophy is designed to equip promising students for careers as philosophers and teachers of philosophy. To that end, the program provides broad general training, an opportunity for specialized research in the major areas of philosophic inquiry, and experience in undergraduate teaching. Each student pursues an individual plan of study appropriate to his or her background, interests, and aims.
All applicants for graduate study in the Department of Philosophy must submit a sample of written work in philosophy with their application. Those applying to the Program in Classical Philosophy must submit a paper on ancient philosophy.
Except for visiting students from other universities, only Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degree candidates are admitted to graduate work in philosophy. The Master of Arts (M.A.) in philosophy is earned by obtaining, at a sufficient level of achievement, the units required before taking the general examination. This degree is granted only as an incidental degree.
Program of Study
In choosing courses each student follows an individual program planned in consultation with a faculty adviser.
A graduate student's standard program of formal instruction prior to the general examination typically consists of three courses in philosophy per semester; all of these are normally conducted as seminars, combining informal lecturing, reports presented by students, and discussion.
Graduate students may also attend advanced undergraduate courses, and may by arrangement with the instructor work for a graduate-level unit in such courses. Independent research under the guidance of an appropriate member of the faculty may be substituted for normal course work in a given area.
Each fall, the department offers small seminars (three to six students) that are open to first- year students only. These special seminars, which normally meet two hours each week, are intended to help introduce students to work in the department and to provide each entering student a good opportunity for extensive contact with a member of the faculty during the first term.
Permission to take the general examination is granted after review of the student’s record by the department. It is normally necessary (the grounds for exception are explained below) and always sufficient that students satisfy the department that they have an adequate basic knowledge of each of the following fields: (1) history of philosophy, both ancient and modern; (2) metaphysics and epistemology; (3) ethics; and (4) logic. Before taking the general examination, students must complete seven units of work distributed as follows: at least two in the history of philosophy, at least two in metaphysics and epistemology, at least two in ethics, and at least one in logic. In addition, students must complete two further philosophy units, plus the language requirement or an alternative to it (see below). Completion of a unit can be accomplished by seminar or course work, examination, or submission of independent work, as prearranged with a faculty member. Up to three units may be satisfied by the submission of papers written before the student’s arrival at Princeton.
Regarding the four fields of study, the following rules apply:
1. At least one unit shall be awarded partly on the basis of an oral examination administered by at least two members of the faculty.
2. Students shall do at least two units in ethics, political philosophy, philosophy of law, social philosophy, philosophy of religion, or aesthetics. At least one unit shall be from among the first four options.
3. Field (2), metaphysics and epistemology, is to be considered broadly, as including philosophy of science, philosophy of mind, parts of philosophy of language, and parts of philosophy of mathematics. Area (4) is to be considered as including formal work, as well as philosophy of logic, and parts of philosophy of language and philosophy of mathematics.
4. For the one unit in logic, students can successfully complete one of the undergraduate courses PHI 312 (Intermediate Logic) or PHI 323 (Advanced Logic), PHI 340 (Philosophical Logic) or the graduate course PHI 520 (Logic), or take an examination equivalent to the final examination in a course that has been or could appropriately be offered under one of these numbers.
5. At least one unit in the history of philosophy must be in ancient philosophy (philosophy in Greece and Rome from the pre-Socratics through the Platonists of the 6th century AD) , and at least one in modern philosophy (philosophy in Europe from the 15th century to the end of the 19th century) .
In all cases, satisfaction of a particular distribution unit through a course, paper, or examination depends upon the recommendation of the appropriate faculty member(s). Students are minimally expected to complete these requirements on the following schedule: three units after one term, five after one year, seven after three terms, and nine after two years. (Neither of the first two units, and only one of the first five, may be satisfied by papers written before arrival. At least one of the first three units must be for new substantive work in philosophy beyond the minimal logic requirement and language units.)
Students who wish to do especially intensive work in one area of philosophy through extra work either in the Department of Philosophy or in related areas in other departments may be granted variances permitting them to do less than the norm in some other areas of philosophy, if this is required to allow them to pursue their special interests. Such variances will require approval of the department. There are, in addition, three specific alternative tracks that lead to the Ph.D. degree in philosophy, all of which provide special opportunities for combining the study of philosophy with other disciplines: the philosophy of science track, and the interdepartmental programs in classical philosophy and in political philosophy.
Philosophy of Science Track
Students who wish to specialize in philosophy of science may elect to satisfy an alternative set of distribution requirements: They must complete the logic requirement and the language requirement (or an alternative to it) as in the regular programs, and in addition, they must:
1. demonstrate proficiency at the graduate level in a field of science (mathematical or empirical) or in an area in the history of science (normally this involves doing satisfactory work in two graduate-level courses, or their equivalents, in the science or a relevant area in the history of science);
2. earn three units in the philosophy of science; and
3. demonstrate an adequate, basic knowledge of other areas of philosophy. This is done by earning four units in the areas of history of philosophy, ethics, and epistemology and metaphysics. Of these four units, at most two may be in any one of the listed areas.
To help guard against overspecialization, the department asks students opting for the philosophy of science track to submit an overall plan of study for approval by the Graduate Committee. Students who elect to follow the philosophy of science track must take the general examination in philosophy of science.
Although there is no fixed time at which the student must submit such a plan, late in the first year or early in the second would be reasonable choices: prudence would counsel securing approval before embarking too seriously on a program of work that might fail, upon review, to satisfy distribution requirements because it was too specialized. Subsequent modifications to an approved plan must be cleared with the director of graduate studies. Students who elect to follow the philosophy of science track must take the general examination in philosophy of science.
Language and Alternative Requirements
Every student must either demonstrate a reading knowledge of French or German, or else satisfy an alternative requirement before taking the general examination. Reading knowledge is demonstrated by passing an examination on the translation of philosophical prose administered by two members of the Department of Philosophy.
A student electing to satisfy the alternative requirement must either (1) complete a 10th distribution unit in any area of philosophy (see above) or (2) complete a unit of advanced work in another department, in accordance with a plan previously approved by the Graduate Committee of the philosophy department. (This may not be work also used to satisfy any other requirement.)
In many areas of philosophy, including but not limited to the history of philosophy and recent European philosophy, satisfactory scholarship is not possible without a good reading knowledge of certain foreign languages. The languages most often needed are French, German, Greek, and Latin. A student having none of these languages will therefore be significantly limited in choosing areas of research, and in the choice of a dissertation topic. If a student's dissertation is devoted to any considerable extent to an author, the student must be able to read the author's works in their original language.
The general examination consists of an oral examination of approximately one hour, preceded by a three-to-four-hour-long written examination in the field within which the candidate proposes to write a dissertation. The examinations are administered by a committee of the faculty, the composition of which ensures that the student is questioned from a variety of points of view. The subject of the examinations is broadly construed. The candidate is not expected to defend a thesis plan in detail, but instead is asked to present and defend some ideas in the area of the planned dissertation. Advancement to continued candidacy for the Ph.D. is based on an assessment of a student’s performance on the general examination in light of the student’s level of achievement in gaining the required units.
The Master of Arts degree in Philosophy is earned by obtaining at a sufficient level of achievement the units required before taking the general examination. This degree is granted at Princeton only as an incidental degree, offered after completion of part of the requirements for the doctorate; the University offers no program designed for students aiming at the Master of Arts in philosophy as a final degree, and, except for visiting students from other universities, only Ph.D. candidates are admitted to graduate work in philosophy.
Dissertation and Final Public Oral Examination
The dissertation is written under the guidance of one or two members of the department (the primary and secondary advisers). While working on the dissertation, students may consult not only their advisers but also other members of the faculty. The dissertation is normally limited to 100,000 words; a length of 30,000 to 50,000 words is recommended.
The dissertation must be accepted by the department, having first been read and recommended for acceptance by two readers, neither of whom may be the student's primary adviser. After the dissertation has been accepted, the student takes a final public oral examination in which he or she must demonstrate a capacity for scholarly research in the area of the dissertation.
After passing the final examination, the student is awarded the Ph.D. degree in philosophy by the University.
All graduate students in philosophy, including those receiving outside fellowships, engage in some classroom teaching under the guidance of a faculty member: leading discussion groups, setting and marking examinations and tests, and criticizing written papers. This work will normally amount to three hours of classroom teaching plus attendant preparation, or the equivalent, for three terms, and will, in no case, total less than six hours. Assignments are made with regard for the student’s aptitudes and interests. First-year students normally are not assigned teaching responsibilities.
The department conducts a colloquium, principally for members of the faculty and graduate students, at which professors from Princeton and other universities present papers for discussion. In addition, graduate students working on their dissertations present portions of their work in progress at a series of talks scheduled throughout the year.
The Department of Philosophy, in cooperation with other departments, participates in two interdepartmental programs of graduate study: classical philosophy and political philosophy. For details, students should consult those sections.
PHI 500 The Philosophy of Plato
The course is a study of the development of Plato's thought and an examination of the validity of his major contributions in the areas of metaphysics, epistemology, cosmology, and ethics.
PHI 501 The Philosophy of Aristotle
The course is an historical and critical study of the major concepts of the metaphysics, theory of knowledge, and ethics of Aristotle. Particular attention is given to the Metaphysics, to parts of the Physics, Categories, Posterior Analytics, and the de Anima, and to the Nicomachean Ethics.
PHI 502 The Philosophy of Kant
Selected works of Kant are read, analyzed, and discussed.
PHI 506 Topics in Medieval Philosophy
The course is an intensive examination of selected developments in medieval philosophical thought. Topics may range from the detailed examination of a single text or the work of a single philoso- pher to the consideration of various medieval approaches to a significant philosophical problem. Among the areas that may be considered are medieval logic and semantics, universals, individuation and the plurality of forms, abstractive and intuitive knowledge, theories of human nature, and natural theology.
PHI 510/COM 510 German Philosophy since Kant
Course topics vary from year to year.
PHI 511 Pre-Kantian Rationalism
The course focuses on reading and discussion of the works of one or more of the major rationalist philosophers of the early modern period. Normally the course focuses on the writings of Descartes, Spinoza, and/or Leibniz.
PHI 512 British Empiricism
The course focuses on reading and discussion of the works of one or more of the major British empiricists. Normally the course focuses on the writing of Locke, Berkeley, and/or Hume.
PHI 513 Topics in Recent and Contemporary Philosophy
The course gives an intensive analysis of the major movements in philosophy in recent decades.
PHI 514 Recent and Contemporary Philosophy
Seminar will review developments in the semantics of natural language since 1975.
PHI 515 Special Topics in the History of Philosophy
The course is an intensive study of selected philosophers or philosophical movements in the history of philosophy.
PHI 516 Special Topics in the History of Philosophy
An intensive study of selected philosophers or philosophical movements in the history of philosophy.
PHI 519 Normative Ethics
This graduate ethics course examines some ethical questions and the relevance of psychological studies to those questions.
PHI 520 Logic
The course is a study of selected topics in logic.
PHI 523 Problems of Philosophy
A systematic examination of selected philosophical problems.
PHI 524 Systematic Ethics
The course gives an analysis of theories of the nature and foundations of morality.
PHI 525 Ethics
An introduction to the philosophical understanding and analysis of particular moral issues.
PHI 527/PSY 527 Philosophy of the Social Sciences
A presentation and discussion of key concepts and foundational issues in the cognitive and social sciences. The distinction between two types of representations, descriptions and interpretations, is explored. The ontology of culture; varieties of inferences, concepts, and beliefs; relevance and communication; and the epidemiology of representations are studied.
PHI 528 Social Justice and Related Problems
The course is a critical study of selected concepts in the tradition of political philosophy, including sovereignty, rights, liberty, punishment, and social welfare.
PHI 530/COM 537 Philosophy of Art
The course gives a systematic examination of philosophical problems related to art criticism.
PHI 531 Philosophy of Science
The course is a study of selected problems concerning the structure, methods, and presuppositions of the natural and the social sciences.
PHI 532 Philosophical Problems in Logic
The course is an intensive study of selected problems in logical theory. In various years, topics include foundations of intuitionist theory, set theory, modal logic, or formal semantics.
PHI 533 Decision Theory
Several accounts of individual and group decision making and of preference, utility, and probability are examined.
PHI 534 Philosophy of Language
The course covers traditional philosophic issues concerning language, including meaning, reference, and analyticity. Particular attention is given to attempts to view these problems as amenable to solution by the methods of empirical linguistics.
PHI 535 Philosophy of Mind
The course gives an analysis of psychological concepts and of philosophical problems in which they play a part.
PHI 536 Philosophy of Mathematics
The course is a study of selected philosophic issues in mathematics: truth and proof, the relation of mathematics to logic, constructivity, the traditional viewpoints of formalism, intuitionism, and logicism.
PHI 538 The Philosophy of Physics
A discussion of philosophic problems suggested by theories of physics, such as the logical status of Newton's laws; the nature of theories of space and time; the foundations of special and general relativity theory; and problems of quantum theory, including causal versus statistical laws, complementarity, correspondence, and measurement in quantum mechanics.
PHI 539 Theory of Knowledge
The course is a critical study of the nature of knowledge.
PHI 540 Metaphysics
An intensive study of concepts such as causality, being, time, and appearance and reality.
PHI 599 Dissertation Seminar
Students will make presentations of work in progress, discuss each other's work, and share common pedagogical problems and solutions.