The doctoral program has long been committed to the study of the history of philosophy with particular attention to developments in contemporary European thought. It is nevertheless committed to pluralism, diversity, and inclusion, with a range of courses in Anglo-American philosophy, and a number of scholars working closely in contemporary ethics, social and political philosophy, critical philosophy of race, epistemology, philosophy of science, and philosophy of religion. We are convinced of the importance of interdisciplinary work, with active, formal programs in philosophy and law, psychoanalytic studies, Lonergan studies, Medieval thought, and philosophy and theology. We cultivate a strong sense of both the American and international contexts for our work, with a number of faculty members connected to Europe, Asia, South America, and Australia.
The department normally can admit five new students to the doctoral program each year. Their studies are fully funded, by tuition remission and stipends (graduate assistantships and teaching fellowships), for five years (four for those who already have an M.A. when they enter the program). Students entering the program without an M.A. earn an M.A. on their way to the Ph.D.
Training in Teaching and Research
The department emphasizes the importance of training doctoral students in teaching, and in philosophical research and writing. Doctoral students follow a “Professional Development Curriculum” committed to each of these areas, which prepares them to an academic career. During the first year of the program, doctoral student work closely with faculty members as a Research Assistant, and attend the Teaching Seminar to prepare for the teaching of their own two-semester undergraduate introductory course to philosophy in the following years. Students teach for each of the next three years, and still participate to the Teaching Seminar in their second year. The Writing Seminar, geared towards publishing and led by a faculty member, meets throughout the academic year. Students may participate for the entirety of their doctoral studies. Other workshops prepare to bibliographical research, inform about main trends in current scholarship, etc., and prepare to the search of an academic position. Finally, students are guaranteed a last year of funded research and writing, without any other obligation than writing their dissertations. See the Graduate Studies Handbook for a time-table and additional details.
For specific questions about the Philosophy department's graduate programs please contact the Graduate Program Director, Richard Atkins (firstname.lastname@example.org).
All other requests onthe application process should be made to the Graduate School at the Morrissey College of Arts and Sciences.
Student Life in the Department
At any given time, there are approximately forty students actively at work in various stages of the program, over half of which are present on campus. Many of our students come from other countries, including Chile, China, Colombia, Congo, India, Italy, Spain, the United Kingdom, and Vietnam. Those who are from the United States come from a wide range of liberal arts colleges and universities coast to coast. A number spend part of their time in the program conducting research abroad (e.g., in recent years, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, the United Kingdom). Students maintain several lively study groups each year, and organize at least one major conference each semester (e.g. a Workshop on Contemporary Philosophy in the fall and a Graduate Student conference in the spring; see Graduate Activities). There is also a bi-annual off campus community day, at which faculty and doctoral students undertake extended discussion of professional and social concerns chosen by the students. Some funds are available to assist graduate students who are delivering papers at scholarly conferences. See also the section “Resources” in the Graduate Studies Handbook.
The total course work required for the Ph.D. is 16 courses (48 credits). Students entering the program with an M.A. in philosophy may be given credit for up to six courses (18 credits) toward this requirement, but must take a minimum of ten courses (30 credits) in the program. Students entering the program without an M.A. earn an M.A. on their way to the Ph.D.
Doctoral students funded by BC are Research Assistants in their first year and are responsible for a total of up to 20 hours per week of service to faculty members of the department of philosophy. See the Graduate Studies Handbook for more details.
After their first year, doctoral students, building on the pedagogical techniques acquired through the teaching seminar (see below), become teaching fellows or assistants to earn their stipend, while they continue taking classes. Either they begin right away to teach their own class in full responsibility, or they serve first as teaching assistant in year 2, in which case they teach their class in full responsibility from year 3 on. The class they teach is one unit of Philosophy of the Person I in the fall semester and Philosophy of the Person II in the spring semester. The course description is currently as follows:
This course introduces students to philosophical reflection and to its history through the presentation and discussion of the writings of major thinkers from ancient, medieval, modern, and contemporary periods. The course is designed to show how fundamental and enduring questions about the universe and about human beings recur in different historical contexts and from a range of approaches and methods. Emphasis is given to ethical themes, such as the nature of the human person, the foundation of human rights and corresponding responsibilities, and problems of social justice.
To prepare the Ph.D. students to teaching, the department requires first-year and second-year Ph.D. students who will become or are teaching fellows or assistants to participate for four semesters in the teaching seminar. This seminar deals with such issues as preparation of syllabi and exam schedules, fundamentals of the art of teaching, grading, and advising. Each student presents a sample syllabus which is then discussed by the group. The seminar does not count toward the course work requirement.
The Ph.D. student must demonstrate proficiency in logic by taking PHIL5577 Introduction to Symbolic Logic with a grade of “B” or better, or by attaining a score of 80% or better on the Logic Proficiency Examination, or by showing evidence of comparable prior course work. See the Graduate Studies Handbook for more details.
The Ph.D. student must demonstrate proficiency in two foreign languages of their choice. These languages should be relevant to their research work (qualifying paper and/or dissertation). See the Graduate Studies Handbook for more details. Proficiency can be demonstrated by 1. having received a grade of “B” or better in two semesters of the language at the elementary college level or one semester at the intermediate college level, or 2. in a 12-week summer language class for graduate students at Boston College, or 3. depending on the language, passing the department’s own language examination. Students can take language courses at Boston College for free. Language courses do not count towards the philosophy coursework requirement.
Ph.D. students are expected to pass this examination at the end of their first year in order to be authorized to teach the following year. The exam is based on the syllabus for Philosophy of the Person that the students prepare in the teaching seminar. See the Graduate Studies Handbook for more details.
This exam, to be taken in the fourth year (third year for the students who already had a master’s degree when they entered the program), comprises two parts: 1. A qualifying paper, 2. A dissertation proposal. See the Graduate Studies Handbook for more details.
A Ph.D. student is expected to complete a dissertation which embodies original and independent research and which demonstrates advanced scholarly achievement. The research must be carried out and the dissertation written under the direction of a tenure track faculty from the Philosophy Department. After validation by the supervisor and the second reader, the dissertation is defended in a public oral examination. See the Graduate Studies Handbook for more details.
All requirements for the doctorate must be completed within eight consecutive years from the beginning of doctoral studies. Extensions beyond this limit may be made only with departmental recommendation and the approval of the Dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.