Philosophy Degree Requirements

The following requirements are in addition to, or further elaborate upon, those requirements outlined in The Graduate School Policy Guide.


The Philosophy Department does not have a terminal master's program but a student may receive the MA degree after two years of satisfactory work in the PhD program.


Skills Requirement:

All students must demonstrate competence in at least one secondary skill or area that pertains to their primary philosophical training. In many cases, a skill will be adequate preparation in a language other than English, or a passing grade in an advanced logic course (one beyond the 200-level). In other cases, it may be some work in another discipline (e.g. linguistics, cognitive science, mathematics, etc.), or a philosophical field complementary to their principal specialization.

By the end of the first year, students should (in consultation with one or more members of the Philosophy faculty) declare to the DGS what his or her proposed competence (or competences) will be, and the DGS will arrange a course of study (or an equivalent) that will demonstrate the needed level of training. In normal cases, it is expected that the student will achieve this goal before being admitted to candidacy for the PhD

This requirement supersedes the language requirement that was in force through 2008. It will be mandatory for students who enter the PhD program in 2009 or thereafter. Students admitted in or before 2008 or may choose between satisfying this skills requirement or the old language requirement.


  • PHIL 401-1,2 Proseminar (first year): 2
  • PHIL 402-1,2 Proseminar (second year): 2

Distribution Requirements:

Students must take at least one Philosophy Department course, at the 300- or 400-level, in each of the following areas:

  • Ancient Philosophy
  • Modern Philosophy
  • Contemporary Philosophy Category A: moral or political philosophy
  • Contemporary Philosophy Category B: metaphysics, epistemology, philosophy of language, philosophy of mind, or philosophy of science.

The Graduate Advisory Committee will consider granting exceptions, and will determine, in borderline cases, whether a course falls into one of the above categories. A course that covers topics from both categories (A and B) can only be counted as satisfying one of the requirements. In normal cases, these requirements are to be completed before a student is admitted to candidacy for the PhD


  • Other philosophy courses (at least twelve at 400-level): 15
  • Additional courses: 6


The logic requirement for graduate students can be fulfilled in several ways.

(1) Standardly, students attend lectures for PHIL 250, and enroll with the instructor of the class in an independent study. Graduate students are expected to undertake additional work so that their coursework is at the 300- or 400- level.

The remaining means of fulfilling the logic requirement are listed below; however, these are to be understood as potential means of fulfilling the requirement. Whether or not coursework falling under the following rubrics does fulfill the requirement is at the discretion of the logic advisor.

(2) Coursework at another institution deemed equivalent to or exceeding that described in (1).

(3) Coursework at another institution deemed equivalent to part of that described in (1), plus completion of some portion of that described in (1).

(4) A 300- or 400-level class in formal logic taught at Northwestern. However, no course used to fulfill the logic requirement may also be used to fulfill a part of the language requirement.

Total Required Units: 27

Other PhD Degree Requirements

  • Examinations: oral qualifying examination to determine competence within chosen field of proposed dissertation
  • Research/Projects: two research papers related to the proseminars
  • PhD Dissertation: department approval of dissertation topic by three-member dissertation committee with oral qualifying examination as above
  • Final Evaluations: oral defense of dissertation
  • Other: annual review by faculty