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Ph.D. in Philosophy

Graduate Overview

Syracuse University offers programs leading to the M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in philosophy. Studies in the Ph.D. Program are designed to prepare students to make original contributions in philosophy and to teach at the college or university level. Studies in the M.A. Program are designed to enhance a student's understanding and expertise in some aspects of philosophy.

The curriculum of the department provides opportunities for concentrations in metaphysics, epistemology, the philosophy of language, the philosophy of mind, ethics, political philosophy, and the history of philosophy. Considerable curricular resources, both within the philosophy department and in related departments, also provide for concentrations in which religion, psychology, law, continental philosophy and language and linguistics are the focus of philosophical interest. The degree programs reflect the view that proper graduate education in philosophy includes both the study of the history of philosophy and the examination of current philosophical issues.

How to Apply

Application deadline January 1 to be considered for funding; late applications considered until March 1.

Do not send application materials to the department, send all materials to the Graduate School (Admissions) directly.

The application fee is $75

The advance tuition deposit is $500.

In addition to completing the application, the following are also required:

  1. Transcripts from previous institutions
  2. Three (3) letters of recommendation
  3. Personal Statement
  4. TOEFL scores (for applicants whose first language is not English)
  5. Writing Sample (Please see instructions below)

***Note on GRE scores: We will no longer accept GRE scores as part of the application, and will not consider them even if you submit them."


Writing samples must be prepared in a way that facilitates our evaluating them via anonymous review. Please ensure that your writing sample satisfies the following criteria:

  1. The first page of the writing sample should include the title of the paper, the name of the author of the paper, and the institutional affiliation of the author.
  2. The second page of the writing sample should include only the title of the paper.
  3. No other page in the writing sample should include the name of the author, the institution of the author, or any acknowledgements or thanks to named individuals. (If the author of the paper feels it is important to include acknowledgements, these can be included on the first page of the paper.)
Graduate Financial Assistance

Tuition is currently $1,500/credit hour. However, teaching assistants and University Fellows receive grants for their full tuition. In most cases we do not recommend that students enroll in our Ph.D. program without a teaching assistantship or fellowship. Syracuse University's financial support for doctoral students includes tuition scholarships, teaching assistantships in philosophy (and occasionally in other departments), and University Fellowships.

In 2021/2022, University Fellows will receive awards of $16,485.00 (M.A.), and $25,290.00 (Ph.D.). Beginning Teaching Assistants receive stipends of $22,104.00, are eligible to participate in the University's group health plan, and receive a discount at the University Bookstore. Current salaries for Teaching Associates are $23,398.00. All of our teaching assistants and University Fellows receive grants for their full tuition. All graduate students receive some basic health services from the Syracuse University Health Center. Please see the Human Resources website for further information on Employee Benefits.

The Department strongly encourages graduate student participation in professional conferences, and some travel funds are provided to graduate students to make such activity possible. (Here is a list of Recurring Philosophy Conferences.) The Department is usually able to provide small summer research grants to a few graduate students. Special funds normally make it possible to offer a colloquium featuring a speaker selected by the graduate students.

Doctorate Degree Sample Requirements

A total of 63 credits of graduate work are required for the Ph.D. in Philosophy. Of these, 18 credits must be devoted to a doctoral dissertation which is a book-length work of scholarly research and 45 credits (15 3-credit courses) must be devoted to coursework, as specified below. Students receiving continued funding from the department in the form of an assistantship or fellowship are expected to complete their coursework within 3 years. For students entering with prior graduate work, up to 6 credits of coursework may be transferred at the discretion of the Director of Graduate Studies. See below for how to transfer credits.

Transfer Credits

If you have any credit not undertaken as a matriculated graduate student at Syracuse University that you would like to have considered towards your Syracuse University degree, this must be approved by the department and the Graduate School. You are encouraged to submit requests for transfer credit as early as possible so that you may plan your studies accordingly. This includes the following kinds of credit:

  • Graduate coursework taken as an undergraduate at Syracuse University;
  • Coursework taken at Syracuse University before you were admitted to your graduate degree program (as a non-matriculated student); and
  • Coursework taken at another institution.

There are limits to the number of credits you may transfer depending upon your program of study and other factors. A maximum of 30% of credits counted toward a master’s degree at Syracuse University may be transferred from another institution (section 4.5.3), provided they form an integral part of the degree program and at least 50 percent of a doctoral student’s planned coursework (exclusive of dissertation) must be in courses offering “residence credit” at Syracuse University (see section 4.3). This rule does not apply to degree programs that are offered jointly with another university.

All coursework considered for transfer must:

Clearly be graduate level work;

  • Grades achieved must be the equivalent of B or better;
  • Comply with all time limitations; and
  • A letter grade must have been awarded (No transfer credit will be awarded for courses taken on a pass/fail basis).
  • You are advised to consult the Regulations directly and consult your advisor regarding your specific situation.

To request transfer credit, submit a Petition to the Faculty form to your academic unit and the Graduate Enrollment Management Center. This request must come with a Program of Study, which places this coursework in context, and an official transcript.

The Graduate Enrollment Management Center will consider your transfer credit only with departmental endorsement and recommendations specifying which courses are to be transferred and the number of credit hours to be granted toward degree requirements.

  • Application for transfer credit should be filed within the first twelve credits of graduate study at Syracuse University.
  • Transfer credit must be listed on the Program of Study (future_degreeprograms.html) along with Syracuse University coursework that will count towards your degree program.
  • Additional documents, such as a Petition to the Faculty, may be required to count transfer credit toward your degree program. Official transcripts and documents must be filed with the Graduate School.

Required proseminars: The following three writing-intensive proseminars must be taken in the first three semesters. There will be a minimum grade requirement of B; students may retake a course at most once; incompletes will be awarded only in the event of a genuine emergency. One proseminar may be waived at the discretion of the Director of Graduate Studies based on prior graduate work. Each proseminar will focus on at least two major philosophical problems and will require students to read at least three major philosophers. Each proseminar will require several (5-6) short papers, and one longer paper which is revised by the student at least once following peer- and faculty-review.

  • PHI 617: Proseminar: History of Philosophy
  • PHI 693: Proseminar: Ethics and Political Philosophy
  • PHI 687: Proseminar: Language, Epistemology, Mind, and Metaphysics

PHI 651: Logic and Language (must be taken in the first year)

Selected additional courses: Eleven additional 3-credit courses or seminars. At least 6 must be numbered 700 or higher. No more than two independent study courses may be included. These must include at least one course in each of the following three area: (1) history of philosophy, (2) ethics and political philosophy, (3) language, epistemology, mind, and metaphysics. Prior graduate work may count toward this distributional requirement at the discretion of the Director of Graduate Studies.

Papers: Each student will write one "special paper" by August 15 of the summer before the third year. This paper will be developed in consultation with a member of the faculty (chosen by the student) and approved by a committee of three faculty members chosen by the Director of Graduate Studies. Students may rewrite and resubmit papers that are not approved. Approval of a special paper before August 15 of the summer before the fourth year is required to maintain good standing in the program. It is also required in order to become ABD and have a dissertation clarification.

Full-Time Certification: When you have completed your course requirements, and you are in ABD status, you need to register for GRD 998 every semester. Also, you need to complete a Full-Time Certification form as well to keep your status as a full-time graduate student in the Department.


Just before completion of pre-dissertation requirements (the course requirements and the papers), typically near the end of the third year, the student should meet with the Director of Graduate Studies to discuss dissertation plans. The Director, in consultation with the student, will appoint a dissertation supervisor. In some cases, two faculty may jointly supervise a dissertation.

At that time, the student and the supervisor should identify the topic of the dissertation (e.g., "Skepticism", "Emotions", "Free Will", "Consciousness"), and compile a reading list of the most important literature in that topic. At this time the supervisor can also suggest that the student begin work developing any additional "tools" that may be required for research in that topic.

When all pre-dissertation requirements have been completed, when the supervisor feels that the student's proposal is adequately developed, and when the supervisor feels that the student has done adequate background reading, the Director of Graduate Studies will appoint a committee of at least three faculty members for the Dissertation Clarification. The student will provide the members of the clarification committee with a proposal for a dissertation, including a bibliography of the major works that the student expects to cite in the dissertation. The committee will meet with the student to discuss the proposal, perhaps suggesting amendments and additional relevant literature. The committee may then accept the proposal, as amended by this discussion, or the committee may request a new written proposal and another clarification meeting.

Supervisory committee
This committee is comprised of three faculty members who supervise your dissertation after you have clarified. You are expected to regularly share your work with each member. At the end of each semester, each member of the supervisory committee must write a report on your progress. The Director of Graduate Studies will collect these and review them with your principal supervisor.

Tools requirement
There is no general program-wide foreign language requirement. However, a student's clarification committee has the authority to require some degree of competence to use one or more tools of research: perhaps one or more relevant foreign languages (e.g., if the student is writing a historical dissertation), some mathematics (e.g., statistics, if the student is writing about inductive logic), and so on. The dissertation supervisor will decide whether any requirements the clarification committee imposes have been satisfied.

When the supervisor judges that the dissertation is complete, he or she will approve it for defense. A defense committee consists of six people: (1) an external chair from another department at Syracuse University; (2) the dissertation advisor; (3) four additional philosophy faculty. One of the additional faculty members may be a philosopher at another institution, but this is not required. It is the responsibility of the DGS (in consultation with the student and the advisor) to ensure that the committee is populated.

Graduate School regulations and deadlines govern the preparation of the dissertation and the scheduling of the defense. It is important to work closely with the Director of Graduate Studies and appropriate representatives of the Graduate School in preparing the dissertation and scheduling the defense. These consultations need to begin several months before the expected graduation date.

Graduate School Guidelines for Theses and Dissertations.