2023-24 Edition

Philosophy, Ph.D. (School of Humanities)

Along with our sister Department of Logic and Philosophy of Science in the School of Social Sciences, the Department of Philosophy is consistently ranked by the Philosophical Gourmet Report among the top graduate programs for philosophy. Our graduate program has two distinct tracks - the Philosophy track and the LPS track - which share a common core of requirements in history of philosophy, logic, ethics, and metaphysics and epistemology. Because each department makes its own admissions decisions, students should apply to the track whose curriculum most closely corresponds to their own interests. The Philosophy track is described here.

UCI’s Philosophy Department is committed to providing students a well-rounded graduate education, including central areas of contemporary philosophy and a solid foundation in the history of philosophy. Those with interests in mathematics, the natural sciences, or the social sciences are encouraged to take courses in Logic and Philosophy of Science and to include LPS faculty members on their dissertation committees. Our cooperative two-track program provides students the benefits of faculty expertise in a host of areas.

Every year the Philosophy Department invites distinguished philosophers from other universities to present their work to our faculty and graduate students. Participation in this colloquium series, though not mandatory, contributes significantly to graduate education. Colloquia sponsored by Logic and Philosophy of Science might also be of interest to Philosophy track students. We also regularly host a range of other research activities, such as one-off research talks, workshops, and international conferences (e.g., our recent international conference on Hinge Epistemology).

As at other leading research universities, the seminar is the primary forum for graduate-level instruction in philosophy. Graduate education at UCI nonetheless has several distinctive features. Because admission to our Ph.D. program is based on merit, there is no bias against applicants with an interrupted education or with an M.A. from another university. Instead of shifting suddenly from coursework to dissertation work, UCI students make the transition gradually. In the second year of the program, they work closely with a faculty member of their choice, exploring an area of specialization and developing the skills they will need for dissertation research. Our Tools of Research requirement enables students to choose between studying a second language and graduate coursework in a department other than Philosophy, depending upon their choice of dissertation topic. Last but not least, congenial relations between graduate students and faculty lead to an unusual number of student-faculty reading groups.

Towards the end of the graduate program students are encouraged to do practice job talks and job interviews before going onto the academic job market. The Postgraduate Placement Director will also assist students with refining their portfolio for job applications.

There is no set number of courses required for the Philosophy track, so that work can be tailored to the individual student’s needs and interests. However, as a prerequisite for the Ph.D., every student is required to have some experience in teaching. Before students receive their first appointment as TAs in this department, they must complete the TA training program offered by UCI's Division of Teaching Excellence and Innovation.

Normative time to degree in the Philosophy track is seven years for the normally qualified student. Time to advancement to candidacy is four years. Time in candidacy is three years. Maximum time to degree permitted is nine years. A master's degree is not a prerequisite for the Ph.D. The following are requirements for the Ph.D.:

First-Year Seminar

The seminar is devoted to introducing new graduate students into the research culture of the department, to creating a strong cohort identity, and to helping them develop a research project.

Distribution Requirements

Students are required to take a range of courses designed to expose them to the various historical periods and fields of philosophy. When course offerings are announced, students are notified about which courses can be used to satisfy which requirements. In some cases, the requirement satisfied will ultimately depend on the content of the student's term paper(s).

The Distribution Requirements are:

1. History. To satisfy this requirement, students must receive a grade of B or better in at least four courses covering at least three of the following areas: Ancient, Medieval, Modern Empiricism, Modern Rationalism, Kant, Nineteenth Century, and Twentieth Century.

2. Field. To satisfy this requirement, students must receive a grade of B or better in two courses in value theory, one course in logic, and two courses in metaphysics/epistemology, broadly construed.

These requirements must be completed by the end of the seventh quarter in residence.

Logic Requirement

Students must receive a grade of B or better in an approved logic course. This requirement must be completed by the end of the seventh quarter in residence.

Tools of Research

The student’s dissertation advisor may require his or her advisee to pursue the tool(s) of research deemed useful for the advisee’s dissertation research. A student might, for example, be required to take classes outside the Department of Philosophy or learn languages other than English. The Tools of Research requirement must be completed by the end of the 12th quarter in residence.

The Portfolio

A portfolio of at least two papers is an extended writing sample designed to demonstrate a student's ability (a) to understand, analyze, and evaluate positions and arguments in the philosophical literature, and (b) to formulate and defend an original philosophical thesis. These virtues must be displayed at a level of sophistication indicating the student's ability to write a Ph.D. dissertation.

The portfolio must be submitted to the Graduate Coordinator at the end of the fifth week of the student's sixth quarter in residence. Portfolios will be evaluated by the entire faculty of the Philosophy Department. (Philosophy track students may request that relevant LPS faculty also be present at the evaluation meeting.)

Prospectus Examination

In preparation for the prospectus examination, students choose a dissertation advisor and a dissertation committee. They consult with their thesis advisor and other appropriate faculty to prepare a reading list on their area of concentration and a brief dissertation proposal with a comprehensive bibliography. The exam is an oral exam and is normally completed at the end of the seventh quarter, but must be completed by the end of the ninth quarter in residence. The prospectus exam is to determine whether the dissertation project is viable and promises results that will fulfill standards expected for a dissertation in the profession.

Candidacy Examination

In preparation for the candidacy examination, students prepare at least a draft chapter of their dissertation, an outline of the organization of the work, and update their prospectus and bibliography in consultation with their dissertation advisor and their dissertation committee. Students apply for candidacy by filing appropriate forms, including a list (devised in consultation with their advisor) of appropriate members for their Candidacy Committee. The Committee is then appointed by the Philosophy Department, on behalf of the Dean of the Graduate Division and the Graduate Council, to administer the oral candidacy examination on the prospectus and draft chapter(s) to determine whether or not the student will be approved to continue work on the dissertation.

The Candidacy Examination is normally completed at the end of the ninth quarter, but must be completed by the end of the 12th quarter in residence. The Philosophy Department Chair, on behalf of the Dean of the Graduate Division and the Graduate Council, then appoints a Doctoral Committee (typically taken from the Candidacy Committee and naturally including the dissertation advisor) to supervise the writing of the  dissertation.

Dissertation Defense

Students must defend their dissertation during an oral examination administered by their Doctoral Committee.

Optional Emphasis in Critical Theory

The School of Humanities offers an emphasis in Critical Theory that can be appended to the Philosophy track. A student interested in the emphasis begins by taking the three-quarter Critical Theory Workshop. With the recommendation of a workshop instructor or a Critical Theory faculty member in the Philosophy Department, the student may then apply to the Critical Theory Committee for admission to the emphasis. Emphasis students must complete the following requirements in addition to the usual Philosophy track requirements.

The Critical Theory Workshop

Students must successfully complete the three-quarter Critical Theory Workshop. This sequence is conceived as a reading group, normally conducted by a team of instructors, and developed with the input of all participants. Significant texts are discussed and analyzed in class; no term papers are required. (Students receive 0 units and In-progress grades for the fall and winter quarters; passing students receive 4 units and a Satisfactory grade for the spring quarter.

Advanced Critical Theory Requirement

Students must receive a grade of B or better in three HUMAN 270 courses offered under the supervision of the Critical Theory Committee. At least three such courses will be offered each year. With the approval of the Philosophy Department, these courses can be used to satisfy the tools of research requirement.

Mini-Seminar Requirement

Students must participate in two committee-sponsored mini-seminars (six–eight hours each) offered by visiting scholars on their ongoing research.

Research Paper Requirement

Students must complete a research paper under the guidance of a three-member committee, selected in consultation with the Director; at least one member must be from outside of the Philosophy Department. This paper may (but need not) be part of the portfolio or dissertation.

Upon completion of the emphasis requirements, a letter certifying that fact, signed by the Dean of Humanities and the Director of the Critical Theory Emphasis, will be added to the student’s dossier.

Program in Law and Graduate Studies (J.D./Ph.D.)

Highly qualified students interested in combining the study of law with graduate research and/or professional qualifications in Logic and Philosophy of Science are invited to undertake concurrent degree study under the auspices of UC Irvine’s Program in Law and Graduate Studies (PLGS). Students in this program pursue a coordinated curriculum leading to a J.D. degree from the School of Law in conjunction with a Ph.D. degree in the Department of Logic and Philosophy of Science. Contact the PLGS Program Director’s office for additional information at 949-824-4158, or by email to plgs@law.uci.edu. A full description of the program, with links to all relevant application information, can be found at the School of Law Concurrent Degree Programs website and in the School of Law School section of the Catalogue.