Department of PhilosophyWestern Arts and Humanities

PROGRAM AND PROGRESSION REQUIREMENTS

Students entering the PhD program typically hold an MA in Philosophy, but students with an exceptionally strong record in an undergraduate honours program may be admitted directly to the PhD program.

Major modifications of the PhD program were approved in the winter of 2012. Among the students enrolled in 2013-14, some will do the old program and some will do the new one. The new program in its entirety will not take effect until September of 2013. However, students who began the PhD program after September of 2011 and who completed an MA in philosophy (or a cognate field) before entering the PhD program are permitted to fulfill the course and distribution requirements for the new program (the 4-year stream specifically). There will be some flexibility for these students with the course completion deadline, which is part of the new program.  

OLD PhD PROGRAM  

REQUIREMENTS

1. Competence in Elementary Logic.  All students must demonstrate competence in this area and should aim to do in their first year. This requirement can be met, in the first instance, by writing an examination upon entering the program (typically in September). Students who do not wish to do this, or who fail an initial sitting of this examination, will have the opportunity to strengthen their background as needed and write the examination later in their first year. The examination is written as opposed to oral, and is administered by the Logic and Foundations of Mathematics Area Committee. Examples of previous examinations are available from the Graduate Program Assistant. 

Another option for meeting the logic competency requirement is to attend specified honours undergraduate courses in logic and pass the required course examinations with a strong mark. 

Students will receive an exemption from the logic requirement if they can prove to the Chair of the Logic and Foundations of Mathematics Area Committee that they have obtained an “A” grade in a logic course that deals with the topics covered in the exam. These topics coincide with the contents of The Logic Book by M. Bergmann, J. Moor and J. Nelson.

2. Coursework.  Students must complete 5 full-year graduate courses in philosophy (10 half-courses) in their first two years of study, subject to the following conditions and options. 

Distribution: there is a distribution requirement for courses that assumes students have a specialization in one of the following areas:  

a)      History of Philosophy

b)      Value theory, including moral, political, legal, and social philosophy

c)      Metaphysics and epistemology, including philosophy of language and mind

d)      Philosophy of science, including logic and foundations of mathematics

 The requirement is that students take at least two courses in each of two areas outside of their area of specialization. In addition, History of Philosophy must be one of these areas for students who lack a demonstrable competence in history. The History of Philosophy Area Committee will be responsible for assessing whether students have this competence, based on their prior education in philosophy. If students wish to have this assessment done and avoid having History as one of the areas outside of their specialization in which they do courses, then they need to request this from the Chair of the History Area Committee.    

The same course could satisfy different requirements (e.g., a value theory requirement or a history requirement). But students cannot count the same course twice. The graduate course listing online identifies which courses meet which requirements.

Prospectus course: This course is a reading course, normally completed by the end of year 2 but no later than the end of year 3, that enables students either to prepare for writing a thesis prospectus or to write a thesis prospectus.  Students who still are developing their interests and their ideas may use the course to do further research before writing a prospectus.  For this option, the outcome of the course is a substantial research paper.  Students who have settled on a thesis topic may use the course to examine, expand, and refine their ideas as they develop a research plan.  For this option, the outcome of the course is a draft of a thesis prospectus, perhaps supplemented by shorter research pieces.  The instructor typically will be the student’s intended thesis supervisor.  If the student has not already passed the Area Comprehensive Exam, preparation for that exam should complement and inform the work being done in the Prospectus Course.  Because this is a reading course, the student and instructor must, after discussing and agreeing about the nature, format, and content of the course, complete the form required for registering in a reading course, which then is submitted to the Graduate Program Assistant. 

      A grade will be assigned on the basis of work done specifically for this course. Any resulting prospectus must be independently assessed by the student’s Thesis Advisory Committee (see below for requirements specific to the dissertation prospectus and prospectus defence). 

Reading courses: the equivalent of a second half-course may be taken as an independent study or reading course with approval of the Graduate Program Chair.

External courses: in addition, students may receive credit towards their PhD program requirements of up to, but usually not more than, 1.5 full-year courses (3 half-courses) for courses taken in disciplines other than philosophy, subject to approval of the Graduate Program Chair.

Grades: The Department expects that students will maintain appreciably better course grades than the minimum 70% average required by SGPS.  To be considered in good standing in the PhD Program in Philosophy, students must earn grades of A in the equivalent of at least 3 full-year courses (6 half-courses) out of the 5 full-year courses (10 half-courses) they are required to take in their first two years in the program.  These must include grades above 80% in at least half of the courses taken in the first year and may include grades above 80% accumulated during the MA program.  If a student receives less than 70% in any course, the Graduate Affairs Committee reserves the right to withdraw the student from the program.

Students who do not complete their course requirements in the specified period, or do not meet these grade requirements, may be withdrawn from the program on academic grounds.

3. Comprehensive Examination.  All PhD students must pass one comprehensive examination in the area of specialization in which they plan to write a dissertation. The areas for which comprehensive exams are currently available are more specific than the areas that govern the distribution of courses. These are the examination areas: 

Format: Each area committee will decide on the format for the exam in its area and will administer this exam. Possible formats include, 1) having each student write a 4-hour sit-down exam on campus; 2) having each student write a 24-hour take-home exam with or without a short oral exam; and 3) giving each student the option between writing a 4-hour sit-down exam or a 24-hour take-home exam (again, with or without an oral exam). Exams are offered, as demand requires, in October, January, March, and August.  Sample examinations are available from the Graduate Program Assistant, and information about the exams is available from the Chairs of the Area Committees. 

Students are expected to pass the comprehensive examination in their intended area of dissertation research by the end of their second year in the PhD program.

4. Dissertation Prospectus and Prospectus Defence.  Students are required to develop a prospectus outlining their dissertation project, which they must successfully defend in an oral examination by their Thesis Advisory Committee.  

Prospectus: the prospectus is to be developed through consultation with the intended supervisor of the dissertation.  The required ‘prospectus course’ (described above) provides students an opportunity to develop the background necessary for drafting a defensible prospectus and should be started in the first semester of their second year in the PhD program if the student is in the 4 year stream, or in the first semester of the their third year in the PhD program if the student is in the 5 year stream.  When appropriate, prospectuses emerging from a reading course other than that designated as the prospectus course will be admissible for defence.  Examples of successful prospectuses are available from the Graduate Program Assistant. The maximum length for a prospectus is 4500 words, including notes, but excluding the bibliography.  

Prospectus oral defence: Ideally, students will successfully defend their prospectus to the intended Thesis Advisory Committee (two faculty members plus the supervisor(s)) before the beginning of their third year in the PhD program for students in the 4 year stream or the beginning of their fourth year in the PhD program for students in the 5 year stream.  To be considered in good standing in the program, a student must have his/her prospectus approved by the GAC before the beginning of his/her fourth year in the program for students in the 4 year stream or the beginning of his/her fifth year in the PhD program for students in the 5 year program. The supervisor will arrange for the oral examination of the prospectus and will report the outcome to the Graduate Affairs Committee.

      Here is a more detailed description of this requirement: the oral examination provides an opportunity for a draft of a thesis prospectus to be reviewed by several faculty members who are knowledgeable about the proposed area and topic of the student’s thesis before the prospectus is presented to the Graduate Affairs Committee for approval.  The intended thesis supervisor is responsible for assembling qualified faculty members, who will then serve as readers on the student’s Thesis Advisory Committee. The aim is to examine the prospectus, collectively and collegially, to identify omissions and weaknesses and to suggest ways in which content, method, and organization can be improved.  The desired outcome is a prospectus that presents a clear, coherent, promising plan of research that can successfully guide a student through the process of writing a thesis.  After the exam the student and the intended thesis supervisor will meet to discuss the assessment of the prospectus and the suggestions for improvement and to decide what revisions need to be made.  When the intended thesis supervisor is satisfied with the quality of the resulting prospectus, it will be presented to the Graduate Affairs Committee for consideration and acceptance.

 

5. Dissertation Research and Thesis Defence.  The central research requirement of the PhD program in Philosophy is the dissertation.  This work should exhibit significant scholarly research and originality, and must be submitted and examined in accordance with regulations set out by the School of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies: see the Thesis Regulation Guide (available on the SGPS website under “Current Students”).  In addition, the Department requires the following:

-          that dissertations in Philosophy not exceed 250 pages in length,

-          that students give a departmental talk on the subject of their thesis prior to their defence. 

Annual deadlines for all stages of thesis submission and defence, and a checklist for the presentation of a thesis to SGPS, are available from the Graduate Program Assistant. 

6. Special Requirements.  In addition to the general requirements set out above, the following considerations may be relevant for students pursuing PhD work in Philosophy.

Language and technical competence: students in the PhD program are not required to meet a foreign language requirement or to demonstrate competence in areas other than logic and history of philosophy.  Students often find it necessary, however, to acquire a reading knowledge of a language other than English, or to establish other forms of technical competence (e.g., in specific areas of statistics or mathematics), in order to do PhD level research in their chosen areas of specialization.  In principle a student may be required to demonstrate competence in the relevant languages or areas of technical expertise before their dissertation topic is approved.  Various arrangements can be made to support students in establishing such competence.  For example, instruction in philosophical Greek and Latin can be provided, and the French and the German sections of the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures offer intensive reading courses designed for graduate students who require a basic knowledge of these languages.  The Graduate Program Chair can advise about what arrangements can be made for acquiring competence in other languages or areas of technical expertise.

 

MINIMUM REQUIREMENTS FOR THE Old PhD PROGRAM

 

Year1         Standard         Cumulative course                 Other                          Grades3           

              Course Load2       completion rate              requirements                (cumulative)

PhD 1             3                            3                     Competence exam           >80% in half

                                                                                    in logic4                  PhD 1 courses

PhD 2             25                           5                       Comprehensive           >80% in at least

                                                                                examination6             3 full-yr courses

                                                                                                                   (or equivalent)

PhD 3                                                                 Prospectus defence7

                                                                          Dissertation research

PhD 4                                                                Dissertation research

                                                                          Dissertation defence8

 

1 One year = three terms; normally September 1 - August 31.

2 Course load = number of full-year courses required (a total of 5 full-year courses or 10 half-courses)

3 Number of grades above 80% accumulated by the end of each respective year.  This may include grades above 80% accumulated during the MA program.

4 This competence requirement should be met by the end of the first academic year in the PhD program.

5 This course load includes the required prospectus course which should be taken in Year 2, typically in the second semester.

6 By the end of Year 2 students should have passed the comprehensive examination appropriate to their projected dissertation topic and/or Field. They can begin studying for this exam in the summer of Year 1.

7 A dissertation prospectus must be submitted within 6 weeks of the completion of all coursework and the comprehensive examination, and must be defended, at the latest, in the first semester of Year 3.

8 The dissertation must be successfully defended in an oral examination, typically at the end of Year 4.

 

NEW PhD PROGRAM

 

In the new program, there will be two separate program streams for the PhD: a 4-year stream that follows the completion of an MA, and a 5-year stream for the direct-entry PhD. While both program streams will lead to the same degree, their coursework requirements will differ. All of the other requirements—competency in elementary logic, comprehensive examination, dissertation prospectus and prospectus defence, dissertation research and thesis defence, special requirements—will be the same. For descriptions of these, see the old program. But see below for an explanation of when students in the new program should complete all of their requirements.

 

4-year PhD program stream

The 4-year PhD stream is designed for students who have done an MA in Philosophy (or a cognate field). Students in this stream must complete 7 half-credit courses, subject to the following conditions and options.

Distribution: there is a distribution requirement for courses that assumes students have a specialization in one of the four areas listed above in the old program (under the distribution requirement for coursework). The requirement is that students take at least one graduate half-credit course in each of two areas outside of their area of specialization. It is required that History of Philosophy be one of these areas for students who lack a demonstrable competence in History of Philosophy. (As is the case in the old program, the History of Philosophy Area Committee will be responsible for assessing whether students have this competence, based on their prior education in philosophy.) 

          (Like in the old program, in the new program—the 4-year and the 5-year streams—the same course could satisfy different requirements; but students cannot count the same course twice. The graduate course listing online identifies which courses meet which requirements.) 

Prospectus course: one of the 7 half-credit courses that students take must be a prospectus course. See the old program for a description of this course.  

Completion deadline: students must complete all of their required coursework, with the exception of their prospectus course, by the end of program Year 1. 

External courses: In exceptional circumstances, students may receive credit towards their PhD program requirements of up to 2 half-credit courses for courses taken in disciplines other than philosophy, subject to approval by the Graduate Program Chair.

Grades: the Department expects that students will maintain appreciably better course grades than the minimum 70% average required by SGPS. To be considered in good standing in the 4-year stream, students must earn grades of A in the equivalent of at least 4 of the 6 half-credit courses that they are required to take in addition to the prospectus course. If a student receives less than 70% in any course, the Graduate Affairs Committee reserves the right to withdraw the student from the program. 

PROGRESSION REQUIREMENTS FOR THE 4-YEAR PhD PROGRAM STREAM

 

Year1         Standard         Cumulative course                 Other                          Grades

              Course Load2       completion rate              requirements                               

PhD 1             6                            6                     Competence exam         >80% in at least

                                                                                    in logic3                      4 courses

PhD 2             14                           7                       Comprehensive

                                                                                Examination5

                                                                          Prospectus defence6

 

 

PhD 3                                                                Dissertation research

PhD 4                                                                Dissertation research

                                                                          Dissertation defence7

 

1 One year = three terms; normally September 1 - August 31.

2 Course load = number of half-credit courses required.

3 This competence requirement should be met by the end of the first academic year in the PhD program.

4 This course is the required prospectus course, which should be taken in Year 2, typically in the first semester.

5 By the end of Year 2 students should have passed the comprehensive examination appropriate to their projected dissertation topic and/or Field. They can begin studying for this exam in the summer of Year 1.

6 A dissertation prospectus should be defended before first semester of Year 3.

7 The dissertation should be successfully defended by the end of Year 4.

 

5-year direct-entry PhD program stream

The 5-year PhD program is designed for students who have a BA in Philosophy but who have not completed an MA in Philosophy (or a cognate field). Students in this stream must complete 12 half-credit courses, subject to the following conditions and options.

Distribution: there is a distribution requirement for courses that assumes students have a specialization in one of the four areas listed above in the old program (under the distribution requirement for coursework). The requirement is that students take at least two half-credit courses in each of two areas outside of their area of specialization. It is required that History of Philosophy be one of these areas for students who lack a demonstrable competence in History of Philosophy. (As is the case in the old program, the History of Philosophy Area Committee will be responsible for assessing whether students have this competence, based on their prior education in philosophy.)

Completion deadlines: students must complete all of their required coursework, with the exception of their prospectus course, by the end of program Year 2.

External courses: In exceptional circumstances, students may receive credit towards their PhD program requirements of up to 3 half-credit courses for courses taken in disciplines other than philosophy, subject to approval of the Graduate Program Chair.

Grades: the Department expects that students will maintain appreciably better course grades than the minimum 70% average required by SGPS. To be considered in good standing in the 5-year PhD stream, students must earn grades of A in the equivalent of at least 7 half-credit courses out of the 11 half-credit courses that they are required to take in addition to the prospectus course. These must include grades above 80% in at least 4 of the courses taken in the first year. If a student receives less than 70% in any course, the Graduate Affairs Committee reserves the right to withdraw the student from the program.

PROGRESSION REQUIREMENTS FOR THE 5-YEAR PhD PROGRAM STREAM

 

Year1         Standard         Cumulative course                 Other                          Grades3           

              Course Load2       completion rate              requirements                (cumulative)

PhD 1             6                            6                     Competence exam         >80% in at least

                                                                                    in logic4                      4 courses

PhD 2             5                           11                                                          >80% in at least

                                                                                                                       7 courses

 

PhD 3             15                          12                      Comprehensive            >80% in at least

                                                                                Examination                   7 courses

                                                                          Prospectus defence7

PhD 4                                                                Dissertation research

PhD 5                                                                Dissertation research

                                                                          Dissertation defence8

 

1 One year = three terms; normally September 1 - August 31.

2 Course load = number of half-credit courses required.

3 Number of grades above 80% accumulated by the end of each respective year.

4 This competence requirement should be met by the end of the first academic year in the PhD program.

5 This course is the required prospectus course, which should be taken in Year 3, typically in the first semester.

6 By the end of Year 3 students should have passed the comprehensive examination appropriate to their projected dissertation topic and/or Field. They can begin studying for this exam in the summer of Year 2.

7 A dissertation prospectus should be defended before the first semester of Year 4.

8 The dissertation should be successfully defended by the end of Year 5.