Philosophy PhD

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 M.A. degree after two years of satisfactory work in the PhD program.


Total Units Required: 20 (if student holds an M.A. in Philosophy) or 22 (if student does not hold an M.A. in Philosophy)

General Coursework Requirements

During the course of their first two years in the program, each student is required to take 12 graduate seminars in the Department of Philosophy at Northwestern University and 6 additional courses at the 300- or 400-level.

In addition, students who enter the program without an M.A. in Philosophy are required to take 4 elective graduate seminars P/NP in the Department of Philosophy at Northwestern University during their third year. Students who enter the department with an M.A. are required to take 2 such seminars. 

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.

Proseminar Requirements

During both their first and second years, students are required to take a Philosophy proseminar that is taught over the course of two quarters, usually in the Fall and Winter.  The proseminars are intended to present essential aspects of philosophical inquiry and culminate in the production of professional-quality writing.

  • PHIL 401-1 Proseminar (1St-Yr Philosophy Grad Students Only), PHIL 401-2 Proseminar (1St Yr Grad Students Only) - Taken over two quarters during the first year
  • PHIL 402-1 Proseminar II, PHIL 402-2 Proseminar (2nd Yr Grad Students Only) - Taken over two quarters during the second year

Skills Requirement

All students must demonstrate competence in at least one secondary skill or area that pertains to their primary philosophical training.  This can be achieved in several ways, including the following:

  1. Competency in a second language other than English
  2. Completion of a course in advanced logic (above 200-level)
  3. A skills requirement involving work in a related discipline (e.g. Linguistics, Cognitive Science, Mathematics, etc.) or a complementary philosophical area.

By the end of the first year, students should declare to the DGS what their 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.

Logic Requirement

Standardly, students attend lectures for PHIL 250-0 Elementary Logic II, 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.

Alternative arrangements may be made to fulfill this requirement with the approval of the logic advisor.

Other PhD Degree Requirements

  • Research/Projects: two qualifying papers, one to be completed in each of the first two years.
  • Dissertation Research Seminars: one presentation in each of the third and fourth years.
  • Dissertation Prospectus and Oral Prospectus Defense
  • PhD Dissertation
  • Final Evaluations: oral defense of dissertation
  • Other: annual review by faculty