Academic Year 2023 – 2024

General Information

1879 Hall

Program Offerings:

  • Ph.D.

Director of Graduate Studies:

Graduate Program Administrator:


The graduate program in philosophy is designed to equip promising students for careers as philosophers and teachers of philosophy. To that end, the program provides broad general training, an opportunity for specialized research in the major areas of philosophic inquiry, and experience in undergraduate teaching. Students pursue an individual plan of study appropriate to their background, interests, and aims.

In the Standard Program, the first four semesters of graduate study are typically devoted to formal course work and independent research; by the end of the fifth semester, the student takes the general examination; having passed generals and demonstrated a capacity for doing scholarly work, the student proceeds to write a doctoral dissertation. The requirements for the three Special Programs—the Logic and the Philosophy of Science Track, the Interdepartmental Program in Classical Philosophy, and the Interdepartmental Program in Political Philosophy—are all variations on the requirements for the Standard Program.

Although there is no admission with advanced standing, regardless of previous work in philosophy, students with a strong undergraduate background, or those who have done graduate work at other institutions, may be able to satisfy the standard pre-generals requirements more quickly and hence take the general examination in two years or less.


Application deadline
December 15, 11:59 p.m. Eastern Standard Time (This deadline is for applications for enrollment beginning in fall 2024)
Program length
5 years
General Test - optional/not required

Additional departmental requirements

A sample of written work in English between 5,000-10,000 words

Program Offerings

Program Offering: Ph.D.


Permission to take the general examination is granted after review of the student’s record by the department. It is normally necessary (the grounds for exception are explained below) and always sufficient that students satisfy the department that they have an adequate basic knowledge of each of the following fields: (1) history of philosophy; (2) metaphysics and epistemology; (3) ethics; and (4) logic. Before taking the general examination, students must complete seven units of work distributed as follows: at least two in the history of philosophy, at least two in metaphysics and epistemology, at least two in ethics, and at least one in logic. Units are generally research papers, done in conjunction with a faculty member, that may or may not be directly connected with a formal course or seminar. In addition, before taking the general exam, students must complete two further philosophy units, plus the language requirement or an alternative to it (see the Language(s) section, below). For the Interdepartmental Program in Classical Philosophy, four additional units must be completed, consisting of sight-reading tests and reading list exams in Greek and Latin. These four Classical Philosophy units can be completed either prior to or after the general exam.  Completion of a unit can be accomplished by seminar or course work, examination, or submission of independent work, as prearranged with a faculty member. Two of the required units must contain an oral component. Up to three units may be satisfied by the submission of papers written before the student’s arrival at Princeton, but neither of the first two units, and only one of the first five, may be satisfied in this way. At least one of the first three units must be for new substantive work in philosophy.

Students who wish to do especially intensive work in one area of philosophy through extra work either in the Department of Philosophy or in related areas in other departments may be granted variances permitting them to do less than the norm in some other areas of philosophy, if this is required to allow them to pursue their special interests. Such variances will require approval of the department. There are, in addition, three specific alternative tracks that lead to the Ph.D. degree in philosophy, all of which provide special opportunities for combining the study of philosophy with other disciplines: the philosophy of science track, and the interdepartmental programs in classical philosophy and in political philosophy. For information about special programs, refer to the special programs page on our website.

Please refer to and navigate within our general website for detailed information on the department’s various units and programs.  


Every student must either demonstrate a reading knowledge of French or German, or else satisfy an alternative requirement before taking the general examination. (Those in the Interdepartmental Program in Classical Philosophy cannot take the alternative.) Reading knowledge is demonstrated by passing an examination on the translation of philosophical prose administered by two members of the Department of Philosophy.

A student electing to satisfy the alternative requirement must either (1) complete a 10th distribution unit in any area of philosophy (see above) or (2) complete a unit of advanced work in another department, in accordance with a plan previously approved by the Graduate Committee of the philosophy department. (This may not be work also used to satisfy any other requirement.)

In many areas of philosophy, including but not limited to the history of philosophy and recent European philosophy, satisfactory scholarship is not possible without a good reading knowledge of certain foreign languages. The languages most often needed are French, German, Greek, and Latin. A student having none of these languages will therefore be significantly limited in choosing areas of research, and in the choice of a dissertation topic. If a student's dissertation is devoted to any considerable extent to an author, the student must be able to read the author's works in their original language.

General exam

The general examination consists of an oral examination of approximately one hour, preceded by submission of written work, as specified on our website, in the field within which the candidate proposes to write a dissertation. The examinations are administered by a committee of the faculty, the composition of which ensures that the student is questioned from a variety of points of view. The subject of the examinations is broadly construed. Advancement to continued candidacy for the Ph.D. is based on an assessment of a student’s performance on the general examination in light of the student’s level of achievement in gaining the required units. All graduate students must give an undergraduate lecture at Princeton, observed by a philosophy department faculty member, prior to taking the general exam. Further details can be found on our website.

Qualifying for the M.A.

The Master of Arts degree (M.A.) in Philosophy – an incidental degree on the way to full Ph.D. candidacy – is earned by obtaining, at a sufficient level of achievement, the number units (depending on the course of study, but ten units for the standard program) required before one can take the general exam. It may also be awarded to students who, for various reasons, leave the Ph.D. program, provided that these requirements have been met.


All graduate students in philosophy, including those receiving outside fellowships, engage in some classroom teaching under the guidance of a faculty member: leading discussion groups, setting and marking examinations and tests, and criticizing written papers. This work normally amounts to three hours of classroom teaching plus attendant preparation, or the equivalent, for three terms, and in no case totals less than six hours. Assignments are made with regard for the student’s aptitudes and interests. First-year students normally are not assigned teaching responsibilities. 

Post-Generals requirements

As a requirement for the degree of Ph.D., students must do three in-seminar presentations in three different seminars they attend, not including the first-year seminar or the dissertation seminar.

The department conducts a colloquium, principally for members of the faculty and graduate students, at which professors from Princeton and other universities present papers for discussion. In addition, graduate students working on their dissertations present portions of their work in progress at a series of talks scheduled throughout the year.

Dissertation and FPO

The dissertation is written under the guidance of two or more members of the department (the student's advisers). While working on the dissertation, students may consult not only their advisers but also other members of the faculty. The dissertation is normally limited to 100,000 words (about 400 standard pages); a length of 30,000 to 50,000 words is recommended.

The dissertation must be accepted by the department, having first been read and recommended for acceptance by two readers, neither of whom may be the student's primary adviser. After the dissertation has been accepted, the student takes a final public oral examination in which he or she must demonstrate a capacity for scholarly research in the area of the dissertation.

After passing the final examination, the student is awarded the Ph.D. degree in philosophy by the University.


  • Chair

    • Benjamin C. Morison
  • Director of Graduate Studies

    • Hendrik Lorenz
  • Director of Undergraduate Studies

    • John P. Burgess (acting) (fall)
    • Desmond P. Hogan (spring)
  • Professor

    • Lara M. Buchak
    • John P. Burgess
    • Adam N. Elga
    • Daniel Garber
    • Hans P. Halvorson
    • Elizabeth Harman
    • Desmond P. Hogan
    • Mark Johnston
    • Thomas P. Kelly
    • Boris C. Kment
    • Sarah-Jane Leslie
    • Hendrik Lorenz
    • Sarah E. McGrath
    • Benjamin C. Morison
    • Jacob Morris Nebel
    • Gideon A. Rosen
    • Michael Smith
  • Assistant Professor

    • David Builes
    • Lidal Dror
    • Grace E. Helton
    • Una Stojnic
  • Lecturer

    • Marcus Gibson
    • Jason M. Yonover
  • Visiting Lecturer with Rank of Professor

    • Susan Brison

For a full list of faculty members and fellows please visit the department or program website.

Permanent Courses

Courses listed below are graduate-level courses that have been approved by the program’s faculty as well as the Curriculum Subcommittee of the Faculty Committee on the Graduate School as permanent course offerings. Permanent courses may be offered by the department or program on an ongoing basis, depending on curricular needs, scheduling requirements, and student interest. Not listed below are undergraduate courses and one-time-only graduate courses, which may be found for a specific term through the Registrar’s website. Also not listed are graduate-level independent reading and research courses, which may be approved by the Graduate School for individual students.

CLA 514 - Problems in Greek Literature (also HLS 514/PHI 527)

Special problems are selected for intensive investigation, such as the origin and development of a genre, analysis of form, and history of ideas.

CLA 526 - Problems in Greek and Roman Philosophy (also HLS 527/PHI 522)

Special problems are selected for intensive investigation. The subject matter of the course changes to adapt to the particular interests of the students and the instructor.

FRE 560 - Medieval Signs (also COM 557/PHI 504)

A seminar on medieval practices and theories of performative speech, from lies to oaths, promises, blessings, curses, deeds and sacraments. Readings are drawn from Old and Middle French poetry as well as earlier and later medieval grammar, logic and theology, where doctrines of "efficacious" signification and the force of words play major roles. To bring into focus the medieval treatments of speech acts, we also consider selected twentieth-century philosophical, linguistic and sociological accounts of performative speech (particularly by Austin, Benveniste and Goffman).

PHI 500 - The Philosophy of Plato (also CLA 509/HLS 500)

The course is a study of the development of Plato's thought and an examination of the validity of his major contributions in the areas of metaphysics, epistemology, cosmology, and ethics.

PHI 501 - The Philosophy of Aristotle (also HLS 549)

The course is an historical and critical study of the major concepts of the metaphysics, theory of knowledge, and ethics of Aristotle. Particular attention is given to the <I>Metaphysics,</I> to parts of the <I>Physics, Categories, Posterior Analytics,</I> and the <I>de Anima,</I> and to the <I>Nicomachean Ethics.</I>

PHI 502 - The Philosophy of Kant

Selected works of Kant are read, analyzed, and discussed.

PHI 503 - Plato's Political Philosophy (Half-Term) (also CLA 530/POL 556)

This course discusses central issues in Plato's Political Philosophy based closely on study of the pertinent Platonic dialogues.

PHI 505 - History of Chinese Philosophy (also EAS 505)

This course covers advanced topics in the history of Chinese philosophy, broadly understood.

PHI 510 - German Philosophy since Kant (also COM 510)

Course topics vary from year to year.

PHI 511 - Pre-Kantian Rationalism

The course focuses on reading and discussion of the works of one or more of the major rationalist philosophers of the early modern period. Normally the course focuses on the writings of Descartes, Spinoza, and/or Leibniz.

PHI 513 - Topics in Recent and Contemporary Philosophy

The course gives an intensive analysis of the major movements in philosophy in recent decades.

PHI 514 - Recent and Contemporary Philosophy

Seminar will review developments in the semantics of natural language since 1975.

PHI 515 - Special Topics in the History of Philosophy

The course is an intensive study of selected philosophers or philosophical movements in the history of philosophy.

PHI 516 - Special Topics in the History of Philosophy

An intensive study of selected philosophers or philosophical movements in the history of philosophy.

PHI 519 - Normative Ethics (also CHV 519)

A graduate ethics course examining some ethical questions and the relevance of psychological studies to those questions. Topics will include: the role of intuitions in ethics and the phenomenon of prejudice.

PHI 520 - Logic

The course is a study of selected topics in logic.

PHI 523 - Problems of Philosophy

A systematic examination of selected philosophical problems.

PHI 524 - Systematic Ethics

The course gives an analysis of theories of the nature and foundations of morality.

PHI 525 - Ethics

An introduction to the philosophical understanding and analysis of particular moral issues.

PHI 530 - Philosophy of Art

The course gives a systematic examination of philosophical problems related to art criticism.

PHI 532 - Philosophical Problems in Logic

The course is an intensive study of selected problems in logical theory. In various years, topics include foundations of intuitionist theory, set theory, modal logic, or formal semantics.

PHI 533 - Decision Theory

Over the past few decades, challenges have arisen to the orthodox theory of rational decision-making (sometimes known as Bayesian decision theory, or expected utility theory). These challenges include arguments to the effect that that some options might not be comparable, that some probabilities might not be sharp, that some outcomes might be infinitely valuable, and that decision-makers can have a variety of attitudes towards risk. The course examines the standard theory, the challenges, and some alternative theories that have been proposed to respond to them.

PHI 534 - Philosophy of Language (also LIN 534)

The course covers traditional philosophic issues concerning language, including meaning, reference, and analyticity. Particular attention is given to attempts to view these problems as amenable to solution by the methods of empirical linguistics.

PHI 535 - Philosophy of Mind

The course gives an analysis of psychological concepts and of philosophical problems in which they play a part.

PHI 536 - Philosophy of Mathematics

The course is a study of selected philosophic issues in mathematics: truth and proof, the relation of mathematics to logic, constructivity, the traditional viewpoints of formalism, intuitionism, and logicism.

PHI 538 - The Philosophy of Physics

A discussion of philosophic problems suggested by theories of physics, such as the logical status of Newton's laws; the nature of theories of space and time; the foundations of special and general relativity theory; and problems of quantum theory, including causal versus statistical laws, complementarity, correspondence, and measurement in quantum mechanics.

PHI 539 - Theory of Knowledge

The course is a critical study of the nature of knowledge.

PHI 540 - Metaphysics

An intensive study of concepts such as causality, being, time, and appearance and reality.

PHI 542 - Topics in the History of Philosophy

This course investigates Albertus Magnus' conception of place, by offering a philosophical introduction to Albert's treatise De Natura Loci ("On the Nature of Place"). The course provides a close reading of this text in its own right and also studies the text in its historical context by identifying its main philosophical and scientific influences in the Aristotelian and Neoplatonist traditions and in Ptolemy. The seminar is based on a new English translation of Albert's Latin text.

PHI 543 - Machine Learning: A Practical Introduction for Humanists and Social Scientists (also SML 543)

Machine learning - especially deep learning - is opening new horizons for research in the humanities and social sciences. This course offers a practical introduction to deep learning for graduate students, without assuming calculus/linear algebra or prior experience with coding. By the end of the course, students are able to code a variety of models themselves, including language and image recognition models, and gain an appreciation for the uses of ML in the humanities/social sciences. The course thus aims to support graduate students' professional development and is correspondingly offered in partnership with GradFUTURES.

PHI 550 - First Year Philosophy Graduate Student Seminar

This seminar is an introduction to graduate study in Philosophy for first-year graduate students. It provides students with a common background in the subject, and facilitates philosophical discussion with each other. The course is for first-year Philosophy graduate students only. Topics discussed vary from year to year based on the interests of students and faculty.

PHI 560 - Second-Year Philosophy Graduate Student Seminar

A course designed to promote cohesion among second year cohort; to fill in gaps in knowledge of classics of analytic philosophy and offer opportunity to share work in progress.

PHI 590 - Extramural Teaching Internship

One-term teaching internship at a host institution to perform teaching directly relevant to a student's dissertation work. Objectives will be determined by the student's advisor in consultation with the outside host. Monthly progress reports are required. Students will be permitted to enroll in this one-semester course at most twice. Participation will be considered exceptional.

PHI 599 - Dissertation Seminar

Students will make presentations of work in progress, discuss each other's work, and share common pedagogical problems and solutions.

POL 507 - Topics in Plato (Half-Term) (also CLA 507/HLS 507/PHI 507)

A study of fundamental questions of political theory in Plato¿s works, focusing on one or another of those works (or some part of one or more of them) while attending to the broader thematic and historical frameworks in which they must be interpreted. Topics may include part or all of Plato¿s Apology, Crito, Gorgias, Republic, Statesman, and Laws.

POL 518 - Political Philosophy (also PHI 529)

Selected issues or theories of common interest to students in the Department of Politics and in the Department of Philosophy. The course is taught by members of the faculties of the two departments under the auspices of the Program in Political Philosophy.

POL 553 - Political Theory, Athens to Augustine: Graduate Seminar (also CLA 535/HLS 552/PHI 552)

A study of fundamental questions of political theory framed in the context of the institutions and writings of ancient Greek and Roman thinkers, from the classical period into late antiquity and the spread of Christianity. Topics include the meaning of justice in Plato's Republic, the definition of the citizen in Aristotle's Politics, Cicero's reflections on the purpose of a commonwealth, and Augustine's challenge to those reflections and to the primacy of political life at all in light of divine purposes. We consider both the primary texts and secondary literature debates to equip students with a working mastery of this tradition.

POL 563 - Philosophy of Law (also PHI 526)

A systematic study of the salient features of legal systems, standards of legal reasoning, and the relation between law and morals.