May 25, 2024  
USC Catalogue 2022-2023 
USC Catalogue 2022-2023 [ARCHIVED CATALOGUE]

Philosophy (PhD)

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Application deadline: January 1

Course Requirements

The minimum number of course credits required for the PhD is 60 units. No more than 8 of these units may be from 590 courses and no more than 8 of these units may be from 400-level courses in the School of Philosophy. PHIL 450  or PHIL 452  do not count toward this maximum of 8 units of 400-level courses in the School of Philosophy. No more than 8 of these units may be earned in 794 Doctoral Dissertation. Each student must pass PHIL 450  or PHIL 452  with a grade of B or better and must pass both PHIL 500  and PHIL 503  with a grade of B+ or better. PHIL 450  or PHIL 452  and both PHIL 500  and PHIL 503  must be satisfactorily completed by the end of the second year.

The student may take up to two courses in a field of study related to philosophy. The PhD dissertation may be written in any area of philosophy for which adequate supervision is available from within the university. PhD students are also required to show evidence of practical or editorial training, or their equivalent.

Foreign Language/Research Tool Requirement

A foreign language examination, specified by the school, in French, German, Latin or classical Greek is required. The faculty may approve a replacement of the language requirement by a research tool requirement, consisting of an approved course or examination in a subject essential to the student’s research program. The course or examination must be passed before the qualifying examination is attempted.

There are three levels of evaluation in the PhD program prior to the dissertation:

Distribution Requirement

There is a distribution requirement of six courses at the 500 level in the School of Philosophy, two each representing breadth within each of the following three areas: (1) metaphysics and epistemology (broadly construed, including philosophical logic; philosophy of science; philosophy of math, mind, and language), (2) value theory (broadly construed, including aesthetics, political philosophy, and the philosophy of law), and (3) pre-1879 history of philosophy. PHIL 500 , PHIL 503  and PHIL 590  courses cannot count toward this requirement. Up to two 400-level courses may count by petition toward this requirement, provided that the departmental standards for graduate-level course work are met. For courses straddling two areas (for example, history of ancient philosophy and metaphysics; history of modern philosophy and ethics), instructors will indicate on the syllabus which requirement the course will satisfy. Courses dealing with subject matter within more than one of the areas listed may be used to satisfy any of the areas encompassed by the course although no single course may be used to satisfy two requirements at once. The two courses within each distribution area must represent breadth, as determined in advance by the graduate adviser and in accordance with departmental guidelines. All distribution requirements must be completed by the end of the fifth semester.

Screening Procedure

Students in the PhD program must pass a screening procedure before undertaking their 25th unit (seventh course) of graduate credit. This will be based on a review of the student’s work to date, and will take into account not only information acquired but also those intellectual qualities and capacities that are essential for good work in philosophy: the capacity to think and write on philosophical issues with clarity, consistency and thoroughness; the ability to understand in detail what is involved in the meaning and justification of philosophical claims or positions; the ability to recognize and to draw out fine conceptual distinctions and to perceive their logical relationships; and strong intellectual curiosity and independence of thought.

Student Reviews

Graduate student progress is reviewed on a regular basis each term. In addition, apart from the screening procedure, there are more formal reviews conducted at the end of the fourth and sixth semesters of study, as described below.

In the fourth semester of study, normally the spring of the second year, each student shall submit a journal-length paper in philosophy. The choice of papers should be made in consultation with the graduate adviser. The second year evaluation will be made on the basis of faculty review of the submitted paper and consideration of the student’s total record.

For the review following the sixth semester of study, students are to select one from a list of pre-designated areas in philosophy and master the material on a pre-assigned reading list of important works in that area. At the beginning of the sixth semester, each student will take a written examination, designed by the faculty of the School of Philosophy, on the materials covered in the relevant reading list followed by an oral examination exploring their knowledge of the field. This examination must be passed by the end of the sixth semester. The examining committee for each student will consist of faculty conversant with the field and appointed by the school.

Qualifying Examination

This examination consists of a written prospectus of the proposed dissertation and an in-depth oral examination on the form and subject matter of the proposed dissertation. All faculty members may inspect the prospectus and be present at the oral, but evaluation of the qualifying examination is the responsibility of the student’s qualifying exam committee. The examination is not passed if two or more members of the qualifying exam committee find it unsatisfactory.

The qualifying examination is not offered in the summer. Those who intend to take this examination must meet all the conditions specified in the section on general requirements for the PhD Students are expected to pass the qualifying exam by the end of the eighth semester. Students who have not passed the qualifying exam by the end of the eighth semester will be subject to faculty review, and may not be allowed to continue in the program.

Doctoral Dissertation

When the student passes the qualifying examination, a dissertation committee (see Graduate Advisement ), replacing the qualifying exam committee, is appointed by the director of the school in consultation with the student and the philosophy faculty. Normally, the qualifying exam committee simply becomes the dissertation committee. This committee and the candidate will then agree upon how the dissertation is to be developed and written. The dissertation must be an original contribution to some well-defined area in philosophy, and must give evidence of the student’s ability to do respectable, large-scale research, thinking, and writing in the field. The school requires the defense oral when the research and writing of the dissertation is substantially complete. Attendance at this oral examination is open to all members of the university faculty, but the examination is conducted and evaluated by the candidate’s dissertation committee. The faculty normally works with the dissertations only in the fall and spring semesters, and the student should plan accordingly.

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