Brown University Ph.D. Program in Philosophy

Brown University Ph. D. program in Philosophy is designed to provide strong support for students’ research. After devoting two years to coursework, students begin their research in the third year by conducting literature reviews under the supervision of faculty members, and by enrolling in a seminar that is intended to promote work aimed at publication. These special courses help students to identify dissertation topics. Dissertation work begins in earnest in the fourth year. In that year and in succeeding years, students enroll every semester in a special seminar, the dissertation workshop, in which they present their research and receive feedback from faculty and peers. During this time they also work closely with dissertation advisers other members of their dissertation committees.

Financial support is guaranteed for the first five years of study, and also for the first four summers. It is not guaranteed for the sixth year, but in almost all cases thus far, applications for sixth year support have been successful. In the first year, students focus exclusively on course work. Teaching responsibilities begin in the second year, continue through the fourth year, and return in the sixth year. In the fifth year, however, students set teaching aside so they can concentrate on dissertation research. In this year, they may, if they like, spend periods of time at other universities, interacting with faculty and students who share their interests. Teaching responsibilities generally take the form of work as assistants in courses run by faculty, but in the fourth and sixth years, students may apply to be teaching fellows, in which case they have full responsibility for undergraduate courses. There are also opportunities for summer teaching.

The Department has several endowed funds, designed to support the development of graduate students and generally to improve the intellectual environment of the graduate program. The Graduate Professional Development Fund is used exclusively to promote graduate scholarship. Among other things, it provides support for giving talks at conferences and for travel to take courses at other institutions. The Mark Shapiro Fund supports an annual conference that is run entirely by graduate students. This fund also supports a bi-annual academic conference in a specific topic and a lecture series. The Royce Lectureship Fund supports a prestigious lecture series in philosophy of mind, and our department sponsors a further lecture series in collaboration with Blackwell Publishing. Finally, the Chisholm Fund currently supports a bi-annual Distinguished Visitor series, which brings to our department a distinguished philosopher for one semester. The department is also home to independently funded academic programs that sponsor multiple activities, such as lectures, workshops, and conferences in specific areas of philosophy, including the Program for Ethical Inquiry and the Political Philosophy Workshop.

 In addition to these departmental funds, the Brown Graduate School also makes substantial awards in support of travel by graduate students. Moreover, the Open Masters Program allows students to apply to pursue an MA degree in another discipline while pursuing a Ph. D. in Philosophy. Students admitted in this program automatically receive an additional year of financial support to complete their MA degree. Students may also apply for extra support from the University’s Cogut Humanities Center. Finally, they can receive substantial assistance with teaching at the Sheridan Center for Teaching and Learning.   

Apply Online

The Department offers admission in the fall only for its Ph.D. program. (Please note that there is no separate M.A. program in philosophy.1) Application may be made online. Applicants must submit official transcripts, three letters of recommendation, official GRE scores (no advanced subject test is required), and a sample of philosophical writing. The application deadline is 2 January.

To better support our current students through the global pandemic, admissions for the [program name] program will be paused for the 2021-2022 academic year. We look forward to resuming our admissions process and reviewing applications.

The preliminary requirements for the Ph.D. are satisfied by demonstrating competence in logic, philosophy of science, language, and mind, ethics, epistemology, metaphysics, and history of philosophy. This may be done either by passing prescribed courses with a quality grade or through satisfactory completion of an individually tailored major-minors program, planned in consultation with the Director of Graduate Studies and submitted to the department for approval.

Within seven semesters of full-time or equivalent residency at Brown, the student must gain admission to Ph.D. candidacy. Admission to candidacy is granted after satisfaction of the preliminary evaluation and distribution requirements and upon approval of a dissertation prospectus by a dissertation committee. An oral defense of the dissertation is required once it is completed.

Information about graduate studies in philosophy at Brown University is available in the department's Graduate Student Handbook.

Inquiries regarding graduate admissions should be directed to the Graduate School and not to the Director of Graduate Studies. The Director of Graduate Studies is responsible only for the Graduate Program, and plays no role in the admissions process.

1This is not to say that the department does not offer a Master of Arts degree. Any student who has completed the preliminary requirements for the Ph.D. is eligible to be awarded an M.A. It is sometimes taken as a terminal degree by those who decide, for whatever reason, not to complete the Ph.D., but who have completed the preliminary requirements. And it is sometimes taken as a non-terminal degree by students who do intend to complete the Ph.D. but who would just like to receive it. The degree may also be awarded to Brown undergraduates admitted to the A.B./A.M. program.