The Ph.D. program at the UMass focuses on mainstream analytic philosophy. We are notably strong in the core areas of metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, and the philosophy of mind. We also have notable strength in feminist philosophy. Seminars in these areas are offered every year. On a less regular basis, seminars are occasionally offered in other fields such as philosophy of mathematics, philosophy of science and philosophical theology. A good sense of the kinds of topics our students have pursued in recent years can be derived from the list of dissertation titles that can be found here.
In order to be a candidate for the Ph.D. in Philosophy, a student must complete 15 University graduate-level philosophy courses distributed over the traditional fields of metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, logic and the history of philosophy. At least seven of these courses must be graduate seminars. In addition, students must pass "Starred Papers" in two different areas of philosophy and an oral examination in the intended area of the dissertation. A Starred Paper is a substantial work giving solid evidence that its author is able to do the kind of original research and writing required to complete a satisfactory doctoral dissertation in philosophy. To ensure high standards, each Starred Paper is read anonymously by a committee of three faculty members. The oral Area Exam is administered by a three-person committee, who agree on a reading list in the student’s area. During the 90-minute examination, the three faculty members may question the student on any topic related to the intended dissertation and touched upon in the agreed readings. After satisfying these requirements, the student is ready to select a dissertation committee and write the dissertation. The requirements for the Ph.D. are completed when, after approval of the dissertation by the members of the dissertation committee, the student passes a final oral examination on the dissertation.
In addition to endorsing high standards of research, the Department of Philosophy at UMass is committed to training effective undergraduate teachers. Students typically teach or TA between six and eight courses during their years in the Program. Faculty members who supervise TAs confer with them about teaching and grading; make classroom visits to observe the TAs’ teaching and discuss their observations with the TAs; monitor the student-evaluation process; and encourage and support the TAs in numerous other ways. In addition, many students take advantage of the offerings of the University’s Center for Teaching. Our students often receive commendations from the Center for Teaching.
After a period of assisting faculty members in large courses, some students are offered the opportunity to teach their own courses. These students – called ‘TOs’ for ‘Teaching Associates’ – develop and teach courses on their own. These courses not only provide further experience for the senior graduate students, but sometimes also enhance our curriculum with courses that we could not offer otherwise.
As a general rule, we do not admit new students into our Masters Program. Students in our PhD Program are eligible to receive the MA when they have completed the Preliminary Requirement for the PhD. In some instances, students already in the PhD Program decide to transfer to the Masters Program so as to take a terminal MA.
In addition to our regularly scheduled courses, there are various reading groups that come and go with demand. In recent years we have had independent reading groups on propositional attitudes, time, and various selected philosophers. Our ethics reading group has been especially active over the past decade. We have also had small reading groups dedicated to translating philosophical works in Greek and Latin.
We have a very active departmental Speaker Series. A list of recent speakers can be found here. In addition, there are student-organized colloquia at which graduate students present their own work in a professional setting. Every other year we also hold our Homecoming Conference – a conference at which graduates of our PhD Program come back to give papers, to serve as commentators, and to get together with old friends to reminisce about their days here at UMass.