Department of Philosophy


Program Description
Other Funding
PhD Placement
MA Placement

Graduate Students
Grad Theses

Internal Policies
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program description

areas of specialty in the department
the M.A. program

the Ph.D. program
interdisciplinary studies
teaching certificates
departmental events
Ph.D. funding
degree requirements

The Graduate Program in Philosophy at the University of Colorado at Boulder is designed to provide students with a broad and intensive training in philosophy. It focuses on the careful philosophical development and professional preparation of its students. We have distinguished faculty in all the core areas of philosophy. The Department is also one of a few elite programs in the country that balance strength in contemporary philosophy with a serious interest in the history of philosophy, with faculty spanning the whole history of Western thought, from Plato and Aristotle, through the Middle Ages, to Kant and his successors.

In the 2014-2015 Philosophical Gourmet Report, the Department was ranked #31 among Ph.D. programs in the United States (38th worldwide, 16th for US state universities). In the evaluation of specialty areas, the Department did well, placing in nine areas of the specialty rankings, as follows:

  • Applied Ethics: Group 3 (11-29)
  • Ethics: Group 3 (12-18)
  • Feminist Philosophy: Group 1
  • Medieval Philosophy: Group 3 (5-7)
  • Metaethics: Group 4 (11-26)
  • Metaphysics: Group 5 (15-37)
  • Philosophy of Cognitive Science: Group 4 (14-32)
  • Philosophy of Language: Group 4 (18-37)
  • Political Philosophy: Group 4 (23-36)

The graduate program contains separate tracks for M.A. and Ph.D. students. The M.A. program is intended for students who wish to explore advanced study in philosophy in a two-year graduate program, which will prepare students for further study at the doctoral level. The Ph.D. program is intended for those who aspire to a career of teaching and research at the college or university level. The number of students entering the program each year averages around four to six new Ph.D. students and six to twelve new M.A. students.

Our faculty is known for having some of the best teachers on campus – as is evidenced by the fact that we have a very large and active group of undergraduate majors, averaging 300 at any given time. Philosophy classes are in high demand among the undergraduates; this in turn makes it possible for us to offer plenty of classes in a wide range of subjects for both undergraduate and graduate students. At the graduate level, there are groups of students studying with a wide range of faculty members. To get an idea of the range of interests of the current group of M.A. and Ph.D. students, visit the Graduate Students page. Faculty and graduate students alike benefit from the highly collegial philosophical community at CU.

Studying philosophy in Boulder has the additional advantage of location. Situated at the eastern edge of the Rocky Mountains, 25 miles northwest of Denver, Boulder has an ideal geographical setting, surrounded as it is by the natural beauty of the Foothills and the nearby Rockies and Indian Peaks, with many recreational opportunities such as hiking, skiing, rock climbing, mountain biking, trail running, and kayaking. Boulder is a mid-size college town with many diverse cultural offerings, and is often found on lists of the best places to live and study in the US.

areas of specialty in the department

The faculty of the department is large (25 tenured and tenure-track professors) and active both in teaching and research. The research interests of the faculty span the major areas of philosophy, and there are many areas of common interest and overlap among them:

History of philosophy: Ancient Greek philosophy (Dominic Bailey, Mitzi Lee, Robert Pasnau), medieval philosophy (Robert Pasnau), early modern philosophy (Dan Kaufman, Robert Pasnau), the history of ethics and political philosophy (David Boonin, Mitzi Lee), Heidegger (Michael Zimmerman), and Nietzsche (Michael Zimmerman). The department has strong affiliations with the Center for Medieval and Early Modern Studies and the Classics Department.

Metaphysics (Carol Cleland, Graeme Forbes, Graham Oddie, Rob Rupert, Raul Saucedo, Michael Tooley).

Philosophy of Language (Graeme Forbes, Graham Oddie, Rob Rupert).

Semantics (Graeme Forbes).

Philosophy of Mind (Robert Pasnau, Rob Rupert).

Philosophy of Cognitive Science (Rob Rupert).

Philosophy of Science (Carol Cleland, Graham Oddie, Rob Rupert, Raul Saucedo). The department hosts the Center for the History and Philosophy of Science, which sponsors frequent interdisciplinary talks and conferences.

Logic, Philosophical Logic, and Philosophy of Logic (Carol Cleland, Graeme Forbes, Graham Oddie, Raul Saucedo).

Epistemology (Mike Huemer, Graham Oddie, Robert Pasnau, Michael Tooley).

Ethics (David Boonin, Eric Chwang, Iskra Fileva, Ben Hale, Chris Heathwood, Adam Hosein, Mike Huemer, Alison Jaggar, Alastair Norcross, Graham Oddie, Michael Tooley, Ajume Wingo). The department hosts the Center for Values and Social Policy, which sponsors a weekly series of lunchtime talks, a series of lectures aimed at the general public, and an annual conference on a topic relating to social philosophy.

Metaethics (Chris Heathwood, Mike Huemer, Alastair Norcross, Graham Oddie).

Applied Ethics (David Boonin, Eric Chwang, Adam Hosein, Alison Jaggar, Alastair Norcross, Michael Tooley).

Moral Psychology (Iskra Fileva).

Social and Political Philosophy (Eric Chwang, Ben Hale, Adam Hosein, Michael Huemer, Alison Jaggar, Alastair Norcross, Ajume Wingo).

Comparative Political Philosophy (Ajume Wingo).

Feminist Philosophy (Adam Hosein, Alison Jaggar).

Environmental Ethics and Philosophy (Ben Hale, Alastair Norcross, Michael Zimmerman).

Bioethics (David Boonin, Eric Chwang, Ben Hale, Alastair Norcross).

Public Policy and Philosophy (Eric Chwang, Ben Hale).

Philosophy of Religion (Chris Heathwood, Robert Pasnau, Michael Tooley).

Aesthetics (Iskra Fileva, Graham Oddie, Ajume Wingo).

African Philosophy (Ajume Wingo).

Buddhism (Raul Saucedo, Michael Zimmerman).


the M.A. program

The M.A. program is intended to serve a number of purposes: to provide students with a solid foundation in all the core areas of philosophy, together with a thorough grounding in the history of philosophy, in preparation for more advanced and specialized work at the doctoral level; to provide philosophical training for those who intend to go on to work in interdisciplinary areas bordering with philosophy, such as cognitive science or applied ethics and public policy; to provide an opportunity for those who wish to explore more advanced study of philosophy for personal enrichment and satisfaction; or to provide the education needed for teaching philosophy at the secondary school level or at a community college. We offer to M.A. students not only an outstanding education in philosophy, but also all the benefits of being in a large, active and collegial department, with numerous colloquia, conferences, workshops, and reading groups in many areas of philosophy. Some notable recent alumni of the terminal M.A. program include David Barnett (M.A. '96, Ph.D. NYU, now professor at the University of Colorado at Boulder) and Rachel Singpurwalla (M.A. '96, Ph.D. 2002, now professor at the University of Maryland–College Park).

M.A. students enroll in the same classes as Ph.D. students, and are treated as full members of the graduate program.

M.A. students do not receive department funding, although they may apply through the university for financial aid and university scholarships. However, students qualify for in-state tuition after just one year of residency in Colorado. Applicants admitted to the M.A. program who are not residents of Colorado or of any of the Western states should consider petitioning to defer their enrollment for one year, during which time they can establish residency in Colorado, in order to avoid paying out-of-state tuition.

The Philosophy Department at the University of Colorado at Boulder is a member of the Western Regional Graduate Program, which means that students from the Western states (Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming) can enroll in our MA program at in-state Colorado tuition rates. Students need not demonstrate financial need. To be considered for the WRGP tuition rate, students simply apply directly to our program and identify themselves as WICHE WRGP applicants. WGRP students must fulfill all of our usual requirements for admission, meet all admission deadlines, and must be selected for admission.

Students considering both our Ph.D. and our M.A. program should apply to the Ph.D. program. Applicants not accepted to the Ph.D. will automatically be considered for the M.A. program. Those interested only in the terminal M.A. program should apply just to that program. Students applying to the M.A. program can expect to hear about admission some time in late March to early April.


the Ph.D. program

The Ph.D. program at CU consists of approximately 2.5 years of coursework and 2.5 years of work on a dissertation, with 5 years of guaranteed funding (for details see below). We are both a research and a teaching department; teaching appointments are not only the principal means of supporting graduate students, but are also the way that we train graduate students for a career of teaching as well as doing research in philosophy.

Ideally, Ph.D. students in their first two years will take and complete 3 courses per semester, for a total of 12 courses (36 credit hours) by the end of the 2nd year. The minimum number of courses Ph.D. students can take to be making good progress in the first two years of the program is 5 courses per year. At the beginning of the 3rd semester in the program, students turn in a Diagnostic Paper, with feedback from 3 faculty members. At the beginning of the 5th semester in the program, students turn in the Fifth-Semester Qualifying Paper, which will be evaluated anonymously; this is a qualifying event which the student must pass in order to be considered for advancement to candidacy in the Ph.D. program. In the 5th semester, students continue to take courses, in order to complete the required 45 hours of coursework (15 courses). Ideally, students should have completed coursework by the end of their 5th semester, and should begin work on the prospectus, and defend it in a prospectus oral exam some time in their 6th semester. Students are eligible to sign up for up to 10 dissertation hours before they pass their prospectus exam. The remainder of the required 30 dissertation hours will then be used in the 4th and 5th years in the program, while completing the dissertation.

Over the years, we have had good success at placing Ph.D. students (see placement page). Recent graduates have received tenure-track jobs at both leading research universities and smaller colleges, and it has been rare for one of our students not to receive any offers (tenure-track or temporary) at all. Graduates have also gone on to successful professional careers outside academia.


interdisciplinary studies

Students in our M.A. and Ph.D. programs can earn interdisciplinary graduate certificates in related fields. For a complete list of certificates which graduate students can earn at CU, go to:

Of special interest to graduate students in philosophy are the following two certificates:

The Graduate Certificate in Women and Gender Studies

The Graduate Certificate in Women and Gender Studies provides an opportunity for graduate students in Philosophy and other disciplines to learn how to use gender as a category of analysis and to expand their knowledge of gender scholarship in fields outside philosophy. These skills and information are not only interesting in their own right but can also broaden and deepen one's philosophical work. In addition, the WGST Certificate provides a useful credential on the academic job market. The Certificate consists of four graduate courses, whose details are listed on the WGST website. It is easy to combine these courses with either an M.A. or a Ph.D. program, since Philosophy graduate credit can be earned for several elective courses taken outside our Department. Many of our most successful Philosophy graduate students, male and female, have been awarded the Graduate Certificate in Women and Gender Studies.

For further information, please contact Professor Alison Jaggar.

The Graduate Certificate in Cognitive Science

The Department of Philosophy is a participating academic unit in CU Boulder’s Institute of Cognitive Science (ICS). Numerous opportunities – from weekly lectures to participation in research projects – are available to our graduate students in connection with the Institute. Philosophy students can earn a Graduate Certificate in Cognitive Science as a supplement to the M.A. or Ph.D. This is a flexible program based entirely on coursework and can include classes in psychology, linguistics, computer science, education, and speech, learning, and hearing sciences. Our students can also earn a Philosophy and Cognitive Science joint Ph.D. To do so, students must write on an interdisciplinary topic, complete related coursework, and have two thesis committee members who are ICS fellows based in departments other than Philosophy. Students who would like to earn the Certificate or the Joint Ph.D. must have an ICS faculty sponsor in Philosophy and have their application approved by the ICS Curriculum Committee. Fuller details are available on the ICS website.

Please contact Professor Rob Rupert for further information.


teaching certificates

The Graduate Teacher Program at the University of Colorado helps to prepare graduate students for a career in teaching. They offer two teaching certificates which graduate students can earn to prepare themselves for a career in teaching.

1. Certificate in College Teaching

The Graduate School of the University of Colorado at Boulder considers the employment and training of graduate teachers to be a professional apprenticeship that shapes the professoriate of the future. To recognize and reward graduate teachers who devote time to improving their teaching, the Graduate School offers a Certificate in College Teaching through the Graduate Teacher Program.

2. The Professional Development Certificate for Preparing Future Faculty

This certificate is for graduate students and postdoctoral fellows who are interested in pursuing an academic career track. Teaching is not a requirement for the PDC; rather, participants complete a project under the guidance of a faculty mentor.


departmental events

Every week, there are numerous events sponsored by the department, including talks in the department colloquium series, lunchtime talks hosted by the Center for Values and Social Policy, talks hosted by the Center for History and Philosophy of Science, as well as talks in the Works-in-Progress series. In addition, there are numerous reading groups organized informally by faculty and graduate students on topics of common interest, ranging from Kierkegaard, non-conceptual content, to philosophical works in Latin and Greek.

Department Colloquium Series

All graduate students are strongly encouraged and expected to attend the talks in the Department Colloquium Series. In this series, leading philosophers in their fields are invited to address the department, providing students a glimpse into some of the most important research being done in the various areas of philosophy. Recent speakers include Elizabeth Anderson, Jonathan Bennett, Kit Fine, Richard Fumerton, Verity Harte, Jeff McMahan, Thomas Pogge, Gideon Rosen, Sydney Shoemaker, Geoff Sayre-McCord, Russ Shafer-Landau, James Van Cleve, Margaret Walker, and Timothy Williamson.


Rocky Mountain Graduate Student Philosophy Conference

The Rocky Mountain Graduate Student Philosophy Conference is an open-submission conference held each spring, run by our graduate students. It is one of the longer running graduate student conferences in the country. Student organizers gain valuable experience not only in running a conference, but also develop connections with fellow Ph.D. students across the country. Recent and upcoming keynote speakers include Peter van Inwagen, Philip Pettit, Jaegwon Kim, Claudia Card, and Mark Johnston.


Morris Colloquium

This multi-day conference has focused on such topics as human rights, environmental ethics, human nature, philosophy and film, human cloning, consumerism, global justice, and balancing liberty with security (in the wake of the Patriot Act).


Committee on the History and Philosophy of Science Colloquia

Recent speakers include Mark Bedau, Gordon Belot, Helen Longino, Alex Jones, Alan Richardson, Robert Shapiro, and Andrea Woody. The Committee also sponsors a regular series of round-table discussions with CU historians, philosophers, and scientists.


Rocky Mountain Ethics Congress

An international conference geared to offer the highest quality, highest altitude discussion of ethics, broadly conceived. Recent keynote speakers include Fred Feldman, Geoffrey Sayre-McCord, and Bonnie Steinbock.


Center Talks

The Center for Values and Social Policy aims to bring the normative and conceptual skills of philosophy to bear on critical issues facing society. The concerns of the Center include both theoretical and applied topics in moral, social, political, and legal philosophy. The Center sponsors lectures, brown-bag lunch talks, and conferences; is the home of the Summer Philosophy Institute of Colorado and the Philosophy Outreach Program of Colorado, programs for philosophy in K-12 education; and collaborates with professionals from other departments and institutions. For more information, visit the Center website. Most Fridays, the Center hosts a short lunchtime talk, followed by significant discussion, on some topic in ethics. Most talks are by CU faculty or graduate students, but occasionally the Center hosts an outside speaker.


Work-in-Progress Meetings

Several times a semester, faculty and graduate students meet to discuss the work of someone from within the Department. These informal sessions offer faculty and students the opportunity to present their work in progress to a (generally) sympathetic audience. Both M.A. students and Ph.D. students are encouraged to present their work; this can often be a useful 'warm-up' to presenting at a conference.


And much more: Reading Groups, Philosophy & Film, Think!, the Rocky Mountain Phi blog as well as many social events including after-talk dinners and parties which make the department a lively and collegial place to be.


Ph.D. funding

The department provides various forms of financial support for students in the Ph.D. program. For AY 2010-11, normal support packages are approximately $18.5K to $15.3K for the year and include tuition waivers; students are responsible for additional fees such as health insurance (if needed) and other university-imposed student fees. Support is guaranteed for a minimum of five years, conditional upon satisfactory progress in the program. Except in special cases, all Ph.D. students are funded by the department.

First, second, and third-year Ph.D. students are typically given teaching assistantships. Teaching Assistants lead recitation sections and grade papers, exams and quizzes in their assigned course. Fourteen students were awarded teaching assistantships for the 2008-9 academic year. For 2010-11, a TAship for 2 sections for 2 semester comes with a stipend of $15,329.83, plus tuition waiver; students are responsible for university-imposed student fees, which varies for each individual, and probably averages around $934 per semester if health insurance is needed.

Graduate Part-Time Instructors teach their own introductory-level philosophy courses, in which they are fully responsible for all teaching and grading for the course. Typically, students who are in the 4th year, and have taught two years as teaching assistants, will be GPTI's. Teaching one's own course is time-consuming, but also rewarding, and is important preparation for a career of teaching. In 2010-11, a GPTI teaching one course in one semester (25% appointment) and two courses in the other semester (50% appointment) will earn $4,624.91 and $9,249.81 respectively, plus tuition waivers, but not including student fees. If there is enough teaching to go around, GPTI's can sometimes teach 2 courses in each semester (50% appointment for both semesters), and will then earn $18,499.62, plus tuition waivers.

Each year, the department awards approximately 5 Department Dissertation Fellowships. These fellowships provide support for one semester equivalent to a 50% Teaching Assistantship. These fellowships help students prepare a dissertation prospectus or work on their dissertations; typically each student making satisfactory progress can expect one and no more than one semester on Department Dissertation Fellowship.

Because of the generosity of a donor who has given us a large gift twice, the department has sometimes been able to offer summer research assistantships to a limited number of students each year for the past several years. Currently we have enough for three more summers, though there is no guarantee that this will continue past next year. Each year that funds remain, students will be invited to apply at the end of the spring semester; they must work with a faculty member who will typically assign them a research project of interest to both parties.

Students are encouraged to apply for work study and get work study eligibility. Such students are then eligible to be hired for example as research assistants for faculty members, as graduate student assistants in the Center for Values and Social Policy, or as graders for courses on an hourly basis.

In addition to internal department funding for Ph.D. students, there are university-wide sources of funding which are available to incoming or current Ph.D. students. These fellowships are awarded through an open campus-wide competition; some provide significantly more money than internal department funding sources. Our Ph.D. students have been successful each year in winning these fellowships. Visit University of Colorado Fellowships for more information.

Other forms of financial support, including work-study and student loans, are also available to both M.A. and Ph.D. students. For more information, visit the Office of Financial Aid.

Finally, funds are available both within the department and from the university for travel to present papers at conferences.


degree requirements

The Department of Philosophy offers 2 courses of study leading to graduate degrees: an M.A. program and a Ph.D. program. The programs are independent in the sense that satisfactory completion of the M.A. program is not sufficient for admission to the Ph.D. program.

The M.A. requires 30 hours of approved graduate study, demonstrated proficiency in the core areas of Philosophy, and a successful thesis defense. 4 to 6 hours must be for thesis hours; the remaining 24-26 hours are for coursework credit hours (roughly 8 courses).

The Ph.D. requires 45 hours of approved graduate study, in addition to the 30 hours of dissertation credit hours required by the Graduate School. 27 of the 45 hours (equivalent to 9 courses) must satisfy departmental distribution requirements. Other requirements include a logic requirement; satisfactory completion of third-semester Diagnostic Paper and fifth-semester Qualifying paper; and successful prospectus oral and dissertation defense.

For more detailed information, visit the Requirements page.


Philosophy Department, UCB 232, Boulder, CO 80309-0232
Hellems 167  |  Phone: (303) 492-6132  |  Fax: (303) 492-8386
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