Overview of the programs


Last modified Summer 2007


The CU/Boulder Department of Philosophy has emerged over the last ten years as one of the nation's leading graduate programs. We have distinguished faculty in all the core areas of philosophy, with particular strengths in metaphysics and ethics. The Department is also one of a few elite programs in the country that balance strength in contemporary philosophy with a serious interest in history. Our faculty includes internationally recognized scholars that span the whole history of Western thought, from Plato and Aristotle, through the Middle Ages, to Kant and his successors.

Boulder has one of the largest philosophy faculties in the country, and a correspondingly large graduate program, with separate tracks for MA and PhD students. Though the overall program is large, with more than 70 graduate students in all, the number of entering students in a given year remains small, averaging six new PhD students and 10-15 new MA students. All PhD students are granted funding through teaching positions (tuition waiver and stipend) for five years. MA students do not ordinarily receive funding, but many of our best PhD students have entered into that program through our MA program.

Our faculty is known for having some of best teachers on campus. Accordingly, we have a very large and active group of undergraduate majors. On the graduate level, there are enthusiastic groups studying with a wide range of faculty members. The Department's special strength in metaphysics makes this a particularly lively area of interest among the graduate students. The distinctive focus of the Center for Values and Social Policy likewise attracts a strong group of students. The Department's reputation for doing serious philosophical work on historical figures makes for yet another area of focus. Many of our graduate students have interests in all three of these areas.

Despite the always difficult job market, we have had very good success in recent years at placing PhD students. Recent graduates have received tenure-track jobs at both leading research universities and smaller colleges, and it has been very rare for a student to fail entirely on the market. Moreover, as the Department's reputation has grown in recent years, we find our students doing better and better every winter.

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 perhaps the most ideal geographical settings in the country. In addition to its natural beauty and recreational opportunities, as well as its diverse cultural offerings, Boulder has what many consider the perfect climate. Protected by the mountains, its winters are mild and its summers sunny and dry.


The Center for Values and Social Policy was established in January, 1980. Its goal is 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 coordinates the department's activities and courses in moral, political, and legal philosophy; offers specializations within the department's M.A. and Ph.D. programs; conducts research; sponsors lectures and conferences; publishes a newsletter; 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. The Center's programs are designed to help students acquire both the philosophical skills and the broad understanding that are required in order to bring philosophical issues to bear on matters of social policy and to participate in policy debates.

The program includes a core curriculum of policy-related courses: philosophy and social policy, environmental philosophy, bioethics and public policy, professional ethics, ethics, and political philosophy. Separate application for admission to this program is not required.


The Department has strengths throughout the history of philosophy, with faculty specializing in the ancient, medieval, and modern periods. The department also has strong affiliations with the Medieval Studies Program and the Classics Department, where another senior research professor is rostered.


The department offers a concentration in Contemporary Metaphysics. Ten members of the faculty have strong teaching and research interests in the area. Current faculty research and teaching topics include: time, causation, laws, universals, substance, concepts, reduction, supervenience, realism, physicalism, mind, events, value, and philosophy of religion.


Boulder is one of a very few top-ranked graduate programs to offer a terminal MA degree. Our MA students go on to top-ranked PhD programs around the country, and we often admit our best MA students into our own PhD program.

Students pursue an MA degree for various reasons, but we particularly encourage applications from students who have come late to philosophy (and hence lack the background to enroll in a strong PhD program), or whose academic records do not reflect their true potential. MA students enroll in the same classes as PhD students, and are treated as full members of the graduate program. Students in the MA program are also eligible to attend undergraduate courses and receive credit by concurrently enrolling in a directed study with the faculty member offering that course.

Except in rare cases, MA students are not eligible for funding. However, students qualify for in-state tuition after just one year of residency in Colorado. Applicants admitted to the MA program may also petition to defer their enrollment for one year, during which time they may wish to establish residency. Also, as a member of the Western Regional Graduate Program, the Philosophy Department can offer in-state tuition to first-year students who are residents of one of the following states: Alaska, Arizona, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, Wyoming.


Department Colloquium Series

Recent speakers include Elizabeth Anderson, Jonathan Bennett, Jack Copeland, Edwin Curley, Troy Cross, Julia Driver, Richard Fumerton, Barbara Herman, Anil Gupta, Keith Lehrer, Michele Moody-Adams, Paul Pietroski, David Robb, Gideon Rosen, Sydney Shoemaker, and Richard Sorabji.

Morris Colloquium on Social Philosophy

This multiple-day conference has focused on such topics as equal citizenship, virtue ethics, the ethics and politics of consumerism, and virtue and knowledge in ancient and medieval philosophy.

Committee on the History and Philosophy of Science Colloquia

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

Work-in-Progress Meetings

On non-Colloquium Mondays, 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.

Reading Groups

There are, at any time, more reading and discussion groups of various sorts in progress than anyone can keep track of. Some of the principal ones in which graduate students are involved are the following:

  • Ethics (contact Peter Higgins)
  • Epistemology (contact Mike Huemer)
  • History of Philosophy (contact Kendy Hess)
  • The Knitted Brow (contact Claudia Mills)
  • Philosophy and Film (contact Judi Halasi)
  • Medieval Latin (contact Bob Pasnau)
  • Ancient Greek (contact Mitzi Lee)



The department provides various forms of financial support for students in the Ph.D. program. All PhD students are appointed to a teaching position as part of the program; they start out as Teaching Assistants leading two recitation sections at a 45% time appointment, and after two years are promoted to Graduate Part-Time Instructors, teaching classes on their own at 25% or 50% appointment. (GPTIs will generally teach three classes a year, two one semester and one in the other). Funding in this manner is guaranteed for five years to students who maintain adequate progress in the program. All teaching positions include a tuition waiver of from 5-19 credit hours and a salary stipend depending on percentage of appointment.

Incoming PhDs can be nominated by the Department for several University-wide graduate student fellowships, including the Chancellor's Doctoral Fellowship, the Center for the Humanities and Arts Fellowship, and the Devaney Fellowship. While these are university-wide and are never guaranteed to any one department, the Department has a good track record in securing one or two of these each year.

PhDs at the dissertation stage are eligible to be nominated for several University fellowships, including the Emerson-Lowe Dissertation Fellowship, the Reynolds Fellowship, and the Berenice Udick Fellowship. In addition, most PhDs will receive at some point the Department's own internal Department Dissertation Fellowship, which covers tuition and a stipend for one semester, in order to enable them to spend a semester's sabbatical from teaching so that they may concentrate on their dissertations.


The Department of Philosophy offers two courses of study leading to graduate degrees: an M.A. program and a Ph.D. program. The programs are discrete 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 thirty hours of approved graduate study, demonstrated proficiency in the core areas of Philosophy, and a successful thesis defense.

The Ph.D. requires forty-five hours of approved graduate study, in addition to the thirty hours of dissertation credit hours required by the Graduate School. Twenty-seven of the 45 hours must satisfy departmental distribution requirements. Other requirements include a logic requirement; satisfactory completion of third-semester and fifth-semester qualifying papers; and successful prospectus oral and dissertation defense.


Applications forms and instructions are available online through the (http://www.colorado.edu/graduateschool/instructions.html) Graduate School. For further information, contact Karen Sites, Graduate Program Coordinator, Department of Philosophy, 232 UCB, University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado 80309-0232. The department welcomes applications from minority and women candidates.

To be assured of full consideration, applications for the graduate program must be received in the department office by January 15th for the following fall. All applicants must submit a $50 application fee, GRE General Test scores, a writing sample, and at least three letters of reference. (Although the Graduate School application forms ask for four letters of reference, we only require the three.) The University's graduate application is on-line at http://www.colorado.edu/prospective/graduate/apply/process.html

The deadline for international applicants is December 1st. Please note that international applications must be prescreened by International Admissions before being forwarded to the Department, a process that can take up to six weeks, so international applicants should get their materials in as early as possible. The international application is at http://www.colorado.edu/prospective/international/apply.html


ball DAVID BOONIN (University of Pittsburgh, Ph.D. 1992) Professor Boonin began teaching at CU-Boulder in 1998.
Area of Interest: Political Philosophy, Ethics, Applied Ethics, and the History of Ethics, especially Hobbes.
Current Research: Finishing a book on abortion and starting work on the problem of punishment.

ball CAROL CLELAND (Brown, Ph.D. 1981) Professor Cleland arrived at CU-Boulder in 1986, after having spent a year on a postdoctoral fellowship at Stanford University's Center for the Study of Language and Information.  She is a member of NASA's Institute for Astrobiology and CU's Institute for Cognitive Science.
Area of Interest:  Metaphysics, Philosophy of Science, and Philosophy of Logic.   Professor Cleland is particularly interested in causation, computation, and scientific methodology. She has written papers on causation, space and time, supervenience, events, standards of evidence in science, the Church-Turing Thesis, and effective procedures.
Current Research: Currently working on a book on the concept of an
effective procedure. The following articles are forthcoming:  Recipes, Algorithms, and Programs", "Effective Procedures and Causal Processes", "Life in the Martian Meteorite: "Confirming" the Best Explanation"; "The Difference Between Historical science and Laboratory Science: Searching for the Smoking Gun".

ball JOHN A. FISHER (Minnesota, Ph.D. 1971) Professor Fisher arrived at CU-Boulder in 1975. His dissertation was on the notion of rule-following in Chomsky's and Wittgenstein's accounts of language. He has also worked on animal minds and, over the last decade, has focused on aesthetics. He is currently working on the distinction between high and low art.
Area of Interest: Philosophy of Mind, Epistemology, Aesthetics
Current Research: The aesthetics of nature, the adequacy of nature art, aesthetics and environmental ethics, the definition of art, the nature of rock music, the ontology of recordings, the nature of appreciation, sound (and sounds of nature), God and counterfactuals, a cross-cultural definition of music, the relation of musical performance to the ontology of music.
His interests in epistemology largely center on the skeptical problems and the first-person perspective. His aesthetic interests also take him in the direction of literary and critical theory, on the one hand, and toward art and public policy, on the other.

ball ROBERT HANNA (Yale University, Ph.D. 1989) Professor Hanna was at CU-Boulder from 1989 to 1998, at York University (Canada) from 1995 to 1998, and returned to CU in 1999.
Areas of Interest: History of Modern Philosophy (especially Kant, early analytic philosophy, and early phenomenology), Philosophy of Mind, Philosophy of Language (especially consciousness, intentionality, concepts, a priori knowledge, necessary truth, and direct reference); secondary interest in Ethics.
Current Research: He has a forthcoming book (Oxford) on Kant and the foundations of analytic philosophy. He is currently working on a book entitled The Logical and the Psychological in which he develops and defends a cognitivist-rationalist theory of logic.

ball MICHAEL HUEMER (Rutgers, Ph.D. 1998) Professor Huemer came to CU-Boulder in 1998.
Area of Interest: epistemology, metaphysics, metaethics.  Issues of particular interest to me include skepticism, the problem of induction, free will, and ethical intuitionism.

ball ALISON M. JAGGAR (SUNY-Buffalo, Ph.D. 1970) Professor Jaggar joined the faculty at CU-Boulder in 1990 and holds a joint appointment with the Women Studies Program.
Area of Interest: Contemporary Social, Moral and Political Theory, especially from a feminist perspective; some issues in Practical Ethics; theories of Human Nature; Philosophy of Education
Current Research: Current writing projects include a book in progress entitled Sex, Truth and Power: A Feminist Theory of Moral Reason; a book of essays on sex equality; and an introductory text on feminist ethics. Long range projects include issues of global justice, democracy, development, and neo-colonialism. She hopes to teach a course soon on democracy and development.

ballDAN KAUFMAN (UMass, Ph.D. 2000) Professor Kaufman joined the faculty in 2004. His research focuses on 17th-century philosophy, especially the metaphysics of Descartes, Locke, and Leibniz. He is also interested in contemporary metaphysics, medieval philosophy, and philosophical theology.

ball CLAUDIA MILLS (Princeton, Ph.D. 1991) Professor Mills arrived at CU-Boulder in 1992 after a journey that included nine years of editing publications at the Institute for Philosophy and Public Policy at the University of Maryland and a long career as the author of many children's books (e.g., Dynamite Dinah, Dinah for President, Dinah in Love).
Area of Interest: Ethics, Practical Ethics, Moral Philosophy, Social and Political Philosophy
Current Research: Her research program has focused on trying to understand autonomy and various threats to autonomy, such as coercion and manipulation, and exploring these in different policy contexts.

ball WESLEY MORRISTON (Northwestern, Ph.D. 1972) Professor Morriston has been teaching at CU-Boulder since 1972.
Area of Interest: Metaphysics and Epistemology, Philosophy of Religion, Existentialism Current Research: Philosophy of Religion. He pursues this subject in a very traditional way - fiddling with the classical arguments for and against the existence of God and also with various other puzzles in philosophical theology. He has special interests in the following areas: the problem of evil, the problem of reconciling divine foreknowledge with human freedom, and various questions about the relation between faith and reason. He is always looking for students who think about these things. Occasionally, he still gives graduate courses in Heidegger or Sartre.

ball GRAHAM ODDIE (London, Ph.D. 1979) Professor Oddie was at CU-Boulder from 1994 to 1996 and returned to the department in 1997. He is currently the Department Chair.
Areas of Interest: Metaphysics and Epistemology, Ethics.
Current research interests:  mostly metaphysics and ethics.  I am interested in realism - what it is to be a realist and the case for realism in various domains.  In particular I am working on realism about value.

ball ROBERT PASNAU (Cornell, Ph.D. 1994) Professor Pasnau joined the faculty in 1999.
Areas of Interest: Medieval Philosophy, other interests include Epistemology, Philosophy of Mind, Ancient Philosophy, and Early Modern Philosophy.
Current research interests: I am writing a book on the transition from medieval scholastic philosophy to the modern mechanistic philosophy of the seventeenth century.

ball MICHAEL TOOLEY (Princeton, Ph.D. 1968) Professor Tooley has been at CU-Boulder since 1992 and received the Boulder Faculty Achievement Award for Research in 1999 for his book, Time, Tense, and Causation (Oxford).
Area of Interest: Metaphysics and Epistemology, Moral Philosophy, Ethics, Philosophy of Religion
Current Research: Co-authoring Knowledge of God with Alvin Plantinga. Research Areas: Metaphysics (time, causation, laws of Nature), epistemology (the representative theory of perception, knowledge of other minds), philosophy of religion (the argument from evil, miracles), and ethics (sexual morality).

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