Philosophy (Ph.D.)

The Department of Philosophy at Duquesne University specializes in continental philosophy and the history of philosophy.

Our graduate program was among the first in the United States to concentrate on phenomenology and, more broadly, nineteenth and twentieth century continental thought. We remain committed to that tradition and focus on post-Kantian European philosophy, with multiple faculty working in German Idealism, the phenomenological traditions, social and political philosophy, psychoanalytic theory, as well as structuralism, poststructuralism, and their aftermaths. We integrate this into a broader emphasis on the history of philosophy as a cluster of research areas in their own right, as a set of methodological orientations, and as the necessary background for work in contemporary thought. To this end, we also have groups of faculty working in each of the main periods the history of philosophy, including ancient and classical philosophy, medieval philosophy, and modern philosophy.

The graduate program is central to the mission of the Philosophy Department and to our vision of its future. The mission of the Ph.D. program in philosophy is to provide advanced philosophical training to students with demonstrated outstanding scholarly competence so that they may pursue high-quality independent research under the mentorship of faculty, become independent members of the international philosophical community, and successfully find full-time academic employment or satisfying careers beyond the professoriate.

Our department hosts an active and vibrant philosophical community, including an extensive visiting speakers series and graduate research colloquium, student and faculty organized reading groups, and a strong graduate student organization.

Our graduate program is built around small seminars that engage primary texts and conceptual problems. We strongly encourage reading philosophical works in their original languages, when possible, and place a premium on our students developing a high level of competence in the languages related to their doctoral research. To that end, we offer substantial support for our students to pursue language study at Duquesne and through intensive summer language programs abroad.




Required Credit Hours


Program Requirements

Ph.D. students take a minimum of 48 graduate course credit hours (16 courses). These must include at least a minimum of one in ancient philosophy, one in medieval philosophy, one in modern philosophy, and one in contemporary philosophy (note: not all graduate courses offered by the department fall into one of these categories). Ph.D. students normally complete their coursework in three years, taking 9 credits (3 courses) each semester during their first two years and 6 credits (2 courses) each semester during their third year. Later years are dedicated to dissertation work.
When relevant to a student's research and with the approval of the Chair, six credits (2 courses) taken through other departments or at other universities may be applied toward the coursework credits requirement. Students who transfer 9 credits or more toward advanced standing may count only three extra-departmental credits (1 course) toward the coursework credits requirement.
Ph.D. students must demonstrate research competence in two foreign languages (normally ancient Greek, Latin, French, or German). Other languages may be allowed when demonstrably related to dissertation research. Language requirements must be satisfied before dissertation prospectus submission and so are usually completed during the first three to four years of the program. Tuition assistance is usually available for semester language courses at Duquesne and intensive summer language study abroad.
Ph.D. students serve as Teaching Assistants for their first two years and then teach their own introductory-level courses. During the fall semesters of their second and third years, students enroll in the Philosophy Graduate Teaching Seminar (PHIL 689/690), with additional pedagogical training provided through the Center for Teaching Excellence and periodic classroom observation by members of the faculty (registering for Supervised Teaching of Philosophy PHIL 691/692 during their first two semesters of teaching).
All Ph.D. students are required to make at least one application for an external grant (for research, travel, language study, or other relevant purpose) before submitting a dissertation prospectus. A copy of the grant application should be sent to the Chair.
A prospectus detailing plans for dissertation research may be submitted once all coursework requirements, language requirements, grant submission requirements, and comprehensive exams are complete. The prospectus should be discussed with the student’s proposed Dissertation Director and is not approved until formally accepted by the director and two readers. An approved prospectus must be submitted to the Chair no later than two years after completing the comprehensive exams (in most cases, the prospectus is submitted within six months). At this point, the student commences dissertation research and writing. Dissertations must be completed in time to graduate no later than eight years after entry into the Ph.D. program. The dissertation is complete once revised to the satisfaction of the Director and other members of the committee, successfully presented at a public defense, and formally submitted to the University. Defenses may be scheduled only after the Director and all readers have had the opportunity to request revisions and reviewed a version they deem ready to pass.

After completing all coursework credits, Ph.D. students must register for 6 dissertation research credits (a minimum of 1 credit/semester) (PHIL 701). These credits do not count toward coursework requirements.

Each semester, the department holds a forum in which all doctoral students with newly submitted dissertation prospectus publicly present their projects to the entire department. All faculty and graduate students attend these events and have the opportunity to ask questions and engage in discussion about the project.
After completing coursework and dissertation credits, Ph.D. students must register for fee-based continuation credits (GRAS 701) to maintain their enrollment status at Duquesne. Continuous registration does not apply to students on leave of absence. These credits do not count toward the coursework requirements detailed above. Note that online registration for these credits is not available; a message stating intent to register for continuation credits must be sent to the Dean's Office and the Philosophy Department each semester.
Ph.D. candidates must make a formal application for the degree at the office of the Registrar prior to the date specified in that year’s University Calendar and should be present at graduation. Students must make complete settlement of their financial accounts with the University before any degree will be conferred.

Application Requirements

Submit the university application through the graduate application portal. Once submitted, the system will generate an application checklist page and allowing applicants to upload all supplementary documents.

Applications for this cycle are due no later than January 15, 2023

Submit a transcript from each college or university you have attended. For the application process, transcripts from U.S. institutions may be submitted as legible scans (if you are accepted, you will be required to submit official transcripts before matriculating). If you hold prior degrees from institution located outside the U.S., you are required to have an official course-by-course report from a transcript credential evaluation service sent directly to Duquesne University. Please review our Transcript Credential Evaluation Directions.

At least three confidential letters of recommendation must be submitted by those in a position to assess the applicant's past performance and future academic potential. Please use the graduate application portal to generate online requests for confidential letters of recommendation. Recommenders will receive instructions by email for uploading their letters directly to the Duquesne system.
Submit a statement of intent characterizing your philosophical interests and identifying areas of proposed research, describing your philosophical background and any relevant biography, and explaining specific interest in the Duquesne program. Use this document to give us a sense of who you are and where your intellectual passions lie.
Submit a sample of philosophical writing, maximum 10,000 words.
  • Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores are optional. They will be considered if submitted as supplemental information.
  • Language test scores (international students only)
    • Valid TOEFL, IELTS, or Duolingo language test scores are required for all applicants who do not hold U.S., Australian, Canadian, Irish, New Zealander, or U.K. citizenship; U.S. permanent resident status; or U.S. refugee/asylum status. If you are not covered by this list, you may still request a language test score waiver if you meet any of the following conditions: English is your native or primary language; you have completed four years of undergraduate-level coursework or two years of graduate-level coursework at an accredited U.S. university; you have completed four years of undergraduate-level coursework or two years of graduate-level coursework at an accredited non-U.S. university where English is the language of instruction. A prompt to request a waiver on any of these grounds is built into the online application system - please do not directly contact the Philosophy Department to request a waiver. If you are required to submit a language test score, applications cannot be reviewed (and application checklist page test score items will remain marked as ‘Awaiting materials') until official language score reports are received directly from testing agencies.

Ph.D. Funding

Students admitted to the Ph.D. program receive an assistantship renewable for five years. After the fifth year, students are eligible for competitively awarded dissertation completion fellowships offered through the McAnulty Graduate School. Financial support in return for additional adjunct teaching is also often available during the sixth year in the program.

Ph.D. assistantships include $18,000 per year stipends and full tuition waivers.The tuition waivers cover all tuition expenses associated with required coursework and dissertation credits, as well as any credits necessary to pursue language study. Additional stipend awards are also available for students to intensively study languages abroad during at least one summer in the program. Funding is usually available for students to attend conferences at which they are presenting.

In return for assistantships, students are assigned as Teaching Assistant for full-time faculty during the first two years in the program and then, after extensive pedagogical training, teach their own small, introductory-level classes (one per semester for the third and fourth year, two per semester for the fifth). During the fourth year, students are also assigned as Research Assistants to their dissertation directors, or, if a dissertation prospectus has not yet been filed, to a faculty member in their intended area of specialization.