The Department
Chairperson: Neil Campbell
Graduate Officer: Byron Williston
Program Director: Peter Loptson (Guelph)

The Guelph-McMaster-Wilfrid Laurier Doctoral Program in Philosophy enables students to access faculty, courses and library materials at all three universities. The program offers supervision in most of the traditional areas of philosophy but the special strengths of the three departments are in continental philosophy, ethics, Greek philosophy, metaphysics and epistemology, modern philosophy, philosophical logic and language, philosophy of science and social philosophy.

Wilfrid Laurier University

Adjunct Faculty University of Guelph Adjunct Faculty McMaster University Adjunct Faculty Admission Requirements
Admission to the program normally requires an MA in philosophy or an equivalent degree. Students may only apply to one department in the program, though they may be admitted to a partner department if the admissions committee deems this appropriate on the basis of their interests and the availability of suitable supervisors. Students in the program are governed by the general regulations of the university in which they are registered and their degree is granted by that university.

Program Requirements
The program includes five components: (1) courses, (2) a demonstration, through field requirements, of breadth of scholarship, (3) language requirement, (4) professional development, and (5) the thesis.

Course Load
The normal course load is six one-semester courses beyond the MA. In special circumstances this load may be reduced, but all candidates must take at least four courses.

Field Requirements
To ensure a broad knowledge of philosophy is acquired, candidates for the PhD are required to demonstrate competence in five of the following fields. No more than three fields may be selected from one list.

Greek Philosophy
Modern Philosophy from 1600 to 1800
Continental Philosophy from 1800
British and American Philosophy from 1800
Ethics and/or Value Theory
Metaphysics and/or Epistemology
Social, Political and/or Legal Philosophy
Logic and/or Philosophy of Science
Competence in a given field may be demonstrated by completing two graduate semester courses with at least a B (75 percent) average in each course or its equivalent. Normally, the following are recognized as equivalents of two semester courses: (a) a three-hour written examination on selected primary texts in the field. The examination may be repeated only once; (b) a successful MA thesis defence in one of the fields listed; and (c) a successful PhD Oral Qualifying Examination.

Language Requirement
Students in the program may be required to demonstrate competence in one or more skills which their supervisory committee decides, in consultation with the program officer, is needed for their dissertation (e.g., a language other than English, logic). It will normally make this decision, and the decision of the level of competence required, at its first annual meeting with the student. Normally the student will demonstrate the required competencies before being allowed to proceed to an oral qualifying examination. The program officer at the studentís home university will choose someone to test the studentís competence. This person will not be a member of the studentís supervisory committee.

Research Seminar
Essential to any doctoral program is awareness of, and participation in, contemporary developments in one's field. To promote this awareness and participation a research seminar, open only to PhD students, is required. This seminar is devoted to the development of the student's ideas in the context of current research.

At least one of the candidate's courses is the Research Seminar (PY788). This seminar seeks to foster constructive dialogue among students and faculty, and to encourage students to formulate their research in a philosophically sound manner. Students are expected to produce clear expository and critical writing for each meeting of the seminar. This work includes discussion papers, critical notices and book reviews which contribute to scholarship in their fields.

Candidates with a six-course load may take the Research Seminar for credit twice but all candidates must take it for credit at least once. Students normally take this course in their second year of study and are encouraged to bring their research ideas to the seminar.

The seminar is offered under the direction of three faculty members, one from each university, and meets every two weeks during the fall and winter terms, rotating among Guelph, McMaster and Laurier.

Residency Requirements
PhD students enrolled at Laurier will not be able to enrol in the program on a part-time basis.

Qualifying Examination
The purpose of this examination is to ensure that the candidate has a viable dissertation proposal and the background to complete it successfully. This is an oral examination on a written proposal which includes: the title of the dissertation, a clear statement of the central problem or point of research, an outline of alternative approaches, a general delineation of the proposed structure of the dissertation, and a bibliography of the works central to the study. The examination may take place earlier, but not later, than the end of the candidate's second year in the doctoral program. To complete the examination beyond the second year, a candidate must petition to the program committee for an extension. The examination is conducted by the student's supervisor, the graduate officer at the home university and three other members of the program. The student's thesis proposal will be approved upon the satisfactory completion of the PhD qualifying examination (students who do not initially pass the qualifying exam may revise their proposal and resubmit).

Dissertation Requirements and Procedures

Supervisory Committee
The thesis forms the core of the program and is an extended work of up to 90,000 words which makes an original contribution to philosophy. Students are encouraged to undertake thesis-related research as soon as they have chosen a topic of inquiry.

A candidate's supervisory committee is formed no later than six months after the candidate enters the doctoral program. To facilitate this process, candidates are required to provide a short statement of their research plans during their first semester. The committee comprises the candidate's supervisor, who ordinarily acts as chair, together with two other philosophers, at least one of whom is from one of the other universities. The supervisor has primary responsibility for monitoring the candidate's progress. Until such time as the supervisory committee has been approved, its function will be carried out by the local graduate officer. Wherever possible, a supervisor will be assigned to a candidate on the basis of their common research interests as soon as the candidate begins the doctoral program.

The functions of the supervisory committee include: (1) assisting the candidate in planning their course of study and recommending that course of study to the program committee, (2) conducting annual reviews of the candidate's progress and reporting regularly on that progress to the program committee, (3) conducting the candidate's oral qualifying examination, (4) supervising the candidate's dissertation, and (5) recommending members to serve on the candidate's final oral examination committee in accordance with the regulations of the university from which the candidate is to receive the PhD.

Notwithstanding the responsibilities of the supervisor and the supervisory committee, the candidate is responsible for ensuring that program requirements and deadlines are met.

Thesis and Defence
The thesis is prepared in consultation with the supervisor and the other members of the supervisory committee. A thesis which exceeds 90,000 words (including appendices, bibliography and notes) will not be accepted unless permission is granted by the program committee on the recommendation of the supervisory committee. Prior to the oral defence, a thesis examining committee is established, which includes the supervisory committee plus an internal examiner from another Laurier department. A chair and an external examiner from another university (outside the Tri-University Program) who is an expert in the dissertation topic are appointed by the dean of Graduate Studies. The chair of the department, in consultation with the program committee, recommends external examiners to the dean of Graduate Studies.

Decisions in the Thesis Defence
The decision of the examining committee is based both on the thesis and on the candidate's ability to defend it. Four decisions are open to the examining committee:

  • Accepted-The thesis is accepted. Acceptance may be conditional on typographical and/or minor editorial corrections to be made to the satisfaction of the supervisor. A decision of "accepted" can be rendered only if there is no more than one dissenting vote.
  • Accepted with modifications-The thesis is accepted subject to substantive changes in its content or major editorial changes which are to be made to the satisfaction of specified members of the examining committee designated by the committee. The examining committee's report must include a brief outline of the nature of the changes required and must indicate the time by which the changes should be completed. Normally such changes should be completed within four weeks of the date of the examination. A decision of "accepted with modifications" can be rendered only if there is no more than one dissenting vote.
  • Decision deferred-The thesis requires modifications of a substantial nature which make the acceptability of the thesis questionable. The examining committee's report must contain a brief outline of the modifications expected and should indicate the time by which the changes are to be completed. The revised thesis must be submitted for re-examination. Normally, the re-examination will follow the same procedures as for the initial submission and the same examining committee will serve. A decision to defer is open only once for each candidate.
  • Rejected-The thesis is rejected. The examining committee shall report the reasons for rejection. A student whose doctoral thesis has been rejected is required to withdraw from the PhD program.
  • If the examining committee is not prepared to reach a decision at the time of the thesis defence, it is the responsibility of the chair to determine what additional information is required by the committee to reach a decision, to arrange to obtain this information for the committee, and to call another meeting of the committee as soon as the required information is available.

    Graduate Courses
    Note: Not all courses are offered every year.

    PY701    0.5
    Language Requirement
    A demonstration of the studentís competence in a language, other than English, in which there is a significant body of philosophical literature. Graded on a P (pass) / F (fail) basis.

    PY780    0.5
    Selected Topics in Social, Political and Legal Philosophy
    A study of a selected theme, issue or body of work in the area of social and political philosophy. Theoretical approaches discussed may include Marxism, feminism, liberalism, communitarianism or postmodern political theory. Topics discussed may include the nation state, globalization, restructuring and social policies such as welfare and medicare.
    PY781    0.5

    Selected Topics in the History of Philosophy
    A study of a selected figure, trend or movement in the history of philosophy. Figures discussed may include Plato, Aristotle, Aquinas, Descartes, Hume, Kant or Hegel. Trends discussed may include Platonism, skepticism, rationalism or empiricism.
    PY782    0.5

    Selected Topics in Continental Philosophy
    A study of a selected figure or a theme in 20th-century French or German philosophy. Figures discussed may include Husserl, Heidegger, Habermas, Sartre, De Beauvoir, Merleau Ponty or Derrida. Possible topics include existentialism, deconstruction, critical theory and phenomenology.
    PY783    0.5

    Selected Topics in Ethics
    A study of a selected theme, issue or body of work in the area of applied or theoretical ethics. Theoretical approaches discussed may include rights theories, utilitarianism, feminist ethics and postmodernism. When applied ethics is emphasized, issues discussed will be taken from areas such as business ethics, environmental ethics, medical ethics and professional ethics.
    PY784    0.5

    Selected Topics in the Philosophy of Mind and Language
    A study of a selected theme or issue in the philosophy of mind or language. Topics in the philosophy of mind may include functionalism, theories of content, consciousness, and reductionism versus anti-reductionism. Topics in the philosophy of language may include theories of meaning and truth, indeterminacy, rule following, radical interpretation and metaphor.
    PY785    0.5

    Selected Topics in Formal and Philosophical Logic
    A study of a topic in contemporary formal and philosophical logic. Topics may include extensions of and alternatives to classical logic, formal theories of truth, usefulness of formal methods in philosophical studies.
    PY786    0.5

    Selected Topics in the Theory of Argumentation
    A study of argumentation as it occurs in natural language contexts. Discussion may address theories of argumentation from a range of subdisciplines, including rhetoric, pragma-dialectics and informal logic. Topics addressed may include the role that formal logic can play in analyzing natural language argumentation, the convince/persuade distinction, visual argument and argumentation theory's relationship to philosophy.
    PY787    0.5

    Selected Topics in Metaphysics and Epistemology
    Topics in metaphysics to be examined may include the realism/antirealism debate, the concept of substance, nominalism and reductionism. Topics in epistemology to be examined may include contemporary theories of knowledge, perceptual knowledge, the a priori and skepticism.
    PY788    0.5

    Research Seminar
    A seminar in which students present their evolving or completed research to PhD students and faculty. The course includes the participation of students in all three departments and a faculty member from each university.
    PY789    0.5

    Directed Study
    The study of a special topic under the guidance of a member of the department. Directed study topics must be approved by the department.

    Qualifying Exam
    An individual research course in which the student prepares for, and meets the qualifying examination requirements for the PhD. The course is designed to ensure that candidates have a viable dissertation proposal and the background to complete it successfully. The student must submit a written proposal which includes: the title of the dissertation, a clear statement of the central problem or point of research, an outline of the alternative approaches, a general delineation of the proposed structure of the dissertation, and a bibliography of the works central to the study. An oral examination will be conducted on the written proposal.

    Doctoral Thesis
    Courses offered at the University of Guelph
    PY6000    0.5
    Value Theory
    PY6060    0.5

    PY6110    0.5

    Philosophy of Religion
    PY6120    0.5

    Philosophy of Mind
    PY6140    0.5

    Existentialism and Phenomenology I 
    PY6150    0.5

    Existentialism and Phenomenology II
    PY6200    0.5

    Problems of Contemporary Philosophy
    PY6210    0.5

    PY6220    0.5

    PY6230    0.5

    PY6240    0.5

    PY6310    0.5

    PY6311    0.5

    PY6320    0.5

    Medieval Philosophy
    PY6340    0.5

    Modern Philosophy
    PY6500    0.5

    John Locke
    PY6530    0.5

    PY6600    0.5

    Social Philosophy
    PY6720    0.5

    History of Philosophy of Science
    PY6730    0.5

    Contemporary Philosophy of Science
    PY6740    0.5

    Philosophy of Biology
    PY6750    0.5

    Philosophy of Social Science
    PY6760    0.5

    Science and Ethics
    PY6770    0.5

    Special Research Paper I 
    PY6780    0.5

    Special Research Paper II
    PY6790    0.5

    Special Research Paper III 
    PY6800    0.5

    Special Research Paper IV
    PY6900    0.5

    Reading Course
    PY6930    0.5

    Selected Topics I 
    PY6940    0.5

    Selected Topics II
    PY6960    0.5

    Graduate Seminar II
    Courses Offered at McMaster University
    PY6B03    0.5
    Theory of Value
    PY6D03    0.5

    20th-Century Analytic Philosophy
    PY706    0.5
    Basic Symbolic Logic
    PY719    0.5

    Reading Course
    PY720    0.5

    Reading Course
    PY731    0.5

    Special Studies in Philosophy
    PY743    0.5

    Graduate Seminar I
    PY744    0.5

    Graduate Seminar II
    PY750    0.5

    Selected Topics in Ancient Philosophy
    PY751    0.5

    Selected Topics in Medieval Philosophy
    PY752    0.5

    Selected Topics in Modern British Philosophy (1600-1900) 
    PY753    0.5

    Selected Topics in Early Modern European Philosophy (1600-1800)
    PY754    0.5

    Selected Topics in Kant
    PY755    0.5

    Selected Topics in 19th-Century European Philosophy
    PY756    0.5
    Selected Topics in 20th-Century European Philosophy
    PY757    0.5
    Selected Topics in 20th-Century British Philosophy
    PY758    0.5
    Selected Topics in American Philosophy
    PY759    0.5

    Selected Topics in Applied Ethics
    PY760    0.5

    Selected Topics in Logic and the Theory of Argumentation 
    PY761    0.5

    Selected Topics in Philosophy of Language
    PY762    0.5

    Selected Topics in Metaphysics
    PY763    0.5

    Selected Topics in Epistemology and Philosophy of Science
    PY764    0.5

    Selected Topics in Social and Political Philosophy
    PY765    0.5

    Selected Topics in Ethical Theory
    PY766    0.5

    Selected Topics in Philosophy of Religion
    PY767    0.5

    Selected Topics in Aesthetics
    PY768    0.5

    Selected Topics in Existential Phenomenology and Hermeneutics
    PY769    0.5

    Selected Topics in Philosophy of Law