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SPEL Graduate Program

The graduate program in Social, Political, Ethical, and Legal Philosophy (SPEL) offers graduate students advanced coursework and individual research in classical, modern, and contemporary social and political philosophy, ethics, and the philosophy of law. SPEL recognizes and respects work in both the Anglo-American (analytic) and the Continental (European) traditions, as well as in various non-Western traditions, in feminist philosophy and critical race theory, and in other emerging areas of philosophy.  Students with a variety of philosophical interests should feel welcome to apply to the SPEL program.

M.A. in SPEL

Students may pursue the M.A. either as a preparation for applying to a Ph.D. program or as a terminal degree. A terminal philosophy M.A. through SPEL is an excellent preparation for further professional development in public policy, law, government service, medicine, or business.

The requirements for the M.A. degree include: 8 seminars, with distribution requirements; participation in the colloquium and professional development workshops; proficiency in logic and in the history of philosophy; and either a Master's thesis or a set of comprehensive exams in ethics and in social and political philosophy.

Ph.D. in SPEL

Requirements for the Ph.D. include the Master's requirements (or an M.A. from another institution), six additional seminars, language proficiencies, a qualifying exam, and a dissertation with an oral defense.  There may be additional requirements for those entering with an M.A. who did not previously specialize in SPEL fields.

It is possible for students to write a dissertation on a topic in philosophy that is not in Social, Political, Ethical or Legal Philosophy. If you choose to work on such a topic and have the agreement of an advisor, you may substitute an exam on your area of research for one of the SPEL MA Comprehensive exams. You may also substitute one philosophy course for any required course, except for the first year SPEL seminars.

Currently, our average time-to-degree from bachelor to doctorate is 5.7 years, which is about three years less than the national norm. But our current expectation is that students finish in five years, and we work with students to help them achieve that.

For more information, please consult the SPEL Graduate Student Handbook, the chart of SPEL requirements, the SPEL program documents page, the Graduate School manual, or the University Bulletin.

Last Updated: 11/19/19