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Philosophy Dissertations and Theses

The Department of Philosophy Dissertations and Theses Series is comprised of dissertations and theses authored by Marquette University's Department of Philosophy doctoral and master's students.

Theses/Dissertations from 2023 2023

Place, Attachment, and Feeling: Indigenous Dispossession and Settler Belonging , Sarah Kizuk

Nepantla and Mestizaje: A Phenomenological Analysis of the Mestizx Historical Consciousness , Jorge Alfredo Montiel

The Categories Argument for the Real Distinction Between Being and Essence: Avicenna, Aquinas, and Their Greek Sources , Nathaniel Taylor

Theses/Dissertations from 2022 2022

Modeling, Describing, and Explaining Subjective Consciousness- A Guide to (and for) the Perplexed , Peter Burgess

Looking Through Whiteness: Objectivity, Racism, Method, and Responsibility , Philip Mack

Emmanuel Levinas and Jacques Maritain on the Student-Teacher Relationship in Catholic Higher Education , Timothy Rothhaar

Theses/Dissertations from 2021 2021

The Empathetic Autistic: A Phenomenological Look at the Feminine Experience , Dana Fritz

Concerning Aristotelian Animal Essences , Damon Andrew Watson

When to Trust Authoritative Testimony: Generation and Transmission of Knowledge in Saadya Gaon, Al-Ghazālī and Thomas Aquinas , Brett A. Yardley

Theses/Dissertations from 2020 2020

The Status of Irrationality: Karl Jaspers' Response to Davidson and Searle , Daniel Adsett

Cosmic City - Cosmic Teleology: A Reading of Metaphysics Λ 10 and Politics I 2 , Brandon Henrigillis

Phenomenal Consciousness: An Husserlian Approach , John Jered Janes

Al-Fārābī Metaphysics, and the Construction of Social Knowledge: Is Deception Warranted if it Leads to Happiness? , Nicholas Andrew Oschman

The Epistemology of Disagreement: Hume, Kant, and the Current Debate , Robert Kyle Whitaker

Theses/Dissertations from 2019 2019

'Our Feet are Mired In the Same Soil': Deepening Democracy with the Political Virtue of Sympathetic Inquiry , Jennifer Lynn Kiefer Fenton

Towards a Philosophy of the Musical Experience: Phenomenology, Culture, and Ethnomusicology in Conversation , J. Tyler Friedman

Humor, Power and Culture: A New Theory on the Experience and Ethics of Humor , Jennifer Marra

Care of the Sexual Self: Askesis As a Route to Sex Education , Shaun Douglas Miller

Re-Evaluating Augustinian Fatalism through the Eastern and Western Distinction between God's Essence and Energies , Stephen John Plecnik

The Fantastic Structure of Freedom: Sartre, Freud, and Lacan , Gregory A. Trotter

The Province of Conceptual Reason: Hegel's Post-Kantian Rationalism , William Clark Wolf

Theses/Dissertations from 2018 2018

Hume on Thick and Thin Causation , Alexander Bozzo

Evolution, Naturalism, and Theism: An Inconsistent Triad? , David H. Gordon

The Parable As Mirror: An Examination of the Use of Parables in the Works of Kierkegaard , Russell Hamer

Theses/Dissertations from 2017 2017

Contextualizing Aquinas's Ontology of Soul: An Analysis of His Arabic and Neoplatonic Sources , Nathan McLain Blackerby

The Social and Historical Subject in Sartre and Foucault and Its Implications for Healthcare Ethics , Kimberly Siobhan Engels

Investigations of Worth: Towards a Phenomenology of Values , Dale Hobbs Jr.

Developing Capabilities: A Feminist Discourse Ethics Approach , Chad Kleist

Hegel and the Problem of the Multiplicity of Conflicting Philosophies , Matthew M. Peters

Aquinas, Averroes, and the Human Will , Traci Ann Phillipson

Theses/Dissertations from 2016 2016

Nature, Feminism, and Flourishing: Human Nature and the Feminist Ethics of Flourishing , Celeste D. Harvey

Kierkegaard in Light of the East: A Critical Comparison of the Philosophy of Søren Kierkegaard with Orthodox Christian Philosophy and Thought , Agust Magnusson

The Secular Transformation of Pride and Humility in the Moral Philosophy of David Hume , Kirstin April Carlson McPherson

Living within the Sacred Tension: Paradox and Its Significance for Christian Existence in the Thought of Søren Kierkegaard , Matthew Thomas Nowachek

Moral Imagination and Adorno: Before and After Auschwitz , Catlyn Origitano

Essence and Necessity, and the Aristotelian Modal Syllogistic: A Historical and Analytical Study , Daniel James Vecchio

Theses/Dissertations from 2015 2015

Subversive Humor , Chris A. Kramer

Virtue, Oppression, and Resistance Struggles , Trevor William Smith

Health As Embodied Authenticity , Margaret Steele

Recognition and Political Ontology: Fichte, Hegel, and Honneth , Velimir Stojkovski

The Conceptual Priority of the Perfect , Matthew Peter Zdon

Theses/Dissertations from 2014 2014

Dangerous Knowledge? Morality And Moral Progress After Naturalism , Daniel Diederich Farmer

Nietzsche's Revaluation of All Values , Joseph Anthony Kranak

Theses/Dissertations from 2013 2013

Re-Enchanting The World: An Examination Of Ethics, Religion, And Their Relationship In The Work Of Charles Taylor , David McPherson

Thomas Aquinas on the Apprehension of Being: The Role of Judgement in Light of Thirteenth-Century Semantics , Rosa Vargas Della Casa

Theses/Dissertations from 2012 2012

Naturalized Panpsychism: An Alternative to Fundamentalist Physicalism and Supernaturalism , Earl R. Cookson

The Concept of Personhood in the Phenomenology of Edmund Husserl , Colin J. Hahn

The Humanistic, Fideistic Philosophy of Philip Melanchthon (1497-1560) , Charles William Peterson

Theses/Dissertations from 2011 2011

Knowledge and Thought in Heidegger and Foucault: Towards an Epistemology of Ruptures , Arun Anantheeswaran Iyer

William James's Undivided Self and the Possibility of Immortality , Anthony Karlin

The Poetics of Remembrance: Communal Memory and Identity in Heidegger and Ricoeur , David Leichter

The Ontological Foundations for Natural Law Theory and Contemporary Ethical Naturalism , Bernard Mauser

Sexualized Violence, Moral Disintegration and Ethical Advocacy , Melissa Mosko

Spinoza on Individuals and Individuation: Metaphysics, Morals, and Politics , Matthew David Wion

Theses/Dissertations from 2010 2010

The Paradox of Nature: Merleau-Ponty's Semi-Naturalistic Critique of Husserlian Phenomenology , Shazad Akhtar

Hume's Conception of Time and its Implications for his Theories of Causation and Induction , Daniel Esposito

Arabic Influences in Aquinas's Doctrine of Intelligible Species , Max Herrera

The Attestation of the Self as a Bridge Between Hermeneutics and Ontology in the Philosophy of Paul Ricoeur , Sebastian Kaufmann

Love's Lack: The Relationship between Poverty and Eros in Plato's Symposium , Lorelle D. Lamascus

Friendship and Fidelity: An Historical and Critical Examination , Joshua Walter Schulz

Natural Law Theory and the "Is"--"Ought" Problem: A Critique of Four Solutions , Shalina Stilley

Attending to Presence: A Study of John Duns Scotus' Account of Sense Cognition , Amy F. Whitworth

Theses/Dissertations from 2009 2009

Friendship and Self-Identity in the Thought of Paul Ricoeur , Cristina Bucur

The Finality of Religion in Aquinas' Theory of Human Acts , Francisco José Romero Carrasquillo

The finality of religion in Aquinas' theory of human acts , Francisco J Romero

Theses/Dissertations from 2008 2008

Self-Identity in Comparative Theology: The Functional lmportance of Charles Taylor's Concept of the Self for a Theology of Religions , Richard Joseph Hanson

Theses/Dissertations from 2007 2007

Husserl's Noema: A Critical Assessment of the Gestalt and Analytic Interpretations , Peter M. Chukwu

A Social Contract Analysis of Rawls and Rousseau: Supplanting the Original Position As Philosophically Most Favored , Paul Neiman

To Validate a Feeling: the Role of the Mood of Angst in Human Being , Gregory P. Schulz

The Conception and Attributes of God: A Comparison of Charles Sanders Peirce and Alfred North Whitehead , Scott W. Sinclair

John Rawls, Public Reason, and Natural Law: A Study of the Principles of Public Justification , Christopher Ward

Submissions from 2006 2006

Hans Jonas's ethic of responsibility applied to anti-aging technologies and the indefinite extension of the human life span , Jeffrey P Goins

David Hume and the Principle of Sufficient Reason , Ginger Lee

Virtue Theory in Plato's Republic , Griffin T. Nelson

The Principle of Alternate Possibilities: Finding Freedom after Frankfurt , Matthew F. Pierlott

Theses/Dissertations from 2005 2005

Is There a Future for Marxist Humanism? , Jacob M. Held

Self-Love and Morality: Beyond Egoism and Altruism , Li Jing

Eikos Logos and Eikos Muthos: A Study of the Nature of the Likely Story in Plato's Timaeus , Ryan Kenneth McBride

Hume's Conclusions on the Existence and Nature of God , Timothy S. Yoder

Submissions from 2004 2004

The foundations of the politics of difference , Peter Nathaniel Bwanali

The Foundations of the Politics of Difference , Peter Nathaniel Bwanali

The Place of Justice in the Thinking of Emmanuel Levinas , Michael H. Gillick

New Waves in Metaethics: Naturalist Realism, Naturalist Antirealism and Divine Commands , Daniel R. Kern

Reason in Hume's Moral System , John Muenzberg

Conceiving Mind: A Critique of Descartes' Dualism and Contemporary Immaterialist Views of Consciousness , Kristin P. Schaupp

Respecting Plurality in Times of Change: Hannah Arendt's Conceptions of Political, Personal, and Ethical Responsibility , Stephen Schulman

Francis Suárez on the Ontological Status of Individual Unity vis-à-vis the Aristotelian Doctrine of Primary Substance , John W. Simmons

Through a Glass Darkly: Bernard Lonergan and Richard Rorty on the Possibility of Knowing Without a God's-Eye-View , Russell Snell

Theses/Dissertations from 2003 2003

Building a Heideggerian Ethic , Kelly A. Burns

St. Thomas Aquinas and the Self-Evident Proposition: A Study of the Manifold Senses of a Medieval Concept , Michael V. Dougherty

Ricoeur's Narrative Development of Gadamer's Hermeneutics: Continuity and Discontinuity , Keith D'Souza

Beauty's Resting Place: Unity in St. Augustine's Sensible Aesthetic , Matthew J. Hayes

Empathy and Knowledge: Husserl's Introductions to Phenomenology , Kevin Hermberg

The Transactional Model: A Critical Examination of John Dewey's Philosophy of Freedom , Mark N. Lenker III

Reflection on the "good" As a Source of Freedom in Virtue Theory , John D. Morse

Theses/Dissertations from 2002 2002

An Evaluation of Alvin Plantinga's Religious Epistemology Does It Function Properly? , James Beilby

Merleau-Ponty: Embodied Subjectivity and the Foundation of Ethics , Sarah A. Fischer

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Digital Commons @ USF > College of Arts and Sciences > Philosophy > Theses and Dissertations

Philosophy Theses and Dissertations

Theses/dissertations from 2023 2023.

Karl Marx on Human Flourishing and Proletarian Ethics , Sam Badger

The Ontological Grounds of Reason: Psychologism, Logicism, and Hermeneutic Phenomenology , Stanford L. Howdyshell

Theses/Dissertations from 2022 2022

Interdisciplinary Communication by Plausible Analogies: the Case of Buddhism and Artificial Intelligence , Michael Cooper

Heidegger and the Origin of Authenticity , John J. Preston

Theses/Dissertations from 2021 2021

Hegel and Schelling: The Emptiness of Emptiness and the Love of the Divine , Sean B. Gleason

Nietzsche on Criminality , Laura N. McAllister

Learning to be Human: Ren 仁, Modernity, and the Philosophers of China's Hundred Days' Reform , Lucien Mathot Monson

Nietzsche and Eternal Recurrence: Methods, Archives, History, and Genesis , William A. B. Parkhurst

Theses/Dissertations from 2020 2020

Orders of Normativity: Nietzsche, Science and Agency , Shane C. Callahan

Humanistic Climate Philosophy: Erich Fromm Revisited , Nicholas Dovellos

This, or Something like It: Socrates and the Problem of Authority , Simon Dutton

Climate Change and Liberation in Latin America , Ernesto O. Hernández

Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia Nervosa as Expressions of Shame in a Post-Feminist , Emily Kearns

Nostalgia and (In)authentic Community: A Bataillean Answer to the Heidegger Controversy , Patrick Miller

Cultivating Virtue: A Thomistic Perspective on the Relationship Between Moral Motivation and Skill , Ashley Potts

Identity, Breakdown, and the Production of Knowledge: Intersectionality, Phenomenology, and the Project of Post-Marxist Standpoint Theory , Zachary James Purdue

Theses/Dissertations from 2019 2019

The Efficacy of Comedy , Mark Anthony Castricone

William of Ockham's Divine Command Theory , Matthew Dee

Heidegger's Will to Power and the Problem of Nietzsche's Nihilism , Megan Flocken

Abelard's Affective Intentionalism , Lillian M. King

Anton Wilhelm Amo's Philosophy and Reception: from the Origins through the Encyclopédie , Dwight Kenneth Lewis Jr.

"The Thought that we Hate": Regulating Race-Related Speech on College Campuses , Michael McGowan

A Historical Approach to Understanding Explanatory Proofs Based on Mathematical Practices , Erika Oshiro

From Meaningful Work to Good Work: Reexamining the Moral Foundation of the Calling Orientation , Garrett W. Potts

Reasoning of the Highest Leibniz and the Moral Quality of Reason , Ryan Quandt

Fear, Death, and Being-a-problem: Understanding and Critiquing Racial Discourse with Heidegger’s Being and Time , Jesús H. Ramírez

The Role of Skepticism in Early Modern Philosophy: A Critique of Popkin's "Sceptical Crisis" and a Study of Descartes and Hume , Raman Sachdev

How the Heart Became Muscle: From René Descartes to Nicholas Steno , Alex Benjamin Shillito

Autonomy, Suffering, and the Practice of Medicine: A Relational Approach , Michael A. Stanfield

The Case for the Green Kant: A Defense and Application of a Kantian Approach to Environmental Ethics , Zachary T. Vereb

Theses/Dissertations from 2018 2018

Augustine's Confessiones : The Battle between Two Conversions , Robert Hunter Craig

The Strategic Naturalism of Sandra Harding's Feminist Standpoint Epistemology: A Path Toward Epistemic Progress , Dahlia Guzman

Hume on the Doctrine of Infinite Divisibility: A Matter of Clarity and Absurdity , Wilson H. Underkuffler

Climate Change: Aristotelian Virtue Theory, the Aidōs Response and Proper Primility , John W. Voelpel

The Fate of Kantian Freedom: the Kant-Reinhold Controversy , John Walsh

Time, Tense, and Ontology: Prolegomena to the Metaphysics of Tense, the Phenomenology of Temporality, and the Ontology of Time , Justin Brandt Wisniewski

Theses/Dissertations from 2017 2017

A Phenomenological Approach to Clinical Empathy: Rethinking Empathy Within its Intersubjective and Affective Contexts , Carter Hardy

From Object to Other: Models of Sociality after Idealism in Gadamer, Levinas, Rosenzweig, and Bonhoeffer , Christopher J. King

Humanitarian Military Intervention: A Failed Paradigm , Faruk Rahmanovic

Active Suffering: An Examination of Spinoza's Approach to Tristita , Kathleen Ketring Schenk

Cartesian Method and Experiment , Aaron Spink

An Examination of John Burton’s Method of Conflict Resolution and Its Applicability to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict , John Kenneth Steinmeyer

Speaking of the Self: Theorizing the Dialogical Dimensions of Ethical Agency , Bradley S. Warfield

Changing Changelessness: On the Genesis and Development of the Doctrine of Divine Immutability in the Ancient and Hellenic Period , Milton Wilcox

Theses/Dissertations from 2016 2016

The Statue that Houses the Temple: A Phenomenological Investigation of Western Embodiment Towards the Making of Heidegger's Missing Connection with the Greeks , Michael Arvanitopoulos

An Exploratory Analysis of Media Reporting of Police Involved Shootings in Florida , John L. Brown

Divine Temporality: Bonhoeffer's Theological Appropriation of Heidegger's Existential Analytic of Dasein , Nicholas Byle

Stoicism in Descartes, Pascal, and Spinoza: Examining Neostoicism’s Influence in the Seventeenth Century , Daniel Collette

Phenomenology and the Crisis of Contemporary Psychiatry: Contingency, Naturalism, and Classification , Anthony Vincent Fernandez

A Critique of Charitable Consciousness , Chioke Ianson

writing/trauma , Natasha Noel Liebig

Leibniz's More Fundamental Ontology: from Overshadowed Individuals to Metaphysical Atoms , Marin Lucio Mare

Violence and Disagreement: From the Commonsense View to Political Kinds of Violence and Violent Nonviolence , Gregory Richard Mccreery

Kant's Just War Theory , Steven Charles Starke

A Feminist Contestation of Ableist Assumptions: Implications for Biomedical Ethics, Disability Theory, and Phenomenology , Christine Marie Wieseler

Theses/Dissertations from 2015 2015

Heidegger and the Problem of Modern Moral Philosophy , Megan Emily Altman

The Encultured Mind: From Cognitive Science to Social Epistemology , David Alexander Eck

Weakness of Will: An Inquiry on Value , Michael Funke

Cogs in a Cosmic Machine: A Defense of Free Will Skepticism and its Ethical Implications , Sacha Greer

Thinking Nature, "Pierre Maupertuis and the Charge of Error Against Fermat and Leibniz" , Richard Samuel Lamborn

John Duns Scotus’s Metaphysics of Goodness: Adventures in 13th-Century Metaethics , Jeffrey W. Steele

A Gadamerian Analysis of Roman Catholic Hermeneutics: A Diachronic Analysis of Interpretations of Romans 1:17-2:17 , Steven Floyd Surrency

A Natural Case for Realism: Processes, Structures, and Laws , Andrew Michael Winters

Theses/Dissertations from 2014 2014

Leibniz's Theodicies , Joseph Michael Anderson

Aeschynē in Aristotle's Conception of Human Nature , Melissa Marie Coakley

Ressentiment, Violence, and Colonialism , Jose A. Haro

It's About Time: Dynamics of Inflationary Cosmology as the Source of the Asymmetry of Time , Emre Keskin

Time Wounds All Heels: Human Nature and the Rationality of Just Behavior , Timothy Glenn Slattery

Theses/Dissertations from 2013 2013

Nietzsche and Heidegger on the Cartesian Atomism of Thought , Steven Burgess

Embodying Social Practice: Dynamically Co-Constituting Social Agency , Brian W. Dunst

Subject of Conscience: On the Relation between Freedom and Discrimination in the Thought of Heidegger, Foucault, and Butler , Aret Karademir

Climate, Neo-Spinozism, and the Ecological Worldview , Nancy M. Kettle

Eschatology in a Secular Age: An Examination of the Use of Eschatology in the Philosophies of Heidegger, Berdyaev and Blumenberg , John R. Lup, Jr.

Navigation and Immersion of the American Identity in a Foreign Culture to Emergence as a Culturally Relative Ambassador , Lee H. Rosen

Theses/Dissertations from 2012 2012

A Philosophical Analysis of Intellectual Property: In Defense of Instrumentalism , Michael A. Kanning

A Commentary On Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz's Discourse on Metaphysics #19 , Richard Lamborn Samuel Lamborn

Sellars in Context: An Analysis of Wilfrid Sellars's Early Works , Peter Jackson Olen

The New Materialism: Althusser, Badiou, and Zizek , Geoffrey Dennis Pfeifer

Structure and Agency: An Analysis of the Impact of Structure on Group Agents , Elizabeth Kaye Victor

Moral Friction, Moral Phenomenology, and the Improviser , Benjamin Scott Young

Theses/Dissertations from 2011 2011

The Virtuoso Human: A Virtue Ethics Model Based on Care , Frederick Joseph Bennett

The Existential Compromise in the History of the Philosophy of Death , Adam Buben

Philosophical Precursors to the Radical Enlightenment: Vignettes on the Struggle Between Philosophy and Theology From the Greeks to Leibniz With Special Emphasis on Spinoza , Anthony John Desantis

The Problem of Evil in Augustine's Confessions , Edward Matusek

The Persistence of Casuistry: a Neo-premodernist Approach to Moral Reasoning , Richard Arthur Mercadante

Theses/Dissertations from 2010 2010

Dewey's Pragmatism and the Great Community , Philip Schuyler Bishop

Unamuno's Concept of the Tragic , Ernesto O. Hernandez

Rethinking Ethical Naturalism: The Implications of Developmental Systems Theory , Jared J.. Kinggard

From Husserl and the Neo-Kantians to Art: Heidegger's Realist Historicist Answer to the Problem of the Origin of Meaning , William H. Koch

Queering Cognition: Extended Minds and Sociotechnologically Hybridized Gender , Michele Merritt

Hydric Life: A Nietzschean Reading of Postcolonial Communication , Elena F. Ruiz-Aho

Descartes' Bête Machine, the Leibnizian Correction and Religious Influence , John Voelpel

Aretē and Physics: The Lesson of Plato's Timaeus , John R. Wolfe

Theses/Dissertations from 2009 2009

Praxis and Theōria : Heidegger’s “Violent” Interpretation , Megan E. Altman

On the Concept of Evil: An Analysis of Genocide and State Sovereignty , Jason J. Campbell

The Role of Trust in Judgment , Christophe Sage Hudspeth

Truth And Judgment , Jeremy J. Kelly

The concept of action and responsibility in Heidegger's early thought , Christian Hans Pedersen

Roots and Role of the Imagination in Kant: Imagination at the Core , Michael Thompson

Theses/Dissertations from 2008 2008

Peirce on the Passions: The Role of Instinct, Emotion, and Sentiment in Inquiry and Action , Robert J. Beeson

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Scholars' Bank

Philosophy theses and dissertations.

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This collection contains some of the theses and dissertations produced by students in the University of Oregon Philosophy Graduate Program. Paper copies of these and other dissertations and theses are available through the UO Libraries .

Recent Submissions

  • Living Legality: Law and Dussel's Philosophy of Liberation  Ospina Martinez, Juan Sebastián ( University of Oregon , 2024-01-10 ) In this dissertation I examine the theoretical underpinnings necessary for a philosophy of liberationaccount of law and suggest an alternative conceptualization of the function of law and political institutions, following ...
  • Making Sense of the Practical Lesbian Past: Towards a Rethinking of Untimely Uses of History through the Temporality of Cultural Techniques  Simon, Valérie ( University of Oregon , 2024-01-10 ) This dissertation focuses on the practice of untimely uses of lesbian history, and in particular the diverse practices of engagement with lesbian activist history, all of which aim to mobilize this activist history for the ...
  • An Argument for a Cartographic Approach to Technology  McLevey, Mare ( University of Oregon , 2024-01-09 ) This dissertation develops a way to study technology and politics that is an alternative to dominant approaches particular to contemporary philosophy of technology’s empirical and ethical turns. Dominant models fix ...
  • Nietzsche, Reification, and Open Comportment  Currie, Luke ( University of Oregon , 2024-01-09 ) This work primarily discusses the “fallacy of reification” from the perspective of Nietzsche’s late philosophy (particularly in the chapter on ‘Reason’ in philosophy in his Twilight of the Idols). While reification is ...
  • Time, Capitalism, and Political Ecology: Toward and Ecosocialist Metabolic Temporality  Gamble, Cameron ( University of Oregon , 2022-10-26 ) The ecological crises that have already marked the 21st century, and which will continue to do so on an increasingly intense and destructive scale, present theory in every discipline and field of study with a number of ...
  • Demystifying Racial Monopoly  Haller, Reese ( University of Oregon , 2022-10-04 ) Through analysis of private, public, and state reactions to the Great Depression and northward black migration, this thesis demystifies four key functions of race constitutive of capitalist racial monopoly: historical ...
  • Pragmatism, Genealogy, and Moral Status  Showler, Paul ( University of Oregon , 2022-10-04 ) This dissertation draws from recent work in pragmatism and philosophical genealogy to develop and defend a new approach for thinking about the concept of moral status. My project has two main aims. First, I argue that Huw ...
  • Ethics for the Depressed: A Value Ethics of Engagement  Fitzpatrick, Devin ( University of Oregon , 2022-10-04 ) I argue that depressed persons suffer from “existential guilt,” which amounts to a two-part compulsion: 1) the compulsive assertion or sense of a vague and all-encompassing or absolute threat that disrupts action and ...
  • Soul and Polis: On Arete in Plato's Meno  Smith III, Ansel ( University of Oregon , 2022-10-04 ) In “Soul and Polis: On Arete in Plato’s Meno,” I interpret Meno as a dialogue in which the pursuit of individual arete appears intertwined with political arete. While the differentiation of these two arete is itself ...
  • Place-in-Being: A Decolonial Phenomenology of Place in Conversation with Philosophies of the Americas  Newton, Margaret ( University of Oregon , 2022-05-10 ) Our experiences of place and emplacement are so fundamental to our everyday existence that most of us rarely dedicate much time to thinking about how place and emplacement impact the various aspects of our daily lives. In ...
  • Species Trouble: From Settled Species Discourse to Ethical Species Pluralism  Sinclair, Rebekah ( University of Oregon , 2021-11-23 ) In this dissertation, I develop and defend the importance of species pluralism (the recognition and use of multiple species definitions) for both environmental and humanist ethics. I begin from the concern that, since the ...
  • The Hybris of Plants: Reinterpreting Philosophy through Vegetal Life  Kerr, Joshua ( University of Oregon , 2021-11-23 ) This dissertation reexamines the place of plants in the history of Western philosophy, drawing on the diverse philosophical approaches of Plato, Aristotle, Goethe, Hegel, and Nietzsche, among others. I suggest that a close ...
  • Decolonizing Silences: Toward a Critical Phenomenology of Deep Silences with Gloria E. Anzaldúa and Maurice Merleau-Ponty  Ferrari, Martina ( University of Oregon , 2021-11-23 ) Motivating this dissertation is a concern for how Western philosophical, cultural, and political practices tend to privilege speech and voice as emancipatory tools and reduce silence to silencing. To locate power in silence ...
  • Mere Appearance: Redressing the History of Philosophy  Zimmer, Amie ( University of Oregon , 2021-09-13 ) The principal aim of this dissertation is to seriously consider what accounts of fashion and dress can offer—have indeed already offered—to philosophy. In recounting these histories, I have two primary goals. The first is ...
  • Universal History as Global Critique: From German Critical Theory to the Anti-Colonial Tradition  Portella , Elizabeth ( University of Oregon , 2021-09-13 ) This dissertation argues for a critical reconstruction of the concept of universal history. In doing so, it draws on theoretical resources offered by a materialist philosophy of history, as it is expressed in both German ...
  • Synoptic Fusion and Dialectical Dissociation: The Entwinement of Linguistic and Experiential Pragmatisms à la Wilfrid Sellars  Naeb, Cheyenne ( University of Oregon , 2021-09-13 ) This work will attempt to examine the relationship between experiential and linguistic pragmatism through the lens of the twentieth-century Analytic philosopher, Wilfrid Sellars. I maintain that Sellars meta-linguistic ...
  • Nietzsche, Heidegger, and the Questionability of Truth  Emery, James ( University of Oregon , 2020-12-08 ) Does Nietzsche’s inquiry into the question of truth take him beyond the sense of truth as correctness found in Platonism toward a more Greek understanding of truth that brings concealment into an unsettling prominence ...
  • Feminism, Secularism, and the (Im)Possibilities of an Islamic Feminism  Akbar Akhgari, Paria ( University of Oregon , 2020-02-27 ) This project considers attempts by scholars from within as well as outside Muslim countries to analyze gender and sex equality with a new approach that brings Islam and feminism into one discourse, often called “Islamic ...
  • To Write the Body: Lost Time and the Work of Melancholy  Hayes, Shannon ( University of Oregon , 2019-09-18 ) In this dissertation I develop a philosophical account of melancholy as a productive, creative, and politically significant affect. Despite the longstanding association of melancholy with the creativity and productivity ...
  • Reparative Critique in Jamesian Pragmatism, Foucauldian Genealogy, and Contemporary Political Philosophy  Sheehey, Bonnie ( University of Oregon , 2019-09-18 ) My dissertation develops and defends a concept of reparative critique that presses critical philosophy beyond its affinities with negative judgment. In the wake of Post-Kantian philosophy, critique has become associated ...

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The dissertation is expected to be a mature and competent piece of writing, embodying the results of significant original research. Physical requirements for preparing a dissertation (i.e., quality of paper, format, binding, etc.) are prescribed online in the Guide for the Electronic Submission of Theses and Dissertations ; a copy is also available in the Graduate School Office. For specific aspects of form and style, students are advised to use Kate L. Turabian's  A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations  (Eighth Edition, 2013). Special physical problems regarding preparation of dissertations should be taken up with the Assistant Dean for Student Programs.

Graduate students also have the option of submitting their dissertation electronically , to facilitate access to their work through online databases. Students must be registered at Duke during the semester in which they defend their dissertations and therefore must take their final dissertation examination while classes are in session. It is best to schedule a final examination (the so-called "thesis defense") early in the fall or spring semester. Examinations during the summer terms are almost impossible to arrange and should be avoided, if possible. Examinations between semesters are permitted only in exceptional cases.

Checklist for Doctoral Dissertation Defense

  • Schedule exam during school semester. At the beginning of the semester be sure to register for continuation and to complete the Apply to Graduate process in DukeHub.
  • Go to the Graduate School's Preparing to Graduate  to be sure your plans meet all graduation related deadlines.
  • If your dissertation committee remains the same as your preliminary committee, send an email indicating there is no change to [email protected] & to DGSA. If there are changes, contact DGSA immediately.
  • Clear date and time with all members of your committee. As soon as you do this , email [email protected] to reserve a room for your defense date (tell her if you have special AV needs, or will be skyping during the defense). When you get confirmation of the room, email it to the DGS and DGSA, and each committee member.
  • Proofread your dissertation and have someone else do so.
  • Provide committee with reading copies of your dissertation 3 weeks in advance.
  • Format check a copy of your dissertation through the Graduate School Office several weeks in advance (following these procedures outlined ). Initial submission of dissertations into UMI/ProQuestmust take place at least two weeks prior to the defense date and no later than the established initial submission deadline for that graduation term.
  • At least 2 weeks before defense date, ask Advisor to email Advisor Letter to [email protected] (with your name in the subject line) stating they have read your dissertation and it is ready to defend.
  • Ask DGS to email Department Defense Announcement form  to the Graduate School at [email protected] at least 2 weeks ahead.
  • Prior to defense date, pick up Exam Card from the Graduate School at your exam card appointment (you schedule this here after  you get email notification from the Graduate School). Bring exam card to the defense.
  • On defense date, come to exam with enough sleep and earn a clear pass.
  • Have committee sign Exam Card & the Title & Abstract Signature pages. Have Advisor sign the Duke Space licensing agreement.
  • Return the original signed Exam Card, Title & Abstract Signature pages, and Duke Space licensing agreement to Graduate School, and bring a copy of these forms to DGSA's office.
  • Make corrections and submit 3 dissertation copies and abstracts.
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Doctoral Program

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Stanford's Ph.D. program is among the world's best. Our graduate students receive their training in a lively community of philosophers engaged in a wide range of philosophical projects. Our Ph.D. program trains students in traditional core areas of philosophy and provides them with opportunities to explore many subfields such as the philosophy of literature, nineteenth-century German philosophy, and medieval philosophy.

Among other areas, we are exceptionally strong in Kant studies, the philosophy of action, ancient philosophy, logic, and the philosophy of science. We attract some of the best students from around the world and we turn them into accomplished philosophers ready to compete for the best jobs in a very tight job market.

The most up-to-date requirements are listed in   t he Bulletin .  


From the 2020-2021 edition of Explore Degrees:

Doctor of Philosophy in Philosophy

Prospective graduate students should see the  Office of Graduate Admissions  web site for information and application materials. 

The University's basic requirements for the Ph.D. degree including candidacy, residence, dissertation, and examination are discussed in the " Graduate Degrees " section of this bulletin.

University candidacy requirements, published in the " Candidacy " section of this bulletin, apply to all Ph.D. students. Admission to a doctoral degree program is preliminary to, and distinct from, admission to candidacy. Admission to candidacy for the doctoral degree is a judgment by the faculty in the department or school of the student's potential to successfully complete the requirements of the degree program. Students are expected to complete department qualifying procedures and apply for candidacy at the beginning of the seventh academic quarter, normally the Autumn Quarter of the student's third year.

Admission to candidacy for the doctoral degree is granted by the major department following a student's successful completion of qualifying procedures as determined by the department. Departmental policy determines procedures for subsequent attempts to become advanced to candidacy in the event that the student does not successfully complete the procedures. Failure to advance to candidacy results in the dismissal of the student from the doctoral program; see the " Guidelines for Dismissal of Graduate Students for Academic Reasons " section of this bulletin.

The requirements detailed here are department requirements. These requirements are meant to balance structure and flexibility in allowing students, in consultation with their  advisors , to take a path through the program that gives them a rigorous and broad philosophical education, with room to focus on areas of particular interest, and with an eye to completing the degree with an excellent dissertation and a solid preparation for a career in academic philosophy.

Normally, all courses used to satisfy the distribution requirements for the Philosophy Ph.D. are Stanford courses taken as part of a student's graduate program.  In special circumstances, a student may petition to use a very small number of graduate-level courses taken at other institutions to satisfy a distribution requirement.  To be approved for this purpose, the student’s work in such a graduate-level course would need to involve an appropriate subject matter and would need to be judged by the department to be at the level of an 'A' in a corresponding graduate-level course at Stanford.  

Courses used to satisfy any course requirement in Philosophy (except Teaching Methods and the summer Dissertation Development Seminar) must be passed with a letter grade of 'B-' or better (no satisfactory/no credit), except in the case of a course/seminar used to satisfy the third-year course/seminar requirement and taken for only 2 units. Such a reduced-unit third-year course/seminar must be taken credit/no credit. 

At the end of each year, the department reviews the progress of each student to determine whether the student is making satisfactory progress, and on that basis to make decisions about probationary status and termination from the program where appropriate.

Any student in one of the Ph.D. programs may apply for the M.A. when all University and department requirements have been met.

Proficiency Requirements

  • First-year Ph.D. Proseminar : a one quarter, topically focused seminar offered in Autumn Quarter, and required of all first-year students.
  • two courses in value theory including ethics, aesthetics, political philosophy, social philosophy, philosophy of law. At least one of the courses satisfying this distribution requirement must be in ethics or political philosophy.
  • Two courses in language, mind, and action. One course satisfying this requirement must be drawn from the language related courses, and one from mind and action related courses.
  • two courses in metaphysics and epistemology (including metaphysics, epistemology, philosophy of science). At least one of the courses satisfying this requirement must be drawn from either metaphysics or epistemology.
  • Instructors indicate which courses may satisfy particular requirements. If a course potentially satisfies more than one requirement the student may use it for only one of those area requirements; no units may be double-counted. Students must develop broad competencies in all these areas. Those without strong backgrounds in these areas would normally satisfy these distribution requirements by taking more basic courses rather than highly specialized and focused courses. Students should consult with their advisor in making these course decisions, and be prepared to explain these decisions when reviewed for candidacy; see requirement 6 below.
  • Logic requirement:  PHIL 150  Mathematical Logic or equivalent.
  • History/logic requirement. One approved course each in ancient and modern philosophy, plus either another approved history of philosophy course or  PHIL 151  Metalogic.
  • Students should normally take at least 64 graduate level units at Stanford during their first six quarters (in many cases students would take more units than that) and of those total units, at least 49 units of course work are to be in the Philosophy department. These courses must be numbered above 110, but not including Teaching Methods ( PHIL 239  Teaching Methods in Philosophy) or affiliated courses. Units of Individual Directed Reading are normally not to be counted toward this 49-unit requirement unless there is special permission from the student's advisor and the Director of Graduate Studies.
  •  Prior to candidacy, at least 3 units of work must be taken with each of four Stanford faculty members.

Writing Requirement: Second Year Paper

The second year paper should demonstrate good scholarship and argumentative rigor, and be a polished piece of writing approximately 8000 words in length. The second year paper need not bear any specific relationship to the dissertation. It may be a version of a prospective dissertation chapter, but this is not required. The final version must be turned in on the last class of the Second Year Paper Development Seminar in Summer Quarter of the second year. Extensions of this deadline require the consent of the instructor of the Second Year Paper Development Seminar and the Director of Graduate Studies and are only granted in exceptional cases (e.g., documented illness, family crisis). The final paper is read by a committee of two faculty members and it is an important consideration in the department’s decision on the student’s candidacy. 

Teaching Assistancy

A minimum of five quarters of teaching assistancy are required for the Ph.D. Normally one of these quarters is as a teaching assistant for the Philosophy Department's Writing in the Major course,  PHIL 80  Mind, Matter, and Meaning. It is expected that students not teach in their first year and that they teach no more than two quarters in their second year. Students are required to take  PHIL 239  Teaching Methods in Philosophy during Spring Quarter of their first year and during Autumn Quarter of their second year. Teaching is an important part of students’ preparation to be professional philosophers.

Review at the End of the Second Year for Advancement to Candidacy

The faculty's review of each student includes a review of the student's record, an assessment of the second year paper, and an assessment of the student's preparation for work in her/his intended area of specialization, as well as recommendations of additional preparation, if necessary.

To continue in the Ph.D. program, each student must apply for candidacy at the beginning of the sixth academic quarter, normally the Spring Quarter of the student's second year. Students may be approved for or denied candidacy by the end of that quarter by the department. In some cases, where there are only one or two outstanding deficiencies, the department may defer the candidacy decision and require the student to re-apply for candidacy in a subsequent quarter. In such cases, definite conditions for the candidacy re-application must be specified, and the student must work with the advisor and the DGS to meet those conditions in a timely fashion. A failure to maintain timely progress in satisfying the specified conditions constitutes grounds for withholding travel and discretionary funds and for a denial of advancement to candidacy.

  • Writing Seminar : In the Summer Quarter after the second year, students are required to attend the Second Year Paper Development Seminar. The seminar is intended to help students complete their second year papers. 
  • Upon completion of the summer writing seminar, students must sign up for independent study credit,  PHIL 240  Individual Work for Graduate Students, with their respective advisors each quarter. A plan at the beginning, and a report at the end, of each quarter must be signed by both student and advisor and submitted to the graduate administrator for inclusion in the student's file. This is the process every quarter until the completion of the departmental oral.
  • In Autumn and Winter quarters of the third year, students register in and satisfactorily complete  PHIL 301  Dissertation Development Proseminar. Students meet to present their work in progress and discuss their thesis project. Participation in these seminars is required.
  • During the third and fourth years in the program, a student should complete at least three graduate-level courses/seminars, at least two of them in philosophy (a course outside philosophy can be approved by the advisor), and at least two of them in the third year. The three seminars can be taken credit/no-credit for reduced (2) units. Courses required for candidacy are not counted toward satisfaction of this requirement. This light load of courses allows students to deepen their philosophical training while keeping time free for thesis research.

Dissertation Work and Defense

The third and following years are devoted to dissertation work. The few requirements in this segment of the program are milestones to encourage students and advisors to ensure that the project is on track.

  • Dissertation Proposal— By Spring Quarter of the third year, students should have selected a dissertation topic and committee. A proposal sketching the topic, status, and plan for the thesis project, as well as an annotated bibliography or literature review indicating familiarity with the relevant literature, must be received by the committee one week before the meeting on graduate student progress late in Spring Quarter. The dissertation proposal and the reading committee's report on it will constitute a substantial portion of the third year review.
  • Departmental Oral— During Autumn Quarter of the fourth year, students take an oral examination based on at least 30 pages of written work, in addition to the proposal. The aim of the exam is to help the student arrive at an acceptable plan for the dissertation and to make sure that student, thesis topic, and advisors make a reasonable fit. It is an important chance for the student to clarify their goals and intentions with the entire committee present.
  • Fourth-Year Colloquium— No later than Spring Quarter of the fourth year, students present a research paper in a 60-minute seminar open to the entire department. This paper should be on an aspect of the student's dissertation research. This is an opportunity for the student to make their work known to the wider department, and to explain their ideas to a general philosophical audience.
  • University Oral Exam— Ph.D. students must submit a completed draft of the dissertation to the reading committee at least one month before the student expects to defend the thesis in the University oral exam. If the student is given consent to go forward, the University oral can take place approximately two weeks later. A portion of the exam consists of a student presentation based on the dissertation and is open to the public. A closed question period follows. If the draft is ready by Autumn Quarter of the fourth year, the student may request that the University oral count as the department oral.

Below are yearly lists of courses which the faculty have approved to fulfill distribution requirements in these areas: value theory (including ethics, aesthetics, political philosophy, social philosophy, philosophy of law); language; mind and action; metaphysics and epistemology (including metaphysics, epistemology, philosophy of science); logic; ancient philosophy; modern philosophy.

The most up-to-date requirements are listed in  t he Bulletin .  

Ph.D. Minor in Philosophy

To obtain a Ph.D. minor in Philosophy, students must follow these procedures:

  • Consult with the Director of Graduate Study to establish eligibility, and select a suitable  advisor .
  • 30 units of courses in the Department of Philosophy with a letter grade of 'B-' or better in each course. No more than 3 units of directed reading may be counted in the 30-unit requirement.
  • Philosophy of science
  • Ethics, value theory, and moral and political philosophy
  • Metaphysics and epistemology
  • Language, mind and action
  • History of philosophy
  • Two additional courses numbered over 199 to be taken in one of those (b) six areas.
  • A faculty member from the Department of Philosophy (usually the student's advisor) serves on the student's doctoral oral examination committee and may request that up to one third of this examination be devoted to the minor subject.
  • Paperwork for the minor must be submitted to the department office before beginning the program.

Interdisciplinary Study

The department supports interdisciplinary study. Courses in Stanford's other departments and programs may be counted towards the degree, and course requirements in Philosophy are designed to allow students considerable freedom in taking such courses. Dissertation committees may include members from other departments. Where special needs arise, the department is committed to making it possible for students to obtain a philosophical education and to meet their interdisciplinary goals. Students are advised to consult their advisors and the department's student services office for assistance.

Graduate Program in Cognitive Science

Philosophy participates with the departments of Computer Science, Linguistics, and Psychology in an interdisciplinary program in Cognitive Science. It is intended to provide an interdisciplinary education, as well as a deeper concentration in philosophy, and is open to doctoral students. Students who complete the requirements within Philosophy and the Cognitive Science requirements receive a special designation in Cognitive Science along with the Ph.D. in Philosophy. To receive this field designation, students must complete 30 units of approved courses, 18 of which must be taken in two disciplines outside of philosophy. The list of approved courses can be obtained from the Cognitive Science program located in the Department of Psychology.

Special Track in Philosophy and Symbolic Systems

Students interested in interdisciplinary work relating philosophy to artificial intelligence, cognitive science, computer science, linguistics, or logic may pursue a degree in this program.

Prerequisites—Admitted students should have covered the equivalent of the core of the undergraduate Symbolic Systems Program requirements as described in the " Symbolic Systems " section of the Stanford Bulletin, including courses in artificial intelligence (AI), cognitive science, linguistics, logic, and philosophy. The graduate program is designed with this background in mind. Students missing part of this background may need additional course work. In addition to the required course work listed in the bulletin, the Ph.D. requirements are the same as for the regular program, with the exception that one course in value theory and one course in history may be omitted.

Joint Program in Ancient Philosophy

This program is jointly administered by the Departments of Classics and Philosophy and is overseen by a joint committee composed of members of both departments:

  •         Christopher Bobonich , Philosophy (Ancient Greek Philosophy, Ethics)
  •         Alan Code , Philosophy, Philosophy (Ancient Greek Philosophy, Metaphysics)
  •         Reviel Netz , Classics (History of Greek and Pre-Modern Mathematics)
  •         Andrea Nightingale , Classics, (Greek and Roman Philosophy and Literature)
  •        Josh Ober , Classics and Political Science (Greek Political Thought, Democratic Theory)

It provides students with the training, specialist skills, and knowledge needed for research and teaching in ancient philosophy while producing scholars who are fully trained as either philosophers with a strong specialization in ancient languages and philology, or classicists with a concentration in philosophy.

Students are admitted to the program by either department. Graduate students admitted by the Philosophy department receive their Ph.D. from the Philosophy department; those admitted by the Classics department receive their Ph.D. from the Classics department. For Philosophy graduate students, this program provides training in classical languages, literature, culture, and history. For Classics graduate students, this program provides training in the history of philosophy and in contemporary philosophy.

Each student in the program is advised by a committee consisting of one professor in each department.

Requirements for Philosophy Graduate Students: These are the same as the proficiency requirements for the Ph.D. in Philosophy.

One year of Greek is a requirement for admission to the program. If students have had a year of Latin, they are required to take 3 courses in second- or third-year Greek or Latin, at least one of which must be in Latin. If they have not had a year of Latin, they are then required to complete a year of Latin, and take two courses in second- or third-year Greek or Latin.

Students are also required to take at least three courses in ancient philosophy at the 200 level or above, one of which must be in the Classics department and two of which must be in the Philosophy department.

Ph.D. Subplan in History and Philosophy of Science

Graduate students in the Philosophy Ph.D. program may pursue a Ph.D. subplan in History and Philosophy of Science. The subplan is declared in Axess and subplan designations appear on the official transcript, but are not printed on the diploma.

1.  Attendance at the HPS colloquium series. 2.  Philosophy of Science courses.  Select one of the following:

  • PHIL 263 Significant Figures in Philosophy of Science: Einstein
  • PHIL 264: Central Topics in the Philosophy of Science: Theory and Evidence
  • PHIL 264A: Central Topics in Philosophy of Science: Causation
  • PHIL 265: Philosophy of Physics: Space and Time
  • PHIL 265C: Philosophy of Physics: Probability and Relativity
  • PHIL 266: Probability: Ten Great Ideas About Chance
  • PHIL 267A:  Philosophy of Biology
  • PHIL 267B: Philosophy, Biology, and Behavior

3.  One elective seminar in the history of science. 4.  One elective seminar (in addition to the course satisfying requirement 2) in philosophy of science.

The PhD program provide 5 years of  financial support . We also try to provide support for our sixth year students and beyond though we cannot guarantee such support. In addition to covering tuition, providing a stipend, and covering Stanford's health insurance, we provide additional funds for books, computer equipment, and conference travel expenses. Some of the financial support is provided through requiring you to teach; however, our teaching requirement is quite low and we believe that this is a significant advantage of our program.

Stanford Support Programs

Additional support, such as advances, medical and emergency grants for Grad Students are available through the Financial Aid Office. The University has created the following programs specifically for graduate students dealing with challenging financial situations.

Graduate Financial Aid  homepage :

Cash Advance:

Emergency grant-in-aid :, family grants:, housing loans:, program characteristics.

Our program is well known for its small size, streamlined teaching requirements, and low average time to degree.

The program regulations are designed to efficiently provide students with a broad base in their first two years. In the third year students transition to working on their dissertations. During the summer prior to the third year, students are required to attend a dissertation development seminar. This seminar introduces students to what is involved in writing a dissertation. During the third year the course load drops to just under one course per quarter.

The rest of the time is spent working closely with a faculty member, or a couple of faculty members, on the student's area of research interest. The goal of the third year is that this process of intensive research and one-on-one interaction will generate a topic and proposal for the dissertation. During the fourth and fifth year the student is not required to take any courses and he or she focusses exclusively on research and writing on the dissertation.

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Stanford University

Being a part of  Stanford University  means that students have access to one of the premier education institutions in the world. Stanford is replete with top departments in the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences. In addition, our professional schools, such as the  Stanford Law School , are among the best. The range of research in a variety of areas, many of which touch on or relate to philosophical issues, is simply astounding. Students have the freedom to take courses across the university. Graduate students also regularly earn joint degrees with other programs.

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2.10 The Dissertation

The Ph.D. Dissertation is a substantial body of research that engages with existing scholarship in philosophy and makes an original contribution to the body of scholarship with which it is concerned. Dissertations can either be written as a short monograph that builds an extended argument across several chapters or as a portfolio of papers on a unified theme. The minimum requirement for the dissertation is an introduction and three substantial papers or chapters.

ScholarWorks@UMass Amherst


Philosophy Department Dissertations Collection

Current students, please follow this link to submit your dissertation.

Dissertations from 2023 2023

The Dialectical Virtue of Ideological Reduction , Keehyuk Nahm, Philosophy

Dissertations from 2022 2022

A Metaphysics of Artifacts: Essence and Mind-Dependence , Tim Juvshik, Philosophy

Higher-Order Evidence and Human Evolution , Justis Koon, Philosophy

All Sortals are Phase Sortals , Justin Mooney, Philosophy

Naturalized Human Epistemology is Social Epistemology , Molly O'Rourke-Friel, Philosophy

Quantitative Character and the Composite Account of Phenomenal Content , Kimberly Soland, Philosophy

Dissertations from 2021 2021

Defending Philosophical Knowledge , Jonathan Dixon, Philosophy

Worlds without End: A Platonist Theory of Fiction , Patrick Grafton-Cardwell, Philosophy


Dissertations from 2020 2020

Continua , Lu Chen, Philosophy

Socratic Piety, Reciprocity, and the Last Elenchos of Plato's Euthyphro , Donovan Cox, Philosophy

Autonomy, Oppression, and Respect , Andrea Wilson, Philosophy

Dissertations from 2019 2019

A Defense of Hume's Dictum , Cameron Gibbs, Philosophy

The Epistemic Dimensions of Moral Responsibility and Respect , John Robison, Philosophy

Self-Knowledge, Choice Blindness, and Confabulation , Hayley F. Webster, Philosophy

Dissertations from 2018 2018

Quantification and Paradox , Edward Ferrier, Philosophy

Meaning and Modality , Jesse Fitts, Philosophy

The Mismatch Problem for Act Consequentialism , Robert Gruber, Philosophy



The Philosophical Value of Reflective Endorsement , Rachel Robison, Philosophy

Dissertations from 2017 2017

Norms for Bayesians , Lisa Cassell, Philosophy

Applications and Extensions of Counterpart Theory , Bridgette Peterson, Philosophy

Me, Myself and I: Reflections on Self-Consciousness and Authority , jonathan rosen, Philosophy

The Concept of Intrinsic Goodness: Essays in Moorean Moral Philosophy , Miles Tucker, Philosophy

Dissertations from 2016 2016

Physical Geometry , James P. Binkoski, Philosophy

Fallibility and Normativity , Joshua DiPaolo, Philosophy

Structuring Thought: Concepts, Computational Syntax, and Cognitive Explanation , Matthew B. Gifford, Philosophy

The Path To Supersubstantivalism , Joshua D. Moulton, Philosophy

Agency and Reasons in Epistemology , Luis R.G. Oliveira, Philosophy

Understanding and Its Role in Inquiry , Benjamin T. Rancourt, Philosophy

Dissertations from 2015 2015

Variations on Some Rossian Themes , Kristian Olsen, Philosophy

Dissertations from 2014 2014

Taste Disagreements and Predicates of Personal Taste , Heidi Teres Buetow, Philosophy

Synthetic Reductionism in Moral Philosophy , Scott Hill, Philosophy

A Defense of Russellian Descriptivism , Brandt H. van der Gaast, Philosophy

Dissertations from 2013 2013

The Structure of Consciousness , Lowell Keith Friesen, Philosophy

The Plausibility of Moral Error Theories , Casey Alton Knight, Philosophy

Dissertations from 2012 2012

Self-Knowledge in a Natural World , Jeremy Cushing, Philosophy

Counterpossibles , Barak Krakauer, Philosophy

Dissertations from 2011 2011

Pyrrhonian and Naturalistic Themes in the Final Writings of Wittgenstein , Indrani Bhattacharjee, Philosophy

Identity and the Limits of Possibility , Sam Cowling, Philosophy

Dissertations from 2010 2010

On Epistemic Agency , Kristoffer Hans Ahlstrom, Philosophy

Bayesian Epistemology and Having Evidence , Jeffrey Dunn, Philosophy

Sleeping Beauty and De Nunc Updating , Namjoong Kim, Philosophy

Human Freedom in a World Full of Providence: An Ockhamist-Molinist Account of the Compatibility of Divine Foreknowledge and Creaturely Free Will , Christopher J. Kosciuk, Philosophy

The rise of Cartesian occasionalism , Andrew Russell Platt

The Rise Of Cartesian Occasionalism , Andrew Russell Platt, Philosophy

Dissertations from 2009 2009

Composition as Identity: a Study in Ontology and Philosophical Logic , Einar Bohn, Philosophy

Being good, doing right, faring well. , Daniel, Doviak, Philosophy

On the Measurability of Pleasure and Pain , Justin Allen Klocksiem, Philosophy

Knowledge, questions and answers , Meghan B Masto

Knowledge, questions and answers. , Meghan B. Masto, Philosophy

On memory and testimony , Kirk Michaelian, Philosophy

Synthetic Ethical Naturalism , Michael Rubin, Philosophy

On the Objectivity of Welfare , Alexander F. Sarch, Philosophy

Phenomenal Acquaintance , Kelly Trogdon, Philosophy

Dissertations from 2008 2008

'Can' and consequentialism : an account of options. , Edward Lee Abrams, Philosophy

A defense of a particularist research program. , Uri D. Leibowitz, Philosophy

A tenseless account of tensed sentences and tensed belief. , Stephan V. Torre, Philosophy

Dissertations from 2007 2007

Emotional rationality and the fear of death. , Kristen A. Hine, Philosophy

Achievement, enjoyment, and the things we care about : a theory of personal well-being. , Jason R. Raibley, Philosophy

Dissertations from 2006 2006

Vagueness , Thomas J. Bell

Leibniz and Locke on the ultimate origination of things. , Marcy P. Lascano, Philosophy

Dissertations from 2005 2005

Desire-satisfaction theories of welfare. , Christopher C. Heathwood, Philosophy

Well-being and actual desires. , Mark E. Lukas, Philosophy

Brains and barns : the role of context in epistemic attribution. , Julie M. Petty, Philosophy

Dissertations from 2004 2004

Simples and gunk. , Kris, McDaniel, Philosophy

Brains and barns: The role of *context in epistemic attribution , Julie M Petty

The reconciliation of faith and reason in Thomas Aquinas. , Creighton J. Rosental, Philosophy

Forms of goodness : the nature and value of virtue in Socratic ethics. , Scott J. Senn, Philosophy

Dissertations from 2003 2003

Advancing the counterfactual analysis of causation. , Ethan R. Colton, Philosophy

Freedom and responsibility : an agent-causal view. , Meghan E. Griffith, Philosophy

Adopted knowing : claiming self-knowledge in the age of identity. , Kimberly J. Leighton, Philosophy

A priori arguments for reductionism. , Jennifer Rea Susse, Philosophy

Open questions and consequentialist conditionals : central puzzles in Moorean moral philosophy. , Jean-Paul, Vessel, Philosophy

Dissertations from 2002 2002

Autonomous machine agency. , Don, Berkich, Philosophy

The ontology of film. , Julie N. Books, Philosophy

Dissertations from 2001 2001

Ethical theory and population problems. , Kevin E. Moon, Philosophy

Dissertations from 2000 2000

The creation of the eternal truths and the nature of God in Descartes. , Daniel P. Kaufman, Philosophy

Art and psychoanalysis : a topographical, structural, and object-relational analysis illustrated by a study of Shakespeare's Hamlet. , Patricia E. Scarbrough, Philosophy

The nature of moral virtue. , Erik J. Wielenberg, Philosophy

Dissertations from 1999 1999

Transcendental arguments and Kant's Refutation of Idealism. , Adrian, Bardon, Philosophy

Species of goodness. , William Benjamin Bradley, Philosophy

Nothing personal : a defense on non-libertarian incompatibilism. , Bruce C. Galbreath, Philosophy

The speculum and the scalpel : the politics of impotent representation and non-representational terrorism. , David, Mertz, Philosophy

Pleasure, falsity, and the good in Plato's Philebus. , Ciriaco M. Sayson, Philosophy

Criteria in crisis : modernist, postmodernist, and feminist critical practices. , Mary Ann Sushinsky, Philosophy

The nation and nationalism. , Henry C. Theriault, Philosophy

Dissertations from 1998 1998

A defense of materialism against attacks based on qualia. , J. C. Beall, Philosophy

Natural-kind term reference and the discovery of essence. , Joseph F. LaPorte, Philosophy

Desert, virtue, and justice. , Eric F. Moore, Philosophy

The incompatibility of determinism and moral obligation. , Neil Schaefer, Philosophy

Hume's skepticism. , Dennis F. Thompson, Philosophy

The ethnicities of philosophy and the limits of culture. , Joseph S. Yeh, Philosophy

Dissertations from 1997 1997

Metaphysical theories of modality : properties, relations and possibilities. , David A. Denby, Philosophy

Religious belief, social establishment and autonomy. , Christopher J. Eberle, Philosophy

The state of nature and the genesis of commonwealths in Hobbes's political philosophy. , Thomas J. Fryc, Philosophy

The logic of contingent existence. , Daniel M. Kervick, Philosophy

A critique of academic nationalism. , Amie A. Macdonald, Philosophy

Richard Rorty's liberalism : a Marxist perspective. , Markar. Melkonian, Philosophy

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Philosophy Dissertation Topics

Published by Grace Graffin at January 9th, 2023 , Revised On January 9, 2023


The choice of dissertation topic is crucial for research as it will facilitate the process and makes it an exciting and manageable process. Several dissertation ideas exist in philosophy, including metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, logic, aesthetics, deontology, absurdum, and existentialism. Philosophy dissertations can be based on either primary research or secondary research.

Primary data dissertations incorporate the collection and analysis of data obtained through questionnaires and surveys. On the other hand, secondary data dissertations make use of existing literature to test the research hypothesis . To help you get started with philosophy topic selection for your dissertation, a list is developed by our experts.

These philosophy dissertation topics have been developed by PhD qualified writers of our team , so you can trust to use these topics for drafting your dissertation.

You may also want to start your dissertation by requesting  a brief research proposal  from our writers on any of these topics, which includes an  introduction  to the topic,  research question ,  aim and objectives ,  literature review  along with the proposed  methodology  of research to be conducted.  Let us know  if you need any help in getting started.

Check our  dissertation examples  to get an idea of  how to structure your dissertation .

Review the full list of  dissertation topics for 2022 here.

Philosophy Dissertation Topics of Research

Topic 1: an examination of women's perspective on feminist philosophy..

Research Aim: This study aims to look into the importance of feminism in a philosophical context. It will also identify the factors that lead to postmodernism and liberal feminism from women’s perspectives and will also focus on the impact of feminist philosophy on the development of modern society.

Topic 2: Sociological Functionalism- Investigating the Development and Beliefs

Research Aim: This research study will focus on new types of functionalism and get a deeper understanding of inner and outer circumstances in which different approaches take place. This study will also investigate how the researchers use social theory to acquire a better understanding of the environment in which these concepts are used. It will also promote sociology through informing and inspiring practices and research.

Topic 3: Assessing the History and Development of Philosophical Work from the 15th to 21st Century.

Research Aim: This study aims to find the history and development of philosophical work from the 15th and 21st Centuries. It will examine the theoretical foundations of the practice, applications, and social consequences. This study will also focus on different factors of how philosophy has evolved in these centuries and what changes have occurred.

Topic 4: A Comprehensive View of Social Development of Loneliness.

Research Aim: This study will comprehend how various theoretical points of view are connected or linked r to loneliness. This study will also present an argument for an interpretative social point of view by dissembling the sense of loneliness into key components. It will also focus on the problems and different behaviours of people.

Topic 5: What does it mean to live in an Ideal Society- Discuss using Plato's Philosophies.

Research Aim: Plato is well known for his monologue known as the Republic; he was also the classical political philosopher whose views influenced future political thoughts. Plato’s ideal society was created during a time when Plato was exceedingly optimistic about human nature and its ability to absorb knowledge. This study will conduct a deep analysis of Plato’s ideologies and his views and their impact on the western political world.

More Philosophy Dissertation Research Topics

Topic 1: why we should stop capital punishment and adopt permanent solutions to help solve crimes..

Research Aim: This research aims to analyse the importance of rehabilitation and counseling of criminals to bring them back to their usual walks of life. The whole idea is to eliminate crime, and capital punishment does not provide solutions where a clean society can be developed.

Topic 2: Should people always obey the rules? A closer look at the line between breaking rules and rebellion.

Research Aim: Rules are developed to maintain a balance in society and ensure discipline, which helps an individual in every sphere of their lives. But specific rules are created only for serving a group and not for the whole society’s best interest. This research aims at finding pieces of evidence where rule-breaking is a rebellion and for the upliftment of humanity and not in personal interest.

Topic 3: Loneliness: Reconstructing its meaning

Research Aim: This research aims at finding the meaning of loneliness, what it is to feel lonely, why some people are reclusive, isolate themselves. Loneliness is not always related to sadness, and some people feel better in isolation due to their bitter experiences of life.

Topic 4: Understanding why religion is paramount above anything else for many people around the globe.

Research Aim: Religion forms the basis of life and way of living for many people around the globe. People often get confused with religion and spiritualism, and the grandeur associated with religion becomes more important. The lack of knowledge and education forces blind faith. This research aims to find the reason for dependency on religion and how it negatively affects human lives.

Topic 5: What is the best way to boost a person’s creativity?

Research Aim: This research aims at finding the best possible way to boost a person’s creativity. The most important way is to motivate, inspire, and support them in their process of exploring innovative ideas. Recognition of talent can be the most effective method, which the research will investigate.

Topic 6: Morality and religion: Why are they different, yet they talk about the same thing?

Research Aim: The fundamental essence of religion is compassion and empathy for humans and ensures morality and ethics as a way of life. This research emphasises the primary aim of a religion and how people are getting disoriented and making rituals of religion the prime concern.

Topic 7: Wealth: Is it possible to be rich without having a lot of money?

Research Aim: Wealth and money are co-related as lots of money gives the power to buy anything. But a wealth of human life lies in their moral values, love, affection, proper health and wellbeing, and money cannot accept them. This research topic will speak about becoming wealthy, even with limited monetary wealth.

Topic 8: How can the custom of dowry be eliminated from people’s minds?

Research Aim: Dowry is a social parasite, and it is now a punishable offence by the law. But rules alone cannot change society. The research aims at eradicating the practice of dowry from people’s minds in the light of education.

Topic 9: To love or to be loved: Which is more important?

Research Aim: Love is the feeling of intense desire or deep affection. The most beautiful feeling gives a sense of satisfaction and grows through exchange between two individuals. To love and be loved are two co-related aspects as human expects love in return. The research focuses on the more critical dilemma, being on the giving or receiving side of love.

Topic 10: Why social behaviour and ethics cannot be separated?

Research Aim: The research aims to evaluate the importance of ethics in social behaviour and why they cannot be separated. An ethical society is a proper place to thrive for every individual.

Topic 11: A more in-depth look at things that make human life meaningful.

Research Aim: Money, power does not always buy happiness. The research lays the foundation for the importance of care, compassion, empathy. Love and affection as the more essential aspects that make human life meaningful.

Topic 12: Is it possible to create an ideal society?

Research Aim: An ideal society is free from any crime and economic disparities where everyone is treated equally. This research will discuss whether a perfect community is attainable; it is practically possible or not.

Topic 13: A closer look at modern life values.

Research Aim: The research aims to focus on the change in values in modern times. The research’s primary purpose is to provide a comparative study of how modern people’s mindset has changed over time.

Topic 14: Euthanasia: Is it ethical?

Research Aim: A long time debate exists regarding the ethical side of euthanasia. Ending someone’s life can be considered unlawful as we do not have the right to end something we did not create. This research aims at providing evidence in favour of euthanasia and also the negative aspects.

Topic 15: What is the value of truth? Are there instances when lying is good?

Research Aim: The research aims to provide evidence where lying is not unethical. The study will give an example from Bhagwat Gita, where Lord Krishna lied to safeguard humanity.

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Browsing FAS Theses and Dissertations by FAS Department "Philosophy"

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Acting From Thought About Action 

Belief and ameliorative epistemology , the commonwealth as agent: group action, the common good, and the general will , conceptualism and objectivity in locke's account of natural kinds , counsel and command: an address-dependent account of authority , dependence on persons and dependence on things in rousseau's social, psychological, and aesthetic theory , duties of rescue: a moderate account , essays on biological individuality , formal analyticity , global institutions and relations among non-co-citizens , intellectual property rights and institutions: a pluralist account , into question: an account of inquiry , kant's science of the moral world and moral objectivity , knowledge in action , loving, valuing, regretting, and being oneself , 'making people happy, not making happy people': a defense of the asymmetry intuition in population ethics , no metaphysics within physics , the normativity of structural rationality , objectivity and intersubjectivity in moral philosophy , on perception's role in aristotle’s epistemology .

Villanova University

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Doctoral students talking in a small group in the spring

Villanova Philosophy graduate students' interests are wide-ranging. They work on everything from the history of philosophy to contemporary politics, philosophy and film to philosophy and religion, the most traditional kinds of projects to cutting-edge intersections with neuroscience, bioethics, law and the arts. Our recent dissertations and placement record reflect this diversity.

Dissertations in Progress

Erika Brown [email protected]

Areas of interest include:   Women of Color Feminist Philosophy, Critical Genealogy, Lordean Eros, Feminist Theories Dissertation title:  "Erotic Feminist Coalitions: A Genealogy of Mythologized Identities and Power"

Kevin Lower [email protected] 

Areas of interest include:  History of Early Modern Philosophy, Margaret Cavendish, Metaphysics of Action and Passion

Dissertation title: " Action and Passion in Margaret Cavendish’s Metaphysics of Mind"

Daniel Shussett

[email protected]

Areas of interest include:   Social Ontology, Social Epistemology, Science, Technology, and Society (STS); Social and Political Philosophy, Philosophy of Science, Philosophy of Mind, Environmental Philosophy 

Dissertation title:  "The Social Ontology of Smart Cities: Implications and Applications"

Eneida Jacobsen

[email protected]

Areas of interest include:  Social and Political Philosophy, Indigenous Philosophy, Critical Gender Theory, Marxism Dissertation title: "Irrational Animal: Capitalism’s Culture vs. Nature. Philosophy as Ideology"

Zachary Sievers

[email protected]

Areas of interest include:   Dissertation title: " Haptic Cinematography: Experimenting with Digital Cameras as Haptic Interfaces"

Claryn Spies

[email protected]

Areas of interest include:  Foucault, phenomenology, queer theory

Dissertation title:  “On ne naît pas délinquant”1: On the Uses of Criminality"

Brendan Rome

[email protected]

Areas of interest include:  20th Century Continental Philosophy, Psychoanalysis, Social & Political Philosophy, Philosophy of Science

Dissertation title: "Politics on the Couch: Normativity & Ideology in Freud's Case Studies" 

Daniel Allen

[email protected]

Areas of interest include:  Modern and Contemporary Socio-Political Philosophy, Marxist Social Epistemology & Ontology

Dissertation title:  "Too Little that Could be Loved: Fascism, Intelectual Labor, and the Reproduction of Capital"

Kelsey Borrowman

[email protected]

Areas of interest include:  Social and Political Philosophy, Phenomenology, Philosophy of Disability and 19th and 20th c. Continental Philosophy, Early Modern Philosophy, Epistemology, Feminist Philosophy, Public Philosophy

Dissertation title:  "On Health: Insights from Nietzsche and Rousseau on the Value of Sickness"

Timour Kamran

[email protected]

Areas of interest include: Social and Political Philosophy, Critical Theory, Philosophy and Social Movements

Dissertation title: " Revolutionary Subjectivity in the age of Computerized Production"

Jordan Whelchel

j [email protected]

Areas of interest include:  19 th  century philosophy (especially German Idealism and Marxism), philosophy of science, and political philosophy

Dissertation title: " The Dialectical Materialism of Friedrich Engels"

Christopher Quintana

[email protected]

Areas of interest include:  Social & Political Philosophy, Technology Ethics, Virtue Theory Dissertation title: " Aristotelianism and Technological Development"

Yue Jennifer Wang [email protected]

Areas of interest include: Phenomenology, Medieval Mysticism  Dissertation title: " A Phenomenology of Mystical Embodiment: Merleau-Ponty and Hildegard on the Transformation of Sense Perception"

Placement Record

Students who have completed the PhD in our program are listed below, w i th their current positions and dissertation titles.

Jared Bly, PhD, 2023 "Toward a Historical Materialism of the Photographic Image: Marx, Benjamin, Althusser and Beyond" Katherine Sepulveda, PhD, 2023  Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, Executive Assistant for Academic Affairs "The Ethical Work of the Imagination: Chronic Pain, Poetic Labor, and Societal Restoration" 

Sean Bray, PhD, 2022 "Terror and Time: Hegel’s Temporal Concept of Violence"

Humberto González Núñez, PhD, 2022,  University of Texas, Dallas (tenure-track) "Aristotle’s Proto-Phenomenology of Being: The Reciprocity of Dunamis and Energeia in Nature, Movement, and the Soul" 

Theodra Bane, PhD, 2022 "A Question of Rights: Settler Colonialism, Racialization, and the Political Economy of Liberalism" 

Jingchao Ma, PhD, 2022, Villanova University,   Arthur J. Ennis Post-Doctoral Teaching Scholar at Augustine Culture Seminar Program "Narcissistic Gender: Psychoanalysis and the Social Formation of the Gendered Body" 

Amanda Holmes, PhD, 2020, University of Applied Arts, Assistant Professor, Vienna, Austria "The Logos of Eros: Logics of Desire in Lacan's Return to Freud"

Chris Drain, PhD, 2020, Dartmouth College, Lecturer  "Activity, Mediation, Signification: Toward a Neo-Vygotskian Anthropogeny"  

Katherine Filbert, PhD, 2019, California State University, Stanislaus, (tenure-track) “Harming Stupidity: Deleuze and Zhuangzi’s Ethics of Thought”  

Amrit Mandzak-Heer, PhD, 2019, Jefferson University, Visiting Assistant Professor “Hegel’s Metaphysical Logic of Conceptual Determination”  

Emre Cetin Gurer, PhD, 2019, Bahcesehir University, Istanbul; Adjunct "Prefigurative Realism: The Politics of Space-Time in the Square Movements”  

Richard Strong, PhD, 2018, University of the Sciences in Philadelphia, Visiting Assistant Professor “Habitus Beyond Bourdieu: Incorporating Technological, Interhuman, & Ecological Entanglements into the Foundations of Social Ontology"  

John Brien Karas, PhD, 2018, Villanova University, Adjunct "Postliminium: On Hegel’s Logic of Objectivity”  

Daniel Wood, PhD, 2018, Dillard University, Adjunct "Epistemic Decolonization: A Critical Epistemography of the Anitcolonial Politics of Knowledge"  

Michelle Falcetano, PhD, 2018, Villanova University, Adjunct "Confession as Narrative Contemplation: The Role of the Imagination in Saint Augustine's Religious Epistemology"  

Ryan Feigenbaum, PhD, 2017, Executive Director for the Philosophy of Science Association and Program Director for the University of Cincinnati's Center for Public Engagement with Science "The Epistemic Foundations of German Biology, 1790–1802"  

Ian Maley, PhD, 2017, Villanova University, Adjunct "The Thought of Being in Aristotle's Poetics"

Charles Prusik, PhD, 2017,  VAP Birmingham Southern College, Alabama   "Negative Reason: Adorno and the Critique of Neoliberal Society"  

Patricia L. Grosse, PhD, 2017, Finlandia University, (tenure-track) "Embodied Love and Extended Desire"  

Rachel Aumiller, PhD, 2016, Columbia University, Lecturer Discipline of English and Comparative Literature "The Laughing Matter of Spirit: A Young Hegelian Comedy"

Morey Williams, PhD, 2016, Sacred Heart Academy in Bryn Mawr, Full-time Theology Teaching position "Zones of the Flesh and the Confined Bodies of Women"  

Katherine Eltringham, PhD, 2016 "The Ritual Dialogue of Philosophy: How Homer's Tragic Tales Influenced Socratic Education"  

Summer Renault-Steele, PhD, 2016, The George Washington University, Professorial Lecturer, (renewable) "Unravel the Girl, Unravel the World: Critical Theory, Gender, and the Crisis of Modernity"  

Robert Leib, PhD, 2016, Elon University, Visiting Assistant Professor "Political Myth: An Archaeology of Magical Language"  

Elie Saade, PhD, 2016, Saint John Vianney College Seminary, Lecturer "The Call to Believe and the Weak God in William James’s Philosophy of Religion"  

Joshua Nunziato, PhD, 2016, University of Colorado, Full-time Instructor-Renewable, UC Boulder, Business Ethics & Impact Division "Augustine's Sacrificial Economy"  

Jessica Elkayam, PhD 2016, Sam Houston University, Assistant Professor (tenure-track) "Thinking the Limit of the Human: Nietzsche, Heidegger, and the Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics"  

Elizabeth A. Irvine, PhD, 2016 "The Place of Politics: Heidegger On Aristotle's Topos and the Polis"  

Jessie Dern-Sisco, PhD, 2016, Facilitator at Philly Agile Learning Community; "Deleuze's Philosophy of Learning"  

Paul Camacho, PhD, 2016, Villanova University, Ennis Post Doctoral position, Augustine and Culture Seminar Program, and Associate Director of the Augustinian Institute "The Weight of Love: Augustine on Desire and the Limits of Autonomy"  

Derek Aggleton, PhD, 2016, Pennsylvania State University, multi-year-long fixed term lectureship "Ontological Movement and the Ethics of Tyranny: Heidegger, Nancy, and Plato"  

Peter DeAngelis, PhD, 2016, Software Engineer at FIS in Naperville, Ill. "Punishment, Social Disadvantage, and Respect"  

Christopher Noble, PhD, 2016, New College of Florida, (tenure-track) "The Soul as Spiritual Automaton in Leibniz's Synthetic Natural Philosophy"  

Terry Maksymowych, PhD, 2016, Academy of Notre Dame de Namur, Science Faculty; Villanova University, Adjunct "Applying Richard Zaner's Phenomenology of the Clinical Encounter to the treatment of Disorders of Sex development (Intersex) Conditions"

Past Placement 2015-1999

Laura McMahon, PhD, 2015, Eastern Michigan University, Assistant Professor (tenure-track) "Vulnerability and Security: Perception and Politics in Merleau-Ponty"

Christopher Davidson, PhD 2014, Ball State University, Assistant Teaching Professor (non-tenure, renewable)   "Ethics After the Genealogy of the Subject"

John-Patrick Schultz, PhD 2014, Peirce College, Associate Professor of General Studies full-time, (non-tenure),  “Revolutionary Temporality: Marx, Bloch, Benjamin"

Michael Vendsel, PhD 2014, Tarrant County College, Associate Professor  "Beyond Immanence and Critique: A Renewed Reading of the Ontological Argument"

Liam Kavanagh, PhD 2014, Villanova University, Augustine & Culture Seminar Program, Assistant Professor "Principles of Reason: Alasdair MacIntyre and Jacques Derrida"

Lee Cole, PhD, 2014, Hillsdale College, Associate Professor, (tenured) "At the Limits of Realism: St. Thomas Aquinas and the Intellectual Knowledge of Singulars"

Sarah Vitale, PhD, 2014, Ball State University, Assistant Professor (tenure-track) "Marx and the Metaphysics of Production"

Neil Brophy, PhD, 2014, Towson University, (lecturer, one year  renewable) "Power, Life and the Art of Government:  Foucault's Genealogy of Modern Politics"

Erika Kidd, PhD, 2014, Assistant Professor and Director of the Graduate Program of Catholic Studies at University of St. Thomas, Minn. (tenure-track)   "Verbum et Vita: A Reading of Augustine's De magistro"

Timothy Jussaume, PhD, 2014, Saint Leo University, Assistant Professor (tenure track)  "Heidegger and the Nothing:  Transcendence After Metaphysics"

Jeffrey Gower, PhD, 2014, Wabash College, Assistant Professor, (tenured) "The Sovereign Living Law:  Onto-theology and Normativity in Aristotle's Metaphysics"

John Garner, PhD, 2014, University of West Georgia, Assistant Professor (tenured) "The Good that Comes to Be:  The Truth of Pleasure and the Experience of Learning in Plato's Philebus"

James Butler, PhD, 2013  "Aristotle and the Science of Perception"

Michael Olson, PhD, 2013, Marquette University, (tenured)  Teaching Associate Professor and Director of the Marquette Core Curriculum. "Kant's Transcendental and Metaphysical Idealism"

Rebecca Steiner Goldner, PhD, 2013, St. John's College, Annapolis, MD. (tenure-track) "Lived Flesh: Touch and Embodiment in Aristotle's de Anima"

Jacob Wortman, PhD, 2013 "The Ecstatic Character of Being: The Intricate Interrelationship Between the Later Heidegger and the Later Merleau-Ponty"

Christopher Ruth, PhD, 2012, Ocean County College, NJ (full-time, fixed term renewable)  "Sheltering Singularity: Marx, Heidegger and the Question of Alienation"

Raoni Padui, PhD, 2012, St. John's College, Santa Fe, New Mexico, (tenure-track)  "From the Transcendental to the Ontological: Hegel, Heidegger and the Legacy of Transcendental Idealism"

Geoffrey Karabin, PhD, 2012, Neumann University, Assistant Professor, (full-time)  “The Afterlife and Aggression: Creating Hell to Attain Heaven?”

Snezhina Gabova, PhD, 2011, Risk Monitor: Public Policy Institute, Sofia, Bulgaria  "Hegel and Heidegger and the question of the work of art (focusing on Hegel's Aesthetics and Phenomenology and Heidegger's The Origin of the Work of Art)"

Michael Norton, PhD, 2011, University of Arkansas at Little Rock, Assistant Professor and Chair (tenured)  “Thinking Religion as More than One:  A Deconstructive Appeal for Pluralism”

Alexi Kukuljevic, PhD, 2009, Artist & Lecturer, at the Kunsttheorie at Universität für angewandte Kunst Wien, Berlin (University of Applied Arts Vienna)  "The Renaissance of Ontology: Kant, Heidegger, Deleuze"

Nazareth Pantaloni, PhD, 2010, Indiana University, Assistant Director for Copyright and Administration at the Cook Music Library  "The Im/Possibility of Democracy: Derrida and Habermas"

P. Taylor Trussell, PhD, 2009 "The Gift of Power: Foucault, Derrida, and Normalization"

Edward Kazarian, PhD, 2009, Rowan University (adjunct) "The Science of Events: Deleuze and Psychoanalysis"

Andrew Davis, PhD, 2009, Belmont University, Associate Professor (tenured) "Living Method: From the Regulative to the Constitutive Idea in Hegel's Logic"

Ashley Vaught, PhD, 2008, Villanova University, (adjunct) Augustine and Culture Seminar Department   “The Specter of Spinoza in Schelling's Freiheitsschrift”

Adriel M. Trott, PhD, 2008, Wabash College, Professor,  Department Chair and the Andrew T. and Anne Ford Chair (tenured) "The Challenge of Physis: Reconcilling Nature and Reason in Aristotle's Politics"

Michael Brogan (†), PhD, 2007, St. John's College - Annapolis, tutor (tenured) "The Good Against Being: Ethics and Ontology in Emmanuel Levinas"

Daniel Greenspan, PhD, 2006, Adjunct Professor, California State University, Dominguez Hills "Kierkegaard and the Rebirth of Tragedy: Philosophy, Poetry and the Problem of the Irrational (with constant reference to Aristotle and Sophocles)"

Joshua Alan Ramey, PhD, 2006, Grinnell College, Assistant Professor (tenure track)  "Gilles Deleuze and the Powers of Art"

Matthew Groe, PhD, 2006, Jacksonville University, Associate Professor, (tenured) "Ethical Coexistence Beyond Dualism: The Converging Visions of Dewey and Merleau-Ponty"

Judd Seth Wright, PhD, 2006, St. John Nepomucene Catholic Church, Director of Adult Faith Formation "The Foundations of Productive History in Mimesis and Narrative Identity"

Michael Marx Shaw, PhD, 2006, Utah Valley University, Professor, (tenured) "The Role of Desire in Aristotle's Ontology"

Andrea Margaret Hurst, PhD, 2006, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, South Africa, (tenured) "Derrida or Lacan: The Revolutionary's Choice On the 'Plural Logic Of the Aporia' in Deconstruction and Lacanian Psychoanalysis"

Gregory Hoskins, PhD, 2005, Villanova University, Teaching Professor, Assistant Director of the Augustine and Culture Seminar Program (ACSP)  "The Politics of Memory: A Philosophical Investigation"

Adam Miller, PhD, 2005, Collin College (tenure track)  "Immanent Grace: Badiou, Marion, & Saint Paul"

John Whitmire, PhD, 2005, Western Carolina University - Associate Professor of Philosophy and Department Chair (tenured) "On the Subject of Autobiography: Finding a Self in the Works of Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Sartre, and Derrida"

Timothy Kirk, PhD, 2004, City University of New York-York College, Professor & Department Chair (tenured) "The Moral Significance of Intimacy in Nurse-Patient Relationships"

Ammon Allred, PhD, 2004, University of Toledo, Associate Professor (tenured)  "The Lyrical Age: Reconfiguring Metaphysics, Modernity, and Poetry in the Thought of Martin Heidegger"

Lucio Privitello, PhD, 2003, Richard Stockton College of New Jersey, Associate Professor and Chair of the Philosophy Department (tenured) "Animality and Laughter: Contributions to a Theory at the Borders of Philosophical Discourse (Plato, Nietzsche, Bataille)"

Farhang Erfani, PhD, 2003, American University, Associate Professor  (tenured), Research Associate, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University South Africa "Left on the Road to Utopia: Social Imaginary in the Age of Democracy"

Dana S. Belu, PhD, 2003, California State University, Dominguez Hills, Associate Professor and Chair, (tenured)  "Thinking Again: Heidegger on Technology and the Place of Freedom"

Michael Andrews, PhD, 2002, Director of the John Felice Rome Center of Loyola University Chicago, located in Rome, Italy  "Contributions to the Phenomenology of Empathy: Edmund Husserl, Edith Stein, and Emmanuel Levinas"

Jamey Findling, PhD, 2002, Newman University, Associate Professor (tenured)  "The Dialectic of Being: Gadamer's Reading of Plato"

Shannon Mussett, PhD, 2002, Utah Valley University, Professor (tenured)  "Binding Nature and Freedom: Hegelian Themes of Liberation and Oppression in Simone de Beauvoir"

Sarah Donovan, PhD, 2002, Wagner College, Associate Professor of Philosophy and Interim Dean of Integrated Learning (tenured) "Judith Butler and Luce Irigaray: Feminist Resources for Overcoming Oppressive Exclusions"

Joseph Berendzen, PhD, 2002, Loyola, New Orleans, Associate Professor (tenured) "Toward an Existential Critical Theory of Deliberative Democracy"

Stephen Finn, PhD, 2002, United States Military Academy, Director of the Center for Faculty Excellence "The Political Influence: Hobbes's Politics and Natural Philosophy"

Christian Diehm, PhD, 2001, University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, Associate Professor (tenured) "The Gravity of Nature: Other-than-human Others in the Thought of Emmanuel Levinas"

Darin Crawford Gates, PhD, 2001, Brigham Young University (one-year renewable)  "The Ontological Disclosure and Ethical Exposure of Meaning in Heidegger and Levinas"

Theodore D. George, PhD, 2000, Texas A&M University, Professor, (tenured) "Hegel's Speculative Theory of Political Life: Community and Tragedy in the Phenomenology of Spirit"

Matthias Fritsch, PhD, 1999, Concordia University, Professor, (tenured)  "Benjamin, Derrida, and the Politics of Memory: The Promise of History Reconsidered"

James K.A. Smith, PhD, 1999, Calvin College, Professor, (tenured) and the Endowed Chair of The Gary & Henrietta Byker Chair in Applied Reformed Theology & Worldview  "How to Avoid Not Speaking: On the Phenomenological Possibility of Theology"

Jennifer Anna Gosetti, PhD, 1999, Fordham University, Professor, (tenured) "Heidegger, Hölderlin, and the Subject of Poetic Languages



Katherine Filbert smiling at camera

Katherine Filbert '19 PhD has currently accepted a tenure-track position at California State University, Stanislaus.  Dr. Filbert was most recently Assistant Professor in the Department of Philosophy at King’s College in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, where she regularly taught courses in East and Southeast Asian Philosophy, theories of knowledge, feminist philosophy and liberal arts seminars on the nature of self and community. Her specializations are in Classical Chinese Philosophy and 19th-20th century Continental Philosophy, and her current research lies in developing a comparative ethics of thinking that examines the relationship between thinking and life in the works of Gilles Deleuze and pre-Qin Chinese philosophy.  Her dissertation is “Harming Stupidity: Deleuze and Zhuangzi’s Ethics of Thought.” 


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Department of Philosophy Villanova University, SAC 108 800 Lancaster Avenue Villanova, PA 19085

Julie Klein, PhD , Graduate Program Director Terry DiMartino , Graduate Program Coordinator


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January 8, 2024 : For admission to the PhD program with or without assistantship

Students are admitted for the fall term, only.

Please contact the program director, Dr. Julie Klein , with questions about your application.

Begin your application.


Philosophy doctoral student presents her research at a symposium at Villanova

Opportunities Abound to Present Scholarly Work

From the annual Graduate Student Research Symposium to the international Three-minute Thesis (3MT) competition , Villanova University offers many opportunities for graduate students to develop and showcase their research communication skills. This year, Philosophy doctoral student Katherine Kurtz advanced to the national round of the 3MT competition, after winning the University event and placing second at regionals. Her presentation, "Deviant Bodies: Toward an Aesthetics of Feminine Monstrosity," is based on her dissertation work.

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Mastering Philosophy: Advice For Writing A Dissertation

Writing a dissertation is an important step for those who wish to pursue a career in philosophy. It can be a difficult and intimidating task, requiring significant research and writing skills. Fortunately, with the right strategies, it is possible to master the process of writing a dissertation in philosophy.

This article provides advice for students on how to successfully write a dissertation in philosophy. The advice presented here covers all aspects of the dissertation-writing process, including developing research questions, constructing an argumentative thesis statement, organizing ideas into sections and chapters, formulating persuasive arguments and evidence, and editing.

In addition, this article offers suggestions for resources that will help students develop their understanding of philosophical concepts and terms as well as improve their writing skills. With this guidance, readers can confidently approach the process of writing a successful dissertation in philosophy.

What Is A Dissertation?

A dissertation is a lengthy and detailed written work that presents an original argument based on extensive research. It is typically required to obtain a postgraduate degree, such as a doctorate or master’s degree.

Dissertations are typically composed of multiple chapters and sections that contain the conceptualizing of philosophy, philosophical arguments, philosophical analysis, philosophical implications, and philosophical methodology. This allows for the writer to explore their thesis from various angles and make well-rounded claims.

The dissertation should be written in an academic style, including objective and impersonal language without the use of personal pronouns. The writing should also be engaging for readers who have a subconscious desire for serving others.

The goal of writing a dissertation isn’t just about presenting a theory; it is about providing evidence that supports it as well. The writer must consider how the evidence will interact with their argumentation in order to create an overall cohesive piece of work that can be evaluated by peers and defended against counterarguments.

Once they have presented their thesis in full detail with supporting evidence and analysis, they can draw out the implications of their findings.

Research And Planning

The research and planning stage is crucial for any dissertation. It is important to define your objectives, perform a keyword analysis, manage resources, obtain feedback, and track progress.

Here are 4 tips to help you on this journey:

Define your objectives – setting specific goals can help you stay motivated and focused throughout the writing process.

Perform a keyword analysis – use relevant keywords to ensure that your topic will be relevant to the audience you are targeting.

Manage resources – it is important to carefully manage the time and resources available to you when writing a dissertation. This includes making sure that all materials needed are readily available and that deadlines are met.

Obtain feedback – regularly seek feedback from peers or mentors to ensure that you’re on track with the project and make adjustments where necessary.

Tracking progress is also essential for successful completion of a dissertation project; use an online tracking system or journaling techniques to log milestones achieved and tasks completed along the way so that you always know where you stand in terms of progress made on the project.

Taking these steps will not only help keep you on track but also give you peace of mind as you embark on this exciting endeavor!

Outlining And Structure

Organizing Ideas is an important aspect to consider when writing a dissertation. It involves gathering ideas, classifying them by relevance, and organizing them in a logical manner.

Developing an Outline is a great way to ensure that the dissertation is structured properly and that all relevant information is included. It is also a helpful way to make sure that the research is organized and presented in a concise manner.

Creating a Roadmap is a useful technique to help writers stay on track and organized while writing their dissertation. It provides an overview of the main points and helps writers identify the different sections of the dissertation.

Organizing Ideas

Structuring ideas and information is a critical part of writing a dissertation. Concept mapping, mental models, and logical reasoning are all helpful tools for organizing your ideas when you are outlining and writing your dissertation.

One useful tool for organizing ideas is concept mapping. Concept mapping involves creating diagrams or visual representations of ideas and their relationships to each other.

Mental models are another useful tool for organizing your thoughts. Mental models involve constructing a mental representation of the world around us, in order to better understand how things work or why certain decisions are made.

Finally, logical reasoning is an important skill for structuring your thoughts and arguments in a dissertation. Logical reasoning involves analyzing evidence, forming hypotheses, drawing conclusions based on that evidence, and then testing those conclusions against reality.

By employing these three tools – concept mapping, mental models, and logical reasoning – you can more easily structure your ideas into an organized outline that will help you write an effective dissertation.

Developing An Outline

Once you have structured your ideas with concept mapping, mental models, and logical reasoning, it is time to start developing an outline for your dissertation.

Exploring ideas, identifying problems, and brainstorming solutions are all key components of creating a comprehensive outline.

As you explore the ideas related to your dissertation topic, consider the various ways in which these ideas can be organized.

Having a clear understanding of the main issues and topics will help you form a comprehensive outline.

After brainstorming possible solutions to any identified problems or gaps in your knowledge, use this information to further refine your outline.

This process should help ensure that your dissertation is well-structured and logically presented.

By developing an effective outline for your dissertation, you will be able to create a cohesive argument that follows a logical flow of thought.

Creating A Roadmap

After structuring your ideas and creating an outline for your dissertation, it is important to develop a roadmap of how you will achieve your goals.

This roadmap should include strategies for effectively managing time and referencing resources. In this way, you can ensure that the research process runs smoothly and efficiently.

Additionally, by setting clear goals and milestones, you can monitor your progress along the way and adjust your plan as needed.

Crafting a well-thought-out roadmap will help you stay on track throughout the entire writing process and ensure that each step is taken towards producing a quality dissertation.

Writing The Chapters

Having outlined the dissertation, it’s time to begin writing. It’s important to have a plan for managing time and resources. This includes organizing notes, exploring avenues for research, and developing ideas related to the subject.

The following table provides a guide for managing the process of writing a dissertation:

The first step is to find sources of information relevant to your topic area. These might include books, journal articles, websites, or interviews with experts in the field. This will give you an idea of what has already been written on the subject and provide valuable background information.

Once you have enough resources to begin writing, it’s time to start outlining and structuring your chapters. This involves deciding which topics need to be covered in each chapter, summarizing your research findings, and creating an outline of how the information should be presented.

After this is complete, you can begin writing each chapter one by one. As you write each section make sure that your arguments are clear and supported with evidence from your sources.

Finally, as you near completion of each chapter take some time to proofread and edit your work before moving onto the next one. Following these steps ensures that you remain organized throughout the process of writing a dissertation while also providing yourself ample opportunity for exploration and discovery as you develop ideas related to your topic area.

Editing And Proofreading

Grammar errors are often overlooked when writing an academic paper, but they should be addressed to ensure that the paper is clear and concise.

Fact-checking is an essential step in the editing and proofreading process to ensure that all information presented is accurate and reliable.

Word choice is an important factor to consider when writing an academic paper as it can have a significant impact on the overall quality of the writing.

Grammar Errors

Grammar errors are one of the most common mistakes when editing and proofreading. To help you become a master of language conventions, punctuation marks, and grammar rules, it is important to develop an eye for spotting mistakes.

To do this, read your work aloud or have someone else read it for you. This will help you catch any awkward or incorrect sentence structures that may need to be revised.

Additionally, using online resources such as grammar checkers can also be beneficial in catching any lingering errors. Therefore, mastering grammar is key when editing and proofreading; by reading aloud and utilizing online resources, you can ensure your writing is as accurate and polished as possible.


When editing and proofreading, it is also important to ensure that the information presented is accurate. To do this, accuracy checks must be conducted by researching reliable sources and consulting peer review.

This can be done through online research or by speaking with experts in the field to ensure the validity of the information. It is essential to double-check all facts for accuracy when editing and proofreading as it helps maintain credibility and trustworthiness.

By verifying the accuracy of information, you can confidently present a polished piece of writing that will serve your readers well.

Word Choice

When editing and proofreading, it is also essential to pay attention to word choice. Using clear terminology and precise language is important for creating an effective piece of writing that will serve the reader’s needs.

Selecting the right words can help ensure that the message is communicated effectively, without ambiguity or confusion. When selecting vocabulary for your writing, it is important to consider the audience and their level of understanding in order to select words that are appropriate for them.

Doing this will help make sure your writing resonates with your readers and provides them with a clear understanding of the message you are conveying. Making sure each word you choose is relevant and meaningful will help you craft a powerful piece of writing that serves its purpose.

Citing Sources Properly

When it comes to academic writing, proper citation of sources is paramount. Not only does citing sources accurately demonstrate thorough research, but it also prevents plagiarism.

To ensure that your dissertation is written in accordance with accepted conventions and referencing guidelines, take the following steps:

Familiarize yourself with the different citation styles used in philosophy (e.g., APA, Chicago).

Research how to cite quotes properly from different types of sources (books, websites, etc.).

Take notes as you read so that you can easily reference where ideas came from when citing them later.

It’s important that you use a consistent style for citing sources throughout your dissertation; not doing so can lead to confusion and mistakes on the part of both you and your reader. Pay close attention to detail when citing sources accurately; this will help demonstrate that your work is of high quality and trustworthy.

Make sure each source is accurately referenced and double-check all citations before submitting your final document.

Formatting And Layout

When formatting and laying out your dissertation, it is important to choose a citation style that is appropriate to the discipline you are writing in. Additionally, it is essential to structure the content of your dissertation in a way that is both coherent and logical, allowing you to effectively communicate your arguments.

Choosing A Citation Style

When formatting and laying out your dissertation, one of the most important things to consider is choosing an appropriate citation style.

Interpreting the rules of each style can be complicated, so it’s important to do your research and determine which method best suits your needs.

Different styles will emphasize different referencing methods, such as placing citations in the body of the text or at the end of each section.

Examples of popular citation styles include APA, Chicago and MLA.

As a tutor, I recommend finding a comprehensive guide outlining the differences between each citation style to ensure that you are accurately citing sources in your dissertation.

Thus, by carefully considering these referencing methods, you can ensure that your dissertation is properly cited and formatted according to your chosen style.

Structuring The Content

When it comes to structuring the content of a dissertation, brainstorming techniques and project management can be extremely helpful.

Taking the time to plan out your ideas prior to writing can make the entire process much more efficient.

Time management is also important in order to ensure that each section of your dissertation is given the appropriate amount of attention.

It’s wise to allocate enough time for research, writing, editing and revising in order to create a cohesive finished product.

Thus, by utilizing these strategies, you can approach structuring your content with greater confidence and achieve success in constructing a well-structured dissertation.

Quality Assurance

Formatting and Layout are important steps in writing a dissertation, but Quality Assurance is just as crucial. Quality assurance involves making sure that the research has been conducted ethically and with rigorous methodologies. Peer review is a key part of this process, as it allows for other researchers to assess the strength of arguments and the quality of data collected.

Argumentative Logic:

  • Present clear evidence to support all claims.
  • Analyze facts from reliable sources deeply.
  • Ensure you have strong supporting sources.

Critical Thinking:

  • Analyze deeply to ensure your arguments are sound.
  • Use reliable sources to back up your claims.
  • Exercise sound judgement in all areas of research.

Research Ethics:

  • Follow APA standards and guidelines throughout your dissertation.
  • Ensure that you follow all ethical guidelines for conducting research.
  • Seek out accurate information from reliable sources.

As an online tutor, it is essential to ensure that your work meets the highest standards of academic rigor. By following these guidelines for argumentative logic, critical thinking, and research ethics, you can guarantee a high-quality dissertation that meets the criteria for excellence in academic writing.

Working With An Advisor

Working with an advisor can be a rewarding experience if there is clear communication and expectations are established. It is important to be as open and clear as possible when discussing goals and objectives with an advisor, to ensure that the dissertation is on track.


It is important for a student to have strong interpersonal skills when working with an advisor. This includes having the ability to effectively communicate ideas, discuss progress, and ask questions.

Furthermore, it is beneficial to practice oral presentations of research findings in order to gain feedback from peers and advisors.

Additionally, engaging in peer review activities allows students to learn from each other’s work and improve their own research.

Therefore, it is important for students to practice these communication skills in order to successfully collaborate with an advisor on their dissertation project.

Ultimately, engaging in these communication activities will help students become more confident in their research and bolster successful collaboration efforts.


When working with an advisor, it is important to have a clear understanding of expectations.

Time management is essential for staying on track and meeting deadlines.

Moreover, critical thinking skills are required when formulating research ideas and responding to feedback from peers and advisors.

Additionally, peer review activities can help students become more aware of their own strengths and weaknesses, allowing them to improve their research.

Therefore, having the ability to effectively manage time, think critically and engage in peer review activities is essential for successful collaboration with an advisor.

In conclusion, effective communication and a clear understanding of expectations are paramount for successful collaboration.

Completing The Dissertation

Completing a dissertation is a challenging and rewarding process. It requires discipline, motivation, organization, and time management in order to be successful.

Finding motivation can be difficult when working on a long-term project with no immediate rewards or feedback. But it is important to keep in mind the end goal and the sense of accomplishment that comes with finishing your work.

Managing time effectively is key to making progress on the dissertation while maintaining other obligations such as a job or family commitments. Break down larger tasks into smaller pieces and set achievable goals for each day or week. Don’t forget to take breaks as well in order to stay focused and energized throughout the process.

Seeking feedback from colleagues, mentors, friends, or family can also be beneficial when working on your dissertation. Feedback helps identify strengths and weaknesses in your work that you may have missed while improving clarity of argumentation and structure.

Remember to stay organized by keeping copies of drafts, notes from meetings or phone calls, relevant documents, etc., in one place so they are easily accessible when needed.

Finally, it is essential to remain focused despite any distractions along the way. Set aside dedicated times for writing where possible and avoid multitasking as much as you can during these periods. This will help maximize efficiency and ensure quality work is produced over the duration of the project.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does it usually take to write a dissertation.

The time it takes to write a dissertation varies greatly depending on a variety of factors, such as time management, research strategies, mental health and writing techniques.

Generally speaking, it is important to plan ahead and have an effective timeline for completing all the necessary steps associated with writing a successful dissertation.

For example, setting aside specific blocks of time each week dedicated to researching and gathering data can help streamline the process.

Additionally, taking regular breaks in between intense periods of writing and data analysis can be beneficial for maintaining mental health and productivity.

Lastly, having an understanding of the fundamental principles of effective writing can help ensure that the final product is well-written and persuasive.

What Are The Common Mistakes To Avoid When Writing A Dissertation?

Writing a dissertation can be a daunting task, and there are several common mistakes to avoid when undertaking such an important project.

Firstly, it is important to pick topics that are feasible and relevant while ensuring they are not too broad or too narrow.

Additionally, time management is essential; allowing enough time for research, writing, and editing can help make the process less stressful.

Furthermore, when researching ideas and using sources it is important to properly cite them in order to reduce the possibility of plagiarism.

Finally, managing stress levels while working on a dissertation is key as burnout can occur if it becomes overwhelming.

Following these tips can help make writing a dissertation easier and more successful.

What Is The Best Way To Stay Motivated While Writing A Dissertation?

Staying motivated while writing a dissertation is essential for success.

One of the best ways to stay motivated is to set achievable goals, breaking larger tasks into smaller, more manageable chunks.

Additionally, it is important to research thoroughly and track progress on individual goals in order to have a clear idea of where you are in the process.

Finally, getting feedback from an advisor or mentor can be incredibly helpful in order to stay motivated throughout the process of writing a dissertation.

By following these steps, you will be able to keep yourself focused and motivated throughout your dissertation-writing journey.

What Is The Best Way To Stay Organized While Writing A Dissertation?

Staying organized while writing a dissertation is key to success. Identifying resources and conducting research are essential steps that require effective communication and time management skills.

Additionally, strategies such as avoiding procrastination can help keep things on track. Achieving organization while writing a dissertation means developing an effective plan of action, identifying what needs to be done on a daily basis, and sticking to it.

It also involves being mindful of one’s progress and making necessary adjustments when needed. By following these guidelines, you will be able to stay organized while writing your dissertation.

How Often Should I Consult With My Advisor While Writing A Dissertation?

Consulting with an advisor is an important part of writing a dissertation. Advisors can help students set goals, analyze sources, research methods, and set deadlines. Additionally, they can provide guidance on citing sources correctly.

It is important for students to consult with their advisors regularly throughout the dissertation process in order to stay on track and ensure that their work meets the expectations of their institution. Taking the time to discuss progress and issues early on will save time and energy in the long run.

Writing a dissertation can be a long and daunting process. It is important to remain organized, motivated and focused throughout the entire writing process.

To ensure successful completion of the dissertation, it is essential to avoid common mistakes such as procrastination, being unfocused or disorganized, and not consulting with your advisor often enough.

It is recommended to take plenty of breaks throughout the writing process. This will help maintain focus and motivation.

Additionally, it is beneficial to consult with your advisor regularly for guidance and feedback on your work. This will help ensure that you are on track for completing the dissertation in a timely manner.

Finally, it is important to remember that you are in control of the writing process. Take ownership of your project and stay organized while writing your dissertation.

Writing a dissertation may take several months but with proper planning and discipline you can create an impressive piece of work that will be rewarding both personally and professionally.

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Philosophy dissertations

undergraduate Y4

I supervise at least one undergraduate a year. Many of the same questions come up each year. I have prepared below a set of guidelines to help when starting out on a dissertation.

Please note that this is personal advice and not to be taken as a substitute for the undergraduate handbook and marking scheme.

Do’s and Don’t’s for a dissertation

  • Have a claim. You should be able to state your claim clearly in 1–2 sentences.
  • Have claim of the right size – viz. a size you can defend (be careful not to be too ambitious here)
  • Have a rigorous argument for your claim. Your argument should be able to convince a rational person who does not already believe your claim
  • Make your dissertation clearly understandable to a philosopher who is not an expert in this area
  • Explain why your claim is important
  • Be honest if you do not conclusively establish your claim – e.g. clarify that your claim follows conditional on certain stated assumptions, list unresolved objections
  • Make clear your original contribution
  • Make use of your supervisor for feedback on drafts


  • Aim for this to be your magnum opus or last word on the topic
  • Try to solve a major problem (e.g. the mind-body problem, external world scepticism)
  • Cover every possible view in the field
  • Include extra material unless it advances your argument
  • Have one massive 6,000 word chapter
  • Leave it until Semester 2 to start work

How to write a dissertation

The points above give you an idea of what to aim for but they don’t provide a method for how to get there. There are many ways to write a dissertation. It may be reassuring to know that there are simple methods that can reliably produce an excellent dissertation. The algorithm below is one method:

  • Find the general area you like (e.g. phenomenal consciousness)
  • Select one article/book chapter in that area that you find fascinating (e.g. Smith (2009))
  • Summarise Smith (2009) carefully in your own words, paying attention to whether each step in the argument follows from the previous
  • Look for weaknesses in Smith (2009)’s argument
  • Which new resources do you need to draw on?
  • Which alternative conclusions follow?
  • Which objections can be raised to your proposal?
  • Draw on relevant bits of surrounding literature to support (5)

You have a first class dissertation!

Filling the dissertation with enough words

A common worry among students is whether they are able to write enough words. The longest piece of philosophical writing they may have done so far is 3,000 words. How can you write a sustained argument that lasts for 8,000 words? This turns out to be easier than you might think. Indeed, the difficulty often turns out to be not going over the word limit.

For the sake of argument, let us see how following the algorithm above might work out in terms of word count.

  • Introduction (500 words): What is your claim, the outline of your argument?
  • Chapter 1 (1,000 words): Why is your claim important? What are the pay-offs?
  • Chapter 2 (2,000 words): Careful and charitable summary of X in your own words
  • Chapter 3 (2,000 words): Your rigorous criticism of X
  • Chapter 4 (2,000 words): How X should be corrected, associated costs, consequences for views that use X, possible objections
  • Conclusion (500 words): Summary and next steps for future work

And we are done!

Milestones to aim for

Milestones depend on the specific project and you should talk to your supervisor about your workload and what would be a reasonable plan for finishing the dissertation in the year. Below is a rough plan that one might aim for.

  • End Y3: meet supervisor & agree on general topic
  • Summer vacation: background reading on topic
  • Start Y4: find 1 article/chapter to focus

Year 4, Semester 1:

  • Start: meet with supervisor & agree plan for year
  • Middle: first draft of 2 chapters
  • End: polished draft of 2 chapters

Year 4, Semester 2:

  • Start: first draft of entire dissertation
  • Middle: polished draft of entire dissertation
  • End: revisit, revise, and submit dissertation

Background reading

A dissertation in philosophy is a story … like all good stories, it only includes what is essential to the story — Robert Paul Wolff’s astute advice that applies just as well to UG dissertations as well as PhD theses

Be concise, but explain yourself fully — Jim Pryor with an excellent 3-stage plan for writing philosophy

Style is the feather in the arrow, not the feather in the cap — Peter Lipton has some wonderful and concise writing advice

Read your work aloud. … Be firm: take your prose to the gym, and keep working at it until the bones and sinews show through! — Peter Smith, previously editor of Analysis , with some fantastic advice

What is an argument? — Jim Pryor’s guide is essential reading for anyone writing philosophy; it contains a lexicon of philosophical terms and a taxonomy of good and bad arguments, which is useful for classifying the arguments you consider

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Library Guides

Dissertations 4: methodology: introduction & philosophy.

  • Introduction & Philosophy
  • Methodology


The methodology introduction is a paragraph that describes both the design of the study and the organization of the chapter. This prepares the reader for what is to follow and provides a framework within which to incorporate the materials. 

This paragraph says to the reader, “This is the methodology chapter, this is how it is organized, and this is the type of design I used.” 

In this introduction, you can also state:  

The objectives of your research and/or 

The research question or hypothesis to be tested 

Research Philosophy

Carrying out your own research for your dissertation means that you are engaging in the creation of knowledge. Research philosophy is an aspect of this. It is belief about the way studies should be conducted, how data should be collected and how it is then analysed and used.  At its deepest level, it includes considerations of what is (ontology), like, is there an objective truth or is it everything subjective, and how to know (epistemology), like, can we know the truth, and how can we get to know it.

Writing about your research philosophy, therefore, involves reflecting on your assumptions and beliefs about data collection to develop, analyse, challenge and evaluate them.  

If you need to have a research philosophy section in your dissertation, the handout attached below provides some guidance.  

  • Research Philosophies Offers descriptions of different research philosophies
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PH399       Dissertation in Philosophy

This information is for the 2020/21 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Marie Milofsky


This course is available on the BSc in Philosophy and Economics, BSc in Philosophy, Logic and Scientific Method, BSc in Philosophy, Politics and Economics and BSc in Politics and Philosophy. This course is not available as an outside option nor to General Course students.

Course content

The dissertation may be on any topic for which a suitable supervisor in the Philosophy department can be found.

Selection of topic

Candidates should have the subject of their dissertation approved by their supervising member of department.

Arrangements for supervision

The dissertation is an opportunity to do extended independent research and writing and to present this work to one's peers. It should reflect the candidate's own views but must develop out of some established part of the philosophical literature. Students should carefully discuss their topic and approach with their supervisor who will also advise on reading and give feedback on written work. Students must have regular meetings with their supervisor, submit written work regularly, and keep a formal record of their work and progress. Students must also present an early version of their argument to fellow students and will be given feedback on the quality of their presentation as well as on the content of their arguments.

2 hours of seminars in the MT. 20 hours of seminars in the LT.

This year, some or all of this teaching will take place online.

Formative coursework

Students will be expected to produce 1 piece of coursework in the MT and 2 essays, 1 presentation and 1 other piece of coursework in the LT.

The formative coursework sets out several steps towards the dissertation: a literature review (due in MT); a first 2,000 words (due in week 1 of LT), a subsequent 3,000 words (which may be in part a revision of the first 2,000 words), due in week 5 of LT; a presentation of the student's arguments in LT; and a full draft of the dissertation, due in week 11 of LT. All written coursework must be submitted by email to both the student's supervisor and the teacher responsible. Students who fail to submit this coursework on time may be barred from submitting the dissertation. Participation in the weekly seminar and the quality of the presentation will determine 10% of the final mark for the course.

Dissertation (90%, 7000 words) in the ST. Class participation (10%).

Dissertations must be submitted in May 2021, exact date to be confirmed. They should be 5,000-7,000 words, and should be typewritten.

Student performance results

(2017/18 - 2019/20 combined)

Important information in response to COVID-19

Please note that during 2020/21 academic year some variation to teaching and learning activities may be required to respond to changes in public health advice and/or to account for the situation of students in attendance on campus and those studying online during the early part of the academic year. For assessment, this may involve changes to mode of delivery and/or the format or weighting of assessments. Changes will only be made if required and students will be notified about any changes to teaching or assessment plans at the earliest opportunity.

Department: Philosophy, Logic and Scientific Method

Total students 2019/20: 28

Average class size 2019/20: 14

Capped 2019/20: No

Value: One Unit

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Marina dimarco (2023).

Washington University, St. Louis, tenure track

Philosophy of Science

​Dissertation:  Explaining and Intervening in Biosocial Science   

Biosocial scientists claim to improve our understanding of health disparities by integrating social and biological causes of human health and behavior. While many philosophers, sociologists, and historians of science embrace the liberatory promise of biosocial science for the design of clinical interventions and public health policy, others are skeptical. As feminist science scholars Dorothy Roberts, Victoria Pitts-Taylor, and Sarah Richardson point out, the “new biosocial science” often reproduces biologically deterministic explanations of health and behavior that mark marginalized individuals as hard-wired or programmed for pathology. As a result, the subjects of explanation in new biosocial science are often targeted for individualistic interventions, and social determinants of health mysteriously disappear into the background. This project forensically analyzes the disappearance of social causes from biosocial explanations. To begin, I characterize and parse the heterogeneity of biosocial science to focus on a specific genre of these explanations: those which ask how social causes “get under the skin” to become embodied in molecular terms. In the rest of the dissertation, I interrogate the values in, and of, these questions and competing answers to them. My approach draws from feminist science studies, feminist philosophy of science, and work on science and values to embrace pragmatic, social, and political dimensions of explanatory success. This is only fitting for a science that is itself marked by, and conscious of, its own political implications, past and present.

Dasha Pruss (2023)

George Mason University, tenure track

​Dissertation:  Carceral Machines: Algorithmic Risk Assessment and the Reshaping of Crime and Punishment   

Recidivism risk assessment instruments are used in high-stakes pre-trial, sentencing, or parole decisions in nearly every U.S. state. These algorithmic decision-making systems, which estimate a defendant's risk of rearrest or reconviction based on past data, are often presented as an 'evidence-based' strategy for criminal legal reform. In this dissertation, I critically examine how automated decision-making systems like these shape, and are shaped by, social values. I begin with an analysis of algorithmic bias and the limits of technical audits of algorithmic decision-making systems; the subsequent chapters invite readers to consider how social values can be expressed and reinforced by risk assessment instruments in ways that go beyond algorithmic bias. I present novel analyses of the impacts of the Sentence Risk Assessment Instrument in Pennsylvania and cybernetic models of crime in the 1960s Soviet Union. Drawing on methods from history and philosophy of science, sociology, and legal theory, I show not only how societal values about punishment and control shape (and are shaped by) the use of these algorithms – a phenomenon I term domain distortion – but also how the instruments interact with their users – judges – and existing institutional norms around measuring and sentencing crime. My empirical and theoretical findings illustrate the kinds of insidious algorithmic harms that rarely make headlines, and serve as a tonic for the exaggerated and speculative discourse around AI systems in the criminal legal system and beyond.

Dana Matthiessen (2023)

University of Minnesota, 2-yr Postdoc

​Dissertation:  Empirical and Pragmatic Grounds of Scientific Representation   

The central thesis of this dissertation is that the ability to reason and learn about the natural world using models can be explained in terms of the practices that warrant researchers to integrate models with accounts of their data-gathering procedures and act on their behalf. I argue that a model only functions as a representation with respect to a target phenomenon when this phenomenon is a plausible member of its domain of application and when the model can be used to characterize this target from data. I argue that this requires, first, that the model can be compared to data and second, that the model be integrated with an account of the process by which this data was produced from the target phenomenon. I provide an account of the representational accuracy of models based on their integration with a theory of technique and subsequent comparison with data patterns. On the same basis, I provide an account of the pragmatic representational content of models in terms of the set of practical inferences they license as a supplement to the empirical programs within the model’s domain of application. Historically, one often sees a back-and-forth negotiation where a model-based target characterization and a data-gathering practice are iteratively tuned to one another. Models are routinely informed by empirical results in the process of their construction and adjusted in response to them. Conversely, models add depth to target characterizations and fill out theories of technique in ways that alter data-gathering procedures. From this perspective, we can understand how a model’s representational content might gradually accrue to it and allow for finer distinctions in data outcomes. I present an extended case that tracks the development of X-ray crystallography and its use for the characterization of the molecular structure of proteins. Ultimately, what is presented here is intended as a robustly pragmatist account of scientific representation. That is, one that does not only tie model use to purposes, but also to the realm of human action.

Jennifer Whyte (2023)

Duke University, 2-yr Postdoc

​Dissertation:  A New Function for Thought Experiments in Science   

In this dissertation I propose and defend a new account of thought experiments in science and show that it solves an otherwise outstanding problem in the epistemology of models in science. In the first chapter, I argue that a handful of reasonable premises about the epistemic status of science and its models leads to a challenge: shifts in scientific concepts lead to shifts in scientific models that lead to potential non-empirical incompatibilities between them. The solution I propose is to construe the role of thought experiments in science as non-empirical operational tests of models in a hypothetical context of use – as model engineering, rather than a source of evidence. In the second chapter, I fully elaborate this account, demonstrate its features, and compare it to three of the most prominent alternative accounts of thought experiments within the literature. The final two chapters of this dissertation are case studies that use the model-engineering account of thought experiments to interpret thought experiments drawn from the history of physics. In the third chapter, I present the lottery thought experiment from Ludwig Boltzmann’s 1877 paper ‘On the Relationship Between the Second Fundamental Theorem of Heat and Probability Calculations Regarding the Conditions for Thermal Equilibrium’ and show that my account not only well-explains the case, but also explains the absence of this thought experiment from the many subsequent presentations of Boltzmann’s achievement in this paper. In the fourth chapter I present the Rota Aristotelica, a pseudo-Aristotelian mechanical paradox, and through it discuss the intersection of three topics: thought experiments, paradoxes, and historical variability. I show that my account of thought experiments allows that many paradoxes can be interpreted as thought experiments, and that this way of interpreting them can solve outstanding questions about what it means to be the solution of a paradox. My aim in this dissertation is to present a complete picture of an account of thought experiments in science, the way that account fits into contemporary discussions of the epistemology of models in science, and how the account can be used to bring light to historical case studies.

Tom Wysocki (2023)

University of Heidelberg, 2-yr Postdoc

​Dissertation:  Underdeterministic Causation   

Metaphysicians and philosophers of science have recently been analyzing two species of causation: deterministic causes, which guarantee their effects (Hitchcock 2001, Halpern 2016, Weslake 2015, Woodward 2003), and probabilistic causes, which raise the probability of their effects (Fenton-Glynn 2017, Twardy & Korb 2011). Yet, consider: about to jump off the tower, Daedalus realizes he only may escape, but also that if he doesn’t try, he’ll stay imprisoned forever. He jumps and flees, and his jump is a cause of his escape. It’s not a deterministic cause, however, because a successful escape wasn’t guaranteed. It’s not a probabilistic cause either because there needn’t be a fact of the matter how probable his escape was given the jump (maybe the events involved are too unique to be assigned a probabilistic distribution). Rather, his jump is what I call an underdeterministic cause, which elevates the modal status of the effect: the cause made possible what was otherwise impossible. But for the jump, Daedalus wouldn’t have fled, even though the jump didn’t necessitate his escape. No one to date has offered a theory of underdeterministic causes, nor even identified them as a separate causal species. Yet, such causes are frequently studied by the humanistic, natural, and social sciences. If we want to understand what causal claims mean—not only in these disciplines, but in general—we need a theory of underdeterministic causation. My dissertation develops such a theory. Specifically, I build a framework for analyzing underdeterministic causal phenomena (ch. 1). Then, I use it to put forward a semantics of counterfactuals and an algebra of events (ch. 2), a theory of type underdeterministic causation (ch. 3), token causation (ch. 4), an account of the dynamic evolution of context (ch. 5), a superior alternative to the epistemic thesis (ch. 6), and an underdeterministic causal decision theory (ch. 7).

Nedah Nemati (2022)

Columbia University, 3-yr postdoc

​Dissertation:  Lived Experience in the Behavioral Neuroscience of Sleep: Conceptual, Methodological, and Ethical Implications   

Neuroscience is widely thought to shed light on core questions about what it means to be human. The neuroscience literature is also animated by an urgency to render our behaviors knowable through the discipline’s tools and procedures. For example, by studying insect sleep, scientists seek to understand – and in some ways succeed in characterizing – a human process long deemed inaccessible and the opposite of consciousness. Meanwhile, key questions – What is sleep? Where is sleep? Why do humans do it? How can sleep be improved? – resist compact answers and demand novel philosophical insight to link neuroscientific facts to our behavioral experiences. This dissertation applies historical and philosophical approaches to the neuroscientific study of sleep to argue that explaining behavioral experiences relies on lived experience. Examining the study of insect sleep, the first half of the dissertation explores the necessity of these lived experiences in neurobiological studies today, as well as how they have taken shape in the past. The second half of the dissertation then investigates what is lost – philosophically, scientifically, and socially – when the role of lived experience is neglected in empirical investigations.

Katie Morrow (2022)

University of Bielefeld, 2-yr postdoc

Kathleen Creel (2021)

Northeastern University (tt)

​Dissertation:  Opening the Black Box: Explanation and Transparency in Machine Learning   

Machine learning algorithms remain highly predictively accurate and powerful yet opaque. They predict and classify without offering human-cognizable reasons for their evaluations. When confronted with the opacity of machine learning in science, what is our epistemic situation and what ought we to do to resolve it? In order to answer this question, I first outline a framework for increasing transparency in complex computational systems such as climate simulations and machine learning on big scientific data. I identify three different ways to attain knowledge about these opaque systems and argue that each fulfills a different explanatory purpose. Second, I argue that analogy with the renormalization group helps us choose the better of two philosophically suggestive explanatory strategies that rely on different diagnoses of the success of deep learning. The coarse-graining strategy suggests that highlighting the parts of the input which most contributed to the output will be misleading without two things: an explanation for why the irrelevant parts are themselves irrelevant, and an explanation for the stability of the output under minor perturbations of the input. Armed with a framework for understanding transparency and an analysis of explanatory strategies appropriate for deep learning, I turn to an application of these frameworks to automated science. Automated science is the use of machine learning to automate hypothesis generation, experimental design, performance of experiment, and evaluation of results. If automated science is to find patterns on its own, then it must be able to solve the Molyneux problem for science, namely to recognize identity across modalities or data streams of different types without the aid of causation or correlation.

Mahi Hardalupas (2021)

Rotman Institute of Philosophy at Western University, 2-yr postdoc

​Dissertation:  How neural is a neural net? Bio-inspired computational models and their impact on the multiple realization debate   

My dissertation introduces a new account of multiple realization called ‘engineered multiple realization’ and applies it to cases of artificial intelligence research in computational neuroscience. Multiple realization has had an illustrious philosophical history, broadly used to describe when a higher-level (psychological) kind can be realized by several different lower-level (physical) kinds. In philosophy of mind, multiple realization is typically seen as arbitrating a debate between metaphysical accounts of the mind, namely functionalism and identity theory. Philosophers of science look to how multiple realization is connected to scientific practice, but many have questioned what it is useful for outside of philosophy of mind. I address this gap by drawing on cases from machine learning and computational neuroscience to show there is a useful form of multiple realization based on engineering practice. My account differs from previous discussions of multiple realization in three ways. First, it reintroduces the link between engineering and multiple realization, which has been mostly neglected in current debates. Second, it is explicitly perspectival, where what counts as multiple realization depends on your perspective. Third, it locates the utility of engineered multiple realization in its ability to support constraint-based reasoning in science. This account provides an answer to concerns about the utility of multiple realization in philosophy of science and explains one way biologically-inspired deep neural networks could provide understanding of the brain. The first half of this dissertation proposes my account of Engineered Multiple Realization and applies it to scientific cases. The second half considers further implications of my account for interpreting Deep Neural Networks as models of the brain, and for mechanistic explanation in computational neuroscience.

Jacob Neal (2021)

​Dissertation:  Protein Structure, Dynamics, and Function: A Philosophical Account of Representation and Explanation in Structural Biology   

Most philosophical work in molecular biology has historically centered on DNA, genetics, and questions of reduction. My dissertation breaks from this tradition to make proteins the object of philosophical and historical analysis. The recent history of structural biology and protein science offers untapped potential for history and philosophy of science. My ultimate goal for this dissertation therefore is to identify and analyze some of the key historical and philosophical puzzles that arise in these fields. I focus primarily on the shift from the static to the dynamic view of proteins in the late twentieth century. The static view treated proteins as stable, rigid structures, whereas the dynamic view considers proteins to be dynamic molecules in constant motion. In the first half of the dissertation, I develop a historical account of the origins of the static view of proteins. I show how this view led molecular biologists to adopt mechanistic explanation as their preferred strategy for explaining protein function. I then develop an account of the emergence of the dynamic view of proteins, arguing that thermodynamic theory and the theoretical commitments of scientists played an important and often overlooked role in driving this change. In the second half of the dissertation, I analyze the epistemological relationship between the static and dynamic concepts of the protein and argue that conceptual replacement is occurring. I then develop an account of ensemble explanation, a new type of explanation introduced to highlight the role of dynamics in protein function. I show that these explanations fail to fit existing philosophical accounts of explanation, ultimately concluding that my account is required to capture their epistemic structure.

William Penn (2021)

University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, Lecturer

​Dissertation:  What's Really Going On: Process Realism in Science   

I argue for a novel form of scientific realism, called “pure process realism,” that rejects orthodox ontologies of static objects and structures. The continuity between an experimenter and experimental systems requires that the processes of intervention and observation are the same ontic type as the observed and inferred features of experimental systems, on pain of ontological incoherence. Therefore, only processes can be inferred to exist within experiments from the epistemology of experiments alone. Additionally, every argument for the existence of a static object or structure within an experiment either fails or fails to rule out that the argument actually supports inferences to a more fundamental process. Firstly, this is because such arguments are either fallacious or inconclusive. Secondly, the history of scientific research, in chemistry and physics in particular, reveals that for each static object or structure posited in the history of science, research eventually redescribes it as a system of processes. For example, the history of the candle flame, the molecule, and the nucleus are explicit evidence of this conclusion, and these examples generalize. By induction, all static objects and structures we could posit are no more than systems of processes. Taken together, these arguments show that pure process realism is superior in scope, strength, and epistemic modesty to orthodox forms of realism in the epistemology, ontology, and history of science.

Shahin Kaveh (2021)

University of Pittsburgh, Visiting Scholar

​Dissertation:  A Prescriptivist Account of Physical Theories   

A question of central importance to any philosopher of science is: what is the essential content of a scientific theory? What does a given theory really tell us about the world? Philosophers of science have disagreed on many aspects of the answer to this question, for instance whether the essential content of theories concerns entities, properties, or structures, whether it should be cashed out in terms of sentences or models, and whether one should be a realist or an anti-realist about this content; but philosophers have near-universally agreed on one claim: that theories provide a description of the natural system to which they are applied. Call this the descriptive-ontological view. I argue against the descriptive-ontological view in physics and propose an alternative: the prescriptivedynamical view. According to the latter, the essential content of a physical theory is to provide prescriptions for interfacing with the natural system. More precisely, physical theories consist of a fixed part and an open-ended part, such that the fixed part is a prescription for constructing the open-ended part from local data, gathered through interaction with the system. The answer to the question of essential content directly determines or at least influences one's response to many other crucial questions such as theoretical equivalence (Chapter 2), theory-world relations (Chapter 3), and realism-antirealism (Chapter 4), which I will subsequently explore. Moreover, as I will argue (Chapter 5), the prescriptivedynamical account also sheds fresh light on the history of quantum mechanics. In particular, the prescriptive-dynamical account allows us to understand the history of Bohr and Heisenberg’s work in the 1920s as a painstaking realization that instead of telling us what there is, physical theories must tell us what to do.

Zina Ward (2020)

Florida State University (tt)

​Dissertation:  Individual Differences in Cognitive Science: Conceptual and Methodological Issues   

A primary aim of cognitive science is the investigation of psychological and neuroscientific generalizations that hold across subjects. Individual differences between people’s minds and brains are pervasive, however, even among subjects considered neurotypical. In this dissertation, I argue that both scientific practice and our philosophical understanding of science must be updated to reflect the presence of such individual differences. The first half of the dissertation proposes and applies a philosophical account of what it takes to explain variation, while the second half identifies several methods in psychology and neuroscience that demand reform in light of existing individual differences.

Evan Pence (2020)

​Dissertation:  Four Paradigms in Comparative Psychology

This dissertation examines the development of comparative psychology and the evidence, arguments, and epistemological challenges that have characterized its approach to the question of animal rationality. I distinguish between four modes of research that come to prominence at different points in its history, the natural historical, strict behavioral, cognitive, and neurophysiological, analyzing each through a critical episode in its development and the set of claims associated with the approach. The first study concerns the field’s Darwinian origins and its early commitment to the fundamental similarity of human and animal minds. I argue from a close reading of Darwin’s notebooks that the critical break for the nascent field came not from an antecedent endorsement to evolutionary theory, as commonly supposed, but a set of political and philosophical commitments inherited from the Enlightenment. Next, I show how this approach proved vulnerable to attack from younger and more positivistic psychologists in the twentieth century. I analyze why the Darwinians were accused of employing less than scientific methods, explaining how this fact helped precipitate a shift toward more conservative standards of evidence and strictly lab-based research. From there, I consider how the behavioral tools of this era have left modern ‘cognitive’ research with nagging underdetermination issues. I argue that strictly behavioral methods cannot tell us what the nature of animal thought is but that other methods may. Finally, I consider the state of the rationality debate at present. Drawing on the most recent evidence from systems neuroscience, I argue that animals as distant as rats have the capacity to engage in basic forms of reasoning ventured by Darwin and suspected but never quite shown in the cognitive era.

Morgan Thompson (2020)

University of Bielefeld, 4-year PD

Dissertation:  Robustness in the Life Sciences: Issues in Modeling and Explanation

​My dissertation introduces two new accounts of how robustness can be used to identify epistemically trustworthy claims. Through an analysis of research practices in the life sciences, I focus on two main senses of robustness: robust reasoning in knowledge generating inferences and explanatory strategies for phenomena that are themselves robust. First, I provide a new account of robustness analysis (called ‘scope robustness analysis’), in which researchers use empirical knowledge to constrain their search for possible models of the system. Scope robustness analysis is useful for scientific discovery and pursuit whereas current accounts of robustness analysis are useful for confirmation. Second, I provide a new account of how researchers use different methods to produce the same result (a research strategy called ‘triangulation’). My account makes two contributions: I criticize a prominent account of the diversity criterion for methods because it analyzes an inferential strategy (i.e., eliminative inference) distinct from the inferential strategy underlying triangulation (i.e., common cause inductive inferences). My account also better explains how triangulation can fail in practice by assessing points of epistemic risk, which I demonstrate by applying it to implicit attitude research. Finally, I contribute to a debate about another sense of robustness: phenomena that occur regardless of changes in their component parts and activities. I argue that some robust phenomena in network neuroscience are not best explained mechanistically by citing their constituent parts (e.g. individual neurons) and their activities, but rather by appealing to features of the connectivity among brain areas.

Siska de Baerdemaeker (2020)

Stockholm University, 2-year PD

Dissertation: Cosmology: The Impossible Integration

​My dissertation introduces a new account of how empirical methods and lines of evidence can come to bear on cosmological model-building. Through a careful study of the recent history of cosmology and dark matter research, I explicate a new type of justification for experiments, a 'method-driven logic'. This structure of justification underlies terrestrial experiments researching dark matter and dark energy, but it is more generally prevalent in cases of an underdescribed target. Using a method-driven logic comes with a cost, however. Specifically, interpreting the empirical results of experiments justified through a method-driven logic is non-trivial: negative results warrant secure constraints on the space of possibilities for the target, whereas significant positive results remain ambivalent. While this ambivalence can be resolved through the amalgamation of multiple lines of evidence, this solution is sometimes faced with conflicts between those lines of evidence. I propose that, under specific circumstances, restricting the relevant empirical evidence can be warranted. Finally, I discuss the use of cosmological evidence as a constraint in other sub fields of physics. This brings me full-circle on the integration of disciplines in cosmology/an integration driven by experimental practice.

Trey Boone (2019, Dec)​

Duke University, Visiting Fellow

Dissertation:  Functional Robustness: A New Account of Multiple Realization and its Epistemic Consequences

In this dissertation, I provide a novel account of multiple realization. My account reframes the concept in terms of causal theories of explanation, in contrast to the original framing in terms of the deductive-nomological theory of explanation. I show that the phenomenon of functional robustness exemplifies multiple realization in this new framework. I then explore the epistemic consequences of functional robustness by examining a number of cases of robustness in neural systems. I argue that systems that exhibit robustness will tend to violate causal faithfulness, thus posing challenges to causal hypothesis testing and causal discovery. I then consider the proposal that robustness undermines modularity—i.e. the ability of causal relationships within a system to be independently disrupted. I argue that it does not and instead propose that robustness is often due to feedback control driving systems toward particular outcomes. As a result, robustness will attend failures of acyclicity, not failures of modularity. I conclude by contrasting these epistemic consequences of functional robustness with those traditionally associated with multiple realization.

Haixin Dang (2019)

Leeds University, 4-year PD

Dissertation: Epistemology of Scientific Collaborations

This dissertation primarily concerns how scientific collaborations function, how scientists know together, and how we ought to think about collective justification and collective responsibility in light of scientific practice. When a group of 5,000 physicists announces that “The mass of the Higgs boson is 126GeV,” who is responsible for this discovery? Who should be held accountable if the claim turns out to be false or otherwise faulty? My account of collective responsibility seeks to assign responsibility to individual agents, while recognizing that it is the relationships in which individuals stand to each other and to the group which make them the appropriate targets for judgments of responsibility. However, in order to have a decomposition of collective responsibility, we first need to clarify the notion of epistemic responsibility. Epistemic responsibility exists as a vague concept at the intersection between epistemology and ethics. I clarify this concept and show how it can and should work in practice. I argue that epistemic responsibility should be distributed among members of a group when epistemic labor is distributed. My account of epistemic responsibility extends recent work in metaethics on moral responsibility. I decompose the concept into three distinct senses: attributability, answerability, and accountability. An epistemic agent can be responsible in one, two, or all three senses of responsibility. My account recognizes that agents in a collaboration may not all be responsible in the same way or to the same degree. Agents are epistemically responsible depending on their degree of answerability and in virtue of their epistemic position within the group. An important implication of my analysis of collective responsibility is that collective justification does not depend on members always coming to consensus on the justifiers of a group’s conclusions. Existing accounts of collective justification take consensus as the ideal, such that disagreement or heterogeneity among individuals is taken as a negative feature which should be eliminated. I argue that not all disagreement is bad. If the disagreement is itself justified, then disagreement is actually of epistemic value and not a negative feature.

​ David Colaco (2019)

Mississippi State University, PD

Dissertation: An Investigation of Scientific Phenomena

To determine how things work, researchers must first determine what things occur. Such an idea seems simple, but it highlights a fundamental aspect of science: endeavors to theorize, explain, model, or control often result from first determining and adequately characterizing the targets of these practices. This dissertation is an investigation of how researchers determine one important kind of target: scientific phenomena. In doing so, I analyze how characterizations of these phenomena are formulated, defended, revised, and rejected in light of empirical research. I focus on three questions. First, what do characterizations of scientific phenomena represent? To answer this, I investigate what it means to characterize a phenomenon, as opposed to describing the results of individual studies. Second, how do researchers develop these characterizations? This question relates to the logic of discovery: I examine how researchers use existing theories and methods to explore systems, search for phenomena, and develop representations of them. Third, how do researchers evaluate these characterizations? This question relates to the logic of justification: I investigate how empirical findings serve as defeasible evidence for the characterizations of phenomena, and in light of what evidence we should accept, suspend judgment about, or reject them.

​ Jeff Sykora (2019)

Pursuing Medical Training

Dissertation: Fluid Mechanics, Models, and Realism: Philosophy at the Boundaries of Fluid Systems

Philosophy of science has long drawn conclusions about the relationships between laws, models, and theories from studies of physics. However, many canonical accounts of the epistemic roles of laws and the nature of theories derived their scientific content from either schematized or exotic physical theories. Neither Theory-T frameworks nor investigation on interpretations of quantum mechanics and relativity reflect a majority of physical theories in use. More recently, philosophers of physics have begun developing accounts based in versions of classical mechanics that are both homelier than the exotic physical theories and more mathematically rigorous than the Theory-T frameworks of the earlier canon. Some, including Morrison (1999, 2015), Rueger (2005), and Wilson (2017), have turned to the study of fluid flows as a way to unpack the complex relationships among laws, models, theories, and their implications for scientific realism. One important result of this work is a resurgence of interest in the relationship between the differential equations that express mechanical laws and the boundary conditions that constrain the solutions to those equations. However, many of these accounts miss a crucial set of distinctions between the roles of mathematical boundary conditions modeling physical systems, and the roles of physical conditions at the boundary of the modeled system. In light of this systematic oversight, in this dissertation I show that there is a difference between boundary conditions and conditions at the boundary. I use that distinction to investigate the roles of boundary conditions in the models of fluid mechanics. I argue that boundary conditions are in some cases more lawlike than previously supposed, and that they can play unique roles in scientific explanations. Further, I show that boundaries are inherently mesoscale features of physical systems, which provide explanations that cannot be inferred from microscale dynamics alone. Finally, I argue that an examination of the domain of application of boundary conditions supports a form of realism.

​ Nora Boyd (2018)

Sienna College (tt)

Dissertation: Scientific Progress at the Boundaries of Experience

My dissertation introduces a new empiricist philosophy of science built on a novel characterization of empirical evidence and an analysis of empirical adequacy appropriate to it. I analyze historical and contemporary cases primarily, though not exclusively, from the space sciences attending carefully to the intricate practices involved in data collection and processing. I argue that the epistemic utility of empirical results as constraints on theorizing depends on the conditions of their provenance and that therefore information about those conditions ought to be included in our conception of empirical evidence. I articulate the conditions requisite for adjudicating the empirical adequacy of a theory with respect to some evidence and argue that much more background information is required for this adjudication than has been widely appreciated. Although my account is strictly anti-realist, this project is a defense of a sense of epistemic progress in science. Empirical evidence, as I have defined it, genuinely accumulates over the history of human inquiry. We learn that whatever theoretical framework we propose for understanding what the world is like will have to be consistent with this growing evidential corpus.

Aaron Novick (2018)

Purdue University (tt)

Dissertation: The Prodigal Genetics Returns: Integrating Gene Regulatory Network Theory Into Evolutionary Theory

The aim of this dissertation is to show how gene regulatory network (GRN) theory can be integrated into evolutionary theory. GRN theory, which lies at the core of evolutionary-developmental biology (evo-devo), concerns the role of gene regulation in driving developmental processes, covering both how these networks function and how they evolve. Evolutionary and developmental biology, however, have long had an uneasy relationship. Developmental biology played little role in the establishment of a genetic theory evolution during the modern synthesis of the early to mid 20th century. As a result, the body of evolutionary theory that descends from the synthesis period largely lacks obvious loci for integrating the information provided by GRN theory. Indeed, the relationship between the two has commonly been perceived, by both scientists and philosophers, as one of conflict. By combining historical and philosophical analysis, I consider four sources of tension between evo-devo and synthesis-derived evolutionary theorizing in order to show how those tensions can be resolved. I present a picture of the conceptual foundations of evo-devo that reveals the potential for integrating it with existing evolutionary theorizing. In chapter one, I argue that a major historical source of tension between evolutionary and developmental biology was the debates, in the first half of the 20th century, about the possibility of explaining development in terms of gene action. I show that the successes of GRN theory put these worries to bed. In chapter two, I argue that, rather than conceive of evo-devo as typological, we should see it as resting on Cuvieran functionalism. I argue that Cuvieran functionalism complements the Darwinian functionalism of the modern synthesis. In chapter three, I present a picture of the fine structure of the concept ‘homology’. This picture shows how accounts of homology that have traditionally been taken to conflict are in fact compatible and complementary. In chapter four, I analyze the nature of structure/function disputes in terms of types of answers to contrastive why-questions. On the basis of this analysis, I show how the structure of evolutionary theory requires both structuralist and functionalist approaches.

Marina Baldissera Pacchetti (2018)

University of Leeds (research fellow)

Philosophy of Science, Philosophy of Climate Science, Environmental Philosophy

Dissertation: Spatiotemporal Scales in Scientific Modeling: Identifying Target Systems

Current debates about epistemic issues in modeling presuppose that a model in question uncontroversially represents a particular target system. A standard line of argument is that we can gain knowledge of a target system simply by noting what aspects of the target are veridically represented in the model. But this misses epistemically important aspects of modeling. I examine how scientists identify certain phenomena as target systems in their models. Building on the distinction between data and phenomena introduced by Bogen and Woodward, I analyze how scientists target systems from data and from basic theoretical principles. I show that there are two crucial empirical assumptions that are involved in identifying phenomena. These assumptions concern the conditions under which phenomena can be indexed to a particular length or time scale and the conditions under which one can treat phenomena occurring at different length or time scales as distinct. The role of these assumptions in modeling provides the basis for a new argument that shows how, in many cases, idealizations and abstractions in models are essential for providing knowledge about the world in so far as they isolate relevant components of a phenomenon from irrelevant ones. My analysis of the identification of phenomena also shows that structural uncertainty arises in models when the scale of a phenomenon of interest is not properly identified. This clarification promises to improve the communication of the limitation of current climate models to policy makers.

Michael Miller (2017)

University of Toronto (tt)

Philosophy of Physics, Philosophy of Science

Dissertation: The structure and interpretation of quantum field theory

Quantum field theory accurately describes the world on the finest scales to which we have empirical access. There has been significant disagreement, however, about which mathematical structures ought to be taken as constitutive of the theory, and thus over which structures should serve as the basis for its interpretation. Perturbative methods allow for successful empirical prediction but require mathematical manipulations that are at odds with the canonical approach to interpreting physical theories that has been passed down from the logical positivists. Axiomatic characterizations of the theory, on the other hand, have not been shown to admit empirically interesting models. This dissertation shows how to understand the empirical success of quantum field theory by reconsidering widely held commitments about how physical meaning accrues to mathematical structure.

Joseph B. McCaffrey (2016)

Washington University in St. Louis (Postdoctoral Research Fellow)  

Philosophy of Cognitive Science, General Philosophy of Science

Dissertation: Mental function and cerebral cartography: Functional localization in fMRI research

My dissertation examines the relationship between human brain mapping and cognitive theorizing in neuroimaging (fMRI) research. Many researchers advocate using fMRI to test psychological hypotheses; others argue that brain scans cannot support or disconfirm cognitive theories. I argue that fMRI can inform psychology given assumptions about how brain structure relates to function. My diagnosis is that human brain mapping is radically changing due to new techniques (e.g., “resting state” fMRI) and theoretical approaches (e.g., network mapping). These shifts undermine the assumptions that traditionally make fMRI results speak to cognitive theories (e.g., “each region performs a unique function”). I conclude that fMRI research should focus its efforts on developing new bridging assumptions, rather than testing cognitive theories.

Lauren Ross (2016)

UC Irvine (deferred for post-doc at the University of Calgary)

Philosophy of Biology, Philosophy of Neuroscience, General Philosophy of Science

Dissertation: Explanation in Contexts of Causal Complexity

My dissertation examines common types of causal complexity in the biological sciences, the challenges they pose for explanation, and how scientists overcome these challenges. I provide a novel distinction between two types of causal complexity and I analyze explanatory patterns that arise in these contexts. My analysis reveals how explanation in the biological sciences is more diverse than mainstream accounts suggest, which view most or all explanations in this domain as mechanistic. I examine explanations that appeal to causal pathways, dynamical models, and monocausal factors and I show how these explanations are guided by considerations that have been overlooked in the extant literature. My project explores connections between these explanatory patterns and other topics of interest in philosophy and general philosophy of science, including: reduction, multiple realizability, causal selection, and the role of pragmatics in explanation.

Elizabeth O'Neill (2015)

Eindhoven University of Technology (Assistant Professor)

Epistemology; Metaethics; Philosophy of Cognitive Science;Philosophy of Biology

Dissertation: The Epistemological Implications of the Causes of Moral Beliefs

This dissertation investigates what the causes of moral beliefs indicate about the epistemic status of those beliefs. I argue that information about the causes of moral beliefs can tell us whether those beliefs track the truth, and that truth tracking is the primary epistemic property that should concern us in the moral domain. I formulate three novel debunking arguments that employ information about the causes of moral beliefs to support conclusions about truth tracking while minimizing normative assumptions. These arguments lead to the conclusion that harm-related moral beliefs that hinge on sympathy, moral beliefs influenced by disgust, certain political beliefs, and beliefs about punishment that are subject to the influence of extraneous emotions do not track moral truth. For each of these types of moral beliefs, information about the proximal causes of the moral belief supports epistemic conclusions. I compare the value of information about proximal and distal causes for assessing epistemic status: I argue that proximal causes are a superior source of information, but under certain conditions, we should take information about distal causes into account. In the case of beliefs about the fair distribution of resources, information about their proximal causes does not shed light on whether they track truth, but information about their distal, evolutionary origins tell us that such beliefs do not track the truth. Thus, using empirical information about the causes of moral beliefs, I offer selective debunking arguments for five types of moral beliefs.

Greg Gandenberger (2015)

University of Bristol (Postdoctoral Fellow)

Philosophy of Science, Epistemology, Philosophy of Physics

Dissertation: Moving Beyond 'Theory T': The Case of Quantum Field Theory

A standard approach towards interpreting physical theories proceeds by first identifying the theory with a set of mathematical objects, where such objects are defined according to mathematicians' standards of rigor. In making this identification, philosophers rule out the relevance of many inferential methods that physicists use, as these often do not meet mathematicians' standards of rigor. Philosophers thus sanitize physical theories of all mathematically messy or ambiguous parts before interpreting them. My dissertation argues against this sanitized approach towards interpreting theories using the example of quantum field theory (QFT). When we look at the details of QFT, we find that the mathematical objects it requires differ according to the specific systems the theory is being applied to in ways that advocates of the sanitized approach do not anticipate. Furthermore, the mathematical objects required for successful application are still being developed in some applicational contexts, so it would be unwise to determine in advance which objects constitute the theory. During this ongoing developmental process, physicists interpret the mathematics using strategies that violate the standards of pure mathematics. In contrast to the sanitized approach, these strategies are more sensitive to the ways in which the mathematics required for the relevant contexts is still under development. I argue that these strategies are not merely instrumental. They suggest alternative approaches to interpretation that philosophers should take into account.

Julia Bursten (2015)

University of Kentucky (Assistant Professor)

Philosophy of Science, Philosophy of Chemistry, Philosophy of Physics

Dissertation: Surfaces, Scales, and Synthesis: Scientific Reasoning at the Nanoscale

Philosophers interested in scientific methodology have focused largely on physics, biology, and cognitive science. They have paid considerably less attention to sciences such as chemistry and nanoscience, where not only are the subjects distinct, but the very aims differ: chemistry and nanoscience center around synthesis. Methods associated with synthesis do not fit well with description, explanation, and prediction that so dominate aims in philosophers' paradigm sciences. In order to synthesize a substance or material, scientists need different kinds of information than they need to predict, explain, or describe. Consequently, they need different kinds of models and theories. Specifically, chemists need additional models of how reactions will proceed. In practice, this means chemists must model surface structure and behavior, because reactions occur on the surfaces of materials. Physics, and by extension much of philosophy of science, ignores the structure and behavior of surfaces, modeling surfaces only as “boundary conditions” with virtually no influence on material behavior. Such boundary conditions are not seen as part of the physical laws that govern material behavior, so little consideration has been given to their roles in improving scientists' understanding of materials and aiding synthesis. But especially for theories that are used in synthesis, such neglect can lead to catastrophic modeling failures. In fact, as one moves down toward the nanoscale, the very concept of a material surface changes, with the consequence that nanomaterials behave differently than macroscopic materials made up of the same elements. They conduct electricity differently, they appear differently colored, and they can play different roles in chemical reactions. This dissertation develops new philosophical tools to deal with these changes and give an account of theory and model use in the synthetic sciences. Particularly, it addresses the question of how models of materials at the nanoscale fit together with models of those very same materials at scales many orders of magnitude larger. To answer this and related questions, strict attention needs to be paid to the ways boundaries, surfaces, concepts, models, and even laws change as scales change.

Aleta Quinn (2015)

Caltech (Postodctoral Instructor in Philosophy of Science)

History and Philosophy of Biology, Values and Science

Dissertation: Biological Systematics and Evolutionary Theory

In this dissertation I examine the role of evolutionary theory in systematics (the science of discovering and classifying biodiversity). Following Darwin's revolution, systematists have aimed to reconstruct the past. Understanding what it means that systematists reconstruct the past requires clarifying the history of systematics and of some important episodes in philosophy of science. My dissertation analyzes a common but inadequate view about what systematics qua historical science is up to by tracing the inadequate view to its origins in J.S. Mill. I show that critiques advanced by Mill's contemporary, William Whewell, identify problems that recurred in twentieth century philosophical work on the historical sciences. I develop an alternative and more complete account of systematics as relying on inference to the best explanation. My account answers two challenges that have been pressed against philosophical attempts to analyze scientific reasoning as inference to the best explanation. First, I analyze the inadequate view: that scientists use causal theories to hypothesize what past chains of events must have been, and then form historical hypotheses which identify segments of a network of past events and causal transactions between events. This model assumes that scientists can identify events in the world by reference to neatly delineated properties, and that discovering causal laws is simply a matter of testing what regularities hold between events so delineated. Twentieth century philosophers of science tacitly adopted this assumption in otherwise distinct models of explanation. As Whewell had pointed out in his critique of Mill, the problem with this assumption is that the delineation of events via properties is itself the hard part of science. Whewell's philosophy of science captures the key point that different scientific theories identify different types of properties and events. Distinct scientific theories may not agree on how to individuate either properties or events. The case of systematics illustrates this dramatically. Drawing on Whewell's philosophy of science, and my work as a member of a team of systematists revising the genus Bassaricyon, I show how historical scientists avoid the problems of the inadequate view. Whewell's analysis of consilience in the historical sciences and in biological classification provides a better foothold for understanding systematics. Whewell's consilience describes the fit between a single hypothesis and evidence drawn from distinct scientific theories that are organized under wholly different conceptual structures. This fit does not require agreement about causal ontology in the way required by the inadequate view that I have critiqued. My analysis clarifies the significance of two revolutions in systematics. Whereas pre-Darwinian systematists used consilience as an evidentiary criterion without explicit justification, after Darwin's revolution consilience can be understood as a form of inference to the best explanation. I show that the adoption of Hennig's phylogenetic systematics, a twentieth century revolution in systematics, formalized methodological principles at the core of Whewell's philosophy of the historical sciences. Drawing on the philosophical and historical resources developed in the dissertation, I conclude by showing how two challenges that are frequently pressed against inference to the best explanation are met in the context of phylogenetic systematics.

Kathryn Tabb (2015)

Coumbia University (Assistant Professor)

Early Modern Philosophy, Philosophy of Psychiatry, Biomedical Ethics

Dissertation: Mad Errors: Associated Ideas, Enthusiasm, and Personal Identity in Locke

Associationism — in its most basic formulation, the view that all cognition begins with the compounding of simple sensations into chains of ideas — is frequently held to have been introduced by John Locke in 1700, expanded on by David Hartley and David Hume, and come into its own the nineteenth century with psychologists like James Mill and Alexander Bain. The aim of this dissertation is to argue that Locke is not an associationist, and that he has been cast on the wrong side of a fundamental divide over the role of the understanding in the connection of ideas. I show that Locke coins the term “association of ideas” not to launch a new architectonic for psychology based on acquired habit, but to diagnose what he sees as the biggest obstacle to right understanding: madness. Hume's positive embrace of association has often been read back onto Locke, resulting in the easy conflation of the two thinkers under the banner of empiricism. In championing the powers of the active perception over the automaticity of association, however, Locke's psychology stands apart from later empiricist philosophies of mind. Along with challenging Locke's traditional characterization as an associationist, my project explores the ramifications of Locke's concept of association for his broader commitments. Locke believes that natural philosophy is possible due to the ability of men and women to perceive the truth or falsity of propositions, or, failing this, to make probabilistic judgments about their truth-value. The capacities that allow for these mental acts, reason and judgment (respectively), are gifts from God that allow us to flourish in our environment, despite our mediocre mental endowments. I argue that associated ideas show that these capacities sometimes fail us, compromising Locke's intellectualist picture. False knowledge is possible in Locke's system, insofar as associated ideas generate propositions that are perceived to be true but which are in fact false. I call such propositions “mad errors,” and describe their profound ramifications for Locke's ethics of belief and his theory of personal identity.

Elay Shech (2015)

Auburn University (Assistant Professor)

Philosophy of Physics, Philosophy of Science, Ethics

Dissertation: Assume a Spherical Cow: Studies on Representation and Idealizations

My dissertation concerns the philosophical underpinnings of representation and idealization in science. I begin by looking at the philosophical debate revolving around phase transitions and use it as a foil to bring out what I take to be most interesting about phase transitions, namely, the manner by which the illustrate the problem of essential idealizations. I continue to solve the problem in several steps. First, I conduct an interdisciplinary comparative study of different types of representations (e.g., mental, linguistic, pictorial) and consequently promote a content-based account of scientific representation intended to accommodate the practice of idealization and misrepresentation. I then critically asses the literature on idealizations in science in order to identify the manner by which to justify appeals to idealizations in science, and implement such techniques in two case studies that merit special attention: the Aharonov-Bohm effect and the quantum Hall effects. I proceed to offer a characterization of essential idealizations meant to alleviate the woes associated with said problem, and argue that particular types of idealizations, dubbed pathological idealizations, ought to be dispensed with. My motto is that idealizations are essential to explanation and representation, as well as to methodology and pedagogy, but they essentially misrepresent. Implications for the debate on platonism about mathematical objects are outlined.

Karen Zwier (2014)

Drake University (Adjunct Professor)

Philosophy of Science, History and Philosophy of Physical Science, Science and Religion

Dissertation: Interventionist Causation in Physical Science

The current consensus view of causation in physics, as commonly held by scientists and philosophers, has several serious problems. It fails to provide an epistemology for the causal knowledge that it claims physics to possess; it is inapplicable in a prominent area of physics (classical thermodynamics); and it is difficult to reconcile with our everyday use of causal concepts and claims. In this dissertation, I use historical examples and philosophical arguments to show that the interventionist account of causation constitutes a promising alternative for a “physically respectable” account of causation. The interventionist account explicates important parts of the experimental practice of physics and important aspects of the ways in which physical theory is used and applied. Moreover, the interventionist account succeeds where the consensus view of causation in physics fails. I argue that the interventionist account provides an epistemology of causal knowledge in physics that is rooted in experiment. On the interventionist view, there is a close link between experiment and the testing of causal claims. I give several examples of experiments from the early history of thermodynamics that scientists used in interventionist-type arguments. I also argue that interventionist claims made in the context of a physical theory can be epistemically justified by reference to the experimental interventions and observations that serve as evidence for the theory. I then show that the interventionist account of causation is well-suited to the patterns of reasoning that are intrinsic to thermodynamic theory. I argue that interventionist reasoning constitutes the structural foundation of thermodynamic theory, and that thermodynamic theory can provide clear answers to meaningful questions about whether or not a certain variable is a cause of another in a given context. Finally, I argue that the interventionist account offers the prospect of a unification of “physically respectable” causation and our everyday notion of causation. I conclude the dissertation by sketching an anti-foundationalist unification of causation, according to which causal reasoning occurs in the same manner in physics as it does in other branches of life and scientific research.

Eric Hatleback (2014)

University of Pittsburgh (Research Associate Professor)

Philosophy of Cosmology, Philosophy of Science

Dissertation: Chimera of the Cosmos

Multiverse cosmology exhibits unique epistemic problems because it posits the existence of universes inaccessible from our own. Since empirical investigation is not possible, philosophical investigation takes a prominent role. The inaccessibility of the other universes causes argumentation for the multiverse hypothesis to be wholly dependent upon typicality assumptions that relate our observed universe to the unobserved universes. The necessary reliance on typicality assumptions results in the Multiverse Circularity Problem: the multiverse hypothesis is justified only through invoking typicality assumptions, but typicality assumptions are justified only through invoking the multiverse hypothesis. The unavoidability of the circularity is established through argumentation for each of the two conjuncts that comprise it. Historical investigation proves the first conjunct of the Multiverse Circularity Problem. Detailed study of the now-neglected tradition of multiverse thought shows that philosophers and scientists have postulated the multiverse hypothesis with regularity, under different names, since antiquity. The corpus of argumentation for the existence of the multiverse breaks cleanly into three distinct argument schemas: implication from physics, induction, and explanation. Each of the three argument schemas is shown to be fully reliant upon unsupported typicality assumptions. This demonstrates that the multiverse hypothesis is justified only through invoking typicality assumptions. Philosophical assessment of cosmological induction establishes the second conjunct of the Multiverse Circularity Problem. Independent justification for typicality assumptions is not forthcoming. The obvious candidate, enumerative induction, fails: Hume's attack against inference through time is extended to inference through space. This move undercuts external justification for typicality assumptions, such as the Cosmological Principle, which cosmologists implement to justify induction. Removing the legitimacy of enumerative induction shows that typicality assumptions are justified only through invoking the multiverse hypothesis, thereby establishing the Multiverse Circularity Problem.

Yoichi Ishida (2014)

Ohio University (Assistant Professor)

Philosophy of Science, Philosophy of Biology

Dissertation: Models in Scientific Practice

This dissertation presents an account of the practice of modeling in science in which scientists' perceptual and bodily interactions with external representations take center stage. I argue that modeling is primarily a practice of constructing, manipulating, and analyzing external representations in service of cognitive and epistemic aims of research, and show that this account better captures important aspects of the practice of modeling than accounts currently popular in philosophy of science. Philosophical accounts of the practice of modeling classify models according to the categories of abstract and concrete entities developed in metaphysics. I argue that this type of account obscures the practice of modeling. In particular, using the analysis of the Lotka-Volterra model as an example, I argue that understanding mathematical models as abstract entities---non-spatiotemporally located, imperceptible entities---obscures the fact that the analysis of the Lotka-Volterra model relies primarily on visual perception of external representations, especially hand- or computer-generated graphs. Instead, I suggest that we apply the concepts of internal and external representations, developed in cognitive science, to models, including mathematical models. I then present two case studies that illustrate different aspects of modeling, understood as a practice of constructing, manipulating, and analyzing external representations. First, using Sewall Wright's long-term research on isolation by distance, I articulate the relationship between the uses of a model, the particular aims of research, and the criteria of success relevant to a given use of the model. I argue that uses of the same model can shift over the course of scientists' research in response to shifts in aim and that criteria of success for one use of a model can be different from those for another use of the same model. Second, I argue that in successful scientific research, a scientist uses a model according to the methodological principles of realism and instrumentalism despite the tension that they create among the scientist's uses of the model over time. This thesis is supported by a detailed analysis of successful scientific research done by Seymour Benzer in the 1950s and 60s.

Keith Bemer (2014)

Winchester Thurston School (science teacher)

Classics, Philosophy, and Ancient Science Ancient Philosophy, History and Philosophy of Science, Early Modern Philosophy

Dissertation: A Philosophical Examination of Aristotle's Historia Animalium

In this dissertation I address two related questions pertaining to Aristotle's philosophy of science and his biology and zoology. They are: (1) what are the goals of Aristotle's Historia Animalium (HA) and how does the treatise achieve these goals? And, more generally, (2) what is the role of a historia in Aristotle's philosophy of science? Together these questions touch upon a long recognized problem in the interpretation of Aristotle's philosophical and scientific works related to the relationship between Aristotle's philosophy of science and his actual scientific practice. I pursue this broad question by focusing my attention on Aristotle's historia of animals and the related discussions of scientific investigation and demonstration, primarily in the Analytics . I argue that the term historia was used by Aristotle with a range of meanings that center around the notions of investigation and inquiry (or the reports thereof), and, in some instances, emphasize the early stages of inquiry, dedicated to establishing and organizing facts prior to causal explanation. I proceed by considering the theoretical background of a historia provided by the Analytics and Parts of Animals , before turning to a detailed analysis of select passages from the HA itself. I argue that the Analytics provides the framework for a method of correlating facts regarding a field of study that acts as a guide to further causal research, but that establishing the actual causal relations that hold within a field depends upon additional considerations that are largely domain-specific. I turn to the HA in order to illustrate this method of correlation, noting examples where the correlation of features appears to prefigure causal explanations. I conclude by considering the relationship between Aristotle's notions of historia and experience ( empeiria ), and argue that a historia provides the sort of comprehensive, factual knowledge of a domain of study that Aristotle often notes is necessary for coming to recognize causal relations, and thus coming to have scientific knowledge ( epistêmê ).

Marcus Adams (2014)

University at Albany, SUNY (Assistant Professor)

Early Modern Philosophy, History & Philosophy of Science

Dissertation: Mechanical Epistemology and Mixed Mathematics: Descartes's Problems and Hobbes's Unity

My dissertation answers the following question: How is Hobbes's politics related to his physics and metaphysics? I argue that Hobbes does in fact provide a unified systematic philosophy, and I contrast this unity with problems in Descartes's epistemology and optics. To make this argument, I carve a middle way between the two extremes in the literature by situating Hobbes within mechanical philosophy and 17th century mathematics. I use three concepts to clarify Hobbes's project: mechanical explanation, maker's knowledge, and mixed mathematical science. First, I show that for Hobbes a mechanical explanation involves tracing the motions of bodies at various levels of complexity, from simple points in geometry to human bodies in the state of nature and to commonwealth bodies. This view provides Hobbes with resources for a naturalized epistemology, which I show is the point at issue in Hobbes's Objections to Descartes's Meditations . Second, Hobbes says that we have "maker's knowledge" in geometry and politics. I show that "maker's knowledge" is Hobbes's empiricist answer to (1) how we have causal knowledge in politics and mathematics by constructing and (2) how mathematics is applicable to the world. Finally, I show that the mixed mathematical sciences, e.g., optics, were Hobbes's inspiration for a unified philosophical system. I argue that the physics in De corpore , the optics in De homine , and the politics in Leviathan are treated by Hobbes as mixed mathematical sciences, which provides a new way to see Hobbes as a consistent and non-reductive naturalist. Viewed in this light, the Leviathan turns out to have more methodological similarities to optics than to geometry.

Thomas Pashby (2014)

University of Southern California (Postdoc)

Dissertation: Time and the Foundations of Quantum Mechanics

This dissertation aims at understanding, and challenging, the common view that "time is a parameter in quantum theory and not an observable." I argue that — like position in space — location in time of an event is an observable quantity. The celebrated argument of Wolfgang Pauli against the inclusion of time as an observable of the theory ('Pauli's Theorem') has been seen as a demonstration that time may only enter quantum mechanics as a classical parameter. Against this orthodoxy I argue that there are good reasons to expect certain kinds of 'time observables' to find a representation within quantum theory, including clock operators (which provide the means to measure the passage of time) and event time operators, which provide predictions for the time at which a particular event occurs, such as the appearance of a dot on a luminescent screen. I contend that these time operators deserve full status as observables of the theory, and on reflection provide a uniquely compelling reason to expand the set of observables allowed by the standard formalism of quantum mechanics. In addition, I provide a novel association of event time operators with conditional probabilities, and propose a temporally extended form of quantum theory to better accommodate the time of an event as an observable quantity. This leads to a proposal to interpret quantum theory within an event ontology, inspired by Bertrand Russell's Analysis of Matter. On this basis I mount a defense of Russell's relational theory of time against a recent attack.

Thomas V. Cunningham (2013)

Medical Bioethics Director, Kaiser Permanente West Los Angeles

Philosophy of Biology and Medicine, Applied Ethics, Philosophy of Science

Dissertation: Socializing Medical Practice: A Normative Model of Medical Decision-Making

This dissertation is about the way people should and do make medical choices. It defends the claim that medical decisions should be made by groups of persons acting together, not by individuals acting alone. I begin by arguing that prominent models of medical decision-making are problematic, because they fail to be both descriptively and normatively adequate , which I argue any account of choice in medicine should be. The remainder of the work articulates a model that meets these two criteria. First, I justify an account of the uniquely medical context my model is designed to apply to by distinguishing two basic aims of medicine : (i) to fully understand patients in personal and scientific terms; and, (ii) to intervene upon patients' health states in ways that are consistent with this understanding. Then, I take two chapters to develop a descriptive account of medical decision-making. In them, I introduce a close study of the case of hereditary breast and ovarian cancer decision-making, which I argue shows choices are made by groups of interacting persons over extended spatiotemporal and social dimensions. So, I appeal to the theory of distributed cognition to describe this collection of persons processing information together when making choices. Having defended a descriptive account of medical choice, I then take two more chapters to propose a normative account, based on a modified version of Rawlsian reflective equilibrium that I call medical reflective equilibrium . On my account, medical choices should be made by searching for, selecting, and integrating the right kind and amount of information, which requires considering sufficient information to meet the basic aims of medicine. Given that the basic aims are defined in terms of an epistemic distinction between subjective and objective knowledge , I argue that performing the medical reflective equilibrium procedure adequately requires multiple participants in decision-making. Consequently, I conclude that medical choices are and should be social.

Balázs Gyenis (2013)

Hungarian Academy of Sciences (Research Fellow), London School of Economics (Research Fellow)

Philosophy of Physics, Philosophy of Science, Probabilistic Causality

Dissertation: Well posedness and physical possibility

There is a sentiment shared among physicists that well posedness is a necessary condition for physical possibility. The arguments usually offered for well posedness have an epistemic flavor and thus they fall short of establishing the metaphysical claim that lack of well posedness implies physical impossibility. My dissertation analyzes the relationship of well posedness to prediction and confirmation as well as the notion of physical possibility and we devise three novel and independent argumentative strategies that may succeed where the usual epistemic arguments fail.

Peter Distelzweig (2013)

University of St. Thomas, Minnesota (Assistant Professor)

Early Modern Philosophy, Ancient Philosophy, History and Philosophy of Science

Dissertation: Descartes' Teleomechanics in Medical Context: Approaches to Integrating Mechanism and Teleology in Hieronymus Fabricius ab Aquapendente, William Harvey and René Descartes

In this dissertation, I examine the relation between mechanism and teleology in Descartes's physiology, placing his views in the wider medical context. There, as I show, we find a very different, Galeno-Aristotelian approach to integrating mechanics and teleology in the work of anatomists Hieronymus Fabricius ab Aquapendente and his more famous student, William Harvey. I provide an interpretation of teleology and mechanism in Descartes by exploring the historical and conceptual relationship between his approach and that exhibited by these anatomists. First, I show that Fabricius and Harvey develop creative, teleological, and non-reductive approaches to mechanizing the animal precisely by developing Arisotelian and Galenic resources. They propose that mathematical mechanics, understood as an Aristotelian subordinate science, should be employed to articulate the way the functions of the locomotive organs explain (as final causes) certain features of their anatomy, rendering them hypothetically necessary. They articulate these explanations using the Galenic concepts ofactio and usus . Employing the resources developed in my analysis of Fabricius and Harvey, I then provide a new interpretation of the relation of mechanism and teleology in Descartes and of its significance. Although he explicitly rejects final causes in natural philosophy, Descartes still appeals in physiology to apparently teleological concepts like function and usage. By focusing on the medical context of these concepts, I show that Descartes intends to and primarily does employ these terms in mechanical explanations meant to replace the metaphysically more extravagant but still material-efficient (not final causal) explanations present in the medical tradition. I argue, further, that Descartes at times does in fact employ final causal explanations like those in Fabricius's and Harvey's work and that he is hard-pressed to ground these explanations while still rejecting both divine purposes and non-mechanical principles in natural philosophy.

Catherine Stinson (2013)

Western University (Postdoc)

History & Philosophy of Neuroscience & Psychology

Dissertation: Cognitive Mechanisms and Computational Models: Explanation in Cognitive Neuroscience

Cognitive Neuroscience seeks to integrate cognitive psychology and neuroscience. I critique existing analyses of this integration project, and offer my own account of how it ought to be understood given the practices of researchers in these fields. A recent proposal suggests that integration between cognitive psychology and neuroscience can be achieved `seamlessly' via mechanistic explanation. Cognitive models are elliptical mechanism sketches, according to this proposal. This proposal glosses over several difficulties concerning the practice of cognitive psychology and the nature of cognitive models, however. Although psychology's information-processing models superficially resemble mechanism sketches, they in fact systematically include and exclude different kinds of information. I distinguish two kinds of information-processing model, neither of which specifies the entities and activities characteristic of mechanistic models, even sketchily. Furthermore, theory development in psychology does not involve the filling in of these missing details, but rather refinement of the sorts of models they start out as. I contrast the development of psychology's attention filter models with the development of neurobiology's models of sodium channel filtering. I argue that extending the account of mechanisms to include what I define as generic mechanisms provides a more promising route towards integration. Generic mechanisms are the in-the-world counterparts to abstract types. They thus have causal-explanatory powers which are shared by all the tokens that instantiate that type. This not only provides a way for generalizations to factor into mechanistic explanations, which allows for the `-looking' explanations needed for integrating cognitive models, but also solves some internal problems in the mechanism literature concerning schemas and explanatory relevance. I illustrate how generic mechanisms are discovered and used with examples from computational cognitive neuroscience. I argue that connectionist models can be understood as approximations to generic brain mechanisms, which resolves a longstanding philosophical puzzle as to their role. Furthermore, I argue that understanding scientific models in general in terms of generic mechanisms allows for a unified account of the types of inferences made in modeling and in experiment.

Benjamin Goldberg (2012)

University of South Florida (Permanent Instructor)

Early Modern Philosophy, History of Science and Medicine

Dissertation: William Harvey, Soul Searcher: Teleology and Philosophical Anatomy

The goal of this dissertation is to understand the ways in which teleology structures the natural philosophy of William Harvey (1578-1657), the physician and philosopher who discovered the circulation of the blood, announced in his De motu cordis (1628). In particular, I hope to incorporate new archival research, as well as the study of a number of texts that have not yet received due attention, including the Prelectiones anatomie universalis (1616-1627) and the De generatione animalium (1651). The study is divided into three parts. The first two parts focus on the role of two sorts of teleology in defining Harvey's subject matter. I first discuss the teleology of being, which characterizes the functioning and material organization of the parts of the body, and which we would call today 'physiology and anatomy'. I then turn to examine the teleology of becoming, which characterizes the process of the generation of those parts, what we would call today 'embryological development'. Thus Harvey's subject matter must be understood as the study of, and search for, final causes. The third section shifts to examining Harvey's methods in light of this conception of the subject matter. I start by articulating how, in general, Harvey conceives of anatomy not as a body of pre-existing knowledge, but rather as an active ability, combining skills of hand, eye, and mind. I then turn to look in detail at Harvey's particular methods, such as vivisection and broad comparisons across animals. I argue that his methodology should be seen as an innovative reinterpretation and extension of the philosophies of Aristotle and Galen, mediated by certain Renaissance trends in medicine and natural philosophy. I focus specifically on how experience and experiment, observing and cutting, are used by Harvey to determine the final causes so central to his conception of his subject matter.

Bryan Roberts (2012)

London School of Economics (Lecturer)

History and philosophy of physics

Dissertation: Time, Symmetry and Structure: Studies in the Foundations of Quantum Theory

This dissertation is about the meaning and distinction between the past and the future according to our fundamental physical laws. I begin with an account of what it means for quantum theory to make such a distinction. I then show that if Galilei invariant quantum theory does distinguish a preferred direction in time, then this has consequences for the ontology of the theory. In particular, it requires matter to admit internal degrees of freedom. I proceed to show that this is not a purely quantum phenomenon, but can be expressed in classical mechanics as well. I then illustrate three routes for generating quantum systems that distinguish a preferred temporal direction in this way.

Jonathan Livengood (2011)

University of Illinois, Urbana Champaign (Assistant Professor)

Philosophy of Science, Metaphysics, Philosophy of Statistics

Dissertation: On Causal Inferences in the Humanities and Social Sciences: Actual Causation

The last forty years have seen an explosion of research directed at causation and causal inference. Statisticians developed techniques for drawing inferences about the likely effects of proposed interventions: techniques that have been applied most noticeably in social and life sciences. Computer scientists, economists, and methodologists merged graph theory and structural equation modeling in order to develop a mathematical formalism that underwrites automated search for causal structure from data. Analytic metaphysicians and philosophers of science produced an array of theories about the nature of causation and its relationship to scientific theory and practice.

Jonah Schupbach (2011)

University of Utah (Assistant Professor)

Philosophy of Science, Epistemology (including Formal Epistemology), Logic

Dissertation: Studies in the Logic of Explanatory Power

Human reasoning often involves explanation. In everyday affairs, people reason to hypotheses based on the explanatory power these hypotheses afford; I might, for example, surmise that my toddler has been playing in my office because I judge that this hypothesis delivers a good explanation of the disarranged state of the books on my shelves. But such explanatory reasoning also has relevance far beyond the commonplace. Indeed, explanatory reasoning plays an important role in such varied fields as the sciences, philosophy, theology, medicine, forensics, and law.

Justin Sytsma (2010)

Victoria University of Wellington (Senior Lecturer in Philosophy) [email protected]

Philosophy of Mind, Philosophy of Cognitive Science

Dissertation: Phenomenal consciousness as scientific phenomenon? A Critical Investigation of the New Science of Consciousness

Phenomenal consciousness poses something of a puzzle for philosophy of science. This puzzle arises from two facts: It is common for philosophers (and some scientists) to take its existence to be phenomenologically obvious and yet modern science arguably has little (if anything) to tell us about it. And, this is despite over 20 years of work targeting phenomenal consciousness in what I call the new science of consciousness. What is it about this supposedly evident phenomenon that has kept it beyond the reach of our scientific understanding? I argue that phenomenal consciousness has resisted scientific explanation because there is no such phenomenon: What is in fact phenomenologically obvious has not resisted scientific explanation, exposing phenomenal consciousness as an unneeded and unwarranted theoretical construct that is not supported by the scientific evidence. I show this through an investigation of the new science. I detail how these researchers understand “phenomenal consciousness,” tie this understanding to the recent philosophical debates, and critically assess the reasons given for believing that such a scientific phenomenon exists.

Holly Andersen (2009)

Simon Fraser University (Associate Professor) [email protected]

Philosophy of Science, Philosophy of Psychology & Cognitive Science, Philosophy of Mind, Epistemology/Metaphysics

Dissertation: The Causal Structure of Conscious Agency

I examine the way implicit causal assumptions about features of agency and action affect the philosophical conclusions we reach from neuroscientific results, as well as provide a positive account of how to incorporate scientific experiments on various features of agency into philosophical frameworks of volition, using tools from interventionist causal analysis and research on human automatism. I also provide new, general, arguments for the autonomy for any higher level causes, including but not limited to features of conscious agency.

Peter Gildenhuys (2009)

Lafayette College (Assistant Professor) [email protected]

Philosophy of Biology, Philosophy of Science, Biomedical Ethics, Virtue Ethics, Causal Reasoning, Philosophy of Language

Dissertation: A Causal Interpretation of Selection Theory

My dissertation is an inferentialist account of classical population genetics. I present the theory as a definite body of interconnected inferential rules for generating mathematical models of population dynamics. To state those rules, I use the notion of causation as a primitive. First, I put forward a rule stating the circumstances of application of the theory, one that uses causal language to pick out the types of entities over which the theory may be deployed. Next, I offer a rule for grouping such entities into populations based on their competitive causal relationships. Then I offer a general algorithm for generating classical population genetics models suitable for such populations on the basis of information about what causal influences operate within them.

Julie Zahle (2009)

University of Copenhagen (Assistant Professor) [email protected]

Philosophy of Science, Philosophy of Psychology & Cognitive Science, Philosophy of Mind, Epistemology/Metaphysics

Dissertation: Practices, Perception, and Normative States

Theories of practice are widespread within the humanities and the social sciences. They reflect the view that the study of, and theorizing about, social practices hold the key to a proper understanding of social life or aspects thereof. An important subset of theories of practice is ability theories of practice. These theories focus on the manner in which individuals draw on their abilities, skills, know-how, or practical knowledge when participating in social practices.

Zvi Biener (2007)

University of Cincinnati (Assistant Professor)

Metaphysics and Epistemology in the Early-Modern Period, History of Philosophy

Dissertation: The Unity and Structure of Knowledge: Subalternation, Demonstration, and the Geometrical Manner in Scholastic-Aristotelianism and Descartes

The project of constructing a complete system of knowledge—a system capable of integrating all that is and could possibly be known—was common to many early-modern philosophers and was championed with particular alacrity by René Descartes. The inspiration for this project often came from mathematics in general and from geometry in particular: Just as propositions were ordered in a geometrical demonstration, the argument went, so should propositions be ordered in an overall system of knowledge. Science, it was thought, had to proceed more geometrico. In this dissertation, I offer a new interpretation of 'science more geometrico' based on an extended analysis of the explanatory and argumentative forms used in certain branches of geometry. These branches were optics, astronomy, and mechanics; the so-called subalternate, subordinate, or mixed-mathematical sciences. In Part I, I investigate the nature of the mixed-mathematical sciences according to Aristotle and early-modern scholastic-Aristotelians. In Part II, the heart of the work, I analyze the metaphysics and physics of Descartes' Principles of Philosophy (1644, 1647) in light of the findings of Part I and an example from Galileo. I conclude by arguing that we must broaden our understanding of the early-modern conception of 'science more geometrico' to include exemplars taken from the mixed-mathematical sciences. These render the concept more flexible than previously thought.

Brian Hepburn (2007)

Wichita State University (Assistant Professor) [email protected]

History and Philosophy of Science, Philosophy of Physics, History of Science

Dissertation: Equilibrium and Explanation in 18th Century Mechanics

The received view of the Scientific Revolution is that it was completed with the publication of Isaac Newton's (1642-1727) Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica in 1687. The century following was relegated to a working out the mathematical details of Newton's program, expression into analytic form. I show that the mechanics of Leonhard Euler (1707—1782) and Joseph-Louis Lagrange (1736—1813) did not begin with Newton's Three Laws. They provided their own beginning principles and interpretations of the relation between mathematical description and nature. Functional relations among the quantified properties of bodies were interpreted as basic mechanical connections between those bodies. Equilibrium played an important role in explaining the behavior of physical systems understood mechanically. Some behavior was revealed to be an equilibrium condition; other behavior was understood as a variation from equilibrium. Implications for scientific explanation are then drawn from these historical considerations, specifically an alternative to reducing explanation to unification. Trying to cast mechanical explanations (of the kind considered here) as Kitcher-style argument schema fails to distinguish legitimate from spurious explanations. Consideration of the mechanical analogies lying behind the schema is required.

Jackie Sullivan (2007)

University of Western Ontario (Assistant Professor) [email protected]

Philosophy of Science, Philosophy of Neuroscience, Philosophy of Mind

Dissertation: Reliability and Validity of Experiment in the Neurobiology of Learning and Memory

The concept of reliability has been defined traditionally by philosophers of science as a feature that an experiment has when it can be used to arrive at true descriptive or explanatory claims about phenomena. In contrast, philosophers of science typically take the concept of validity to correspond roughly to that of generalizability, which is defined as a feature that a descriptive or explanatory claim has when it is based on laboratory data but is applicable to phenomena beyond those effects under study in the laboratory. Philosophical accounts of experiment typically treat of the reliability of scientific experiment and the validity of descriptive or explanatory claims independently. On my account of experiment, however, these two issues are intimately linked. I show by appeal to case studies from the contemporary neurobiology of learning and memory that measures taken to guarantee the reliability of experiment often result in a decrease in the validity of those scientific claims that are made on the basis of such experiments and, furthermore, that strategies employed to increase validity often decrease reliability. Yet, since reliability and validity are both desirable goals of scientific experiments, and, on my account, competing aims, a tension ensues. I focus on two types of neurobiological experiments as case studies to illustrate this tension: (1) organism-level learning experiments and (2) synaptic-level plasticity experiments. I argue that the express commitment to the reliability of experimental processes in neurobiology has resulted in the invalidity of mechanistic claims about learning and plasticity made on the basis of data obtained from such experiments. The positive component of the dissertation consists in specific proposals that I offer as guidelines for resolving this tension in the context of experimental design.

Jim Tabery (2007)

University of Utah (Assistant Professor) [email protected]

Philosophy of Science, Philosophy of Biology, Bioethics, History of Biology

Dissertation: Causation in the Nature-Nurture Debate: The Case of Genotype-Environment Interaction

In the dissertation I attempt to resolve an aspect of the perennial nature-nurture debate. Despite the widely endorsed “interactionist credo”, the nature-nurture debate remains a quagmire of epistemological and methodological disputes over causation, explanation, and the concepts employed therein. Consider a typical nature-nurture question: Why do some individuals develop a complex trait such as depression, while others do not? This question incorporates an etiological query about the causal mechanisms responsible for the individual development of depression; it also incorporates an etiological query about the causes of variation responsible for individual differences in the occurrence of depression. Scientists in the developmental research tradition of biology investigate the causal mechanisms responsible for the individual development of traits; scientists in the biometric research tradition of biology investigate the causes of variation responsible for individual differences in traits. So what is the relationship between causal mechanisms and causes of variation, between individual development and individual differences, and between the developmental and biometric traditions?

Ingo Brigandt (2006)

University of Alberta (Associate Professor) [email protected]

Philosophy of Biology, Philosophy of Mind, Philosophy of Language

Dissertation: A Theory of Conceptual Advance: Explaining Conceptual Change in Evolutionary, Molecular, and Evolutionary Developmental Biology

The theory of concepts advanced in the dissertation aims at accounting for a) how a concept makes successful practice possible, and b) how a scientific concept can be subject to rational change in the course of history. Traditional accounts in the philosophy of science have usually studied concepts in terms only of their reference; their concern is to establish a stability of reference in order to address the incommensurability problem. My discussion, in contrast, suggests that each scientific concept consists of three components of content: 1) reference, 2) inferential role, and 3) the epistemic goal pursued with a concept's use. I argue that in the course of history a concept can change in any of these three components, and that change in one component—including change of reference—can be accounted for as being rational relative to other components, in particular a concept's epistemic goal.

Francesca DiPoppa (2006)

Texas Tech University (Associate Professor) [email protected]

History of Early Modern Philosophy

Dissertation: "God acts through the laws of his nature alone": From the Nihil ex Nihilo axiom to causation as expression in Spinoza's metaphysics

One of the most important concepts in Spinoza's metaphysics is that of causation. Much of the expansive scholarship on Spinoza, however, either takes causation for granted, or ascribes to Spinoza a model of causation that, for one reason or another, fails to account for specific instances of causation-such as the concept of cause of itself (causa sui). This work will offer a new interpretation of Spinoza's concept of causation. Starting from the "nothing comes from nothing" axiom and its consequences, the containment principle and the similarity principle (basically, the idea that what is in the effect must have been contained in the cause, and that the cause and the effect must have something in common) I will argue that Spinoza adopts what I call the expression-containment model of causation, a model that describes all causal interactions at the vertical and horizontal level (including causa sui, or self-cause). The model adopts the core notion of Neoplatonic emanationism, i.e. the idea that the effect is a necessary outpouring of the cause; however, Spinoza famously rejects transcendence and the possibility of created substances. God, the First Cause, causes immanently: everything that is caused is caused in God, as a mode of God. Starting from a discussion of the problems that Spinoza found in Cartesian philosophy, and of the Scholastic and Jewish positions on horizontal and vertical causation, my dissertation will follow the development of Spinoza's model of causation from his earliest work to his more mature Ethics. My work will also examine the relationship between Spinoza's elaboration of monism, the development of his model of causation, and his novel concept of essence (which for Spinoza coincides with a thing's causal power).

Abel Franco (2006)

California State University, Northridge (Associate Professor) [email protected]

Dissertation: Descartes' theory of passions

Descartes not only had a theory of passions, but one that deserves a place among contemporary debates on emotions. The structure of this dissertation attempts to make explicit the unity of that theory. The study of the passions by the physician (who not only studies matter and motion but also human nature) [Chapter 2] appears to be the “foundations” (as he tells Chanut) of morals [Chapters 1 and 4] insofar as their main function [Chapter 3] is to dispose us to act in ways which directly affect our natural happiness. In other words, Descartes is in the Passions of the Soul (1649) climbing the very tree of philosophy he presented two years earlier in the Preface to French Edition of the Principles of Philosophy: the trunk (in this case a section of it: our nature) leads us to the highest of the three branches (morals) when we study human passions.

Doreen Fraser (2006)

University of Waterloo (Associate Professor) [email protected]

Philosophy of Physics, Philosophy of Science, History of Science

Dissertation: Haag's theorem and the interpretation of quantum field theories with interactions

Quantum field theory (QFT) is the physical framework that integrates quantum mechanics and the special theory of relativity; it is the basis of many of our best physical theories. QFT's for interacting systems have yielded extraordinarily accurate predictions. Yet, in spite of unquestionable empirical success, the treatment of interactions in QFT raises serious issues for the foundations and interpretation of the theory. This dissertation takes Haag's theorem as a starting point for investigating these issues. It begins with a detailed exposition and analysis of different versions of Haag's theorem. The theorem is cast as a reductio ad absurdum of canonical QFT prior to renormalization. It is possible to adopt different strategies in response to this reductio: (1) renormalizing the canonical framework; (2) introducing a volume (i.e., long-distance) cutoff into the canonical framework; or (3) abandoning another assumption common to the canonical framework and Haag's theorem, which is the approach adopted by axiomatic and constructive field theorists. Haag's theorem does not entail that it is impossible to formulate a mathematically well-defined Hilbert space model for an interacting system on infinite, continuous space. Furthermore, Haag's theorem does not undermine the predictions of renormalized canonical QFT; canonical QFT with cutoffs and existing mathematically rigorous models for interactions are empirically equivalent to renormalized canonical QFT. The final two chapters explore the consequences of Haag's theorem for the interpretation of QFT with interactions. I argue that no mathematically rigorous model of QFT on infinite, continuous space admits an interpretation in terms of quanta (i.e., quantum particles). Furthermore, I contend that extant mathematically rigorous models for physically unrealistic interactions serve as a better guide to the ontology of QFT than either of the other two formulations of QFT. Consequently, according to QFT, quanta do not belong in our ontology of fundamental entities.

Greg Frost-Arnold (2006)

Hobart and William Smith Colleges (Assistant Professor) [email protected]

History of Analytic Philosophy, Philosophical Logic, Philosophy of Science

Dissertation: Carnap, Tarski, and Quine's Year Together: Logic, Science and Mathematics

During the academic year 1940-1941, several giants of analytic philosophy congregated at Harvard: Russell, Tarski, Carnap, Quine, Hempel, and Goodman were all in residence. This group held both regular public meetings as well as private conversations. Carnap took detailed diction notes that give us an extensive record of the discussions at Harvard that year. Surprisingly, the most prominent question in these discussions is: if the number of physical items in the universe is finite (or possibly finite), what form should the logic and mathematics in science take? This question is closely connected to an abiding philosophical problem, one that is of central philosophical importance to the logical empiricists: what is the relationship between the logico-mathematical realm and the natural, material realm? This problem continues to be central to analytic philosophy of logic, mathematics, and science. My dissertation focuses on three issues connected with this problem that dominate the Harvard discussions: nominalism, the unity of science, and analyticity. I both reconstruct the lines of argument represented in Harvard discussions and relate them to contemporary treatments of these issues.

Francis Longworth (2006)

Institut d'Histoire et de Philosophie des Sciences et des Techniques (Research Fellow) [email protected]

Philosophy of Science, Metaphysics

Dissertation: Causation, Counterfactual Dependence and Pluralism

The principal concern of this dissertation is whether or not a conceptual analysis of our ordinary concept of causation can be provided. In chapters two and three I show that two of the most promising univocal accounts (the counterfactual theories of Hitchcock and Yablo) are subject to numerous counterexamples. In chapter four, I show that Hall's pluralistic theory of causation, according to which there are two concepts of causation, also faces a number of counterexamples. In chapter five, I sketch an alternative, broadly pluralistic theory of token causation, according to which causation is a cluster concept with a prototypical structure. This theory is able to evade the counterexamples that beset other theories and, in addition, offers an explanation of interesting features of the concept such the existence of borderline cases, and the fact that some instances of causation seem to be better examples of the concept than others.

David Miller (2006)

Iowa State University(Assistant Professor) [email protected]

History of Early Modern Philosophy, History of Science

Dissertation: Representations of Space in Seventeenth Century Physics

The changing understanding of the universe that characterized the birth of modern science included a fundamental shift in the prevailing representation of space—the presupposed conceptual structure that allows one to intelligibly describe the spatial properties of physical phenomena. At the beginning of the seventeenth century, the prevailing representation of space was spherical. Natural philosophers first assumed a spatial center, then specified meanings with reference to that center. Directions, for example, were described in relation to the center, and locations were specified by distance from the center. Through a series of attempts to solve problems first raised by the work of Copernicus, this Aristotelian, spherical framework was replaced by a rectilinear representation of space. By the end of the seventeenth century, descriptions were understood by reference to linear orientations, as parallel or oblique to a presupposed line, and locations were identified without reference to a privileged central point. This move to rectilinear representations of space enabled Gilbert, Kepler, Galileo, Descartes, and Newton to describe and explain the behavior of the physical world in the novel ways for which these men are justly famous, including their theories of gravitational attraction and inertia. In other words, the shift towards a rectilinear representation of space was essential to the fundamental reconception of the universe that gave rise to both modern physical theory and, at the same time, the linear way of experiencing the world essential to modern science.

Christian Wüthrich (2006)

University of California, San Diego (Associate Professor) [email protected]

Philosophy of Physics, Philosophy of Science, Metaphysics

Dissertation: Approaching the Planck Scale from a Generally Relativistic Point of View: A Philosophical Appraisal of Loop Quantum Gravity

My dissertation studies the foundations of loop quantum gravity, a candidate for a quantum theory of gravity based on classical general relativity. After an evaluation of the motivations for seeking a quantum theory of gravity, I embark upon an investigation of how loop quantum gravity codifies general relativity's main innovation, the so-called background independence, in a formalism suitable for quantization. This codification pulls asunder what has been joined together in general relativity: space and time. It is thus a central issue whether or not general relativity's four-dimensional structure can be retrieved in the alternative formalism. I argue that the rightful four-dimensional spacetime structure can only be partially retrieved at the classical level, while its retrieval at the quantum level is an open question. Next, I scrutinize pronouncements claiming that the "big-bang" singularity of classical cosmological models vanishes in quantum cosmology based on loop quantum gravity and conclude that these claims must be severely qualified. Finally, a scheme is developed of how the re-emergence of the smooth spacetime from the underlying discrete quantum structure could be understood.

Erik Angner (2005)

George Mason University (Associate Professor)

History and Philosophy of Social Science, Social and Political Philosophy

Dissertation: Subjective Measures of Well-Being: A philosophical examination

Over the last couple of decades, as part of the rise of positive psychology, psychologists have given increasing amounts of attention to so-called subjective measures of well-being. These measures, which are supposed to represent the well-being of individuals and groups, are often presented as alternatives to more traditional economic ones for purposes of the articulation, implementation and evaluation of public policy. Unlike economic measures, which are typically based on data about income, market transactions and the like, subjective measures are based on answers to questions like: "Taking things all together, how would you say things are these days would you say you're very happy, pretty happy, or not too happy these days?" The aim of this dissertation is to explore issues in the philosophical foundations of subjective measures of well-being, with special emphasis on the manner in which the philosophical foundations of subjective measures differ from those of traditional economic measures. Moreover, the goal is to examine some arguments for and against these measures, and, in particular, arguments that purport to demonstrate the superiority of economic measures for purposes of public policy. My main thesis is that the claim that subjective measures of well-being cannot be shown to be inferior to economic measures quite as easily as some have suggested, but that they nevertheless are associated with serious problems, and that questions about the relative advantage of subjective and economic measures for purposes of public policy will depend on some fundamentally philosophical judgments, e.g. about the nature of well-being and the legitimate goals for public policy.

Megan Delehanty (2005)

University of Calgary (Associate Professor) [email protected]

Dissertation: Empiricism and the Epistemic Status of Imaging Technologies

The starting point for this project was the question of how to understand the epistemic status of mathematized imaging technologies such as positron emission tomography (PET) and confocal microscopy. These sorts of instruments play an increasingly important role in virtually all areas of biology and medicine. Some of these technologies have been widely celebrated as having revolutionized various fields of studies while others have been the target of substantial criticism. Thus, it is essential that we be able to assess these sorts of technologies as methods of producing evidence. They differ from one another in many respects, but one feature they all have in common is the use of multiple layers of statistical and mathematical processing that are essential to data production. This feature alone means that they do not fit neatly into any standard empiricist account of evidence. Yet this failure to be accommodated by philosophical accounts of good evidence does not indicate a general inadequacy on their part since, by many measures, they very often produce very high quality evidence. In order to understand how they can do so, we must look more closely at old philosophical questions concerning the role of experience and observation in acquiring knowledge about the external world. Doing so leads us to a new, grounded version of empiricism. After distinguishing between a weaker and a stronger, anthropocentric version of empiricism, I argue that most contemporary accounts of observation are what I call benchmark strategies that, implicitly or explicitly, rely on the stronger version according to which human sense experience holds a place of unique privilege. They attempt to extend the bounds of observation iii and the epistemic privilege accorded to it—by establishing some type of relevant similarity to the benchmark of human perception. These accounts fail because they are unable to establish an epistemically motivated account of what relevant similarity consists of. The last best chance for any benchmark approach, and, indeed, for anthropocentric empiricism, is to supplement a benchmark strategy with a grounding strategy. Toward this end, I examine the Grounded Benchmark Criterion which defines relevant similarity to human perception in terms of the reliability-making features of human perception. This account, too, must fail due to our inability to specify these features given the current state of understanding of the human visual system. However, this failure reveals that it is reliability alone that is epistemically relevant, not any other sort of similarity to human perception. Current accounts of reliability suffer from a number of difficulties, so I develop a novel account of reliability that is based on the concept of granularity. My account of reliability in terms of a granularity match both provides the means to refine the weaker version of empiricism and allows us to establish when and why imaging technologies are reliable. Finally, I use this account of granularity in examining the importance of the fact that the output of imaging technologies usually is images.

Alan Love (2005)

University of Minnesota (Associate Professor) [email protected]

Philosophy of Biology, Philosophy of Science, Biology

Dissertation: Explaining Evolutionary Innovation and Novelty: A Historical and Philosophical Study of Biological Concepts

Explaining evolutionary novelties (such as feathers or neural crest cells) is a central item on the research agenda of evolutionary developmental biology (Evo-devo). Proponents of Evo-devo have claimed that the origin of innovation and novelty constitute a distinct research problem, ignored by evolutionary theory during the latter half of the 20th century, and that Evo-devo as a synthesis of biological disciplines is in a unique position to address this problem. In order to answer historical and philosophical questions attending these claims, two philosophical tools were developed. The first, conceptual clusters, captures the joint deployment of concepts in the offering of scientific explanations and allows for a novel definition of conceptual change. The second, problem agendas, captures the multifaceted nature of explanatory domains in biological science and their diachronic stability. The value of problem agendas as an analytical unit is illustrated through the examples of avian feather and flight origination. Historical research shows that explanations of innovation and novelty were not ignored. They were situated in disciplines such as comparative embryology, morphology, and paleontology (exemplified in the research of N.J. Berrill, D.D. Davis, and W.K. Gregory), which were overlooked because of a historiography emphasizing the relations between genetics and experimental embryology. This identified the origin of Evo-devo tools (developmental genetics) but missed the source of its problem agenda. The structure of developmental genetic explanations of innovations and novelties is compared and contrasted with those of other disciplinary approaches, past and present. Applying the tool of conceptual clusters to these explanations reveals a unique form of conceptual change over the past five decades: a change in the causal and evidential concepts appealed to in explanations. Specification of the criteria of explanatory adequacy for the problem agenda of innovation and novelty indicates that Evo-devo qua disciplinary synthesis requires more attention to the construction of integrated explanations from its constituent disciplines besides developmental genetics. A model for explanations integrating multiple disciplinary contributions is provided. The phylogenetic approach to philosophy of science utilized in this study is relevant to philosophical studies of other sciences and meets numerous criteria of adequacy for analyses of conceptual change.

Andrea Scarantino (2005)

Georgia State University (Associate Professor) [email protected]

Dissertation: Explicating Emotions

In the course of their long intellectual history, emotions have been identified with items as diverse as perceptions of bodily changes (feeling tradition), judgments (cognitivist tradition), behavioral predispositions (behaviorist tradition), biologically based solutions to fundamental life tasks (evolutionary tradition), and culturally specific social artifacts (social constructionist tradition). The first objective of my work is to put some order in the mare magnum of theories of emotions. I taxonomize them into families and explore the historical origin and current credentials of the arguments and intuitions supporting them. I then evaluate the methodology of past and present emotion theory, defending a bleak conclusion: a great many emotion theorists ask "What is an emotion?" without a clear understanding of what counts as getting the answer right. I argue that there are two ways of getting the answer right. One is to capture the conditions of application of the folk term "emotion" in ordinary language (Folk Emotion Project), and the other is to formulate a fruitful explication of it (Explicating Emotion Project). Once we get clear on the desiderata of these two projects, we realize that several long-running debates in emotion theory are motivated by methodological confusions. The constructive part of my work is devoted to formulating a new explication of emotion suitable for the theoretical purposes of scientific psychology. At the heart of the Urgency Management System (UMS) theory of emotions I propose is the idea that an "umotion" is a special type of superordinate system which instantiates and manages an urgent action tendency by coordinating the operation of a cluster of cognitive, perceptual and motoric subsystems. Crucially, such superordinate system has a proper function by virtue of which it acquires a special kind of intentionality I call pragmatic. I argue that "umotion" is sufficiently similar in use to "emotion" to count as explicating it, it has precise rules of application, and it accommodates a number of central and widely shared intuitions about the emotions. My hope is that future emotion research will demonstrate the heuristic fruitfulness of the "umotion" concept for the sciences of mind.

Armond Duwell (2004)

University of Montana, Missoula (Associate Professor) [email protected]

Philosophy of Physics, Information Theory

Dissertation: Foundations of Quantum Information Theory and Quantum Computation Theory

Physicists and philosophers have expressed great hope that quantum information theory will revolutionize our understanding of quantum theory. The first part of my dissertation is devoted to clarifying and criticizing various notions of quantum information, particularly those attributable to Jozsa and also Deutsch and Hayden. My work suggests that no new concept of information is needed and the Shannon information theory works perfectly well for quantum mechanical systems.

Uljana Feest (2003)

University of Hanover (Professor)

Cognitive and Behavioral Sciences

Dissertation: Operationism, Experimentation, and Concept Formation

I provide a historical and philosophical analysis of the doctrine of operationism, which emerged in American psychology in the 1930s. While operationism is frequently characterized as a semantic thesis (which demands that concepts be defined by means of measurement operations), I argue that it is better understood as a methodological strategy, which urges that experimental investigation. I present three historical case studies of the work of early proponents of operationism and show that all of them were impressed by behaviorist critiques of traditional mentalism and introspectivism, while still wanting to investigate some of the phenomena of traditional psychology (consciousness, purpose, motivation). I show that when these psychologists used “operational definitions”, they posited the existence of particular psychological phenomena and treated certain experimental data – by stipulation – as indicative of those phenomena. However, they viewed these stipulative empirical definitions as neither a priori true, nor as unrevisable. While such stipulative definitions have the function of getting empirical research about a phenomenon “off the ground”, they clearly don't provide sufficient evidence for the existence of the phenomenon. In the philosophical part of my dissertation, I raise the epistemological question of what it would take to provide such evidence, relating this question to recent debates in the philosophy of experimentation. I argue that evidence for the existence of a given phenomenon is produced as part of testing descriptive hypotheses about the phenomenon. Given how many background assumptions have to be made in order to test a hypothesis about a phenomenon, I raise the question of whether claims about the existence of psychological phenomena are underdetermined by data. I argue that they are not. Lastly, I present an analysis of the scientific notion of an experimental artifact, and introduce the notion of an “artifactual belief”, i.e. an experimentally well confirmed belief that later turns out to be false, when one or more of the background assumptions (relative to which the belief was confirmed) turn out to be false.

Gualtiero Piccinini (2003)

University of Missouri - St. Louis (Associate Professor) [email protected]

Philosophy of Mind

Dissertation: Computations and Computers in the Sciences of Mind and Brain

Computationalism says that brains are computing mechanisms, that is, mechanisms that perform computations. At present, there is no consensus on how to formulate computationalism precisely or adjudicate the dispute between computationalism and its foes, or between different versions of computationalism. An important reason for the current impasse is the lack of a satisfactory philosophical account of computing mechanisms. The main goal of this dissertation is to offer such an account. I also believe that the history of computationalism sheds light on the current debate. By tracing different versions of computationalism to their common historical origin, we can see how the current divisions originated and understand their motivation. Reconstructing debates over computationalism in the context of their own intellectual history can contribute to philosophical progress on the relation between brains and computing mechanisms and help determine how brains and computing mechanisms are alike, and how they differ. Accordingly, my dissertation is divided into a historical part, which traces the early history of computationalism up to 1946, and a philosophical part, which offers an account of computing mechanisms.

Wendy Parker (2003)

University of Durham (Reader) [email protected]

Modeling and Simulation, Science and Public Policy, Environmental Philosophy

Dissertation: Computer Modeling in Climate Science: Experiment, Explanation, Pluralism

Computer simulation modeling is an important part of contemporary scientific practice but has not yet received much attention from philosophers. The present project helps to fill this lacuna in the philosophical literature by addressing three questions that arise in the context of computer simulation of Earth's climate. (1) Computer simulation experimentation commonly is viewed as a suspect methodology, in contrast to the trusted mainstay of material experimentation. Are the results of computer simulation experiments somehow deeply problematic in ways that the results of material experiments are not? I argue against categorical skepticism toward the results of computer simulation experiments by revealing important parallels in the epistemologies of material and computer simulation experimentation. (2) It has often been remarked that simple computer simulation models—but not complex ones—contribute substantially to our understanding of the atmosphere and climate system. Is this view of the relative contribution of simply and complex models tenable? Io show that both simple and complex climate models can promote scientific understanding and argue that the apparent contribution of simple models depends upon whether a causal or deductive account of scientific understanding is adopted. (3) When two incompatible scientific theories are under consideration, they typically are viewed as competitors, and we seek evidence that refutes at least one of the theories. In the study of climate change, however, logically incompatible computer simulation models are accepted as complementary resources for investigating future climate. How can we make sense of this use of incompatible models? I show that a collection of incompatible models climate models persists in part because of difficulties faced in evaluating and comparing climate models. I then discuss the rationale for using these incompatible models together and argue that this climate model pluralism has both competitive and integrative components.

Chris Smeenk (2002)

University of Western Ontario (Associate Professor) [email protected]

Philosophy of Physics, Early Modern Philosophy

Dissertation: Approaching the Absolute Zero of Time: Theory Development in Early Universe Cosmology

This dissertation gives an original account of the historical development of modern cosmology along with a philosophical assessment of related methodological and foundational issues. After briefly reviewing the groundbreaking work by Einstein and others, I turn to the development of early universe cosmology following the discovery of the microwave background radiation in 1965. This discovery encouraged consolidation and refinement of the big bang model, but cosmologists also noted that cosmological models could accomodate observations only at the cost of several "unnatural" assumptions regarding the initial state. I describe various attempts to eliminate initial conditions in the late 60s and early 70s, leading up to the idea that came to dominate the field: inflationary cosmology. I discuss the pre-history of inflationary cosmology and the early development of the idea, including the account of structure formation and the introduction of the "inflaton" field. The second part of my thesis focuses on methodological issues in cosmology, opening with a discussion of three principles and their role in cosmology: the cosmological principle, indifference principle, and anthropic principle. I assess appeals to explanatory adequacy as grounds for theory choice in cosmology, and close with a discussion of confirmation theory and the issue of novelty in relation to cosmological theories.

Daniel Steel (2002)

Michigan State University (Associate Professor) [email protected]

Causality and Confirmation; Biological and Social Sciences

Dissertation: Mechanisms and Interfering Factors: Dealing with Heterogeneity in the Biological and Social Sciences

The biological and social sciences both deal with populations that are heterogeneous with regard to important causes of interest, in the sense that the same cause often exerts very different effects upon distinct members of the population. For instance, welfare- to-work programs are likely to have different effects on the economic prospects of trainees depending on such variables as education, prior work experience, and so forth. Moreover, it is rarely the case in biology or social science that all such complicating variables are known and can be measured. In such circumstances, generalizations about the effect of a factor in a given population average over these differences, and hence take on a probabilistic character. Consequently, a causal generalization that holds with respect to a heterogeneous population as a whole may not hold for a given sub-population, a fact which raises a variety of difficulties for explanation and prediction. The overarching theme of the dissertation is that knowing how a cause produces its effect is the key to knowing when a particular causal relationship holds and when it does not. More specifically, the proposal is the following. Suppose that X is the cause of Y in the population P. Then there is a mechanism, or mechanisms, present among at least some of the members of P through which X influences Y. So if we know the mechanism and the kinds of things that can interfere with it, then we are in a much better position to say when the causal generalization will hold and when it will not. This intuitive idea has been endorsed by several philosophers; however, what has been lacking is a systematic exploration of the proposal and its consequences. That is what I aim to provide. The approach to the heterogeneity problem is developed in the context of an example drawn from biomedical science, namely, research into the causal mechanism by which HIV attacks the human immune system. Moreover, I argue that my approach to the problem of heterogeneity sheds new light on some familiar philosophical issues that are relevant to the biological and social sciences, namely, ceteris paribus laws and methodological holism versus methodological individualism.

Chris Martin (2001)

Left the field

Philosophy of Physics, Gauge Theories

Dissertation: Gauging Gauge: Remarks on the Conceptual Foundations of Gauge Symmetry

Of all the concepts of modern physics, there are few that have the sort of powerful, sometimes mysterious, and often awe-inspiring rhetoric surrounding them as has the concept of local gauge symmetry. The common understanding today is that all fundamental interactions in nature are described by so-called gauge theories. These theories, far from being just any sort of physical theory are taken to result from the tsrict dictates of principles of local gauge symmetry—gauge symmetry principles. The success—experimental, theoretical and other wise—of theories based on local symmetry principles has given rise to the received view of local symmetry principles as deeply fundamental, as literally “dictating” or “necessitating” the very shape of fundamental physics. The current work seeks to make some headway towards elucidating this view by considering the general issue of the physical content of local symmetry principles in their historical and theoretical contexts. There are two parts to the dissertation: a historical part and a more “philosophical” part. In the first, historical part, I provide a brief genealogy of gauge theories, looking at some of the seminal works in the birth and development of gauge theories. My chief claim here is about what one does not find. Despite the modern rhetoric, the history of gauge field theories does not evidence loaded arguments from (a priori) local symmetry principles or even the need for ascriptions of any deep physical significance to these principles. The history evidences that the ascendancy of gauge field theories rests quite squarely on the heuristic value of local gauge symmetry principles. In the philosophical component of the dissertation I turn to an analysis of the gauge argument, the canonical means of cashing out the physical content of gauge symmetry principle. I warn against a (common) literal reading of the argument. As I discuss, the argument must be afforded a fairly heuristic (even if historically-based) reading. Claims to the effect that the argument reflects the “logic of nature” must, for many reasons that I discuss, be taken with a grain of salt. Finally, I highlight how the “received view” of gauge symmetry—which takes it that gauge symmetry transformations are merely non-physical, formal changes of description—gives rise to a tension between the “profundity of gauge symmetry” and “the redundancy of gauge symmetry”. I consider various ways one might address this tension. I conclude that one is hard pressed to do any better than a “minimalist view” which takes it that the physical import of gauge symmetry lies in its historically based heuristic utility. While there are less minimalist views of the physical content to be ascribed to gauge symmetry principles, it is clear that neither the history nor the physics obliges us to make such ascriptions.

Andrew Backe (2000)

City University of Hong Kong (Visiting Assistant Professor)

Philosophy of Mind, American Pragmatism

Dissertation: The Divided Psychology of John Dewey

This dissertation examines the extent to which John Dewey's psychology was a form of behaviorism, and, in doing so, considers how metaphysical commitments influenced psychological theories at the turn of the century. In his 1916 Essays in Experimental Logic , Dewey described his psychology as a science not of states of consciousness, but of behavior. Specifically, Dewey argued that conscious states can be assimilated to modes of behavior that help the individual adapt to a situation of conflict. Hence, the role of psychology, Dewey argued, is to provide a natural history of the conditions under which a particular behavioral mode emerges. Based on an analysis of a number of Dewey's major works written during the period of 1884 to 1916, I claim that there is an underlying metaphysical intuition in Dewey's views that prevents a behavioristic interpretation of his psychology. This intuition, I argue, stems from Dewey's absolute idealist philosophy of the mid 1880s. The intuition raises the concern that, if psychologists permit a transition from one psychological state to another to be described in terms of a causal succession of discrete events, then there is no way that the transition can be held together in a relational complex. As applied to psychology by Dewey, the intuition rejected treating any psychological phenomenon as constituted of separate existences, regardless of whether the phenomenon is defined in terms of conscious or behavioral events. Instead, the intuition presupposed that psychological events are unified in a special kind of relation in which events merge and are, in a mystical sense, identical. I maintain that Dewey's intuition regarding psychological causation served as the basis for his concept of coordination, which Dewey set out in his criticism of the reflex arc concept in the context of the Baldwin-Titchener reaction-time controversy. According to my account, Dewey's coordination concept was at odds with the behaviorists' unit of analysis, which explicitly divided any psychological phenomenon into separate existences of stimulus and response. I consider the broader implications of Dewey's metaphysical intuition through a discussion of different types of causal explanation that emerged in psychology in the early 20th century.

Benoit Desjardins (1999)

Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania (Assistant Professor of Radiology)

Causality, Statistical Algorithms

Dissertation: On the Theoretical Limits to Reliable Causal Inference

One of the most central problems in scientific research is the search for explanations of some aspect of nature for which empirical data is available. One seeks to identify the causal processes explaining the data, in the form of a model of the aspect of nature under study. Although traditional statistical approaches are excellent for finding statistical dependencies in a body of empirical data, they prove inadequate at finding the causal structure in the data. New graphical algorithmic approaches have been proposed to automatically discover the causal structure in the data. Based on strong connections between graph theoretic properties and statistical aspects of causal influences, fundamental assumptions about the data can be used to infer a graphical structure, which is used to construct models describing the exact causal relations in the data. If the data contain correlated errors, latent variables must be introduced to explain the causal structure in the data. There is usually a large set of equivalent causal models with latent variables, representing competing alternatives, which entail similar statistical dependency relations. The central problem in this dissertation is the study of the theoretical limits to reliable causal inference. Given a body of statistical distribution information on a finite set of variables, we seek to characterize the set of all causal models satisfying this distribution. Current approaches only characterize the set of models which satisfy limited properties of this distribution, notably its relations of probabilistic conditional independence. Such models are semi-Markov equivalent. Some of these models might however not satisfy other properties of the distribution, which cannot be expressed as simple conditional independence relations on marginal distributions. We seek to go beyond semi-Markov equivalence. To do so, we first formally characterize the variation in graphical structure within a semi-Markov equivalence class of models. We then determine possible consequences of this variation as either experimentally testable features of models, or as testable features of marginal distributions.

Elizabeth Paris (1999)

History of Particle Physics

Dissertation: Ringing in the New Physics: The Politics and Technology of Electron Colliders in the United States, 1956-1972

The “November Revolution” of 1974 and the experiments that followed consolidated the place of the Standard Model in modern particle physics. Much of the evidence on which these conclusions depended was generated by a new type of tool: colliding beam storage rings, which had been considered physically unfeasible twenty years earlier. In 1956 a young experimentalist named Gerry O'Neill dedicated himself to demonstrating that such an apparatus could do useful physics. The storage ring movement encountered numerous obstacles before generating one of the standard machines for high energy research. In fact, it wasn't until 1970 that the U.S. finally broke ground on its first electron-positron collider. Drawing extensively on archival sources and supplementing them with the personal accounts of many of the individuals who took part, Ringing in the New Physics examines this instance of post-World War II techno-science and the new social, political and scientific tensions that characterize it. The motivations are twofold: first, that the chronicle of storage rings may take its place beside mathematical group theory, computer simulations, magnetic spark chambers, and the like as an important contributor to a view of matter and energy which has been the dominant model for the last twenty-five years. In addition, the account provides a case study for the integration of the personal, professional, institutional, and material worlds when examining an episode in the history or sociology of twentieth century science. The story behind the technological development of storage rings holds fascinating insights into the relationship between theory and experiment, collaboration and competition in the physics community, the way scientists obtain funding and their responsibilities to it, and the very nature of what constitutes successful science in the post-World War II era.

Tom Seppalainen (1999)

Portland State University (Associate Professor) [email protected]

Visual Perception and Cognition, Metaphysics

Dissertation: The Problematic Nature of Experiments in Color Science

The so-called opponent process theory of color vision has played a prominent role in recent philosophical debates on color. Several philosophers have argued that this theory can be used to reduce color experiences to properties of neural cells. I will refute this argument by displaying some of the problematic features of the experimental inference present in color science. Along the way I will explicate some of the methodological strategies employed by vision scientists to accomplish integration across the mind-body boundary. At worst, the integration follows the looks-like methodology where effects resemble their causes. The modern textbook model for human color vision consists of three hypothetical color channels, red-green, blue-yellow, and white-black. These are assumed to be directly responsible for their respective color sensations. The hue channels are opponent in that light stimulation can cause only one of the respective hue sensations. The channels are also seen as consisting of opponent neural cells. The cells and the channels are claimed to have similar response properties. In my work, I reconstruct some of the critical experiments underwriting the textbook model. The centerpiece is an analysis of Hurvich and Jameson's color cancellation experiment. I demonstrate that the experiment cannot rule out the contradictory alternative hypothesis for opponent channels without making question-begging assumptions. In order to accomplish this, I clarify the theorizing of Hurvich and Jameson's predecessor, Ewald Hering, as well as the classic trichromatic theory. I demonstrate that currently no converging evidence from neurophysiology exists for the opponent process theory. I show that the results from De Valois' studies of single cells are theory-laden. The classification into cell types assumes the textbook model. Since the textbook model is an artifact of experimental pseudo-convergence both claims for a reductive and a causal explanation of color experiences are premature.

Jonathan Bain (1998)

Polytechnic Institute of NYU (Associate Professor) [email protected]

Philosophy of Spacetime, Scientific Realism, Philosophy of Quantum Field Theory

Dissertation: Representations of Spacetime: Formalism and Ontological Commitment

This dissertation consists of two parts. The first is on the relation between formalism and ontological commitment in the context of theories of spacetime, and the second is on scientific realism. The first part begins with a look at how the substantivalist/ relationist debate over the ontological status of spacetime has been influenced by a particular mathematical formalism, that of tensor analysis on differential manifolds (TADM). This formalism has motivated the substantivalist position known as manifold substantivalism. Chapter 1 focuses on the hole argument which maintains that manifold substantivalism is incompatible with determinism. I claim that the realist motivations underlying manifold substantivalism can be upheld, and the hole argument avoided, by adopting structural realism with respect to spacetime. In this context, this is the claim that it is the structure that spacetime points enter into that warrants belief and not the points themselves. In Chapter 2, an elimination principle is defined by means of which a distinction can be made between surplus structure and essential structure with respect to formulations of a theory in two distinct mathematical formulations and some prior ontological commitments. This principle is then used to demonstrate that manifold points may be considered surplus structure in the formulation of field theories. This suggests that, if we are disposed to read field theories literally, then, at most, it should be the essential structure common to all alternative formulations of such theories that should be taken literally. I also investigate how the adoption of alternative formalisms informs other issues in the philosophy of spacetime. Chapter 3 offers a realist position which takes a semantic moral from the preceding investigation and an epistemic moral from work done on reliability. The semantic moral advises us to read only the essential structure of our theories literally. The epistemic moral shows us that such structure is robust under theory change, given an adequate reliabilist notion of epistemic warrant. I call the realist position that subscribes to these morals structural realism and attempt to demonstrate that it is immune to the semantic and epistemic versions of the underdetermination argument posed by the anti-realist.

Carl Craver (1998)

Washington University in St. Louis (Associate Professor) [email protected]

Dissertation: Neural Mechanisms: On the Structure, Function, and Development of Theories in Neurobiology

Reference to mechanisms is virtually ubiquitous in science and its philosophy. Yet, the concept of a mechanism remains largely unanalyzed; So too for its possible applications in thinking about scientific explanation, experimental practice, and theory structure. This dissertation investigates these issues in the context of contemporary neurobiology. The theories of neurobiology are hierarchically organized descriptions of mechanisms that explain functions. Mechanisms are the coordinated activities of entities by virtue of which that function is performed. Since the activities composing mechanisms are often susceptible to mechanical redescription themselves, theories in neurobiology have a characteristic hierarchical structure. The activities of entities at one level are the sub-activities of those at a higher level. This hierarchy reveals a fundamental symmetry of functional and mechanical descriptions. Functions are privileged activities of entities; they are privileged because they constitute a stage in some higher-level (+1) mechanism. The privileged activities of entities, in turn, are explained by detailing the stages of activity in the lower-level ($-$1) mechanism. Functional and mechanical descriptions are different tools for situating activities, properties, and entities into a hierarchy of activities. They are not competing kinds of description. Experimental techniques for testing such descriptions reflect this symmetry. Philosophical discussions of inter-level explanatory relationships have traditionally been framed by reference to inter-theoretic reduction models. The representational strictures of first order predicate calculus and the epistemological strictures logical empiricism combine in this reduction model to focus attention upon issues of identity and deriveability; these are entirely peripheral to the explanatory aims of mechanical ($-$1) explanation. Mechanical explanation is causal. Derivational models of explanation do not adequately reflect the importance of activities in rendering phenomena intelligible. Activities are kinds of change. 'Bonding,' 'diffusing,' 'transcribing,' 'opening,' and 'attracting' all describe different kinds of transformation. Salmon's modified process theory (1998) is helpful in understanding the role of entities and properties in causal interactions; but it ultimately makes no room for kinds of change in the explanatory cupboard. We make change intelligible by identifying and characterizing its different kinds and relating these to activities that are taken to be fundamental for a science at a time.

Heather Douglas (1998)

University of Waterloo (Associate Professor)

Philosophy of Science, Environmental Philosophy, Science and Public Policy

Dissertation: The Use of Science in Policy-Making: A Study of Values in Dioxin Science

The risk regulation process has been traditionally conceived as having two components: a consultation of the experts concerning the magnitude of risk (risk assessment) and a negotiated decision on whether and how to reduce that risk (risk management). The first component is generally thought to be free of the contentious value judgments that often characterize the second component. In examining the recent controversy over dioxin regulation, I argue that the first component is not value-free. I review three areas of science important to dioxin regulation: epidemiological studies, laboratory animal studies, and biochemical studies. I show how problems of interpretation arise for each area of science that prevent a clear-cut answer to the question: what dose of dioxins is safe for humans? Because of significant uncertainties in how to interpret these studies, there is significant risk that one will err in the interpretation. In order to judge what risk of error to accept, one needs to consider and weigh the consequences of one's judgments, whether epistemic or non-epistemic. Weighing non-epistemic consequences requires the use of non-epistemic values. Thus, non-epistemic values, or the kind that are important in risk management, have an important and legitimate role to play in the judgments required to perform and interpret the dioxin studies. The risk assessment component of the risk regulation process (or any similar consultation of the scientific experts) cannot be claimed to be value-free and the process must be altered to accommodate a value-laden science.

Mark Holowchak (1998)

Rider University (Adjunct Assistant Professor)

Ancient Philosophy, Philosophy of Sport

Dissertation: The Problem of Differentiation and the Science of Dreams in Graeco-Roman Antiquity

Dreams played a vital role in Graeco-Roman antiquity at all levels of society. Interpreters of prophetic dreams thrived at marketplaces and at religious festivals. Physicians used dreams to facilitate diagnosis. Philosophers talked of dreams revealing ne's moral character and emotional dispositions. Many who studied dreams developed rich and elaborate accounts of the various sorts of dreams and their formation. All of this bespeaks a science of dreams in antiquity. Did these ancients, by a thorough examination of the content of dreams and their attendant circumstances, develop criteria for distinguishing the kinds or functions of dreams and, if so, were these criteria empirically reliable? I attempt to answer these questions chiefly through an evaluation of ancient Graeco-Roman 'oneirology' (the science of dreams) in the works of eight different Graeco-Roman oneirologists, especially philosophers and natural scientists, from Homer to Synesius. First, I argue that Homer's famous reference to two gates of dreams led subsequent thinkers to believe in prophetic and nonprophetic dreams. Additionally, the two gates engendered a practical approach to dreams that had a lasting impact on Graeco-Roman antiquity, especially through interpreters of prophetic dreams. Yet, as interpreters of dreams prospered, critics challenged the validity of their art. Ultimately, I argue that the interpreters' responses to their critics were unavailing. Moreover, the emergence of the belief in an agentive soul around the fifth century B.C. paved the way for psychophysiological accounts of dreams. Philosophers and physicians thereafter begin to explore nonprophetic meanings of dreams--like moral, psychological, or somatic meanings. Some philosophers rejected the notion of prophecy through dreams altogether, while many essayed to ground prophetic dreams by giving them psychophysiological explanations like other dreams. In general, those oneirologists who tried to give all dreams a psychophysiological explanation bypassed the problem of differentiating dreams by positing, strictly speaking, only one kind of dream—though committing themselves to a plurality of functions for them. In summary, I argue that the ancient Graeco-Roman oneirology—as a thorough admixture of the practical, Homeric approach to dreams and the psychogenetic approach—was an inseparable blend of literary fancy and respectable science.

David Sandborg (1998)

Philosophy of Mathematics, Explanation

Dissertation: Explanation in Mathematical Practice

Philosophers have paid little attention to mathematical explanations (Mark Steiner and Philip Kitcher are notable exceptions). I present a variety of examples of mathematical explanation and examine two cases in detail. I argue that mathematical explanations have important implications for the philosophy of mathematics and of science. The first case study compares many proofs of Pick's theorem, a simple geometrical result. Though a simple proof surfaces to establish the result, some of the proofs explain the result better than others. The second case study comes from George Polya's Mathematics and Plausible Reasoning . He gives a proof that, while entirely satisfactory in establishing its conclusion, is insufficiently explanatory. To provide a better explanation, he supplements the proof with additional exposition. These case studies illustrate at least two distinct explanatory virtues, and suggest there may be more. First, an explanatory improvement occurs when a sense of 'arbitrariness' is reduced in the proofs. Proofs more explanatory in this way place greater restrictions on the steps that can be used to reach the conclusion. Second, explanatoriness is judged by directness of representation. More explanatory proofs allow one to ascribe geometric meaning to the terms of Pick's formula as they arise. I trace the lack of attention to mathematical explanations to an implicit assumption, justificationism, that only justificational aspects of mathematical reasoning are epistemically important. I propose an anti-justificationist epistemic position, the epistemic virtues view, which holds that justificational virtues, while important, are not the only ones of philosophical interest in mathematics. Indeed, explanatory benefits are rarely justificational. I show how the epistemic virtues view and the recognition of mathematical explanation can shed new light on philosophical debates. Mathematical explanations have consequences for philosophy of science as well. I show that mathematical explanations provide serious challenges to any theory, such as Bas van Fraassen's, that considers explanations to be fundamentally answers to why-questions. I urge a closer interaction between philosophy of mathematics and philosophy of science; both will be needed for a fuller understanding of mathematical explanation.

Marta Spranzi-Zuber (1998)

Université de Versailles St-Quentin-en-Yvelines

Ancient and Early Modern Philosophy

Dissertation: The tradition of Aristotle's Topics and Galileo's Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems : Dialectic, dialogue, and the demonstration of the Earth's motion

In this work I show that Galileo Galilei provided a "dialectical demonstration" of the Earth's motion in the Dialogue concerning the two chief world systems, in the sense outlined in Aristotle's Topics . In order to understand what this demonstration consists of, I reconstructed the tradition of dialectic from Aristotle to the Renaissance, analyzing its developments with Cicero, Boethius, the Middle Ages up to the 16th century. As far as Renaissance developments are concerned, I singled out three domains where the tradition of Aristotle's Topics was particularly important: "pure" Aristotelianism, the creation of a new dialectic modelled on rhetoric, and finally the theories of the dialogue form. In each case I focused on a particular work which is not only interesting in its own right, but also represents well one of these developments: Agostino Nifo's commentary to Aristotle's Topics , Rudolph Agricola's De inventione dialectica , and Carlo Sigonio's De dialogo liber , respectively. As far as Galileo is concerned, I focused on the first Day of the Dialogue where Galileo proves that the Earth is a planet, as an example of dialectical strategy embodied in a literary dialogue. Galileo's dialectical demonstration of the Earth's motion can be identified neither with rhetorical persuasion nor with scientific (empirical) demonstration. Rather, it is a strategy of inquiry and proof which is crucially dependent on an exchange between two disputants through a question and answer format. A dialectical demonstration does not create consensus on a given thesis, nor does it demonstrate it conclusively, but yields corroborated and justified knowledge, albeit provisional and contextual, namely open to revision, and dependent upon the reasoned assent of a qualified opponent.

Andrea Woody (1998)

University of Washington (Associate Professor) [email protected]

Philosophy of Science, History of Science, and Feminist Perspectives within Philosophy

Dissertation: Early twentieth century theories of chemical bonding: Explanation, representation, and theory development

This dissertation examines how we may meaningfully attribute explanatoriness to theoretical structures and in turn, how such attributions can, and should, influence theory assessment generally. In this context, I argue against 'inference to the best explanation' accounts of explanatory power as well as the deflationary 'answers to why questions' proposal of van Fraassen. Though my analysis emphases the role of unification in explanation, I demonstrate ways in which Kitcher's particular account is insufficient. The suggested alternative takes explanatory power to be a measure of theory intelligibility; thus, its value resides in making theories easy to probe, communicate, and ultimately modify. An underlying goal of the discussion is to demonstrate, even for a small set of examples, that not all components of rational assessment distill down, in one way or another, to evaluations of a theory's empirical adequacy. Instead, the merits of explanatory structures are argued to be forward-looking, meaning that they hold the potential to contribute significantly to theory development either by providing directives for theoretical modification, perhaps indirectly by guiding empirical investigation, or by facilitating various means of inferential error control. The dissertation's central case study concerns the development of twentieth century quantum mechanical theories of the chemical bond, provocative territory because of the diversity of models and representations developed for incorporating a computationally challenging, and potentially intractable, fundamental theory into pre-existing chemical theory and practice. Explicit mathematical techniques as well as various graphical, schematic, and diagrammatic models are examined in some detail. Ultimately these theoretical structures serve as the landscape for exploring, in a preliminary fashion, the influence of representational format on inferential capacities generally. Although the connection between representation and explanation is seldom emphasized, this dissertation offers evidence of the high cost of such neglect.

Rachel Ankeny (1997)

The University of Adelaide (Associate Dean(Research) and Deputy Executive Dean, Faculty of Arts) [email protected]

History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences; Bioethics

Dissertation: The conqueror worm: An historical and philosophical examination of the use of the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans as a model organism

This study focuses on the concept of a "model organism" in the biomedical sciences through an historical and philosophical exploration of research with the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans . I examine the conceptualization of a model organism in the case of the choice and early use of C. elegans in 1960s, showing that a rich context existed within which the organism was selected as the focus for a fledging research program in molecular biology. I argue that the choice of C. elegans was obvious rather than highly inventive within this context, and that the success of the "worm project" depends not only on organismal choice but on the conceptual and institutional frameworks within which the project was pursued.

Jonathan Simon (1997)

Université Claude Bernard Lyon 1

History of Chemistry

Dissertation: The alchemy of identity: Pharmacy and the chemical revolution, 1777-1809

This dissertation reassesses the chemical revolution that occurred in eighteenth-century France from the pharmacists' perspective. I use French pharmacy to place the event in historical context, understanding this revolution as constituted by more than simply a change in theory. The consolidation of a new scientific community of chemists, professing an importantly changed science of chemistry, is elucidated by examining the changing relationship between the communities of pharmacists and chemists across the eighteenth century. This entails an understanding of the chemical revolution that takes into account social and institutional transformations as well as theoretical change, and hence incorporates the reforms brought about during and after the French Revolution. First, I examine the social rise of philosophical chemistry as a scientific pursuit increasingly independent of its practical applications, including pharmacy, and then relate this to the theoretical change brought about by Lavoisier and his oxygenic system of chemistry. Then, I consider the institutional reforms that placed Lavoisier's chemistry in French higher education. During the 17th century, chemistry was intimately entwined with pharmacy, and chemical manipulations were primarily intended to enhance the medicinal properties of a substance. An independent philosophical chemistry gained ground during the 18th century, and this development culminated in the work of Lavoisier who cast pharmacy out of his chemistry altogether. Fourcroy, one of Lavoisier's disciples, brought the new chemistry to the pharmacists in both his textbooks and his legislation. Under Napoleon, Fourcroy instituted a new system of education for pharmacists that placed a premium on formal scientific education. Fourcroy's successors, Vauquelin and Bouillon-Lagrange, taught the new chemistry to the elite pharmacists in the School of Pharmacy in Paris. These pharmacists also developed new analytical techniques that combined the aims of the new chemistry with traditional pharmaceutical extractive practices. The scientific pharmacist (for example, Pelletier and Caventou) was created, who, although a respected member of the community of pharmacists, helped to define the new chemistry precisely by not being a true chemist.

Aristidis Arageorgis (1996)

National Technical University of Athens (Assistant Professor)

Philosophy of Quantum Field Theory

Dissertation: Fields, Particles, and Curvature: Foundation and Philosophical Aspects of Quantum Field Theory in Curved Spacetime

The physical, mathematical, and philosophical foundations of the quantum theory of free Bose fields in fixed general relativistic spacetimes are examined. It is argued that the theory is logically and mathematically consistent whereas semiclassical prescriptions for incorporating the back-reaction of the quantum field on the geometry lead to inconsistencies. Still, the relations and heuristic value of the semiclassical approach to canonical and covariant schemes of quantum gravity-plus-matter are assessed. Both conventional and rigorous formulations of the theory and of its principal predictions, cosmological particle creation and horizon radiation, are expounded and compared. Special attention is devoted to spacetime properties needed for the existence or uniqueness of the relevant theoretical elements (algebra of observables, Hilbert space representation(s), renormalization of the stress tensor). The emergence of unitarily inequivalent representations in a single dynamical context is used as motivation for the introduction of the abstract $/rm C/sp[/*]$-algebraic axiomatic formalism. The operationalist and conventionalist claims of the original abstract algebraic program are criticized in favor of its tempered outgrowth, local quantum physics. The interpretation of the theory as a wave mechanics of classical field configurations, deriving from the Schrodinger representations of the abstract algebra, is discussed and is found superior, at least on the level of analogy, to particle or harmonic oscillator interpretations. Further, it is argued that the various detector results and the Fulling nonuniqueness problem do not undermine the particle concept in the ways commonly claimed. In particular, arguments are offered against the attribution of particle status to the Rindler quanta, against the physical realizability of the Rindler vacuum, and against the more general notion of observer-dependence as to the definition of 'particle' or 'vacuum'. However, the question of the ontological status of particles is raised in terms of the consistency of quantum field theory with non-reductive realism about particles, the latter being conceived as entities exhibiting attributes of discreteness and localizability. Two arguments against non-reductive realism about particles, one from axiomatic algebraic local quantum theory in Minkowski spacetime and one from quantum field theory in curved spacetime, are developed.

Keith Parsons (1996)

University of Houston, Clear Lake (Professor)

Paleontology, Realism-Constructivism

Dissertation: Wrongheaded science? Rationality, constructivism, and dinosaurs

Constructivism is the claim that the "facts" of science are "constructs" created by scientific communities in accordance with the linguistic and social practices of that community. In other words, constructivists argue that scientific truth is nothing more than what scientific communities agree upon. Further, they hold that such agreement is reached through a process of negotiation in which "nonscientific" factors, e.g. appeals to vested social interests, intimidation, etc., play a more important role than traditionally "rationa"' or "scientific" considerations. This dissertation examines and evaluates the arguments of three major constructivists: Bruno Latour, Steve Woolgar, and Harry Collins. The first three chapters are extended case studies of episodes in the history of dinosaur paleontology. The first episodes examined are two controversies that arose over the early reconstructions of sauropods. The more important dispute involved the decision by the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to mount a head on their Apatosaurus specimen which, after 45 years, it came to regard as the wrong head. The second case study involves the controversy over Robert Bakker's dinosaur endothermy hypothesis. Finally, I examine David Raup's role in the debate over the Cretaceous/Tertiary extinctions. In particular, I evaluate certain Kuhnian themes about theory choice by examining Raup's 'conversion' to a new hypothesis. In the last three chapters I critically examine constructivist claims in the light of the case studies. The thesis of Latour and Woolgar's Laboratory Life is clarified; I argue that each author has a somewhat different interpretation of that thesis. Both interpretations are criticized. The constructivist arguments of Harry Collins' Changing Order are also examined and rejected. I conclude that a constructivist view of science is not preferable to a more traditionally rationalist account. A concluding meditation reflects on the role of the history of science in motivating constructivist positions.

Ofer Gal (1996)

University of Sydney (Associate Professor)

Early Modern History and Philosophy of Science

Dissertation: Producing knowledge: Robert Hooke

This work is an argument for the notion of knowledge production. It is an attempt at an epistemological and historiographic position which treats all facets and modes of knowledge as products of human practices, a position developed and demonstrated through a reconstruction of two defining episodes in the scientific career of Robert Hooke (1635-1703): the composition of his Programme for explaining planetary orbits as inertial motion bent by centripetal force, and his development of the spring law in relation to his invention of the spring watch. The revival of interest in the history of experimental and technological knowledge has accorded Hooke much more attention than before. However, dependent on the conception of knowledge as a representation of reality, this scholarship is bound to the categories of influence and competition, and concentrates mainly on Hooke's numerous passionate exchanges with Isaac Newton and Christiaan Huygens. I favourably explore the neo-pragmatist criticism of representation epistemology in the writing of Richard Rorty and Ian Hacking. This criticism exposes the conventional portrayal of Hooke as 'a mechanic of genius, rather than a scientist' (Hall) as a reification of the social hierarchy between Hooke's Royal Society employers and his artisan-experimenters employees. However, Rorty and Hacking's efforts to do away with the image of the human knower as an enclosed realm of 'ideas' have not been completed. Undertaking this unfinished philosophical task, my main strategy is to erase the false gap between knowledge which is clearly produced—practical, technological and experimental, 'know how', and knowledge which we still think of as representation—theoretical 'knowing that'. I present Hooke, Newton and Huygens as craftsmen, who, employing various resources, labor to manufacture material and theoretical artifacts. Eschewing the category of independent facts awaiting discovery, I attempt to compare practices and techniques rather than to adjudicate priority claims, replacing ideas which 'develop', 'inspire', and 'influence', with tools and skills which are borrowed, appropriated and modified for new uses. This approach enables tracing Hooke's creation of his Programme from his microscopy, and reconstructing his use of springs to structure a theory of matter. With his unique combination of technical and speculative talents Hooke comes to personify the relations between the theoretical-linguistic and the experimental-technological in their full complexity.

David Rudge (1996)

Western Michigan University (Associate Professor) [email protected]

The Role of History and Philosophy of Science for the Teaching and Learning of Science

Dissertation: A philosophical analysis of the role of selection experiments in evolutionary biology

My dissertation philosophically analyzes experiments in evolutionary biology, an area of science where experimental approaches have tended to supplement, rather than supercede more traditional approaches, such as field observations. I conduct the analysis on the basis of three case studies of famous episodes in the history of selection experiments: H. B. D. Kettlewell's investigations of industrial melanism in the Peppered Moth, Biston betularia; two of Th. Dobzhansky's studies of adaptive radiation in the fruit fly, Drosophila pseudoobscura ; and M. Wade's studies of group selection in the flour beetle, Tribolium castaneum . The case studies analyze the arguments and evidence these investigators used to identify the respective roles of experiments and other forms of inquiry in their investigations. I discuss three philosophical issues. First, the analysis considers whether these selection experiments fit models of experimentation developed in the context of micro-and high energy physics by Allan Franklin (1986, 1990) and Peter Galison (1987). My analysis documents that the methods used in the case studies can be accommodated on both Franklin and Galison's views. I conclude the case studies do not support claims regarding the relative autonomy of biology. Second, the analysis documents a number of important roles for life history data acquired by strictly observational means in the process of experimentation, from identification of research problems and development of experimental designs to interpretation of results. Divorced from this context experiments in biology make no sense. Thus, in principle, experimental approaches cannot replace more traditional methods. Third, the analysis examines a superficial tension between the use of experiments, which I characterize by the presence of artificial intervention, and the stated goal of most investigations in evolutionary biology, that of understanding how systems behave in the absence of intervention. Experiments involve trade-offs between the control one has over the circumstances of the study and how informative the study is with regard to questions of interest to biologists regarding specific, actual systems in nature. Experimental simulations of natural phenomena in other historical sciences (e.g. meteorology) involve similar trade-offs, but there are reasons for believing this tension is more prominent in biology.

Madeline Muntersbjorn (1996)

University of Toledo (Associate Professor) [email protected]

History and Philosophy of Mathematics, Calculus in the Seventeenth Century

Dissertation: Algebraic Reasoning and Representation in Seventeenth Century Mathematics: Fermat and the Treatise on Quadrature C. 1657

Contemporary philosophers of mathematics commonly assume that mathematical reasoning is representation neutral, or that changes from one notational system to another do not reflect corresponding changes in mathematical reasoning. Historians of mathematics commonly hypothesize that the incorporation of algebraic representations into geometrical pursuits contributed to the problem-solving generality of seventeenth-century mathematical techniques and to the invention of the infinitesimal calculus. In order to critically evaluate the relative merits of these positions, the dissertation analyzes representational techniques employed by Pierre de Fermat (1601-1665) in the development of seventeenth-century quadrature methods. The detailed case study of Fermat's Treatise on Quadrature c. 1657 illustrates the manner in which his representational strategy contributes to the generality of his quadrature methods. The dissertation concludes that, although 17th-century mathematicians' use of algebraic representations cannot simpliciter explain the generality of mathematical techniques developed during that time, Fermat's use of a variety of representational means—figures, discursive text, equations, and so on—can explain the generality of his methods. Thus, the dissertation lays the foundation for a larger argument against the common philosophical assumption of representation neutrality and for the thesis that developing a good representational strategy is a philosophically significant feature of mathematical reasoning.

Michel Janssen (1995)

University of Minnesota (Associate Professor) [email protected]

Philosophy of Physics, History of Relativity Theory

Dissertation: A comparison between Lorentz's ether theory and special relativity in the light of the experiments of Trouton and Noble

In Part One of this dissertation, I analyze various accounts of two etherdrift experiments, the Trouton-Noble experiment and an earlier experiment by Trouton. Both aimed at detecting etherdrift with the help of a condenser in a torsion balance. I argue that the difficulties ether-theorists Lorentz and Larmor had in accounting for the negative results of these experiments stem from the fact that they did not (properly) take into account that, if we charge a moving condenser, we not only change its energy, but also its momentum and its mass. I establish two additional results. (1) The Trouton experiment can be seen as a physical realization of a thought experiment used by Einstein to argue for the inertia of energy. (2) Closely following Rohrlich, I develop an alternative to Laue's canonical relativistic account of the Trouton-Noble experiment to show that the turning couple Trouton and Noble were looking for is a purely kinematical effect in special relativity. I call this effect the Laue effect.

Ph.D. Program Requirements

The Doctor of Philosophy program at the College of Education prepares students for careers of research or scholarly inquiry and teaching at the college/university level. The program consists of: (1) continuous research and faculty discussion inquiry, (2) courses in education and related fields designed to develop a comprehensive academic basis for future work in research and teaching, and (3) teaching and other related experiences tailored to individual needs and career goals.

Table of Contents

  • Enrolling in First & Second Year Courses
  • Research & Teacher Preparation
  • Advancing to Prospective Candidacy 
  • Forming a Supervisory Committee
  • Research and Inquiry Conference
  • Eligibility
  • General Exams
  • Completing the Oral General Exam
  • Dissertation Credits
  • Preparing the Dissertation Proposal
  • Forming the Reading Committee
  • Conforming to Stylistic Standards
  • Completing the Final Exam (Dissertation Defense)
  • Submitting Your Dissertation to the Graduate School
  • Maximum Allowable Time

1) Enrolling in First & Second Year Courses

Upon admission to the Ph.D. program, you are designated "Post-Master's," meaning that you have been assigned to an adviser, but do not yet have a doctoral Supervisory Committee. The goal of the post-master's phase is to arrange research/inquiry experiences and coursework that will qualify you for Prospective Candidacy. You are assigned a first-year adviser whose research and scholarly activities are in your field of intended specialization. During the first year of study, your adviser will be a central figure, helping you plan academic life.

Working with your adviser, you will: (1) identify a research topic and secure ways and means for participating in the selected project, (2) select first-year courses, and (3) prepare documentation for advancement to Prospective Candidacy. Although the role of faculty advisers is designed to assist you in completing the Ph.D. degree, it is your responsibility to follow all procedures of the Graduate School and College of Education.

In the College of Education's LSHD program, post-bachelor's students may be admitted to work toward a Ph.D. without formally completing a master’s degree program. Post-bachelor's applicants to the Ph.D. track are expected to have research experience and/or research potential, as well as research interests that align with faculty expertise. Post-bachelor's students in the LSHD Ph.D. program may choose to complete an M.Ed. along the way.  Those who would like to complete their M.Ed. along the way must meet the minimum 45 credit Graduate School requirements for the LSHD M.Ed. program. The 45 credits include a minimum of 21 credits in EDPSY coursework, 18 minimum numerically graded credits at the 400 or 500 level, and 18 minimum credits at the 500 level or above.  

If you are a post-bachelor's student working within the prospective Ph.D. track and plan to obtain your M.Ed. along the way in LSHD, you will complete a qualifying paper no later than the quarter in which you complete 45 credits. The qualifying paper is designed to be the equivalent of a master’s final exam or thesis in quality, and must be evaluated by two members of the graduate faculty. This paper must be separate from your R&I paper.

2) Research & Teacher Preparation

A number of useful methods exist for inquiry into educational problems and issues. You will need to develop an appreciation for the diversity of options available. Initial preparation consists of studying the fundamental differences and similarities among various approaches to inquiry in education through the required Educational Inquiry Seminar Series (EDLPS 525 and 526; see the General Catalog for course details). Please note that these courses are sequential; EDLPS 525 is the prerequisite for EDLPS 526. You should complete this sequence as early in the program as possible, preferably in your first year.

Additionally, you will be required to complete a minimum of four additional 500-level courses (combined total of no less than 12 credits) relating to methods of educational inquiry; in these four courses, you must earn a grade of at least 3.0 (or written verification that you would have received a 3.0 in courses that are offered C/NC). You are strongly encouraged to select coursework representing at least two broad approaches to inquiry (quantitative, qualitative, philosophical, historical, etc.) offered both inside and outside the College of Education. The final selection of appropriate courses will be made with the advice and consent of your adviser. The required Inquiry series must be completed prior to your advancement to Prospective Candidacy; two of the four additional research courses must be completed prior to your Research and Inquiry Presentation.

Each Supervisory Committee will design experiences to promote excellence for students who will seek teaching positions. The nature of these experiences will vary according to your prior experience. Some students come to programs in education with substantial experience as teachers, and for them, fewer graduate school experiences may be required.

For some students, the annual Research and Inquiry Presentation will be enough to polish their instructional skills and to demonstrate mastery of instructional approaches. Other students may need to serve as teaching assistants, either formally or informally. Your Supervisory Committee will see that you have appropriate, supervised experience as needed to promote effective teaching skills.

The advancement to Prospective Candidacy process--including the materials and discussions involved in it--is an opportunity for students, advisers, and the broader faculty to evaluate the student’s progress up to that point and to plan for future course taking, committee member selection, and dissertation interests.

You may be considered for advancement to Prospective Candidacy after completing 24 credits of study, including the Inquiry Seminar Series if required (EDLPS 525 and 526) and a minimum of nine credits within your chosen field(s) of study.  Individual programs may require additional coursework, and your adviser will inform you of any additional requirements early in your first quarter of study.  

Once you meet the minimum requirements, your adviser will help you prepare documents for presentation to the faculty. Those documents include (1) a course of study form (including grades received in each course), and (2) a revised goal statement.  You will revisit and revise the goal statement you wrote when you applied for your program to reflect your current thinking and goals.  Your adviser may require other materials, such as a curriculum vita or a paper from a course.  Check with your adviser to see if additional materials are necessary.  Together, the student and the adviser are required to meet to discuss the materials and to make any appropriate changes before the adviser presents the student’s case to the larger faculty for consideration.  Advancement to Prospective Candidacy needs to be completed before you can do your R&I.

The faculty in your program will review your work, judge the adequacy of your progress, offer suggestions about future course taking, and make a recommendation on Advancement to Prospective Candidacy to the Graduate Program Coordinator (the Associate Dean for Graduate Programs).  While we encourage as much faculty input as possible, a minimum of one faculty member besides your advisor will take part in this review. Advisers are then required to meet with the student to provide a summary of the collective input gathered from the larger program faculty meeting. 

Once you have advanced, you should initiate the  Prospective Candidacy Form  to notify the Office of Student Services about completing this milestone.

A summary of the process is below: 1. Meet minimum requirements for advancing to prospective candidacy. 2. Prepare course of study, revised goal statement, and whatever materials your advisor or program requires. 3. Meet with advisor to go over documents and revise as needed. 4. Advisor meets with program faculty and presents the student’s case for consideration. 5. Faculty in program review work, judge adequacy of progress, offer feedback, and make recommendation on advancement. 6. Advisor meets with student to give feedback and decision of the faculty. 7. Student initiates the  Prospective Candidacy Form  online. Once signed by the faculty advior, the completed form is then automatically submitted to the Office of Student Services.

Probationary language: If, after reviewing the student’s case, the program faculty decides that the student will not be Advanced to Prospective Candidacy, the student will be warned or placed on probationary status per the Graduate School's policy on Unsatisfactory Performance and Progress. At that time, the advisor must call a meeting with the student, one other faculty member, and the Associate Dean for Graduate Programs.  This group may require additional materials (i.e. course papers), and the student may offer additional materials as well.  The meeting should take place no later than the second week of the following academic quarter.  At this meeting, the faculty members and student will discuss what is necessary to lift probationary status. Examples might include: improving grades, revising the goal statement further, and requiring certain courses. 

4) Forming a Supervisory Committee

Once you have been advanced to Prospective Candidacy, you should direct your attention to forming a Supervisory Committee. In concert with your adviser, you should explore which members of the graduate faculty would be willing to serve on your Supervisory Committee. Each member of a Supervisory Committee will devote substantial time to working with you and should formally indicate willingness to serve. The chairperson of the Supervisory Committee, who must be a graduate faculty member from the College of Education, should express the willingness and availability to supervise a dissertation, since this is normally the most time-consuming responsibility.

Supervisory Committees will be formed in accordance with Graduate School policy

  • A minimum of four voting faculty (at least three with graduate faculty appointments) must represent, respectively, your (a) specialization within their broad areas of study, (b) first cognate, (c) second cognate, and (d) specialization outside of the College of Education (definitions of broad area, specializations, and cognates can be found ( here ).
  • No more than two voting faculty from your broad area may be on the committee.
  • An additional graduate faculty member, the Graduate School Representative (GSR), must also serve on the committee. GSRs must be members of the graduate faculty with an endorsement to chair doctoral committees, and must have no conflict of interest (such as budgetary relationships or adjunct appointments) with the College of Education. Members of Supervisory Committees representing students’ specializations outside of the College of Education may also serve as GSRs, provided they are qualified to serve in both roles.

Once you have identified appropriate graduate faculty who are willing to serve, their names should be submitted to the Office of Student Services using the Committee Formation Request Form .  Your faculty adviser must approve the form to indicate their approval.

NOTE: The Graduate School requires each doctoral student who is forming a committee for the first time to submit a Use of Animal and Human Subjects Form to the Office of Student Services.

You should form a Supervisory Committee no later than the quarter prior to your General Exam. It is not imperative that the Supervisory Committee be formed before your Research and Inquiry Presentation. It is necessary, however, for you to have arranged for a group of faculty to evaluate your Research and Inquiry work.

The next task is to meet with your Supervisory Committee to develop a research program for the Research and Inquiry Presentation and to plan a course of study in preparation for the General Exam. Between Supervisory Committee meetings, your chairperson is responsible for serving as your adviser.

The Supervisory Committee may recommend against continuation in the program if your progress toward the degree is unsatisfactory. This may include, but is not limited to, an excessive number of course withdrawals or incompletes, a grade point average of less than 3.0, unsatisfactory performance in field placements, or unsatisfactory performance on the General Exam.

5) Completing the Research & Inquiry Presentation

Research preparation is the foundation of the Ph.D. program, as research will play a paramount role in students’ professional careers. Training to be an effective researcher requires (a) concentrated focus to learn the various methods of inquiry and practice, and (b) employment of these methods in various research projects while pursuing your degree. You will begin research activities during the first year of the program, and will continue to develop skills by conducting various research projects, culminating with a dissertation. The Research and Inquiry milestone consists of two major components: A major product of your research preparation effort is the R&I paper and presenting at the Research and Inquiry Conference annually during autumn quarter.

The purposes of R&I are to:

  • Immerse you in issues of content and method directly pertinent to your chosen specialization.
  • Provide you with practical experience in the use of methods and the application of content learned in coursework.
  • Convey aspects of substance and method that characterize the topic studied, but are not taught in general method or content courses.
  • Afford an opportunity for you to present research to a professional audience and for the audience to learn about the research.

The design, implementation, and presentation of the R&I research shall be under the supervision of your chair and at least two additional faculty members or your Supervisory Committee. At least three faculty members must approve a thoroughly developed research papers prior to taking the General Exam.

In general, your R&I paper should hold substantial promise of contributing to preparation for a dissertation, and at its inception should have a good chance of being publishable in a juried journal. At each meeting, members of the Supervisory Committee will reassess the extent to which your R&I activities are contributing to stated goals, and will provide advice in accordance with their assessment. Between committee meetings, the chairperson will assume primary responsibility for advising and assisting you with preparation of your R&I plan.

After successful completion of the written portion, Students will be required to present at the annual CoE R&I Conference held in autumn quarter. 

5.1) Research and Inquiry Conference

The R&I Conference is a half-day event where students will present their research in two types of session formats. All formats provide a means for grouping related papers into sessions, with different opportunities for moderators and audience participation. Students, with the approval of their advisor, determine which format is optimal for future preparation. Successful participation of in the Research ad Inquiry Conference is required prior to defending a dissertation.

The purposes for R&I conference:

  • To mentor student research experience.
  • To support professional practices toward becoming part of a community of scholars.
  • To build community in the College

Session format options: 

Panel presentations  typically group together 2-5 student presenters with similar topics for a shared presentation and discussion opportunity. Each student will present an abbreviated version of her/his R&I paper, followed by summarizing comments from the moderator and then facilitated audience discussion and questions. A typical structure for a session allows approximately 5 minutes for the moderator’s introduction to the session, 10 minutes per presenter, another 5 minutes for moderator comments and summary, and finally 15 minutes for audience discussion. Individual presenters must be attentive to the time allocation for presenting their work in paper sessions.

Structured poster sessions  combine the graphic display of materials with the opportunity for individualized, formal discussion of the research. Depending on how many individuals plan to participate and how many intellectual areas will be presented, there could be anywhere from 1- 4 individuals in a 60 minute session. These sessions begin with attendees viewing poster presentations, then move into brief oral presentations to the audience gathered as a group, followed by direct discussion with poster presenters. Posters are linked conceptually in terms of education research issues, problems, settings, methods, analytic questions, or themes. 

5.2) Eligibility

To be eligible to participate in the R&I Presentations, you must meet the following requirements:

1.  You must be registered as a graduate student at the University of Washington during the quarter of the R&I Presentation. 2.  You must have completed the following research course requirements: six credits of the Inquiry series (EDLPS 525 and 526), plus two additional research methodology courses at the 500-level.   3.  You must have been advanced to Prospective Candidate status through your academic area.

4.  You must have identified a group of faculty who have agreed to evaluate your R&I work. In some cases, this group will be your Supervisory Committee; it is not imperative, however, that you formally establish your Supervisory Committee before R&I. As an alternative, a group of three faculty members can agree to evaluate your R&I work. 

5.  Some papers might require might need Human Subjects Form approval. If you and your advisor have determined you need this, you must have a Human Subjects Form approved prior to starting the research if the investigation is conducted with human subjects. See Louise Clauss in 115J Miller hall if you have questions regarding Human Subjects applications.

6.  The final copy should be submitted to the faculty evaluators and the Office of Student Services with the approval of three faculty members (or instructors). Instructions on completing the R&I submission process can be found on the Graduate Student Forms page . Please keep in mind that the faculty members have other time constraints. It is to your benefit to submit your research paper for evaluation as early as possible.

6) General Exams

When both you and your Supervisory Committee concur that you are prepared and have completed all course requirements (except the dissertation) — including the completion at least 60 credit hours of coursework, per Graduate School requirements (or 30 hours if you already completed a master’s degree that will be less than 10 years old at the time of graduation from the UW) — your Course of Study and research activities will be evaluated through Written and Oral Exams conducted by the Supervisory Committee.

The General Exam is given in two parts. The first part is written and examines content area in your broad area, specialty areas, and cognates. Upon satisfactory completion of the written portion of the General Exam, the oral portion may be scheduled. During the Oral Exam, members of the graduate faculty may ask any questions they choose. By majority vote, the Supervisory Committee will rule on whether you pass.

7) Completing the Oral General Exam

You are responsible for scheduling the oral portion of the General Exam (locating an adequate room, determining a date and time that is acceptable to all members of the Supervisory Committee, etc.), as well as submitting a Request for General Exam to the Graduate School. You should submit the request after forming your Supervisory Committee (see above) and at least three weeks prior to the date of the General Exam by using the Graduate School’s online process. During the Oral Exam, members of the graduate faculty may ask any questions they choose. By majority vote, the Supervisory Committee will rule on whether you pass. Once you have passed, the Office of Student Services will convey the exam results to the Graduate School. This will result in Candidacy being awarded at the end of the quarter in which you pass your Oral Exam.

8) Candidacy

After successfully completing the General Exams, you enter the Candidacy stage of your program. The main tasks of this phase include preparing a dissertation proposal, completing dissertation research, writing the dissertation, and conducting your final defense.

9) Dissertation Credits

When you and your adviser determine that you are completing dissertation-related work, you may register for dissertation credits (EDUC 800).   The Graduate School requires a minimum of 27 dissertation credits for degree completion, and these credits must be taken over a minimum of three quarters. 

10) Preparing the Dissertation Proposal

Upon successful completion of the oral portion of the General Exam, you and your Supervisory Committee will shift attention to the dissertation proposal. The purpose of the dissertation proposal is to provide you with constructive criticism from the entire Supervisory Committee prior to the execution of your dissertation research. The written dissertation proposal should be approved unanimously by the Supervisory Committee members; approval will be indicated by completing the Dissertation Proposal Form . Approval does not guarantee that the Supervisory Committee will approve the dissertation at the Final Oral Exam, but it does guarantee that the committee may not later disapprove the dissertation on the grounds that the research was poorly conceived. The approved proposal becomes the working paper for conducting your dissertation research.

Once the proposal receives Supervisory Committee approval, you will likely need to submit an application for review and approval by the Human Subjects Division. On its website, the College of Education has summarized some of the most important aspects of the Human Subjects Review Process . You should also consult the website of the UW’s Human Subjects Division .

For additional information about the process, the type of review suitable for a given project, application forms, and general assistance, contact Louise Clauss at [email protected] or 206-616-8291.

11) Forming the Reading Committee

The Reading Committee will be composed of a minimum of 3 members of your Supervisory Committee members, including the chairperson. It is also advisable to include a member who is knowledgeable in the chosen research methodology. The Reading Committee will read and review your dissertation in detail and make a recommendation to the larger Supervisory Committee about readiness to schedule the Final Exam. Once you identify appropriate graduate faculty who are willing to serve on the Reading Committee, their names should be submitted to the Office of Student Services using the Committee Formation Request Form on the Graduate Student Forms page .

12) Conforming to Stylistic Standards

It is your responsibility to ensure that your dissertation meets current Graduate School formatting requirements. You may find information about these requirements on the Graduate School Dissertation page .

13) Completing the Final Exam (Dissertation Defense)

You are expected to pass the Final Exam. The final defense of the dissertation is intended as an opportunity for all involved to celebrate the good results of their work during your career in the College of Education.

You should schedule the Final Exam after submitting your dissertation to the Supervisory Committee. You are responsible for scheduling the Final Exam (locating an adequate room, determining a date and time that is acceptable to all members of the Supervisory Committee, etc.), as well as submitting a Request for Final Exam to the Graduate School. You should submit the request after forming the Reading Committee and at least three weeks prior to the date of the Final Exam by using the Graduate School’s online process. You should also note that you must be enrolled for credit hours during the quarter of the Final Exam. If your Final Exam occurs during a period between academic quarters, then the Final Exam will be considered to have taken place the following quarter, and you must register for that quarter.

The Final Exam will cover your dissertation and related topics, and it may also cover other areas deemed appropriate by the Supervisory Committee. While the committee alone votes on acceptance of the dissertation, any member of the graduate faculty may participate in the Final Exam.

14) Submitting Your Dissertation to the Graduate School

Once you pass the Final Exam and complete any revisions requested by the Supervisory Committee, the remaining step is to submit your dissertation to the Graduate School.

In preparation for submitting your dissertation, you should keep the following Graduate School policies in mind:

  • If you wish to submit your dissertation in the same quarter as your Final Exam, make note of the submission deadlines established by the Graduate School.
  • You may submit your dissertation up to two weeks after the end of a quarter without having to register for the following quarter by using the Registration Waiver Fee . The Registration Waiver Fee option is available to a student who has completed all other degree requirements except submission of the dissertation. You will then be permitted to graduate the following quarter by paying a $250 fee in lieu of registering for credit hours.
  • Submission of the dissertation is done electronically and involves several steps. You should carefully review the degree completion information  available from the Graduate School. All Reading Committee members must approve the dissertation online and you must also complete the Survey of Earned Doctorates .

Specific questions about the electronic submission of dissertations should be directed to Graduate Enrollment Management Services (GEMS) at 206-685-2630.

15) Maximum Allowable Time

In planning your program of study and timeline, keep in mind that all requirements for the Ph.D. must be completed within a 10-year time limit.

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

The Doctor of Philosophy program in the College of Education prepares students for careers in research or scholarly inquiry and teaching at the college level. The program consists of: (1) continuous research, (2) courses in education and related fields designed to develop a comprehensive academic basis for future work in research and teaching, and (3) teaching and other related experiences tailored to individual needs and career goals. Each student works closely with an advisor and a faculty Supervisory Committee to select courses, topics of research and inquiry, and teaching experiences. These three areas will combine to: (1) convey deep scholarly knowledge of education and a specialty outside of education (2) promote a broad understanding of various methods of inquiry in education and develop competency in several of those methods, (3) impart broad knowledge of theory and practice in two supportive cognates, and (4) promote excellence as a college teacher. Our Ph.D. alumni have positions at national research universities, at region and local universities, in community colleges, K-12 school settings, laboratories, foundations, agencies, and private businesses.

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Reducing Time to Degree in Philosophy Doctoral Programs


Doctoral programs in philosophy, and in the humanities in general, have several structural issues: high attrition rates; inadequate university teaching opportunities relative to the number Ph.D.s awarded each year; a lack of diversity (gender, ethnic, socioeconomic); and unreasonably long time-to-degree (TTD) medians. In this post we discuss TTD—why it’s important, the reasons for reducing TTD, and some of the ways to do it.

The “New” Ph.D.

In an environment in which about 40 percent of philosophy Ph.D.s—and less than 30 percent of doctoral program matriculants ( Beyond the Academy: The Numbers Game )—obtain permanent academic positions, TTD is especially important. TTD is important in large part because the immediate post-college years are a critical period of career development for many young adults. But because most philosophy doctoral programs do not provide non-academic career training or job experience, these programs postpone rather than advance career development for a significant percentage of their students. As a result, philosophy doctoral students often fall behind their non-academic peers in both career trajectory and salary potential.

In their recent book, The New PhD: How to Build a Better Graduate Education , authors Leonard Cassuto and Robert Weisbuch note that high attrition and low placement rates in doctoral programs make it impossible to claim that such programs are “apprenticeships” for academic careers. Indeed, according to Cassuto and Weisbuch, the apprenticeship model has not existed for close to fifty years. And yet the median TTD in doctoral programs in the US continues to hover around seven years ( Survey of Earned Doctorates , Table 8-15), with very few programs taking effective steps to shorten it.

In today’s dismal market for permanent academic positions, a median TTD of seven years, together with the refusal of many doctoral programs to disclose median TTDs to prospective students, represents a moral failure. Doctoral program faculty generally accept their obligation to assist graduates in obtaining academic positions (although increasingly these positions are not tenure-track). What should be just as obvious is their obligation not to take seven or eight of their matriculants’ critical career development years with academic programs that do not, for most students, lead to permanent employment.

Though philosophy faculty sometimes assert that doctoral programs cannot be shortened, a number of initiatives have demonstrated that in fact doctoral programs can be shortened. A cursory look at TTD of Ph.D. programs in the US shows that a 7-year program is not necessary: some of the most highly regarded philosophy programs in the US— UNC , MIT , Princeton , and Yale , for example—have TTD medians about a year or more lower than the national average.

The Oxford Model

Cassuto and Weisbuch note that the DPhil program at Oxford takes three (or sometimes four) years to complete. This is not unique to Oxford—many European programs as well as programs in Canada employ shortened doctoral degree timelines. How does Oxford do it? There are several key differences between the Oxford program and US programs. First, the DPhil program does not require coursework: “You are not required to attend any taught graduate classes as part of your DPhil degree, but you are encouraged to participate in lectures, classes, seminars and other educational opportunities offered throughout the university as relevant to your topic of study.” While many DPhil students participate in graduate classes, “passing” the classes is not a prerequisite to the continuation of DPhil studies. Instead, the focus of the program is the preparation of a doctoral thesis.

Second, admission to the DPhil. program generally requires prior completion of a BPhil or similar course of study (such as the M.A. in the US and Canada). This means not only that applicants already have received some graduate training, but also that Oxford’s faculty have an additional opportunity to screen a student’s prospects for an academic career before admission to the DPhil program.

Finally, admission to the DPhil program does not guarantee faculty recommendation for a permanent academic position. According to Oxford, some students exit with an MLitt before completing the D.Phil.: “The MLitt is more often an exit award for DPhil students who fail or withdraw from the DPhil degree but meet the requirements for the MLitt.” This feature highlights an aspect of the Oxford approach that differs from many US programs: not only are there off-ramps (such as the “terminal M.A.” in US programs), but—unlike U.S. “Ph.D. only” programs—these off ramps are specifically disclosed to prospective students in the program description.

Several methods for reducing TTD have been tried on this side of the Atlantic. Many U.S. programs use a kind of negative reinforcement as their principal means of incentivizing students to achieve program milestones in a timely fashion. For example, Brown uses a “warning” system to place students on notice that their progress in the program is unsatisfactory. Others say that financial support is only guaranteed for five years, although in practice many extend this support through a sixth year. Still others employ “milestone” deadlines with an implicit suggestion—and sometimes an explicit warning—that those who fail to achieve program milestones face probation and possible dismissal.

In the U.S. it is not uncommon for programs to dismiss students making unsatisfactory progress by awarding them a terminal master’s degree—“terminal” in the sense that the master’s degree is the end of the academic road for the dismissed student. Unfortunately, unlike Oxford, the idea that one might be asked to leave with only a master’s degree is not always stated in program materials and often exists as an unwritten rule of the department.

Regardless, the various types of negative reinforcement philosophy departments have employed for many years have not put much of a dent in the median TTD, at least in the U.S. It remains 6.9 years. And of course this figure only counts the students who actually complete the program, not the significant percentage who leave doctoral programs without completing them.

The TTD problem has led to the development of pilot programs intended to incentivize early (or at least timely) completion of the Ph.D. The basic idea is to increase support for graduate students as program milestones are completed, including by providing (in some cases) a one-year lectureship upon completion of the Ph.D. itself. This encourages students to more aggressively pursue the requirements of the Ph.D.—particularly completion of the doctoral dissertation—within the timeframe established by program faculty. For example, the geography department at the University of Minnesota created pay “tiers” for its graduate students. Students were paid at higher levels as they progressed through program milestones. Similarly, Brandeis University offered large dissertation completion fellowships (funded by Mellon) for the final year of its doctoral program. ( The New PhD , 181–182).

Notre Dame created a 5+1 program (funded in part by Mellon) that offers one year teaching fellowships following the completion of the Ph.D. program for students who complete the program in five years. ( The New PhD , 185–190). The 5+1 program requires the student to complete the degree in 10 semesters of active study. The student may then choose one of two tracks: a teaching and research (T&R) track (for students seeking careers in academia) and an internship track (for students seeking careers outside academia). The T&R students are given a 1:1 course schedule; the internships, which are competitive, are 40 hours per week.

According to Cassuto and Weisbuch, the early completion incentive model “is one of the few strategies that has shown signs of budging the stubborn time-to-degree figures.” ( The New PhD , 186).

Reducing Requirements

We noted earlier that coursework is not a requirement for the Oxford DPhil. When one compares programs with differences in TTD— Michigan and Chicago , for example—one factor that stands out is the difference in coursework required by each program. Michigan requires 12–13 courses to advance to Ph.D. candidacy, while Chicago requires 16 courses (half of which may be taken pass-fail).

Cassuto and Weisbuch propose a kind of thought experiment when it comes to the requirements of a doctoral program. They challenge U.S. doctoral programs to think of their programs in the following way. Assume that the program may take only three years. What would you include in the program if that were the case? After you have identified those requirements—which, like the Oxford DPhil, would very likely focus on completing a dissertation or preparing papers for publication—then you might consider adding a few more requirements. You would of course add the most important ones first, but the ultimate goal is to add just a few requirements until the program is five years in length. Is there any reason a doctoral program cannot be structured as a five-year program using this approach?

A different approach would be to increase prerequisites for doctoral programs. As noted above, it is not uncommon for doctoral programs in the U.S. to use the M.A. as, in effect, an off-ramp for students who might not be able to complete the program. Departments might instead consider treating the M.A. as an explicit prerequisite to a shortened doctoral program. This would provide an opportunity for both sides of this equation—graduate students and departmental faculty—to assess the student’s path toward permanent academic employment before committing to enrollment in a doctoral program.

Another option is the use of alternative degree programs as a means of shepherding students not suited (or not yet suited) for doctoral studies to programs intended to provide additional background in philosophy without commitment to a research program. Oxford, for example, offers a Master of Studies (MSt) in Practical Ethics , useful primarily for those outside academia but also serving as a possible next step toward the DPhil. Similarly, Chicago offers a Master of Arts Program in the Humanities (MAPH) , which might be useful for those considering the Ph.D. but might also benefit those seeking a new career or returning to the non-academic positions they held before attending the master’s program.


We conclude with a few words about transparency, because transparency itself can perform a role in reducing TTD. Furthermore, we believe that transparency about TTD constitutes the minimum moral obligation of philosophy Ph.D. programs to their prospective graduate students. If prospective students have access to relevant program data—attrition, TTD, and placement data, for example—they are more likely to incorporate this data into their comparative assessment of doctoral programs. It’s hard enough to evaluate doctoral programs when attrition, TTD, and placement data are available. Without this information, it’s nearly impossible. And it’s not simply a matter of comparing one doctoral program with another. Students may also wish to compare philosophy doctoral programs with other programs they might be considering, such as law or medical school—programs for which transparency is the rule rather than the exception.

Doctoral programs might also think of transparency about program data as a means to improving attrition rates and TTD. If career path transparency were the rule rather than the exception in doctoral programs, programs would be incentivized to reduce attrition, reduce TTD, and clarify the career opportunities for their graduates, both academic and non-academic.

Is a Five-Year Doctoral Program Achievable?

Five-year doctoral program TTD medians are both desirable and achievable. Shorter TTD is desirable for the simple but under-appreciated reason that more than 70 percent of doctoral program matriculants will not obtain permanent (tenure track or similar) academic employment, and current trends away from university instruction in the humanities will only make this situation worse. Philosophy Ph.D. programs with long TTD medians therefore hamper the majority of their students’ career trajectories as well as their lifetime salary potential. Shorter TTD is not only desirable, it is achievable: it has already been achieved outside the U.S., and in the U.S. the doctoral programs at UNC, MIT, Princeton, and Yale have achieved a median TTD of six years or less for many of their graduating cohorts. In light of the limited job prospects for philosophy Ph.D.s in the US and Canada, sustained efforts to reduce the TTD for doctoral programs from the current 6.9 year median are, we believe, a moral imperative.

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Martin Willard

Gina helfrich.

  • doctoral programs
  • Editor: Nathan Eckstrand
  • Finishing your PhD
  • Oxford model
  • PhD Programs
  • time to degree


Philosophy of economics, patricia marino, undergraduate philosophy club: the university of north alabama, problems of knowledge and valuation, daniel drucker, letting go, and letting the subject come to you: reintroducing the graduate student reflection series, reflections on teaching in the ai age, syllabus showcase: the philosophy of education, kristopher g. phillips.

Thank you for opening up this discussion. This is a well structured article.

Nonetheless, the argument doesn’t sit well with me. It proceeds from pre-professional premises rather than focusing on the educational rationale of programs. I agree that doctoral programs should continually be rethought as a way of being responsive to what could make them excellent. But the rationale for doing so should come from improving them educationally. The premise of your argument would seem to be that the main – or co-primary – education of such programs is pre-professional.

I disagree. The main education is scholarly. The question, then, is what a continual improvement of scholarly education should be. From this starting point, teaching and other ways to connect scholarship to life outside academia have a genuine place. Both enrich scholarship or are actually an ongoing part of it in various ways.

I disagree that it is on the programs to deal with the wider state of the job market beyond being totally transparent about that state and not misleading students in the least. If programs are completely honest and accurate as can be about the prospects for employment, then it is up to students to shape their lives realistically. It’s not on the programs to become strongly pre-professional. Besides, doing so will not change the structural situation in the least: it will just amp up competition between programs for short supply positions and thereby intensify pre-professionalism across the board, with all the moral and intellectual corruption that follows on hustle culture.

Re. another set of claims that you made, it needn’t be a horrible opportunity cost to enter into graduate school and to spend, say, much of one’s 20s becoming a scholar while one could have, say, been working on another career instead. There is an intrinsic good to scholarship as well as direct and indirect social goods. To participate for a time in scholarship even if one leaves it later can be a good thing for someone, an island of something fairly pure in a society that is frankly quite corrupt and socially alienated in many ways. There are reasons to choose the life of scholarship that eschew careerism or earning potential.

It is reductive of life and misguided to make the issue of growing about those things. I worry about your rationale looking at time spent in graduate school like time away from a treadmill or career development elsewhere. That reduces life to careers. Life works in indirect ways, and becoming a scholar — slowing down the career treadmill even — can be quite beneficial personally, socially, and in many other ways. Life is long, and it helps to not rush one’s way through it or to be overly streamlined. There are so many people in midlife who crash out in one way or another because they pushed things earlier and did not take the time to grow.

Full disclosure: I graduated from U Chicago at their then average TTD, which was 8 years. I earned some scholarships after year 5 and I worked my butt off as a researcher at another institution and by teaching many classes at various institutions. But I don’t regret it at all, and if I had not succeeded in academia, I would still not have regretted it. I always had an exit option ready (for me it was public education, either pre-K or high school). It seemed obvious to me that one should have an exit option when considering academia, but it was not the responsibility of my program to provide me with one. And I would have not learned as much as I did if U Chicago had not been hard core about just doing scholarship. In hindsight, I am grateful that they flaunted the four year Princeton norm at the time and actually wanted us to get lost in scholarship. And even if I went on to do something outside academia, I at least got to live the life of a scholar for a time in an environment that was totally serious about what they meant and did not sell it out in the least.

I would like to see a post about improving grad school for the sake of scholarship and another about people taking responsibility for themselves in being prudent. With all the ways to keep doing philosophy as a way of life in community, there should be no pressure to think that if grad school doesn’t work out in leading to academic employment, the life of the mind or of philosophy stops there. Moreover, we need teachers at many levels. Another part of the European system is that serious intellectuals have historically taught high school. Just a thought.

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