Carnegie Mellon University

Ph.D. Program in Philosophy and
Ph.D. Program in Logic, Computation and Methodology

The PhD programs in Logic, Computation, and Methodology and Philosophy have identical requirements. The distinction in name is meant to reflect the choice of focus during the student's study. The degree is designed to facilitate the development of sophisticated understanding of philosophical problems in a target area of study. 

The program's flexible requirements provide a broad curricular grounding, steady involvement in research, and the opportunity to practice the craft of teaching in an excellent undergraduate environment. Students are expected to complete an MS thesis by the middle of their third year, and a PhD thesis by the end of their fifth year.

Core requirements (6 courses)

  • 80-600 Philosophy Core Seminar: Survey of crucial research in philosophy, logic, and related areas
  • 80-601 Philosophy Core Seminar II: Continued survey of crucial research in philosophy, logic, and related areas
  • 80-610 Formal Logic: The syntax and semantics of first-order logic, and related topics
  • 80-616 Formal Methods (1.5 semester): An introduction to contemporary formal frameworks, including Bayes Nets, Decision Theory, Game Theory, and Formal Learning Theory
  • 80-618 Topics in Logic I (half semester): The theory of computability, and Gödel's incompleteness theorems
  • Professional development seminar: Students must enroll in the professional development seminar in the spring semester of each of their first three years

Students pursuing the Ph.D. in Logic, Computation, and Methodology are further required to take 80-619 Topics in Logic II (half semester) in place of the sentence about the Directed Reading.

Breadth requirements (5 courses)

  • At least three courses in the analytic tradition:
    • 80-605 Rational Choice
    • 80-612 Philosophy of Mathematics
    • 80-680 Philosophy of Language
    • 80-812 Seminar on Causation
    • 80-813 Seminar on the Philosophy of Mathematics
    • 80-814 Seminar on the Philosophy of Science
    • 80-815 Seminar on the Foundations of Statistics
    • 80-816 Causality and Learning
    • 80-818 Seminar on Topics in Logic
    • 80-830 Seminar on Ethical Theory
    • 80-835 Seminar on Social and Political Philosophy
    • Other suitable courses and seminars at Carnegie Mellon and the University of Pittsburgh
  • At least one course in the history of philosophy
  • An additional course from either category

Interdisciplinary requirements (2 courses)

Two interdisciplinary electives, e.g. in logic, computer science, statistics, game theory, linguistics, economics, or psychology, to develop formal skills that will support thesis research. These courses need to be approved by the Director of Graduate Studies. Suitable courses include:

  • 10-701 Machine Learning
  • 15-211 Fundamental Data Structures and Algorithms
  • 21-601 Model Theory I
  • 36-625 Probability and Mathematical Statistics I
  • 85-719 Introduction to Parallel Distributed Processing
  • 85-765 Cognitive Neuroscience

Electives (5 courses)

  • Five unconstrained electives (including directed reading and dissertation research)

These requirements can be filled in three years by taking three courses each semester. Coursework must be completed by the end of the fourth year, at the latest. Electives should be chosen in consultation with the Director of Graduate Studies and the student's advisor, to ensure that the courses chosen will support the student's career goals. In particular, students seeking employment in philosophy need to develop at least one area of competence outside their area of specialization.

NOTE: Undergraduate courses, those numbered XX-100 - 500, may be used to fulfill a requirement only with special permission. Students interested in using an undergraduate course as part of their plan of study should contact the Director of Graduate Studies to discuss whether it can be used for a requirement.

Students are advised to do supervised reading and research with a member of the faculty in the spring of their first year, to explore possible research topics for the MS thesis. In the spring of the second year, students present their MS thesis research to their peers in the Thesis Seminar. The MS thesis itself should be completed by the end of the second year.

In the third year, students choose a dissertation topic and committee. Students must present and defend a prospectus by the end of the fourth year, at the latest, and are expected to complete their doctoral dissertation by the end of the fifth year.

Teaching experience is an essential component of the PhD program. It provides fundamental professional skills for those pursuing academic careers and broadens the focused expertise of pure researchers. Students are required to serve as an assistant or instructor each semester, with the following exceptions: students are exempt from teaching one semester in their first year, and one semester later on, while they are carrying out research on their thesis.

Students serving as principal instructors are mentored by a faculty member. Each foreign student whose native language is not English must take a proficiency exam with the ESL Center prior to teaching.

The department's interdisciplinary research thrust affords an unusually broad range of career possibilities. Graduates of the program have been offered positions in Philosophy, Mathematics, Psychology, Computer Science, and Statistics, as well as research positions in industry. This wide range of interesting career opportunities reflects the department's unique dedication to serious, interdisciplinary research ties.

For a complete listing of our graduates and placement record, see our Ph.D. alumni page.