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2018-2019 Graduate Studies Bulletin 
  May 30, 2024
2018-2019 Graduate Studies Bulletin [Archived Catalog]


Michael Dickson, Chair


The USC Department of Philosophy is an intellectually active and pluralistic community offering a congenial environment for graduate study. We host numerous invited speakers, workshops, and major conferences. The history of philosophy is foundational in the undergraduate and graduate programs and is a crucial part of the methodology of the faculty. The department has significant clusters of faculty who work in two special areas of research:

  • The history and philosophy of science: We emphasize issues and methods that are closely tied to the actual content of the sciences, whether contemporary or historical. The faculty has particular strengths in the philosophy of physics, chemistry, mathematics, medicine, engineering, and technology.
  • Theoretical and practical ethics: We see normative issues as intertwined with a host of other philosophical, scientific, and historical issues. The faculty has particular strengths in normative ethical theory, bioethics, engineering ethics, environmental ethics, and the ethics of emerging technologies.

Additionally, individual faculty members have research and teaching interests in the following areas: ancient philosophy, early modern philosophy, American pragmatism, twentieth century analytic philosophy, existentialism and phenomenology, contemporary European social philosophy, philosophy of language and mind, and philosophy of logic. The department collaborates with other units within the College of Arts and Sciences, including biology, chemistry, classics, comparative literature, history, linguistics, physics, psychology, religious studies, and women’s studies. Individual faculty members also work in collaboration with other units across campus, including the School of Medicine, the School of the Environment, and the Consortium for Science, Technology, Environment, and Medicine in Society.


The philosophy department admits new students into the M.A. and Ph.D. programs in the fall semester of each year. Applications for admission are reviewed during the previous spring term. Normally, to be admitted with full standing into either program, a student will have completed 18 hours of course work in philosophy above the introductory level. Applicants must also have met the general admission requirements of The Graduate School.

Applicants should arrange for three letters of recommendation, transcripts, and GRE scores to be sent to The Graduate School. Applicants whose native language is not English should also arrange for TOEFL or IELTS Intl. exam scores to be sent to The Graduate School. In addition, all applicants should send a sample of philosophical writing (maximum length 6,000 words) and a brief statement of purpose (400 words) to the department.

Letters of recommendation should come from persons familiar with the applicant’s academic achievement and potential and should specifically address the applicant’s potential for success in a graduate degree program.

Transcripts of prior undergraduate and graduate work must show sufficient promise of ability to do graduate work. Hence the department looks for GPAs in the range from 3.00 to 4.00 for all undergraduate work and 3.50 to 4.00 for all graduate work (on a 4.00 scale).

We look for GRE scores above 1250 on the verbal reasoning and quantitative reasoning portions of the exam. Scores of at least 5 on the analytical writing section are generally acceptable.

Applicants whose native language is not English are required to submit a satisfactory score on the TOEFL or the IELTS Intl. Academic Course Type 2 exam. For admission to the Ph.D. program, applicants should submit a TOEFL score of at least 590 PBT or 96 IBT. For admission to the M.A. program, applicants must achieve a minimum score of 570 PBT or 80 IBT, which is also the minimum requirement for entrance into The Graduate School. The minimum acceptable overall band score on the IELTS Intl. Academic Course Type 2 exam is 6.5.

Evidence of high potential from several parts of an applicant’s file may occasionally outweigh a low test score or a low GPA.

Students whose undergraduate major was not philosophy may be considered for admission on a conditional basis. If admitted, special programs will be arranged to provide them with the background necessary for graduate study. Unsuccessful applicants to the Ph.D. program who do not already have a master’s degree in philosophy will automatically be considered for admission to the M.A. program.


Students are normally admitted to the program only in the fall semester. The absolute deadline for applying for the fall semester is July 1. However, to receive full consideration for financial assistance, applications should be completed before January 15. Applicants who do not meet the January deadline will still be considered for and may even be awarded support, but opportunities become increasingly limited after this date.

Programs and Courses