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Graduate Studies Calendar 2014-2015 Program Descriptions Philosophy PHIL
Philosophy - PHIL
Contact Information

Location: Social Sciences Building, Room 1248
Program number: 403.220.5533
Fax: 403.289.5698
Email address:
Web page URL:

1. Degrees and Specializations Offered

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Master of Arts (MA), thesis-based and course-based

The course-based Master of Arts degree may be completed on a full-time or a part-time basis.


  • History and Philosophy of Science (MA only)
  • Philosophy of Religion (MA only)

*These two specializations are offered in cooperation with the Departments of History and Religious Studies respectively. Selecting a specialization is not mandatory.

2. Admission Requirements

In addition to Faculties of Graduate Studies and Arts requirements, the Department requires three letters of reference, and a sample of written work, such as a recent essay, written in English. Applications will not be considered without a sample of written work.

For applicants required to prove proficiency in English, a minimum TOEFL score of 600 (written test), 100 (Internet-based test), a MELAB score of 84 or an IELTS score of 7.0 must be submitted.

3. Application Deadline

The deadline for submitting complete applications is January 15 for September admission.

Candidates applying for financial assistance should ensure that all documents relevant to their scholarship application reach the Department by January 15. The Department makes its first round of decisions for financial support by the end of March. Although most applications are for September admission, January admission is also possible.

4. Advanced Credit

The Department does not normally give advanced credit for courses taken previously. However, in special circumstances, a request for advanced credit may be considered if it is made as part of the admission process. Credit will not be given for course work taken as part of another completed degree/diploma or for courses taken to raise the grade point average to a level required for admission. Normally, advanced credit may be given for a maximum of three half-course equivalents.

5. Program/Course Requirements

Note: Normally, in both master’s and doctoral programs, no more than one half course of Directed Reading can be taken to satisfy the minimum course requirement.

In addition to Faculties of Graduate Studies and Arts requirements, the Department requires:

Master of Arts (thesis-based)

a) A minimum of six half-course equivalents.

b) In the specializations History and Philosophy of Science or Philosophy of Religion, courses taken in History or Religious Studies, may, with departmental approval, count as fulfilling course requirements for the degree.

Master of Arts (thesis-based) with Specialization in the History and Philosophy of Science

a) Two half-course equivalents (two terms) in the philosophy of science.

b) Two half-course equivalents (two terms) in the history of science.

c) Two half-course equivalents (two terms) in the history and philosophy of science.

d) Proficiency in a second language or logic, depending on the department of enrolment.

Master of Arts (course-based)

a) A minimum of ten half courses, including at least two half courses in the History of Philosophy and two half courses in 20th Century or Contemporary Philosophy.

b) Students to remedy background deficiencies, if any, in a certain area or areas of philosophy by taking course work below the 500-level.

c) Students must complete at least one half course in each annual registration period.

Doctor of Philosophy

a) Normally, a minimum of six half courses for students with a Master of Arts degree.

b) Normally, a minimum of twelve half courses for students entering directly from an honours undergraduate program.

c) Students to show competence in logic, which may be done by achieving a grade of "B" or better in Philosophy 379.

6. Additional Requirements


7. Credit for Undergraduate Courses

Normally, no undergraduate courses will be credited towards completion of course requirements in a graduate program.

8. Time Limit

Expected completion time for full-time students is two years in a master’s thesis program, three years in a master’s course-based program, and four years in a doctoral program. Maximum completion time is four years for a master’s thesis program, and six years for a master’s course-based or doctoral program.

9. Supervisory Assignments

Students are assigned an interim advisor until they have an opportunity to become acquainted with other members of the faculty. Each student must have a supervisor by the end of the second regular academic session after first registration (April for September registrants and December for January registrants) and well in advance of the student's determination of areas for the final examination. The choice of supervisor must be by mutual arrangement between the student and staff member concerned, and approved by the Department.

A supervisory committee at the master’s level is not normally appointed. When such a committee is deemed necessary, the Dean’s approval must be obtained.

A doctoral student shall be under the general supervision of a supervisory committee. After consultation with the student, the supervisor will submit a list of possible members of the supervisory committee to the Graduate Studies Committee for approval. The supervisory committee should be established as soon as possible and no later than three months after the supervisor’s appointment.

10. Required Examinations

Doctor of Philosophy

Departmental Preliminary Examinations

Students will be required to show competence in three of the following four areas:

Area I – metaphysics and epistemology
Area II – history of philosophy
Area III – philosophy of language and logic
Area IV – moral and political philosophy

The student chooses three areas. Competence in an area is shown by submitting a satisfactory essay or passing an examination. At least one area must be passed by either a sit-down or take-home examination. Exams are administered, and essays accepted, four times yearly. All three areas must be passed within 20 months of registration and, the student is not allowed to take an exam in a particular major area more than three times. Students who have not passed three areas within 20 months of registration will not normally receive further Departmental support.

Oral Candidacy Examination

After completion of required course work and preliminary examinations, the doctoral student must pass an oral candidacy examination prior to beginning the doctoral thesis. Before the examination, the student must submit a thesis proposal (approximately 20 pages) that will serve as the basis of discussion at the examination. The purpose of the examination is to ascertain whether the student’s academic preparation and ability is adequate to pursue profitable research on the issues proposed. Questions on the research proposal will be included in the oral candidacy examination.

Master of Arts (course-based)

The course-based Master of Arts has a research constituent. This constituent is to be satisfied by passing all components, written and oral, of the Final Master's Examination.

A Final Master’s Examination of overall competency is required after completion of all course work, consisting of written and oral components. Effective July 1, 2009, the Department of Philosophy will be monitoring and overseeing this examination.

The following regulations apply:

i. Each student in the program will be examined by a Final Master’s Examination Committee appointed by the Department Head in consultation with the Graduate Director not later than three months prior to the Final Master’s Examination. The committee shall consist of four members including a neutral chair. The normal composition shall be the student’s supervisor and three other members of the academic staff.

ii. The written component will examine the competency of the student in two fields or areas of philosophy, one of which must be in the History of Philosophy or 20th Century/Contemporary Philosophy, while the second may be elected by the student. A guideline for suitable areas of philosophy on which a student may choose to be examined is given by the generic titles of graduate course offerings in philosophy. There should not be any significant overlap in the two chosen areas. Competency in an area will be tested by examining the student’s mastery of selected central problems, authors and/or positions in that area.

iii. Students should determine their examination areas in consultation with their supervisor and must declare their chosen examination areas not later than six months before the time of examination by reporting these to the Graduate Director. The following regulations apply:

(a) Not later than two weeks after the examination areas have been determined, the supervisor will draw up a bibliography for each of these areas. The bibliographies will be discussed with the student. A copy of the bibliographies, with the signatures of the supervisor and student, shall be submitted to the Graduate Director not later than five months prior to the written exam.

(b) Examination questions for the written and oral components of the Final Master’s Examination will be drawn from the bibliographies for each of the examination areas.

iv. Details of the written component:

(a) The supervisor shall distribute examination questions for the written component to all members of the examination committee for their approval, and the Graduate Director, at least a week in advance of the written exam.

(b) The written component will consist of two three-hour written examinations. The written examinations are to be completed within one week.

(c) Each examiner is required to submit a written assessment of the student’s written examination performance, to be submitted to the neutral chair of the examination committee prior to the examination.

(d) The written component of the examination must be judged to be either acceptable ('Pass') or unacceptable ('Fail').

(e) The committee will inform the student and Graduate Director within three weeks of the exam submission whether the student has passed. If the student has not passed the exam, the committee will provide the student and the Graduate Director with written comments of its decision. (The student may request a written assessment even in the case of a Pass.) If the committee does not make a decision within three weeks of the exam’s submission, then it is the responsibility of the Graduate Director to ensure that the exam is assessed in a timely manner.

(f) This is a closed exam.

v. The student shall not be permitted to proceed to the oral component if the student does not secure a 'Pass' on the written component.

vi. The oral examination will be held a minimum of two weeks and not later than three weeks following a decision on the written component. Questions for the oral examination will be based on the bibliographies for the areas selected for examination.

vii. Details of the oral component:

(a) The oral examination is a formal examination, not an informal discussion with the student.

(b) All examiners must be given an opportunity to question the student early in the examination, e.g. by rounds of questioning.

(c) The oral examination shall not exceed two hours. This does not include deliberation time of the committee.

(d) The oral component of the examination must be judged to be either acceptable ('Pass') or unacceptable ('Fail').

(e) This is a closed exam.

viii. The result of the Final Master's Examination shall be either 'Pass' or 'Fail'. To secure a 'Pass', the student must obtain a 'Pass' on both the written component and the oral component of the exam. In the event of a failure, the examining committee may recommend that the student be given an opportunity to take the failed component of the examination again between two and six months from the date of the first attempt. No more than two attempts will be permitted.

ix. Students may appeal the grade that they obtain on either the written component or the oral component of the Final Master’s Examination. In the event of an appeal, the student shall first address a letter of appeal to the Graduate Director. In the letter, the student must clearly and fully state the decision being appealed, the ground for appeal and the remedies being sought, along with any special circumstances that warrant an appeal of the reappraisal. The Graduate Director will then report his or her decision to the student. If the student is not satisfied with this decision, the student may file an appeal in accordance with the terms and conditions specified by the Teaching Faculty Appeals Committee.

Thesis Programs

The candidacy exam has a written component, the student’s research proposal. This proposal must be submitted to all members of the candidacy examining committee at least two weeks before the examination. The candidacy oral can include questions on the research proposal.

Thesis oral examinations are open.

11. Research Proposal Requirements

The research proposal is to be submitted in accordance with Faculty of Graduate Studies requirements.

12. Special Registration Information

Incoming students meet with the Department of Philosophy Graduate Director to discuss their programs and to decide which courses to take.

13. Financial Assistance

Most thesis students admitted to the program receive some level of financial support from the Department. Suitably qualified master’s students may be given a guarantee of financial support from September of their first year to the end of April of their second year. All doctoral students receive a guarantee of financial support for the four years of their program.

For information on awards, see the Awards and Financial Assistance section of this Calendar.

Students applying for scholarships must submit their applications to the Department by January 15.

Satisfactory academic progress in the student’s program is required for funding.

Satisfactory Academic Progress:

Thesis-based and Full-time Course-based MA students

a) Must complete at least five half courses in their first two terms, and maintain a GPA of at least 3.60 in all courses taken, this GPA being computed at the end of the first week of June each year, and in any case no more than one grade of "B-" or lower during the course of their program.

b) Are expected to complete their degree by May of their second year in the program. (Equivalent requirements apply to students who register at times other than September.)

Doctoral Students

a) Must complete at least five half courses in their first two terms, and maintain a GPA of at least 3.60 in all courses taken, this GPA being computed at the end of the first week of June each year, and in any case no more than one grade of "B-" or lower during the course of their program.

b) Must pass all Departmental PhD Preliminary Examinations within 20 months of first registration (for those without an MA, the period will be determined by the Graduate Studies Committee).

c) Must take the Candidacy Examination within eight months of the completion of the Preliminary Examinations and pass this examination no later than twenty-eight months after the date of the student’s first registration in the program (for those without an MA, thirty-six months after first registration in graduate studies in philosophy).

14. Other Information


15. Faculty Members/Research Interests

The faculty’s main interests and specialties can be found at: