Philosophy graduate student discussion group

Villanova University’s Doctoral Program in Philosophy is known for its depth in research and scholarship of the History of Philosophy and Continental Philosophy, while bringing important perspectives from the analytic tradition. The Department prides itself on its pluralism. Students are exposed to both the continental and the analytic traditions, and we have particular strengths in the philosophy of mind, epistemology, analytic aesthetics and social and political philosophy.

In general, the doctoral program at Villanova leads students to ask questions about the relation between modernity and post-modernity, the very idea of a tradition, the possible relation between art and truth, the varieties of feminist theories, classical and contemporary political theory, humanism and post-humanism, and the character of religion in the postmodern situation.


The Doctoral Philosophy Program offers courses that emphasize Continental Philosophy and the History of Philosophy. It is especially strong in the tradition of Western thought, and we have specialists in ancient Greek philosophy and late antiquity, as well as in early modern and modern philosophy. Our strengths in Continental Philosophy range from its beginnings in Kant, Hegel, Schelling, and Nietzsche, through the classic texts of Adorno, Beauvoir, Benjamin, Heidegger, Merleau-Ponty and Sartre, and up to the contemporary treatments of hermeneutics, deconstruction, genealogy, psychoanalysis and critical and feminist theories found in writers such as Agamben, Badiou, Baudrillard, Butler, Castoriadis, Deleuze, Derrida, Foucault, Irigaray, Kristeva, Nancy and Rancière.

Course Requirements

In a successful course of study, students must complete the following requirements:

  • Complete 48 graduate credit hours (16 courses). Students are expected to complete 30 credits by the end of their second year and all course work by the end of their fourth year. Credits for language instruction and Doctoral Dissertation I and II (PHI 9010 and 9081) do not count toward this total.
  • Fulfill one course in four areas: Ancient, Medieval, Modern, and Contemporary Philosophy. These area requirements must be completed by the end of the third year.
  • Pass an examination in one natural language other than English that is central to their intended research.
  • Pass the comprehensive evaluation given after the second year.

Students must present a portfolio of scholarship and pass an oral examination before progressing to the doctoral level of the program.

Note: It is assumed that the current course distribution requirements in the History of Philosophy – one course in Ancient Philosophy, one course in Medieval Philosophy, one course in Modern Philosophy and one course in post-Hegelian Philosophy – will have been completed before the exam.

No later than one week before the fall semester of the third year, full time students must without exception present the Director of Graduate Studies a portfolio of three papers submitted to satisfy the requirements for seminars taken in their normal course of study in the previous four semesters. The portfolios will be reviewed by a subcommittee of the Graduate Committee. One week before the fall break, this subcommittee will present students with a list of questions that will form the basis of an oral examination to be administered in the week after the fall break. 

The oral exam will be graded on the following scale: pass with distinction, pass, failure. This grade will become part – together with the portfolio, the record of course grades, the record of incomplete courses and other evidence of professional preparation including published materials and conference presentations – of a comprehensive evaluation by the Graduate Committee of each student’s qualification to be admitted to the PhD level of the graduate program. The results of this comprehensive evaluation will be communicated to students before the Thanksgiving holiday.

The portfolio should be comprised of three well-written and cogently argued papers that taken together clearly demonstrate a grounding in the history of philosophy. The papers may but need not be reworked by students prior to submitting them as part of their portfolio. The papers should be chosen by students as representative of their preparation to advance to the next level in the graduate program. At least one of these papers must be on a subject in the history of philosophy from the Ancient to the Modern period, up to and including Hegel. At least one of these papers must be on a subject in the history of philosophy from the period following Hegel to the present. All three papers must be presented with a word count and must be 6,000-7,000 words long, including footnotes.

The subcommittee will be formed by the graduate director from a regular rotation of faculty serving on the Graduate Committee. The subcommittee will be free to divide the work involved in developing questions from the portfolios as it sees fit.

The list of questions presented to students will be drawn from the papers students submit in their portfolio. Students will be presented with no more than six questions. Which of these questions are asked in the course of the oral examination will be decided exclusively by the examining subcommittee.

The oral examination will be used as a springboard to allow students to demonstrate their philosophical acumen and will test a student’s knowledge of the history, tradition and transmission of the conceptual variation in the areas represented by the papers in the student’s portfolio. It will last no longer than 90 minutes.

Once your dissertation has been approved by your advisor and/or faculty committee, several steps must be take in order to complete your degree requirements. Please review the Thesis and Dissertation Instructions from the Office of Graduate Studies.

The  goal of the Teacher Training Program is to expose the students to a wide variety of teaching and learning approaches that will help them develop as teachers, and make them even more marketable when they go on the job market.

First Year

Fall Semester: Students will spend the first semester in the Writing Center working and with students needing help with their writing assignments and papers.

Spring Semester: Students will participate in a series of rotations so that graduate students will get experience working with different student populations and needs. For example, students might spend three or four weeks working in Learning Support Services (with students with learning disabilities), three weeks in Academic Support for Athletes, three weeks working with reference librarians, and return to the writing center for another three or four weeks to help out during the peak demand periods.

Second and Third Years

Students will alternate between the assistantship duties listed below during the course of their second and third years, fulfilling one of these assistantship responsibilities in each of the four semesters:

  • Assisting an Instructor in ACS in conjunction with one of the first year learning communities, giving exposure to teaching in an interdisciplinary writing intensive program.
  • Assisting in an Ethics course offered through the Ethics Program and developing the beginning of a teaching competency in Ethics.
  • Assisting in Knowledge Reality Self course in the Philosophy Department.
  • Assisting in and Advanced Course in the Philosophy Department.

Fourth Year

Students will form a dissertation committee, prepare a preliminary exam proposal and pass all language competency requirements. Typically, students are expected to pass the preliminary exam during their fourth year and then make a public defense of their proposal so that they have completed all requirements for ABD status in the program. In addition, all fourth year students will be required to be present and participate in a four-to-five-day intensive teacher training seminar that will emphasize syllabi preparation, book orders, teaching the core philosophy course in our program, but also the use of cutting edge techniques and technologies designed for effective pedagogy. During this week, students will also be expected to meet with the graduate director regarding their progress in preparing for ABD status by the end of their fourth year. This seminar will be mandatory for all students and require that all students be physically present.

Fifth and Sixth Years

Students typically teach two courses per semester as adjuncts. Because of the teacher training program, they will be qualified to teach our core course Knowledge Reality Self and upper level courses when needed, but also interdisciplinary courses in ACS and Ethics.

Current students should access Philosophy Department specific forms and policies via the Department's SharePoint site (VU username and password required).

Review the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Graduate Student Handbook.



Jessica Elkayam '16 PhD is currently Assistant Professor of Philosophy in the Department of Psychology & Philosophy at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas. 

Jessica Elkayam '16 PhD is currently Assistant Professor of Philosophy in the Department of Psychology & Philosophy at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas.  She teaches courses in Aesthetics, Philosophy of Film & Literature and 19th -20th century continental philosophy. Her research at the intersection of history of philosophy and temporal theory concerns the way we embody and understand (the limits of) time.  Dr. Elkayam is passionate about the relation between philosophy and the work of art, especially philosophy and film.  Her dissertation is "Thinking the Limit of the Human: Nietzsche, Heidegger, and the Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics." 


Ready for the Next Step?

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

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



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.