Graduate Degrees

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

The Philosophy Department at Carnegie Mellon University is distinguished by its scientific approach to philosophical issues in:

Cognition, AI, and Philosophy of Psychology

  • history and philosophy of psychology
  • artificial intelligence
  • neural networks
  • knowledge representation
  • semantics and pragmatics of natural language
  • foundations of computation

Decision, Rational Choice, and Applied Ethics

  • foundations of decision theory
  • game theory
  • rational choice
  • political philosophy
  • bioethics
  • ethics and public policy

Epistemology, Scientific Method

  • epistemology
  • foundations of statistics
  • belief revision and knowledge representation
  • causal inference and discovery
  • computational learning theory
  • automated deduction

Logic and Mathematical Thought

  • proof theory
  • category theory
  • constructive logic and type theories
  • automated deduction
  • logic of computation
  • history of modern logic
  • philosophy of mathematics
  • philosophy of logic

The PhD program seeks students interested in any of the above areas or combinations thereof and provides full tuition and health insurance along with a generous stipend for teaching assistance.

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.

Graduates of our PhD program who have gone on to prominent positions include:

  • Yimu Yin, Assistant Professor, University of Pittsburgh, Department of Mathematics
  • Frederick Eberhardt, Caltech, Department of Philosophy
  • Jiji Zhang, Caltech, Department of Philosophy
  • Jeff Helzner, Columbia University, Department of Philosophy
  • Tianjiao Chu, University of Pittsburgh, School of Medicine
  • Alberto Momigliano, University of Edinburgh, Department of Computer Science
  • John Byrnes, Fair Isaac Corporation (lead software developer)
  • Oliver Schulte, Simon Fraser University, Department of Philosophy and Department of Computer Science
  • Chris Meek, Microsoft Research (senior researcher, machine learning and applied statistics)
  • Thomas Richardson, University of Washington, Department of Statistics

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

Resources

The favorable institutional setting of the department, combined with its interdisciplinary ties, provides students with the opportunity to work on a broad range of applied projects unmatched by any philosophy department in the nation. The PhD program is part of Carnegie Mellonís interdisciplinary program in Pure and Applied Logic, administered jointly with the School of Computer Science and the Department of Mathematics. Faculty members hold joint appointments in Psychology, Statistics, Mathematics, and Computer Science. Faculty members have also contributed to national research efforts through NASA and the National Academy of Sciences. Related resources in the Pittsburgh community include the departments of Philosophy, History and Philosophy of Science, and Medicine, at the University of Pittsburgh; the Center for the Neural Basis of Cognition, run jointly by the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon; the Center for Philosophy of Science and the Archives for Scientific Philosophy, housed at the University of Pittsburgh; and the Center of Bioethics and Health Law, at the University of Pittsburgh.

Requirements

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.

The two Ph.D. programs are principally distinguished by the student's research interests and professional training. Ph.D. students do not need to decide which Ph.D. to pursue until the second or third year in the program.

Coursework

The program's course requirements are designed to provide students with a shared introduction to basic tools of philosophical analysis, a shared background of philosophical issues, significant interdisciplinary competence and an introduction to research topics in the department.

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.

    80-811 Thesis seminar: A seminar in which students present their master's thesis projects, typically taken in spring of the second year.

    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 Seminar on Metaphysics
    80-817 Seminar on Social and Political Philosophy
    80-818 Seminar on Epistemology
    Other suitable courses and seminars at Carnegie Mellon and the University of Pittsburgh

    At least one course in the history of philosophy:
    80-254 Analytic Philosophy
    80-255 Pragmatism
    80-819 Seminar in the History of Philosophy
    Other suitable courses and seminars at Carnegie Mellon and the University of Pittsburgh

    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.

Research

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

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.

Sample curriculum

The PhD requirements are designed to be flexible, allowing students the freedom to develop programs emphasizing their particular research interests. Core requirements are ordinarily filled within the first two years.

A typical course schedule might look as follows:

Fall First Year

  • Formal Logic
  • Philosophy Core Seminar
  • Formal Methods

Spring First Year

  • Computability and Incompleteness (half-semester)
  • Philosophy Core Seminar II
  • Formal Methods (half-semester)
  • Two Directed Readings (second half of semester)

Fall Second Year

  • Interdisciplinary elective
  • Breadth elective
  • Elective

Spring Second Year

  • Thesis Seminar
  • History elective
  • Supervised MS thesis research

Fall Third year

  • Interdisciplinary elective
  • Breadth elective
  • Elective

Spring Third Year

  • Breadth elective
  • Breadth elective
  • Supervised dissertation research

It is not unusual for students to take or audit a fourth course in some semesters.

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