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Monday, November 04, 2013


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As a graduate student in philosophy, I must say that yours is the best advice on the internet about whether to go to graduate school. It is a welcome antidote to the hysterical proclamations one often finds in the mass media about how one ought not, under any circumstances, go to graduate school in the humanities. (Although, to be fair, Brian Leiter offers advice similar to yours on his blog.)

Thanks, John. I don't read Leiter's blog, so any similarity between our views merely reflects the fact that some of his views are sound.

Hey Bill,

I'm going to be receiving a BA in Philosophy and in Spanish this coming May and I plan on attending graduate school next fall for Philosophy. Currently I'm looking at University of St. Thomas in Houston, University of Toronto, Colorado University (Boulder), Fordham, CUA and probably a few others. I really want to have a scholastic/medieval grounding so St. Thomas and Toronto are my top choices. I wanted to ask you, are there any fully funded graduate philosophy programs that you'd recommend? I satisfy all of the other requirements but number 3 may be a little hard for me. Thanks for your help!


I would like to advise you on specifics, but I am out of the loop. Maybe John or some of the other younger guys who read this blog and are closer to the action can chime in here.

I suggest that you apply only to programs that offer full funding, and that you apply to ten such programs.


It really depends on what kind of route you're interested in taking with the medieval stuff. If you go to St. Thomas (for what it's worth, I think it's probably the best place in North America to study Thomas right now) or CUA, you'll probably be running in ACPA circles more so than APA circles. If you go to Toronto, Fordham, SLU (which I would add to your good list) or certainly Boulder, you're more likely to end up in the APA crowd. As you probably know, the ACPA is usually way heavier on the Scholastic exegesis and not so much on the phil language/logic stuff of contemporary analytic philosophy. There are counterexamples to this, of course.

In my view, if you're interested in getting Thomas and others "right", then the more predominantly ACPA schools might be more up your alley. If, on the other hand, you want to appropriate Scholastic tools in contemporary phil language/mind/metaphysics, etc., then the Leiter-friendly APA schools might be better.

Of course you can go to APA and ACPA conferences regardless of which school you choose, but I find that your closest discussion partners (your fellow grad students) usually resemble the ethos of the dept. But this is coming from someone in a "continental" dept, so take with a grain of salt. Indeed, Dr. V is one of my favorite analytic philosophers because he's not "existence blind"!

Thanks, Josh!

My only objection is to your use of the name 'Leiter' the occurrence of which sullies my weblog. I prefer that you use some such definite description as 'the proprietor of the premier academic gossip site in the philososphere.' 'Ladder man' is also an effective moniker. See here: http://brianleiter.blogspot.com/


I think I agree with pretty much everything that Josh said. One thing that cannot be emphasized enough, especially for someone heading to graduate school straight out of a BA, is the way in which your interests tend to shift when you get to graduate school. Although I entered my Ph.D. program primarily interested in contemporary metaphysics, especially mereology, I am now beginning a dissertation on Aristotle. (Admittedly, I am writing on Aristotle's metaphysics, especially on his early theory of substance and his views on priority in nature, but this is still a relatively large shift in area of specialization.) So while you may right now be more interested in, say, using Scholastic tools to tackle topics in contemporary metaphysics, your interests may shift to more exegetical concerns.

This said, I know plenty of people whose interests have remained constant throughout graduate school. As a general rule, you should go to the best overall program that will take you (and fund you!), because that will probably make you a better philosopher, and thus better able to tackle the topics that truly interest you. Take a look at The Philosophical Gourmet Report, but don't let its rankings be the sole criterion you use in determining where your best fit is.

Hope this helps a little bit.

Ha! Duly noted. I must say I do find Ladder man's blog helpful insofar as it serves as a repository for the necessary evils we lowly grad students must endure as grad students. It would be better, of course, if they weren't hidden so cleverly in and amongst the mountains of unnecessary evils, but alas...

Bill, John and Josh,

Many thanks for all the feedback! It is very helpful and I very much appreciate it. You all have given me a lot of things to think about that I hadn't considered before. I have one question for you Josh and John. Are you very familiar with the program over at University of St. Thomas and if so, what are your impressions?

Thanks again guys!

Hi Christian,

Unfortunately, I am not very familiar with the program at St. Thomas. My knowledge is exhausted by the fact that Timothy Pawl, in conjunction with Meghan Sullivan at Notre Dame and Jonathan Jacobs at St. Louis, run the Midwest Annual Workshop in Metaphysics. Both Pawl and Jacobs are contemporary metaphysicians with a serious Aristotelian/Thomistic bent, while Sullivan works primarily on philosophy of time. Other than that, I'm not in a position to say anything about the program at St. Thomas. Sorry!


Feel free to email me at joshualeeharris0[at]gmail[dot]com.

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