Doctoral Fields of Study

Doctoral Fields of Study

Doctoral Fields of Study

We ask each student to immerse themselves in a set of texts in a field of study (see Fields of Study Texts to the right). The purpose here is not to "master" one of the fields, each of which has a substantial legacy in the history of ideas.  Rather, the purpose of such study in our program is to deepen a student's perceptivity and sensitivity to philosophical issues, no matter what his or her eventual dissertation topic turns out to be. 

For example, a student who takes up the Aesthetics field may not end up directly examining aesthetics and education in a thesis. He or she may instead address a question in teaching, teacher education, policy, the meaning of curriculum, and the like. However, by having studied in depth the texts on the list of Aesthetics, the student can bring to bear an enriched and broadened intellectual sensitivity. This study enables the student to perceive and to examine the issue in an 'aesthetics-enhanced light', and thereby to discern dimensions and ramifications of the project that might otherwise remain in the shadows.

Thus students should think of their chosen field as a kind of intellectual companion, as a family of questions and arguments that can "accompany" and support them in their own educational research.

The accent in the fields is largely on texts that have stood the test of time and that continue to influence thought and practice. Their "distance" from the present constitutes, in our view, a powerful asset in providing fresh angles of criticism and research. They can strengthen a student's intellectual basis for criticizing contemporary views in education and society (and, indeed, for criticizing the very texts themselves.)

Many of the texts were composed in eras when women, and men from a variety of cultural backgrounds, did not have equal (or any) access to the world of letters and publishing, either in the West or elsewhere in the world.  These circumstances have changed dramatically. Thus we encourage students to read widely in the current literature in their chosen field of interest. The pioneering texts listed under the corresponding field of study helped make the fields possible, and they continue to inform them in creative fashion. Contemporary writers keep the fields dynamic, responsive, and in motion.

As students enter the program they can begin to ponder which field they will focus upon for purposes of their take-home, written examination, and perhaps for their work thereafter as well. Faculty regularly teach texts from the lists in the Doctoral Proseminar, which thus becomes one vehicle among others for getting familiar with them. In their second and third years students can begin to read systematically in a given list, perhaps also forming reading groups with peers interested in the same field.

In studying a field, students will inevitably find themselves reading English translations of original works written in Ancient Greek, Latin, German, French and the like. We encourage students to develop a scholarly appreciation for the subtleties and significance of translation. Students should seek out different translations of the same text for purposes of comparison and further reflection on the meanings of the text.


During Summer 2009, program faculty revised the following fields: Aesthetics, Ethics, Foundations of Education, and Philosophical Anthropology. These fields pertain to doctoral students whom articulated beginning in Fall 2009. Students who joined the program before then have the choice of working with the new fields or with the fields as they were constituted at the time of the student's matriculation (program faculty can provide a copy of the original list of texts).

During Summer 2010, faculty added the following new field to the list: Social and Political Philosophy. All doctoral students currently in the program can select this field if they wish. We thank Dr. Winston Thompson, Associate Professor at Ohio State University, for the research project he undertook to help us create this field.

During Spring 2016, faculty added the following new field to the list: Critical Philosophies. All doctoral students currently in the program can select this field if they wish. We thank Mr. Brandon Buck for the research project he undertook to help us create this field.

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