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Much work in philosophy speaks directly to one or more disciplines represented by Harvard Griffin GSAS's PhD programs—literature, physics, statistics, science, mathematics, linguistics, and economics to name a few. A secondary field in philosophy gives students from other disciplines an opportunity to step back and look at the big picture in their discipline, putting students from discipline X in a position to do "philosophy of X" as part of doing X, thereby helping them to understand their field more deeply and to open a path to developing it in innovative ways.


Graduate students may apply to the Department of Philosophy to do a secondary field after their first term as a graduate student. Secondary field students normally begin the secondary field in their second or third semester, usually by taking one or two courses a semester until they have completed the requirements.

Applicants should contact the director of graduate studies (DGS) in the Department of Philosophy before applying. Applications must include:

  • a brief statement explaining what the applicant hopes to achieve with the secondary field, including a brief summary of the applicant's background in philosophy;
  • a copy of the undergraduate transcript (this can be a copy sent from the student's home department);
  • a brief letter from a faculty member from the student's home department discussing how a secondary field in philosophy would contribute to the student's work in the home department.


To complete a secondary field in philosophy, a student completes four courses in philosophy at the 100 level or higher with a grade of B+ or better. One course must be in the area of one of the department's PhD distribution requirements: moral and political philosophy; metaphysics and epistemology; logic; or history of philosophy. A second course must be in another of these areas. At least one course must be a graduate seminar. In principle, an independent study with a member of the department may be used to complete the secondary field. A capstone project is not required. Courses are counted towards satisfying the secondary field requirements only when approved to do so by the philosophy DGS.

A student completing a secondary field in philosophy is assigned an advisor from the Department of Philosophy, normally the DGS.

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