Graduate Program

The vibrancy of the Department’s philosophical culture, its strength in a broad range of areas of philosophy, and the outstanding reputation of our faculty combine to attract some of the nation’s most talented graduate students. Our philosophy doctoral program has an excellent placement record. Since 1996, over 70% of graduates have continued on to tenure-track academic positions.

Program Highlights

  • Individualized degree plans
  • Cross-disciplinary course emphasis - you will take courses from other Duke departments
  • Active colloquium series
  • Opportunity for collaborative research and coursework with the Department of Philosophy at the University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill.
  • Unique certificate programs that leverage Duke's academic strengths in medicine, science and biology

Department Strengths

Our faculty have a wide range of expertise covering ethics, the philosophy of science, logic, metaphysics and more, but Duke’s Department of Philosophy is especially strong in three key areas:

Value theory and moral psychology

Combining a long-standing record of excellence in ethics with innovative, interdisciplinary work in moral psychology and a growing number of faculty with leading contributions to decision theory, Duke is a rich place for graduate students to study normative and evaluative questions of good and goodness.

Graduate students have the chance to work with faculty researching applied questions in business ethics and clinical medical research, as well as others examining the role of emotions in virtuous action, morality in atheism, moral relativity and the relationship between morality and psychology.

By bringing Benjamin Eva to the department in 2020 and Reuben Stern in 2022, we extended those strengths with two philosophers interested in how to make good decisions through a study of counterfactuals, conditional beliefs and related issues.

Inclusive philosophy and social ontology

Duke is a department with a strong commitment to inclusivity. Recent hires include Ásta (in 2022) and Kevin Richardson (in 2021), two leaders in the growing field of social ontology investigating the meaning and nature of social categories including race, gender and sexual orientation.

The department is also highly ranked in Asian and comparative philosophy, thanks to the work of several faculty who have published extensively on classical Chinese philosophy and cross-cultural philosophy as part of their work in ethics. Wenjin Liu, hired in 2022, further strengthens this area, combining research on ancient Greek ethics with ancient Chinese philosophy.

Duke faculty have devoted themselves to recovering neglected figures in philosophy, such as Emilie Du Châtelet. Project Vox, co-led by Andrew Janiak, highlights the work of marginalized individuals.

Philosophy of science and causation

Because Duke is known for its interdisciplinary work, it’s no surprise that our department works closely with other fields. Our strength in philosophy of science is the result.

Our faculty combine philosophical research with science labs to dive deep into the philosophy of neuroscience and cognitive science. This work probes memory, artificial intelligence, the neurology of counterfactuals and more.

Working with colleagues in Duke’s highly regarded Department of Economics, our faculty are also deeply engaged with the philosophy of economics. Research topics include questions of causality and reductionism in the discipline, how to understand supply and demand curves, along with modeling problems in economics more generally. The Center for the History of Political Economy provides a home for further study of economics and economic thinkers.

Many of our faculty work on questions of causation more broadly, including free will, how to model causation, understanding causes from messy empirical data, causation in physics and in the history of philosophy, and more.

History and Philosophy of Science, Technology and Medicine 

(Affectionately known as HiP-STeM) uses the tools and methods of the humanities (especially history and philosophy) to study the sciences understood as human endeavors. This includes historical evolution and context; conceptual foundations and puzzles; theories, methods, and claims to knowledge; institutions, material practices, and social structures, past and present.

Duke HPSTM incorporates science, technology, engineering, medicine, and mathematics. We promote universal ownership of the sciences as shared cultural inheritance through encouragement and support of HPSTM in research and in teaching across the academy.