New York University
Department of Philosophy
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J.D./Ph.D. Program


Contemporary legal theory as it is done in law schools is strongly involved with certain areas of philosophy: philosophical jurisprudence, ethics, political philosophy, theory of knowledge, philosophy of language and philosophy of science. Philosophical questions often arise in the discussion of issues in constitutional law and criminal law. There is also an important connection in the other direction: issues in ethical and political theory often depend on and are informed by issues having to do with judicial interpretation. Further, and most important, there are significant questions about the evaluation of legal institutions that cannot be approached in a serious way without a substantial background in both law and philosophy.

The dual J.D./Ph.D. program is intended both for students who expect their primary academic affiliation to be with philosophy and those whose primary professional interest is in law. It is most likely to be of interest to those planning an academic career in one or the other field.


Persons interested in the dual degree program must file separate applications to each school. The Law School and the Graduate School of Arts and Science admit applicants independently, on the basis of their usual standards. Application can be made simultaneously, but a student already enrolled in one program can also apply and be admitted to the other subsequently. Application for financial aid must also be made to the two schools separately.

Students interested in applying for a dual degree should inform both the Law School Admission Office and the Philosophy Department Director of Admissions.


The School of Law requires 83 credits of study for the J.D. However, in the Dual Degree Program, up to 12 law school credits for courses in the GSAS may be applied in satisfaction of this requirement. Courses that are cross-listed in both the School of Law and the GSAS are counted in each institution according to the listed number of credits or points. For courses that are not cross-listed, law school credits will be assigned to GSAS courses on the basis of the number of class hours. So 12 law school credits will normally correspond to six GSAS seminars (24 GSAS points).

The GSAS requires 72 points for the Ph.D. However, in the Dual Program, credit for up to eight one-term courses in the School of Law may be applied toward the Ph.D. One course in the School of Law, whatever its credits, will usually count as a 4 point course in GSAS. So the eight courses are normally worth 32 GSAS points. The Philosophy Department requires nine courses in specific categories (36 points) as part of the requirement for the Ph.D. Which, if any, courses in the School of Law would count as satisfying those nine requirements is decided on a case by case basis by the Philosophy Department.

Among the courses in the School of Law that count towards the Ph.D. are:

  • Contemporary Political Theory and Law
  • Introduction to Jurisprudence
  • Recent Analytical Jurisprudence
  • Constitutional Law
  • Current Constitutional Issues
  • First Amendment Freedoms
  • Colloquium on Law, Philosophy and Political Theory
  • Colloquium in Constitutional Theory

Among the Graduate Philosophy courses suitable to count toward the J.D. are:

  • Life and Death
  • Freedom and Moral Responsability
  • Political Philosophy
  • Contemporary Ethical Theory
  • Ethics: Selected Topics
  • Philosophy of Language
  • Philosophy of Science

But other courses may also be selected and each student's program is individually designed in consultation with the advisor and the Director of Graduate Studies.

The Ph.D. in philosophy requires a thesis and an oral examination on it. There is also a logic requirement and a third year review. These requirements apply to dual degree candidates, although the timing will be adjusted on a case by case basis. For example, students in the Philosophy Department normally undergo the third year review in their fifth term. In the case of a dual J.D./Ph.D. candidate, the third year review would normally occur after the candidate had done the equivalent of three terms of GSAS study.

Course Of Study

Anyone admitted for the J.D./Ph.D. is automatically also a candidate for the J.D./M.A., and can earn an M.A. by satisfying its requirements whether or not the student goes on to complete the Ph.D. It should be possible to complete the J.D./M.A. in three or three and a half years, and the J.D./Ph.D. in six or seven years.

Typically, the candidate for a dual degree takes no philosophy courses in the first year of Law School, but combines law and philosophy courses in the second and third years, and is enrolled in the Graduate School of Arts and Science rather than the Law School for one term out of the six required to complete the J.D. 32 Graduate School points are required for the M.A., and 72 points for the Ph.D., so the dual J.D./Ph.D. requires 40 points beyond the M.A. Some of this can take the form of directed research, but a Ph.D. candidate should expect a year or two of course work in the Philosophy Department after completing the J.D., before writing the dissertation. It is also possible to combine pursuit of the two degrees on different timetables.

Sample Schedule

Schedules are likely to vary considerably. Some students start with law and others with philosophy. They also vary with respect to the stage of their career in one field in which an interest in the other appears. So what follows is just one of many patterns.

Law Credits GSAS points
First year, fall and spring terms
Registration in Law School
Required first-year Law courses
30 0
Second year, fall term
Registration in Law School
3 Law courses, 1 GSAS course
12* 8*
Second year, spring term
Registration in GSAS
3 GSAS course, 1 Law course
10 16
Third year, fall term
Registration in Law School
3 Law courses, 1 GSAS course
15 8
Third year, spring term
Registration in Law School
4 Law courses, 1 GSAS course
16 8
(83 total, completion of J.D. and M.A.)
Fourth year, fall and spring terms
Registration in GSAS
4 GSAS courses plus independent study
Teaching Assistantship
Fifth year, fall and spring terms
Registration in GSAS
2 GSAS courses plus thesis research
Teaching Assistantship
Sixth year, fall and spring terms
Registration in GSAS
Thesis research
(completion of Ph.D.)

*Law courses range in credits from 2 to 6, according to how much time is spent per week in class. Seminars are 2 or 3; lecture courses usually 3 or 4; clinical courses 2 to 4. The Colloquium on Law, Philosophy and Political Theory is worth 5 credits. After the first year, students in the program will average out to 13 or 14 credits a term. A 3 credit seminar, a 3 credit lecture course and a 4 credit lecture course would add up to 10 credits. If we suppose (conservatively) that a 4 point GSAS course is counted by the Law School as 2 credits, we have the 12 credits listed here. At the same time, one of the law courses is likely to be cross-listed in philosophy or be very like one that is cross listed in work load, thus earning the same number of credits in GSAS as it does in Law.