The Department of Philosophy, Logic and Scientific Method is consistently ranked among the top institutions in the world for the graduate study of Philosophy of Science; Decision, Rational Choice and Game Theory; and Moral and Political Philosophy.
The Department is a world-leading centre for research in the following three broad areas:
- Philosophy of Science, especially philosophy of physics, philosophy of biology, and philosophy of economics. (Read more about philosophy of physics at LSE.)
- Rational Choice Theory and Formal Epistemology, including social choice, decision, and evolutionary game theory, the philosophy of probability, and Bayesian epistemology.
- Moral and Political Philosophy, including public policy, political economy, democratic theory, and normative ethics.
If your ambition is to pursue research – and possibly an eventual academic career – in these or related fields, then you should consider applying to our MPhil/PhD.
What you’ll do
Our MPhil/PhD degree usually lasts four years. Students begin at MPhil level and are promoted to PhD status after successfully completing their first year. A successful thesis, no matter how sharply focused, must be based on wider expertise. We therefore require students to take an element of coursework in their first year, as well as beginning work on their thesis. This includes both examined courses (typically from one of our MSc degrees) and seminar courses with extended essays.
PhD students in the Department work with two supervisors from the academic faculty, to ensure a wide range of advice. The choice of secondary supervisor can be quite flexible (and occasionally includes academics from outside the Department). The primary supervisor is a senior member of staff. Both primary and secondary supervisory arrangements can change in the course of the degree as your thesis develops.
Some of the topics that our faculty are well-suited to supervise include (in alphabetical order):
- Classical and quantum logic
- Formal epistemology
- General philosophy of science
- History and philosophy of science
- Moral philosophy, especially normative ethics
- Philosophy and foundations of physics
- Philosophy of biology and evolutionary theory
- Philosophy of economics
- Philosophy of probability theory
- Philosophy of the social sciences
- Political philosophy, including public policy, political economy and democratic theory
- Rational choice, social choice, decision theory, game theory
However, the faculty has a very wide range of interests, and students may wish to contact individual Department members with more specific inquiries about supervision topics.
The first “coursework” year prepares students for research in philosophy and the completion of a central thesis chapter. At the end of this first year the progress of students is reviewed, to establish that they are on track to upgrade from MPhil to PhD status. In consultation with their academic supervisors, PhD students also settle on a definite research topic by the end of the first year.
|1. PH501 Philosophical Problems (2 Terms) + Philosophical Writing (1 term)|
|2. Either PH502 Reasoning and Logic, or (if you already meet this logic requirement) you may take 1 unit (or two half units) worth of Philosophy MSc courses not already taken.|
|3. Either 1 one unit (or two half units) worth of MSc Courses not already taken plus one term of a PhD Seminar, or 3 terms of PhD level seminars, with associated coursework.|
|4. One substantial thesis chapter of approx. 10,000 words, together with an Outline (research plan) for your thesis of approx. 3,000 words|
|PH551 Research Seminar in Philosophy of the Natural Sciences|
|PH555 Research Seminar in Philosophy of Economics and Social Sciences|
|PH500 Research Methods in Philosophy|
Years 2–4 is the time when PhD students dive deep into the research and writing of their thesis. While writing the thesis students attend the Department’s Popper Seminar, but also any of the wealth of regular research seminars that may be relevant to their research.
Students in their 2nd year aim to write two or three further chapters beyond the chapter they completed in their first year.
In the 3rd year students produce a draft of the entire thesis, while writing papers, submitting to conferences, and getting to know the dynamic field of philosophy and their place in it. In the 4th year, students polish their material and prepare to go on the job market.
What it’s like
The academic environment
Doing PhD research at a top institution is an enriching experience, and even more so in a city like London. You will encounter some of the field’s cutting edge ideas and even push them a little bit further yourself. Our PhD students are a central part of this research environment, with regular contact with faculty and office space for research. The School has a fund for research students who have been invited to present papers at conferences. If your application to that fund is unsuccessful (for instance, because it is late in the academic year and the fund has been exhausted), you may then apply for the Department’s own travel fund for research students.
The Department itself is a small, highly-integrated and friendly place to pursue a research degree. Students attend research seminars with faculty, and there are several specialist research groups that MPhil/PhD students are encouraged to join. We have close links with the Centre for Philosophy of Natural and Social Science (CPNSS). LSE and London more widely also have many pockets of thriving philosophical activity, including LSE’s Forum for European Philosophy, the Institute of Philosophy at the School of Advanced Study, the Aristotelian Society, and the Royal Institute of Philosophy. You should be able to get some sense of Department life by exploring this website. If you are currently in or able to visit London, you are certainly welcome to come along to our events and introduce yourself afterwards.
An essential part of becoming a good philosopher is learning how to teach and to share and discuss ideas with those interested in philosophy at all levels. Therefore, from their first year onward, students in the MPhil/PhD programmes with have the opportunity to teach the undergraduate discussion classes that are run in parallel with lectures.
The School has a generous LSE PhD Studentship scheme. Our Department has had excellent success in securing such scholarships for our applicants in recent years. In order to be considered for this, you must submit your complete application, including references, by the listed deadline in early January. (Please also see the other scholarships listed on this website, in case they are relevant to your particular research project.) Our Department has a policy of not admitting students who have no prospect of receiving a scholarship that will fully fund their studies. If, therefore, you apply after the January deadline for the LSE PhD Studentship, please make sure to indicate, on your application, the scholarship(s) external to the LSE for which you have applied.
The degree is highly selective. For example, offers made to applicants from our own MSc programmes are subject to the student receiving an overall distinction in their degree as well as a distinction in the dissertation component.
Your application should include all of the supporting documents described on this linked website. Here is some Department-specific guidance regarding the following supporting documents:
- Research proposal: This is an important document, which should provide a description of your likely research topic for your PhD. (There is scope for changes in this topic during the first year. In consultation with your academic supervisor, you will need to settle on a definite research topic by the end of that year.) So long as you provide a brief summary of your entire research project at the outset, it is not a problem to exceed the suggested 1,500 word limit even by a significant amount. If you already have a well-worked-out PhD project, you are in fact encouraged to supply a detailed description, which may include chapter by chapter summaries. If you would like your project to be supervised by a particular member or members of the Department, please indicate this in your proposal. Contrary to what is indicated on the website linked above, you do not need to provide either a description of the methodology you will employ or case studies, as these particular guidelines are for dissertations in the social sciences rather than philosophy.
- Writing sample: This is also an important document. It is not a problem to include a writing sample that exceeds 3,000 words even by a significant amount, so long as you indicate, at the outset, a 3,000 word subset of this longer piece of writing on which the selection committee should focus their attention. It is not necessary to provide a scanned copy of your writing sample. You may, for example, simply upload a Word file.
A precise research topic can be accepted only if someone in the Department is well-placed to supervise such a project.
If you have identified someone you would like to supervise you from our academic staff pages, you are welcome to informally approach that person via email. You do not, however, need to correspond with anyone regarding the possibility of supervision in advance of your application. The Department’s selection committee will confirm the availability of a suitable supervisor for a candidate’s PhD project before extending an offer of admission.
GRE and/or GMAT scores are not required for this programme.
General inquiries relating to the Philosophy Department can be sent to Philosophy-Dept@lse.ac.uk.
If you have further questions regarding the PhD that only an academic member of the Philosophy Department will be able to answer, you are welcome to send an email to Professor Christian List (Doctoral Programme Director): firstname.lastname@example.org.
Further information about the application process itself is available on the Graduate Admissions website.