After the completion of course work, students wishing to proceed to the dissertation stage must sit four qualifying examinations prescribed in accordance with each of the four areas taught by the Department: Ethics, History of Doctrine, Philosophy and Theology, and Systematic Theology.

The examinations in:

Ethics, Philosophy, Systematic Theology
 plus a written paper or the examination in History of Doctrine or a second examination in Ethics.

History of Doctrine
The examinations in:

History of Doctrine, Philosophy, Systematic Theology
plus a written paper or the examination in Ethics or a second examination in History of Doctrine.

Philosophy and Theology
The examinations in:

Philosophy, Systematic Theology
plus the examination in Ethics or History of Doctrine and an examination in Theology and Science (or, by special permission, a written paper on approved topic)

Systematic Theology
The examinations in:

Systematic Theology, Philosophy, Ethics
plus a written paper or the examination in History of Doctrine or a second examination in Systematic Theology.

Qualifying examinations may be taken in October or May.

Completion of all written examinations is followed within 3 weeks by an oral examination at which the faculty members responsible for assessing them are present.

Details of the syllabus for the Philosophy examination is below.


The aim of the comprehensive examination in philosophy is to enable PhD students in Theology to engage with some of the perennial topics and/or central texts of the Western philosophical tradition. Students may choose to be examined on EITHER a broad major topic OR one or two texts. In either case, students are required to show that they can engage in philosophical argument, analysis and reflection both critically and constructively at a level appropriate to original research work in philosophy, ethics or one of the cognate theological disciplines. Guidance is available on constructing a suitable course of preparatory reading, and students are strongly advised to take advantage of occasions for philosophical discussion offered by philosophical seminars and colloquia in the Seminary and in Princeton University. 


Students will be expected to answer three questions that demonstrate familiarity with the main aspects of the topic they have chosen, and an ability to engage critically and constructively with historical and contemporary discussion

Political Philosophy
Moral Philosophy
Reason and Religion
Mind and Body
Empiricism and Rationalism in Epistemology

Central  texts
Students will choose one, or a pair of texts. They will be expected to demonstrate a detailed knowledge of the text(s) and the ability to engage critically and constructively with the ideas contained in them.

Plato: The Republic
Plato: Theatetus and Meno
Aristotle: Nichomachean Ethics
Descartes: Meditations
Hume: Treatise of Human Nature
Hume: Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion and Natural History of Religion
Kant: Groundwork to the Metaphysics of Morals and Critique of Practical Reason
John Stuart Mill: Utilitarianism and On Liberty
Nietzsche: Genealogy of Morality and Twilight of the Idols