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The John U. Nef Committee on Social Thought is an interdisciplinary, Ph.D. granting graduate program. Its guiding principle is that the serious study of many academic topics, and of many philosophical, historical, theological and literary works, is best prepared for by a wide and deep acquaintance with the fundamental issues presupposed in all such studies, that students should learn about these issues by acquainting themselves with a select number of major ancient and modern texts in an inter- disciplinary atmosphere, and should only then begin intense work on a specific dissertation topic. In their first few years of study, students select twelve to fifteen foundational or fundamental books that best inform the context and background of the issues they want to write about, and they read and study these books in discussion groups, tutorials, seminars and independently, and then sit a week long qualifying exam on some selection of their books. Learn more
- 20602. Plato: Theaetetus
- 30108. The Children of Parmenides
- 31116. Plato as a Socratic
- 32201. Mahabharata in English Translation
- 32403. Frege’s Foundations of Arithmetic as Philosophy And Literature
- 35002. Rethinking the Social History of Art
- 38240. Beautiful Souls, Adventurers and Rogues. The European 18th Century Novel
- 41607. Wisdom and Other Virtues of the Intellect:Heidegger’s Commentary on Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics Book 6.
- 45712. Judah Halevi’s Kuzari
- 49800. Reading Course: Non-Social Thought
- 49900. Reading Course: Social Thought
- 50605. On Aesthetic Form
- 59900. Dissertation Research
FIRST & SECOND YEARS
Students must take three courses per quarter and complete at least five graded courses from the autumn and winter quarters by the beginning of the spring quarter of their first year and at least twelve graded courses by the beginning of the spring quarter of their second year to be eligible for continuation of financial aid.
FIRST THROUGH THIRD YEARS
Students must submit in each of their first three years two substantial essays certified by a member of the Committee faculty and written that year for regular courses, tutorials, reading courses, or independent study. At least one should be submitted by the time the Committee has to make recommendations for renewing financial aid at the beginning of the spring quarter.
Students must achieve a high pass in a foreign language exam administered by the University prior to taking the Fundamentals Exam.
Students are expected to take their Fundamentals Exam in their third year.
FOURTH YEAR AND BEYOND
Students are expected by the fourth year to prepare a doctoral dissertation proposal in close consultation with potential faculty members of their dissertation committee. Once the dissertation proposal is approved by the dissertation committee, it is distributed to all Social Thought faculty. Once the proposal is approved by the Social Thought faculty, the student is admitted to candidacy and continues to write the dissertation. To obtain dissertation fellowship support students are encouraged to have an approved proposal and a dissertation chapter by the second quarter of the fourth year.
Courses and Papers
During their first three years students take regular courses, seminars, tutorials, and reading courses from faculty in the Committee and elsewhere in the University both to prepare for the Fundamentals Examination and to acquire the skills and foundations needed to write the dissertation and enter the discipline they have in mind. Students often take the lead in organizing reading courses or tutorials. Students are expected to consult with their advisers or other Committee faculty in planning their programs. For Social Thought students to be eligible for continuation of financial aid, the Social Sciences Division requires them to complete at least five graded courses from the Autumn and Winter Quarters by the beginning of the Spring Quarter of their first year, and at least twelve graded courses by the beginning of the Spring Quarter of their second year. It is helpful to have a strong and extensive a grade record when applying for dissertation fellowship support for the fifth year and beyond. Students should make sure that by the time the Committee has to make recommendations for financial aid at the beginning of each Spring Quarter it has on file the grades they have received and some record of their independent or tutorial work not reflected in grades. Students are free to take courses or seminars offered elsewhere in the University which may have a bearing on their studies.
Courses and seminars are offered within the Committee on a variety of topics. See the courses page for an archive of course titles and descriptions.
Students during each of their first three years must submit to the Coordinator for Student Affairs two substantial essays written that year certified by at least one member of the faculty of the Committee. These papers may have been written either for regular courses or in connection with tutorials, reading courses, or independent work. At least one should be submitted by the time the Committee has to make recommendations for financial aid at the beginning of the spring quarter.
Students must achieve a high-level pass in a foreign language examination administered by the University prior to taking the Fundamentals Examination.
Since students in the Committee have unusual scope for independent study, successful work in Social Thought requires mature judgment and individual initiative. Naturally, the Committee wishes to be reasonably confident of an entering student's ability to make the most of the opportunities the Committee offers and to complete the program of study. Hence, we request that the personal statement required by the University application should take the form of a letter to the Committee which addresses the following questions: What intellectual interests, concerns, and aspirations lead you to undertake further study and why do you want to pursue them with the Committee? What kind of work do you propose to do here? (If you can, include your intentions for the Fundamentals requirement, further language study, and dissertation research.) How has your education to date prepared you? In addition, you should include a sample of no more than 5,000 words of your best academic work preferably relevant to the kind of work you propose to do at the Committee, though you may also include a short sample of fiction or poetry in addition. We will return your papers if they are accompanied by a stamped, self-addressed envelope. Should we consider the evidence submitted to be insufficient, we may ask you to add to it. Applicants are also required to take the Graduate Record Examination.
The University of Chicago offers most doctoral students competitive funding packages, which cover tuition and student health insurance, as well as a stipend for living expenses and research support. These awards are typically for five years, with some variation by field, comparable to that at other institutions. Programs which are exceptions articulate their policies clearly on their own web sites. Because the cost of living in Chicago is notably lower than in many other major cities, our stipends allow for a comfortable, if not extravagant, lifestyle. For more information about specific funding for your degree program, please refer to the financial aid information for the programs you intend to apply to.
For some students, the nature of their project is such that it takes more than five years to complete the degree. In these cases, a wealth of additional opportunities are available, including continued funding by a research group; fellowships which support language study, travel, or dissertation research; and on- and off-campus positions teaching or exploring other career paths.
- AG Bell College Scholarship Program
- Hellenic Times Scholarship Fund
- Point Foundation Scholarship