PhD in Philosophy, Cosmology, and Consciousness

California Institute of Integral Studies

Program Description

PhD in Philosophy, Cosmology, and Consciousness

California Institute of Integral Studies

The PCC program has been designed to help shape the intellectual, moral, and spiritual leadership necessary for meeting historic global challenges.

Drawing upon some of the most powerful ideas and impulses of our philosophical, scientific, and religious traditions, the faculty has constructed an intensive multidisciplinary course of study to help accelerate students' journeys into their particular leadership roles within this work.

Students may earn either their MA or PhD, with a track in Integral Ecology, if they choose (see below for more on the Integral Ecology track).

Both the MA and the PhD programs strive to embrace the degree goals throughout the curriculum, and should be understood in the context of an overarching commitment to the cultivation of creative vitality and spiritual insight.

PhD Program Goals and Student Learning Outcomes

The Philosophy, Cosmology, and Consciousness program endeavors to cultivate in its graduate students both intellectual rigor and sympathetic imaginative faculties for entering fruitfully into a multiplicity of world views, historical eras, and cultural sensibilities. By understanding transformative historical and contemporary ideas, students develop the ability to discern vibrantly creative possibilities for bringing about life-enhancing futures.

The PCC PhD program encompasses all the PCC MA goals, requiring greater sophistication and nuance in scholarly work from PhD students, and adds two additional goals for PhD students.

Goal 1: Global Change Agents

To generate creative and effective thinking about the unprecedented evolutionary challenge of the ecological, cultural, and spiritual crisis that is currently facing the human and nonhuman members of the Earth community.

Student Learning Outcome 1:

Students will be able to articulate sophisticated critiques of the causes and consequences of the current global crises, reflecting an understanding of human embeddedness in the planetary community.

Student Learning Outcome 2:

In response to the currently dominant worldview, students will be able to generate alternatives that promote a sustainable and flourishing future for the broader Earth community.

Goal 2: Sophisticated Evaluation

To develop and apply appreciative and critical evaluations of major transitions in Western world views that have contributed to the current planetary situation.

Student Learning Outcome 3:

Students will be able to speak and write cogently about the nature of world views for a variety of scholarly and popular audiences.

Student Learning Outcome 4:

Students will be able to critically reflect upon the history and evolution of Western world views.

Student Learning Outcome 5:

Students will be able to critically engage with dominant paradigmatic elements in the history of ideas and culture, with a focus on Western world views.

Goal 3: Transdisciplinarity

To critique, evaluate, and apply transdisciplinary scholarship.

Student Learning Outcome 6:

Students will demonstrate competence in transdisciplinary thinking by integrating content and frameworks from at least two disciplines to create scholarly products.

Student Learning Outcome 7:

Students will be able to critically engage with research approaches from a diversity of perspectives (e.g., religious and spiritual traditions, historical, and scientific perspectives).

Goal 4: Inner and outer evolution

To clarify and expand the relevance of ideas studied to one’s personal life and aspirations, with an eye to their implications for the transformation of culture and society at large.

Student Learning Outcome 8:

Students will be able to build connections between their studies, their personal lives, and the larger communities in which they are embedded.

Student Learning Outcome 9:

Students will be able to tap into and express individual creativity through personal and/or scholarly communication.

Goal 5: Historical knowledge

To analyze the evolution of Western thought, through the ideas of major figures of Western intellectual and spiritual history, in relation to the challenges of the present moment.

Student Learning Outcome 10:

Students will be able to pass two comprehensive exams, one of which will demonstrate comprehension of principal ideas and themes in the development of Western thought as reflected in the PCC Guide to Important Texts (available in PCC office or on MyCIIS,, on the PCC Program Page).

Student Learning Outcome 11:

Students will be able to demonstrate familiarity with the relevant moments in the history of Western thought in the formal treatment of the dissertation topic.

Goal 6: Original Contribution

To produce a work of original scholarship of publishable quality that engages ideas from a transdisciplinary perspective, including a sufficient mastery in depth of at least one subject area, with an eye to the paradigmatic assumptions and implications for the transformation of culture and society at large.

Student Learning Outcome 12:

Students will be able to present the research and ideas that will form the basis of the dissertation in a well-organized and persuasive public lecture to the PCC community of faculty and students.

Student Learning Outcome 13:

Students will be able to write a dissertation that offers a substantial and original contribution to scholarship, and is certified as such by at least two PCC faculty members. Dissertation is not to exceed 250 pages.

PhD Language Recommendation

Ph.D. students may be required to demonstrate proficiency in one foreign language if it is deemed essential for the student’s dissertation research. Language proficiency may be demonstrated by having passed two years of course work in the study of a language, or by achieving a satisfactory score on the ETS.

PhD Comprehensive Examinations

The standard format consists of an annotated bibliography along with a discussion paper that forms the basis for a dialogue between the student and the supervisor. At least one of the exams must be taken with a PCC faculty member. Ideally, all other coursework must be completed (though it is possible to do one of the examinations concurrently with a last course). Each comprehensive exam must be completed in one semester. See the PCC Program Handbook for more details.

The PCC general comprehensive exam consists of a 20-to-25-page essay drawing from the PCC recommended reading list and other relevant sources, situated in the context of the first and/or second of the PCC PhD learning goals. With the recommendation of the student's PCC faculty mentor and the PCC chair, a student may opt for an oral comprehensive exam as an alternative to the written exam.

The second/specialized comprehensive exam prepares the student for the framing of the dissertation proposal by reviewing the literature of the student's field of interest. The exam consists of a reading list and a 20-to-25-page essay, to be followed up by a discussion with faculty.

PhD Dissertation

The PCC faculty direct dissertations in two broad specializations: Integral Ecology and Cosmology, and Archetypal and Consciousness Studies. After successfully completing both comprehensive exams, the student may begin working on the dissertation proposal. The dissertation proposal must be finished in three semesters; a student may petition his or her mentor in writing for an extra semester, but it should not be assumed that such an extension would be granted. If an extension is granted, the student will elect one semester of the supervised Proposal Completion Seminar (PARP 6900). Once the proposal is completed and approved by a three-person committee, the student may begin writing the dissertation proper. Throughout the dissertation writing process, the student registers for 0 (zero) units/flat fee.

PhD Admissions Requirements

Admission to the Philosophy, Cosmology, and Consciousness PhD program is increasingly selective. It is independent of admission to the MA program and requires a separate admissions application. An applicant for the PhD must have done outstanding work at the MA level (see “MA Program Goals,” above). In addition, the PhD applicant must (1) identify at least one PCC core faculty member who would be appropriate to serve as a mentor in the PhD program and a second faculty member who would be able and willing to serve on the dissertation committee; (2) show close familiarity with that faculty member’s particular area of expertise; and (3) demonstrate the necessary preparation and motivation for specializing in that area (or areas), especially with respect to research leading to the dissertation. The materials required for application are an autobiography, a two-to-four-page statement of goals, a writing sample, two letters of recommendation, and transcripts.

Those admitted into the doctoral concentration who do not have an MA from CIIS in Philosophy, Cosmology, and Consciousness may be required to complete up to an additional 18 units of coursework (minus equivalencies) from the core section of the MA curriculum.

This school offers programs in:
  • English

Last updated October 23, 2017
Duration & Price
This course is Campus based
Start Date
Start date
Sept. 2018
2 years
Full time
USA - San Francisco, California
Start date: Sept. 2018
Application deadline Request Info
End date Request Info
Sept. 2018
USA - San Francisco, California
Application deadline Request Info
End date Request Info

Student Rountable: Philosophy, Cosmology, and Consciousness

CIIS Faculty Discuss Philosophy

Intro to PCC - Elizabeth Allison on Ecology, Spirituality, and Religion (1 of 2)

Intro to PCC - Elizabeth Allison on Ecology, Spirituality, and Religion (2 of 2)