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A Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) is the highest degree that is conferred after a course of study, by universities. PhDs or Doctorates are awarded for programs across the whole breadth of academic disciplines. PhD scholars are usually required to produce original research that expands the boundaries of knowledge, normally in the form of a thesis or dissertation. They defend their work in front of expert/s in the field.

It is interesting to note that a person who did his masters in Arts say MA in Sociology or English or masters in Science say MSc Botany or Physics or masters in Engineering say MTech in Electrical Engineering or Mechanical Engineering or masters in Management MBA, while going for higher education, is awarded a degree of Doctor of Philosophy PhD, on completion of stipulated requirements, notwithstanding the nomenclature or specialization of the academic discipline i.e. Arts, Science, Engineering or Management in which the previous highest degree was obtained.

This write up is an attempt to find out why the word “Doctor” and why the word “Philosophy” is used irrespective of the branch or discipline of knowledge in which the work is being carried out and the degree of Doctor of Philosophy is being conferred.

Doctor is an academic title that originates from the Latin word of the same spelling and meaning. The word is originally an agentive noun of the Latin verb docēre ‘to teach’. It has been used as an academic title in Europe since the 13th century, when the first doctorates were awarded at the University of Bologna and the University of Paris. Having become established in European universities, this usage spread around the world. “Dr” or “Dr.” is used as a prefix for a person who has obtained a doctorate i.e. PhD.

The Ph.D. can be awarded in a wide variety of fields, including the sciences, engineering and humanities. The term “philosophy,” does not refer solely to the field or academic disciple of philosophy, but is used in a broader sense in accordance with its original Greek meaning, which is ‘love of wisdom.’

There are two ways in which it may be reasoned why the term Philosophy is used in PhD.

One, the earliest doctoral degrees were in theology – Divinitatis Doctor or DD, law – Legum Doctor or LLD, later DCL and medicine – Medicinæ Doctor or MD, or DM, reflecting the historical separation of all higher University study into these three fields. Studies outside theology, law and medicine were then called “philosophy”, due to the Renaissance conviction that real knowledge could be derived from empirical observation. Studies in what once was called philosophy are now classified as sciences and humanities. Hence, most disciplines, other than few like medicine and law, have their roots in Philosophy. Accordingly the name of degree awarded is Doctor of Philosophy.

Two, the purpose of Research in Higher Education is advancement in the body of knowledge by adding to the existing body of knowledge, or challenging the existing knowledge in the form of theories, principles and postulates etc. or reinterpreting the existing knowledge.

Philosophy is the foundation of critical thinking. It brings the important questions to the table and works towards an answer. Philosophical methods include questioning, critical discussion, rational argument, and systematic presentation. These methods facilitate the work of research. Philosophy helps in analyzing concepts, definitions, arguments, and problems. It also helps in synthesizing a variety of views or perspectives into one unified whole. Philosophical thinking strongly emphasizes clear formulation of ideas and problems, selection of relevant data, and objective methods for assessing ideas and proposals. It also emphasizes development of a sense of the new directions suggested by new hypotheses and questions one encounters while doing research. As the father of the field of logic Aristotle was the first to develop a formalized system for reasoning. He observed that the validity of any argument can be determined by its structure rather than its content. Aristotle claimed that a human’s highest functioning must include reasoning.

This reasoning is based on my personal understanding.

To sum up, the word Doctor in Doctor of Philosophy refers to one who is licensed to or who can teach. And Philosophy being love of knowledge and wisdom provides methods and methodology to do effective research to broaden the base of knowledge.