200-Level Courses

Note about Prerequisites/Co-requisites for 200-level courses:
No course offered by the department at the 200-level carries any prerequisite except PHL201H1 which requires the completion of four Arts and Science full course equivalents (FCE’s) and PHL233H1 which has a co-requisite of 1.0 FCE in Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, Engineering, or Computer Science.



Prof. Peter King
Tuesdays and Thursdays 12:00-1:00

This course is a survey of ancient philosophy, covering the contributions  of Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, and Hellenistic Philosophy (which includes Stoicism, Skepticism, and Epicureanism).  The main focus will be on their  attempts to create philosophical systems of thought; hence we will look at problem and topics in metaphysics, theory of knowledge, philosophy of  psychology, ethics, and politics. The readings will be drawn from translations of the orginal source texts.

Readings: TBA

Evaluation: TBA



Prof. James Davies
Tuesdays 11:00-2:00

An introduction to philosophy focusing on the connections among its main branches: logic, theory of knowledge, metaphysics, and ethics. This course is intended for those with little or no philosophy background but who have completed four FCEs in any subject. We will focus on the nature of knowledge and scientific method; the existence and nature of free will and moral responsibility; the existence and nature of God; and the nature of the mind. This is a writing intensive (WIT) course – the assessment schedule includes an essay draft revision which will be assessed based on response to comments on a first draft.

Readings: TBA. There is no textbook for the course – readings will be provided.

Evaluation: argument summary, short essay draft one, short essay draft 2, long essay, midterm, final.



Prof. Deborah Black
Tuesdays and Thursdays 11:00-12:00

In this course we’ll read a variety philosophers from the Christian, Jewish, and Islamic traditions covering the period from the 4th to the 12th centuries CE including Augustine, Boethius, Anselm, and Abelard among Christian authors, and Avicenna (Ibn Sina), Maimonides (Moses ben Maimon), and Averroes (Ibn Rushd) among Islamic and Jewish authors. We’ll focus on the issues of central concern to these philosophers, including the relation between philosophy and religious belief, the existence and nature of God, freedom and determinism, and the problem of universals.

Readings: Arthur Hyman, J. J. Walsh, T. Williams, eds. Philosophy in the Middle Ages, 3d edition; other readings TBA.

Evaluation: Term work (details TBA, but will include at least one essay): 50%; 2-hour final examination: 35%; Tutorial/participation: 15%.



Prof. Deborah Black
Tuesdays and Thursdays 11:00-12:00

In this course we’ll read a variety of philosophical works from the 13th and 14th centuries, when the West first gained complete access to the works of Aristotle and the writings of Islamic and Jewish philosophers. The result was a period of intense philosophical speculation, controversy, and debate. We’ll focus on the issues of central concern to medieval philosophers, such as the existence of God, the eternity of the world, free choice, human nature and knowledge, and the relation between faith and reason. Some of the philosophers whom we’ll be reading are Thomas Aquinas, John Duns Scotus, and William of Ockham.

Readings: Arthur Hyman, J. J. Walsh, T. Willliams, eds. Philosophy in the Middle Ages, 3d  edition; other readings TBA.

Evaluation: Term work (details TBA, but will include at least one essay): 50%; 2-hour final examination: 35%; Tutorial/participation: 15%.



Prof. Jonathan Payton
Tuesdays 1:00-3:00

This course is an introduction to philosophical developments in Europe in the 17th and 18th centuries. Our focus will be on topics in metaphysics and epistemology: the basic nature of ourselves, the world around us, and of God; and the possible limits to our knowledge of these subjects. We will examine debates on these topics between the empiricists (roughly, those who believed that knowledge can come only through experience) and their opponents, and conclude by examining Immanuel Kant’s attempt to overcome these debates in his Critical philosophy. Key thinkers include Descartes, Leibniz, Locke, Hume, and Kant.

Readings: TBA

Evaluations: TBA



Prof. Mark Kingwell
Tuesdays and Thursdays 9:00-10:00

The primary aim of this course is to introduce students to the subject of continental philosophy, understood as the tradition of aesthetic theory, phenomenology, and cultural-critical theory that develops in Europe during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. We will raise questions concerning aesthetics, history, political systems, and culture, using ideas and methods that are rooted in the critical philosophy of the German Idealist school(s), flower fully in the “Skeptical Triumvirate” of Nietzsche, Marx, and Freud, and continue today in such figures as Zizek and Agamben.

Readings: TBA

Evaluations: TBA



Prof. Adam Murray
Mondays and Wednesdays 12:00-1:00

This course is an introduction to epistemology and metaphysics.

Broadly speaking, epistemology is the branch of philosophy that investigates the nature of knowledge, while metaphysics is the branch of philosophy that investigates the nature of reality. Topics to be covered in the course include the skeptical challenge and responses, the nature and structure of epistemic justification, the nature of causation, and the metaphysics of persistence and time.

Readings: TBA

Evaluations: Student evaluation will consist in a combination of in-class tests, a final examination, and a term paper.



Prof. Imogen Dickie
Monday and Wednesday 2:00-3:00

This course is an introduction to metaphysics (the study of the fundamental constituents of reality) and epistemology (the study of the conditions for knowledge) designed for students with backgrounds in mathematics and/or the sciences.

The course will be divided into four blocks:

Block 1 – Metaphysics: Causation. What does it really mean to say that one event ‘causes’ another? Do scientific theories uncover causal relations?

Block 2 – Epistemology. What kind of justification is required if it is to be rational to accept a scientific explanation of something? Does justification for our ordinary beliefs (like your belief that you are reading these words right now) work the same way as justification for beliefs in the elements of scientific theories?

Block 3 – Mathematics as a case study. Is mathematics ‘about’ some part of reality (the ‘mathematical realm’)? If it is, are numbers ‘objects’ in anything like the sense that tables and trees are? What is the role of mathematics in scientific theories? Could there be science without numbers?

Block 4 – Scientific progress and philosophical questions. What is the impact of scientific progress on ‘big’ traditional philosophical questions, for example the question of whether we have free will, and the question of whether there can be thought without consciousness?

Co-requisite: 1.0 FCE in Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, Engineering, or Computer Science.
Recommended Preparation: Background in science and/or mathematics will be presupposed.

Readings: TBA

Evaluations: participation grade; three or four short papers; mid term test; final exam.



Prof. Elmar Kremer
Monday, Wednesday and Friday 2:00

PHL 235S is an introduction to the philosophy of religion. The focus of the course will be on arguments dealing with the existence and nature of God. Other aspects of religion will also be discussed, although in less detail. The text for the course is . The text will be supplemented by readings that are available on-line or in e-journals at the University of Toronto library.

Reading: Brian Davies, Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion, third edition, Oxford University Press, 2004; Online readings.

Evaluation: One essay of 500-750 words (10%); Revision and expansion of first essay 1200-1500 words (20%); Mid-term test (15%); Final exam (48%); Participation in discussion groups (07%)



Prof. Vincent Shen
Mondays 5:00-7:00; Wednesdays 5:00-6:00

This is an introductory course (both historical and systematic) to the major philosophical traditions in China, such as Confucianism, Daoism, Bud­dhism, and their development from ancient to modern times in four periods: 1. the emergence of Confucianism, Daoism, and other minor schools; 2. the introduction of Buddhism and development of various sects of Chinese Mahayana Buddhism; 3. the development of Neo-Confucianism; 4. challenges from the West and later development. Major thinkers, basic concepts, texts, and their historical contexts will be the focus of discussion.

Reading: Fung Yu-lan, A Short History of Chinese Philosophy, New York: The Free Press, 1976. (that you may purchase at UofT Bookstore)

Evaluation: Attendance (15%), midterm in-class test (25%), final in- class test (25%) and term paper (35%).

Exclusion: EAS 241H1, which is the same course.



Prof. David Barnett
Mondays and Wednesdays 3:00-4:00

A traditional view holds that human life begins at conception, that an adult at the end of his or her life can be the same person who was once a child and who was before that that an embryo, and that this very same person will go on to survive the death of his or her body.  In this course, we will examine whether this traditional conception of human existence holds up to critical scrutiny.  Our central questions will include:  When, during the development of an embryo into an adult human being, does one’s existence begin?  Do fetuses have the same moral rights as adults?  What is a mind, and what is the mind’s relationship to the brain?  Do animals have minds, and could robots or computers have minds someday?  Do you have an immaterial soul that is capable of surviving the death of your body and brain?  When does one’s existence come to an end, and why is death bad?

Readings: A Dialogue on Personal Identity and Immortality, by John Perry; readings from the course website and from The Mind’s I: Fantasies and Reflections on Self and Soul, edited by Douglas Hofstadter and Daniel Dennett

Evaluations: One short writing assignment and a longer (2,000 word) paper, and midterm and final exams



Prof. Ronald De Sousa
Wednesdays 6:00-9:00

Philosophical issues about sex and sexual identity in the light of biological, psychological and ethical theories of sex and gender; the concept of gender; male and female sex roles; perverse sex; sexual liberation; love and sexuality.

Readings: TBA

Evaluations: TBA



Prof. Jim John
Monday and Wednesday 1:30-3:00

What kinds of beings are we? And what kind of life is best for us? We will examine some of the most historically influential answers to these questions offered by philosophers from around the world. In doing so, our focus will be on the very idea of a distinctive and universal “human nature”: is there really any such thing and in what way would its existence matter? Topics to be addressed: nature vs. nurture, evolution, mind and body, personal identity, free will, essentialism vs. social constructionism, and more.

Readings: TBA

Evaluations: TBA



Prof. Alex Koo
Mondays 10:00-12:00 and Wednesdays 10:00-11:00 (F-Term)

Mondays 3:00-5:00 and Wednesdays 3:00-4:00 (S-Term)

Logic is a central pillar of philosophy that has its roots in ancient civilizations. Aristotle was one of the first to formalize the discipline into a highly applicable system for analyzing arguments. Logic was modernized by Frege at the end of the 19th century, and also by Russell and Whitehead at the start of the 20th century. Since then, logical tools have become essential in many areas of analytic philosophy such as philosophy of science, philosophy of language, and epistemology.

Modern Symbolic Logic is a purely technical course in first-order logic. Students will learn the meaning of logical symbols and develop the skills for performing derivations in both propositional and predicate logic. These tools allow for an abstract analysis of arguments, help develop critical and logical thinking skills, lead to a more precise understanding of natural language, and ultimately result in better reading and writing skills.

This is a hybrid course. Video lectures will be posted online, and face-to-face class time will be flipped and focused on problem solving and skill development.

Readings: Online texts.

Evaluation: 11 Weekly Online Quizzes; Four Tests; Final Examination.


Prof. Franz Huber
Mondays 6:00-9:00

Probability and Inductive Logic is an introduction to the mathematical theory of probability and its applications in philosophy. On the philosophical side we will mainly be concerned with the so-called problem of induction and its reception in the philosophy of science, where it is discussed under the heading of ‘confirmation theory.’ On the mathematical side we will study propositional and predicate logic as well as elementary set theory in order to be able to formulate the theory of probability.

Readings: TBA

Evaluation: 8 Short Assignments (40%); Mid-Term Examination (20%); Final Examination (40%)



Prof. Shruta Swarup
Monday and Wednesday 12:00-1:00

This course will introduce some central concerns of political philosophy.  We will ask questions like these: What principles and ideals should guide the state?  Is equality a requirement of justice?  Are liberty and equality conflicting ideals?  Should the state be neutral between conceptions of the good?  What is oppression?  Is there a duty to obey the law?  Do groups have rights, and if so, do such collective rights inherently conflict with individual rights?

Readings: TBA

Evaluation: TBA



Prof. Joseph Heath
Wednesdays 12:00-3:00

What is the difference between engaging in social criticism and simply complaining about other people? One difference is that great social critics have gone beyond merely identifying the flaws in society, and have developed new theories of why society exhibits these flaws. Karl Marx complained that “philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways; the point, however, is to change it.” Changing the world, however, usually requires developing a better understanding of it. Social criticism has been a major force in developing new ways of looking at and of understanding society. In this course, we will be reading several of the most important works of 20th century social criticism, representing a range of different political perspectives.

Readings: Thorstein Veblen, The Theory of the Leisure Class; Sigmund Freud, Civilization and its Discontents; Jane Jacobs, The Death and Life of Great American Cities; Germaine Greer, The Female Eunuch; Thomas Schelling, Micromotives and Macrobehavior; 

Evaluation: TBA



Prof. David Dyzenhaus
Mondays 6:00-9:00

In this course, we will examine some of the most important debates in contemporary legal philosophy by asking a series of questions about the relationship between law and morality. We will start with some questions about the nature of law and the role of moral principles in adjudication. How do we know what the law is?  Does correctly identifying and applying the law ever require a judge to engage in controversial moral argument?  Then we will look at two important values, liberty and equality.  We will examine the different ways in which legal systems have understood these values, and we will ask which kinds of liberty and which kinds of equality should matter to us.  Which liberties should the state protect?  What limits does this place on majority rule?  Do judges really have the power to constrain the majority, when they infringe the liberties of minorities?  Should they have this power?  Should the state always treat everyone equally?  What does it mean to treat everyone equally, and why do we care about this?  Do we care primarily about social and political status –the absence of domination and of second-class citizens?  Or do we care about the equal distribution of certain important opportunities?

Readings: We will use the text Dyzenhaus, Moreau and Ripstein, eds., Law and Morality: Readings in Legal Philosophy (University of Toronto Press, third edition, 2003).

Evaluation: in-class test (20%), in-class essay (30%), essay due on the last day of term (2400 words maximum, 50%).



Prof. Jordan Thomson
Tuesday and Thursday 12:00-1:30

When we think about morality, we usually think about obligations we have to other human beings. But we have relationships to all kinds of other things, including non-human animals and the planet we share with them. These relationships raise ethical questions of their own: Do non-human animals have rights? Is the environment valuable in itself or only in virtue of its benefits to humans? How should we deal with conflicts between our duties to human beings and those we may have to the natural environment?In this course, we will critically examine issues such as these.

Reading: TBA

Evaluation: TBA



Prof. Jordan Thomson
Tuesday and Thursday 12:00-1:00

Ethical theories represent a systematic attempt to provide answers to difficult questions about the nature of right and wrong and how we ought to act. This course is a general introduction to such theories. We will begin by talking about what such theories are, what we think they should be able to do, and why. We will also ask general questions about whether any such theory could possibly be true instead of, say, merely a collection of social norms or opinions. In the second section, we will examine and critically evaluate a wide selection of ethical theories with an eye to understanding what motivates them, their practical consequences, and their ultimate plausibility.

Readings: TBA

Evaluation: TBA



Prof. Andrew Franklin-Hall
Mondays and Wednesdays 1:00-2:00

This course will examine ethical and political issues relating to health care and medical research from a philosophical point of view.  Questions to be examined include the following:  When, if ever, should doctors act contrary to the will of the patient?  When is a patient incapable of making his own decisions, and how should decisions be made for him?  Under what circumstances is it legitimate to experiment on human subjects?  Is abortion morally defensible?  Should genetic engineering of human beings be permitted?  Under what circumstances, if any, should doctors assist patients in dying?  What is the just way to distribute health care resources?  These are all urgent practical issues, but they also raise profound philosophical questions about the nature of life and death, the contours and limits of our right to autonomy, our responsibilities for the well-being of others, the relationship between therapeutic care and knowledge production, and what it is to be human

Readings: TBA

Evaluation: TBA



Prof. Peter King
Mondays and Wednesday 12-1:30

This course is an introduction to aesthetics, with an emphasis on the philosophical questions that are posed by the particular arts, so that in addition to general questions about what counts as an artwork and whether aesthetic judgments are objective, we will consider particular issues about the representationality of painting, how performances are part of the artwork in drama, whether narrative participatory activities such as video games count as art, and the like.  The readings will be drawn mostly from classic and contemporary philosophical sources.

Reading: TBA

Evaluation: TBA



Mondays 6:00-9:00

This course will ask questions about two main topics:

  1. Corporations. What are the moral obligations of CEOs? Is their only moral obligation to shareholders, e.g., to secure a reasonable or maximal return on shareholder investments? Or do they also have moral obligations to stakeholders, e.g., to provide just wages or to limit pollution? How do fiduciary obligations interact with non-fiduciary, everyday moral obligations? How opposed in the end is profit-maximizing behavior and moral behavior? When a corporation commits a crime or, say, harms the environment, who should be held morally responsible?
  2. Specific business actions. Are sweatshops unjust? Do CEOS get paid too much? Is advertising a blameworthy form of deception? Is it morally permissible to engage in price gouging? What responsibilities, if any, do businesses have to provide meaningful work for their employees? What environmental responsibilities do business have?

Along the way, we’ll be conducting inquiries in two main ways. The first way can be thought of as building moral norms out of business practice, or, more specifically, as considering managers to have professional obligations or role-based duties that determine which behaviour is ethical for them qua managers. The second way is by applying moral norms to the business context, such that, e.g., we consider what our best moral theories would say about such behaviour as price gouging or sweatshop labour.

Reading: TBA

Evaluation: TBA