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. Jessica Gelber
Monday and Wednesday 12:00-1:00

This course is an introduction to some of the main figures and problems in Ancient Greek Philosophy. We will read texts spanning from the Presocratics through Hellenistic philosophers, but the majority of our attention will be given to Socrates, Plato and Aristotle. Our goal will be to understand not only what the views these thinkers held were, but also why they held them and how they argued for them. When we engage in this activity, we are doing philosophy. So, this course is also an introduction to philosophy itself.

Readings: Plato, Five Dialogues (Hackett), Protagoras (Hackett), Republic (Hackett); Aristotle, The Basic Works of Aristotle (Modern Library); Hellenistic Philosophy (Hackett)

Evaluation: Essays, exams, and tutorial participation (details TBA)


Prof. Mason Westfall
Friday 12:00-3:00

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.

Readings: TBA

Evaluation: TBA


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. Michael Rosenthal
Tuesdays 2:00-4:00

Between the late sixteenth and late eighteenth centuries, political and scientific revolutions would stamp Europe with what we can now recognize as the hallmarks of modernity.  This course will survey the development of philosophy in this period.  We will study in some detail philosophical texts from both the so-called “rationalist” and “empiricist” traditions and conclude with an examination of Immanuel Kant’s critique and synthesis of these traditions.  Although we shall focus on metaphysical and epistemological questions and their implications for scientific inquiry, we shall also touch upon questions of ethics, politics, and medicine.

Readings: Among the figures we will read are Descartes, Spinoza, Elisabeth of Bohemia, Leibniz, Ann Conway, Locke, Berkeley, Hume, and Kant.  The source for our readings will be:  Ariew and Watkins, eds., Modern Philosophy: An Anthology of Primary Sources, Third Edition.

Evaluation: Over the year you will write four short (maximum of 1500 words each) papers (two each semester), which will be worth 60% of your grade.  There will be a final exam worth 15% of the final grade.  Weekly discussion questions will count for another 15% and attendance and participation will count for 10%.


Prof. Robert Gibbs
Tuesdays and Thursdays 10:00-11:00

This course explores a series of efforts to find a meaning for being human in a world dominated by inhumane (and so all too-human) social and political orders. Each thinker claims modern philosophy directly contributes to our predicament, and so each must reinterpret philosophy. This search for meaning raises challenging questions about ethics, about the limits of our knowledge and about how language does more than simply name the world. As a result these authors avoid writing in a straight-forward argumentative style so that they engage the reader in more complex and creative ways. Our focus will be learning how thinking arises by reading basic texts from a variety of thinkers, including Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Heidegger, Levinas and Derrida.

Readings: Kierkegaard Philosophical Fragments (Trans. Hong and Hong); Nietzsche, On The Genealogy of Morals; Heidegger, “Letter on Humanism” in Basic Writings (ed. By David Farrell Krell) Revised edition; Levinas, 1) “Is Ontology Fundamental?” 2) “Meaning and Sense” in Basic Philosophical Writings (ed by Peperzak, Critchley, and Bernasconi).; Derrida, “Ends of Man” in Margins of Philosophy (trans. By Alan Bass)

Evaluations: Tentative: 2 essays (7 pages, double-spaced) (25% each), A final exam (25%) Tutorial Participation (25%)


Prof. Michael Caie
Mondays and Wednesdays 4:00-5:00

The first part of the course will be a general introduction to the theory of knowledge and  justification. We will consider what it is for a belief to be reasonable or justified, and what it is for one to know something. We will also look closely at skeptical arguments which appear to show, given plausible premisses, that we in fact know much less than we take ourselves to know.

The second part of the course will focus on some central issues in metaphysics including: causation, what it is for something to persist through time, and the nature of time.

Reading: TBA

Evaluation: One paper, Mid-term test, final exam, participation in discussion sections.


Prof. Alex Koo
Tuesday and Thursday 11:00-12:00

STEM students typically focus on developing technical skills in order to succeed as a practitioner in their discipline. A common by-product of this singular focus is a lack of critical reflection about the discipline itself. The reality is that every STEM discipline faces deep philosophical issues at its core. In addition, philosophy has to incorporate the technical results from the sciences to remain relevant. The principle aim of this course is to explore some of the philosophical issues that both lie at the foundation of and arise from STEM.

This course will be a survey of six metaphysical and epistemic topics related to philosophy and STEM: scientific realism, physics and free will, medicine and disease, mathematics, mind and computation, and scientific models. Each topic will be centered around a single question: Does science describe reality?, Does relativity exclude the possibility of free will?, Are diseases natural kinds or are they social constructs?, What is the subject matter of mathematics?, Can we create a mind on a machine?, and How do abstract models tell us anything about the physical world?.

Students who complete this course will have a grasp of basic metaphysics and epistemology that will be sufficient to continue on in 2nd year Philosophy courses. Students will develop their critical reading, writing, and thinking skills through assignments and tutorial activities.

No prior philosophical knowledge is required to succeed in this course.

Readings: Primary sources made available online.

Evaluations: Tutorial; short writing assignments; final exam.


Prof. Simona Vucu
Monday, Wednesday and Friday 12:00-1:00

This course will focus on general issues in the philosophy of religion. We will start with a discussion about the nature of religion. Then, we will focus on some philosophical issues that arise from two different ways of conceptualizing religion, namely as primarily a set of beliefs  (e.g., the belief in the existence of a god, or a certain kind of god) or as primarily a set of practices (e.g., prayer, ritual observances). Some of these issues concern the question of the rationality of religious beliefs, their differences from other kinds of beliefs (e.g., political convictions), and the right framework for understanding the concept of practice as applied to religion. We will end the course with a discussion of the standing of animals in religion.

Readings: TBA

Evaluation: Attendance and Participation, 15% ; First Essay, 25% ; Second Essay, 30% Final Exam 30%


Prof. David Barnett
Tuesday and Thursday 11:00-12:00

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 same person will go on to survive the death of his or her body. Does this traditional conception of human existence hold up to critical scrutiny? In this introductory philosophy course, we will address such fundamental questions of human existence as: When does life begin? When during the development of an embryo into an adult human being does one acquire moral rights? What is a mind, and what is the mind’s relationship to the brain? Do animals have minds? 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 life end,and why is it bad? Do human beings in a persistent vegetative state have the same right to life that most adult humans have? No prior background in philosophy will be presupposed, although a willingness to ask difficult questions and develop careful and methodical reasoning in support of one’s answers will be essential.

Readings: The Mind’s I: Fantasies and Reflections on Self and Soul, edited by Douglas Hofstadter and Daniel Dennett; PhilosophyofMind:ClassicalandContemporaryReadings, 2nded., edited by David J. Chalmers; A Dialogue on Personal Identity and Immortality, by John Perry

Evaluation: One short (500 word) paper, one medium length (1,500 word) paper, a midterm exam, a final exam, and tutorial participation.


Prof. Belinda Piercy
Wednesdays 6:00-9:00

This course will examine philosophical arguments concerning a range of issues related to human sexuality. Despite the common idea that sexual desire is a straightforward physical need like scratching an itch, most of us have also encountered the complexity of sexual experience. Sexual desire itself involves the complexity of playing the role of both an active subject who looks with desire at another and a passive object who is admired in turn. These roles are not always easy for us to accept, or combine, and have deep connections to cultural ideas about femininity and masculinity. Sexuality also raises a host of important but difficult questions: should sex be tied to romantic love? Should we be monogamous? What are we doing when we use porn? Is there something morally wrong with prostitution? How do I know that someone has consented to sexual activity: do they need to shout ‘Yes!’ or is it enough that they haven’t shouted ‘No!’? In this course we will look at the reflections philosophers have given to these and other questions, from ancient thinks like Plato to the existentialists Sartre and Beauvoir, up to present day philosophers like Alan Goldman, Thomas Nagel, Martha Nussbaum, and David Benatar.

Readings: TBA

Evaluations: TBA


Prof. Brendan De Kenessey
Tuesday and Thursday 1:00-2:30

In this course, we will investigate three central questions about our nature as human beings. First, what are we? Are we immaterial souls, collections of memories and other psychological states, physical bodies, or something else? Second, are we good or evil? Are human beings innately selfish, or are we capable of genuine moral virtue? Third, do we have free will? Can we be held responsible for our actions if they are the inevitable result of the laws of nature?

Readings: TBA

Evaluation: TBA (will consist primarily of class participation and writing assignments)


Prof. Alex Koo
Mondays 10:00-12:00 and Wednesdays 10:00-11:00 (F-Term)
Tuesdays 1:00-3:00 and Thursdays 1:00 (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 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, leads to a more precise understanding of natural language, and result in better reading and writing skills. All these skills are essential to the practice of philosophy, and are extremely useful for excelling in other technical disciplines as well as standardized tests such as the LSAT.

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: TBA

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


Prof. Franz Huber
Monday and Wednesday 5:00-6:30

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 normally 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.

The first two weeks will provide us with the relevant background in logic and set theory.

During the next three to four weeks will cover Hume’s argument for the thesis that we cannot justify induction; Hempel’s work on the logic of confirmation and the ravens’ paradox; Popper’s falsificationism and hypothetico-deductive confirmation; as well as Kolmogorov’s axiomatization of the probability calculus.

During the following three to four weeks we will cover Carnap’s inductive logic and philosophy of induction; Goodman’s philosophy of induction and the new riddle of induction; Haack’s comparison between deduction and induction; and the Dutch Book argument for subjective, or Bayesian, probabilities.

The last three weeks will be devoted to Bayesian confirmation theory and the distinction between absolute versus incremental confirmation; Lewis’ principal principle relating subjective credences and objective chances; and Reichenbach’s “straight(-forward) rule” and the strong law of large numbers.

Along the way we will come across probability puzzles such as Bertrand’s paradox and von Mises’ wine/water paradox, as well as paradoxes from logic and set theory such as the liar paradox and Russell’s paradox.

Reading: Huber, Franz (2018), A Logical Introduction to Probability and Induction. New York: Oxford University Press.

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


Prof. Mark Kingwell

Tuesday 9:00-11:00, Thursday 9:00-10:00

The internet and digital technology have had a transformative impact on the economy, society and politics, art and culture, and everyday life. This course explores the fascinating, often urgent, new philosophical questions raised by these changes as well as the way they invite a rethinking of many older philosophical questions. Topics to be addressed may include artificial intelligence and the singularity; identity through social media; digital ownership and privacy; and collective/distributed knowledge and its relation to information, among others.

Reading: TBA

Evaluation: TBA


Prof. Joseph Heath
Tuesday and Thursday 11:00-12:00

Political philosophy deals with the fundamental question of how the organized coercive power of society should be employed. Whereas moral philosophy is concerned with what one ought to do, political philosophy is interested in what one can be forced to do. In our society, the prevailing answer to this question is given by a body of doctrine that is referred to as “liberalism.” This course will constitute an introduction to the history of liberal thought, along with its emerging commitment to individual rights, egalitarian civil relations and democratic governance. We begin with the rejection of medieval political ideas and the rise of social contract theory from the 17th century through to the French Revolution. We then trace out the long-term decline of liberal political philosophy during the 19th century, culminating in the near-triumph of totalitarianism in the 20th century. We will conclude by examining the dramatic re-emergence of liberalism as the dominant political ideology in the late 20th century.

Readings: Alfarabi, The Political Regime; Hobbes, Leviathan; Locke, Second Treatise of Government; Mill, On Liberty; Rawls, A Theory of Justice (selections)

Evaluation:Midterm writing assignment (25%); Final writing assignment (30%); Two hour faculty final exam (30%); Tutorial attendance and participation (15%).


Prof. Sophia Moreau
Mondays 7:00-9:00

Justifications for the legal enforcement of morality; particular ethical issues arising out of the intersection of law and morality, such as punishment, freedom of expression and censorship, autonomy and paternalism, constitutional protection of human rights.

Readings: TBA

Evaluation: TBA


Prof. Jordan Thomson
Tuesday and Thursday 5:00-6:30

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 these issues.

Reading: TBA

Evaluation: TBA


Prof. Tom Hurka
Monday and Wednesday 12:00-1:00

This course will introduce the main questions of moral philosophy, under three main headings. 1) The Nature of Morality: Do moral judgements apply universally or are they all relative to a particular society or person? What is the relation between morality and religion? Can moral judgements be objectively true or do they merely express emotions? 2) Moral Principles: What are the most general principles that determine which actions are right and which are wrong? Do these principles tell us always to do what will bring about the most good, and, if so, what does that good consist in? Or is it sometimes wrong to do what will have the best result? If so, why? 3) Ap­plied Ethics: How does philosophy help us solve particular moral problems such as ones about world hunger, euthanasia, and war?

Reading: Course reader.

Evaluation: Essay 1 (20%); Essay 2 (35%); Final Exam (35%); Participation (10%)


Prof. Andrew Franklin-Hall
Tuesday and Thursday 12:00-1:00

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 theoretical questions about the nature of life and death, the contours and limits of our right toautonomy, our responsibilities for the well-being of others, the relationship between therapeutic care and knowledge production, and what it is to be human.

Readings: Readings will be chiefly drawn from Lewis Vaughn (ed.), Bioethics: Principles, Issues, and Cases (Oxford University Press, 2013).

Evaluation: TBA


Prof. Francesco Gagliaridi
Mondays and Wednesday 1:30-3:00

This course will offer an introductory survey of some of the ways philosophers have thought about art from classical antiquity to modern times. The course will be structured around three complementary approaches: close readings of primary texts, surveys of specific philosophical issues regarding art, and broader surveys of major art historical developments.

The primary texts we’ll be reading include classical texts from the Western philosophical canon (Plato, Aristotle, Hume, Kant), more recent texts in the analytic philosophical tradition (Danto, Dickie, Carroll), as well as texts more properly belonging to the field of critical theory, loosely defined (Benjamin, Barthes, Nochlin), and texts written by artists and art theorists whose views have been enduringly relevant to the philosophical study of art (Tolstoy, Bell).

The philosophical surveys will help us put our primary texts into context by providing an overview of the questions they are responding to, and of the larger philosophical conversations they are part of.

The art historical surveys will help us establish a common understanding of some of the key developments in the history of Western art; while this is not an art history class, it will be important not to lose sight of what is supposed to be our actual subject matter: the art itself.

Some of the questions we’ll be working through are the following: What is art and why does it matter? How does representation work? How do we distinguish works of art from mere objects: can a urinal be turned into art just in virtue of an artist’s designating it as such? What is the relationship between artistic value and moral value: can art with morally objectionable content still have artistic merit? How has the advent of technologies of mass reproduction and distribution (photography, social media) affected the status of art works?

Through a number of written assignments you will improve your abilities to read, understand and summarize difficult philosophical material, to analyze, evaluate and respond to philosophical arguments, and to communicate your ideas in clear and concise prose.

Reading: TBA

Evaluation: Term work (75%); 2-hour final examination (25%)


Prof. Mason Westfall
Wednesday 6:00-9:00

Philosophical issues in ethics, social theory, and theories of human nature insofar as they bear on contemporary conduct of business. Issues include: Does business have moral responsibilities? Can social costs and benefits be calculated? Does modern business life determine human nature or the other way around? Do political ideas and institutions such as democracy have a role within business?

Reading: TBA

Evaluation: TBA