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
Tuesdays and Thursdays 12:00-1:00

Central texts of the pre-Socratics, Plato, Aristotle, and post-Aristotelian philosophy.

Readings: TBA

Evaluation: TBA


Prof. Benjamin Wald
Wednesdays 12:00-3:00

In this course, we will explore ethics, metaphysics, and epistemology through consideration of characteristic debates within each field. Along with the specific content of each unit, we will focus throughout on learning how to identify the premises, conclusion, and logical form of philosophical arguments, and how to use this to criticize these arguments and formulate our own—a skill that is invaluable both within and outside of philosophy.

Readings: All readings will be available through blackboard

Evaluation: 1) Argument formulation exercises- (30%); 2) Exegetical essay- (15%); 3) Critical essay- (20%); 4) Final exam- (35%)


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 Szlachta
Tuesdays 1:00-3:00

The scientific revolution transformed how philosophers thought about human knowledge, making the early modern period one of the most important for epistemology in Western intellectual history. In this course, we will examine how early modern philosophers understood the nature of human knowledge. What do I know? How do I know it? What is the relationship between knowledge, reason, and the senses? We will first study the accounts of knowledge developed by two schools of thinkers in this period, namely, the rationalists (René Descartes and Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz) and the empiricists (George Berkeley and David Hume). We will then consider Immanuel Kant’s critical philosophy as a response to these two schools. Throughout the course, we will also examine some of the contributions made by women philosophers, including Elisabeth of Bohemia, Mary Astell, and Mary Shepherd.

Readings: Modern Philosophy: An Anthology of Primary Sources. Edited by Roger Ariew and Eric Watkins. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, 1998. ;Women Philosophers of the Early Modern Period. Edited by Margaret Atherton. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, 1994.

Evaluation: Attendance and participation, 10%; First Essay, 15% (1200 words); Second Essay, 15% (1200 words); Third Essay, 15% (1200 words); Fourth Essay, 15% (1200 words); Final Exam, 30%


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 https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/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: TBA


Prof. Michael Caie
Mondays and Wednesdays 2:00-3:00

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. Cory Lewis
Tuesday and Thursday 1:00-2:00

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 three blocks:

Block 1 – Epistemology. How do we sort through the tangle of appearances to work out what is true? How are theories and observations related?

Block 2 – Metaphysics. How are causal relations identified? Is the world made up exclusively of fundamental particles, or do ordinary objects also count as ‘real’?

Block 3 – 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?

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: Online texts

Evaluations: Participation grade; Three short papers; Mid term test; Final exam.


Prof. Charlie Cooper-Simpson
Monday, Wednesday and Friday 2:00

This course will offer an introduction to the philosophy of religion. We will focus primarily on the history of philosophical thinking about the nature of God and of the relationship (moral and epistemological) between God and human beings.

Readings: TBA

Evaluation: TBA


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. Jim John
Mondays and Wednesdays 2:00-3:00

This course is an introduction to two central issues in metaphysics: the problem of personal identity and the mind-body problem.  Questions to be addressed include:  What is a person?  What is the nature of the self?  How is a person’s mental nature including her personality, beliefs, desires, and conscious experiences related to her bodily nature especially her brain and central nervous system? Can a person survive the death of his body?  Is consciousness a physical process?

Though metaphysical issues will be front and center, we will also discuss a range of moral, political, and even existential questions to do with personhood, minds and bodies, and life and death.

Readings: TBA

Evaluation: TBA


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 DeKennesey
Tuesday and Thursday 1:30-3:00

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. Cory Lewis
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)

This course will introduce students to modern symbolic logic, a system of formal deductive reasoning. Students will learn the meaning of logical symbols in sentential and predicate logic, how to translate natural language sentences into logical notation, and how to deductively prove conclusions from premises.

These skills are fundamental to understanding the methods common throughout modern philosophy. Logical notation is common throughout contemporary philosophy, but even more common is the use of semi-formal proofs which draw upon the style of reasoning developed in this course. Further, learning these techniques is of enormous practical utility. Being able to identify the logical form of statements and arguments, and construct logically valid arguments, substantially improves one’s critical thinking abilities.

Readings: Online texts

Evaluation: 10 Weekly Online Quizzes; Four Tests; Final Examination


Prof. Franz Huber
Mondays and Wednesdays 7:00-8:30

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 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.

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. Arthur Ripstein
Monday and Wednesday 12:00-1:00

Modern states claim to be entitled to tell people what to do and to force them to do as they are told. They claim the power to regulate many aspects of life, to enforce property rights, to collect taxes and decide how to spend them, and give their officials powers that private persons lack. These powers are made more puzzling by the thought that nobody is entitled to rule by birth. In the course we will look at philosophical accounts of the basis of these remarkable powers, including such questions as: under what conditions could they be legitimate? Are there limits on their legitimate exercise? How are they related to ideas about freedom and equality? Our primary texts will be drawn from the social contract tradition. Writers in that tradition seek to justify the state’s powers by constructing an account of life in a “state of nature” without political institutions, and arguing that people in such a condition would have adequate reasons to set up a state. The authors we will read have very different conceptions of what life in such a condition would be like, and very different views about what it would be for the state to solve them. As a result, they also have different conceptions of the powers that a legitimate state could have.

Readings: In addition to classic discussions by Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau and Kant, we will also read contemporary versions of their positions, and important critiques of the social contract enterprise by Hume and Marx.

Evaluation: TBA


Prof. Benjamin Wald
Tuesdays and Thursdays 12:00-1:00

This course will explore the relation between law and morality. The first section will focus on the nature of law itself, and whether this nature makes essential reference to morality. Must a legal system meet some set of moral norms in order to count as law at all? The second part of the course will explore particular ethical issues within the law. We will cover the proper extent of the criminal law, whether pornography ought to be criminalized, and the legitimacy of judicial review.

Readings: All readings available on Blackboard

Course Evaluation:First Paper- (25%); Second Paper- (25%); Final Exam- (35%); Tutorial participation- (10%); In-class assignment- (5%)


Prof. Jordan Thomson
Monday and Wednesday 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. Tom Hurka
Monday and Wednesday 11:00-12:00

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 Gagliardi
Mondays and Wednesday 1:30-3:00

An historical and systematic introduction to the main questions in the philosophy of art and beauty from Plato to the present. These include the relation between art and beauty, the nature of aesthetic experience, definitions and theories of art, the criteria of excellence in the arts, and the function of art criticism.

Reading: TBA

Evaluation: TBA


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

There is a widespread consensus that corporations have social responsibilities that extend beyond mere conformity to the law. Yet how are we to conceive of these responsibilities? And how are managers supposed to reconcile these ethical responsibilities with the obligation to maximize shareholder value? Is it possible to run a profitable corporation, and yet still be a good person, or at least a good citizen? Or is it sometimes necessary to break a few eggs, in order to make the proverbial omelet? Is “business ethics” an oxymoron?

Reading: Course reader

Evaluation: One writing assignment, one final paper, 2-hour faculty final exam