Detailed descriptions for the 2018 can be found below. Please note that the descriptions and grading schemes are subject to change. Finalized descriptions and marking schemes will be given out on the first day of classes with your course syllabus.
PHL100Y1Y – Introduction to Philosophy
Instructors: Julia Smith (F-Term) and Celia Byrne (S-Term)
Mondays 6:00-8:00 and Wednesdays 6:00-9:00
This course is an invitation to think about some of life’s important questions in a rigorous and critical way. What is good and bad, right and wrong? Is morality relative to different cultures? Do we have free will? What is the nature of the mind? What is the scope of our knowledge? Does God exist? In our examination of these questions, we will be reading texts from a number of philosophers, both historical and contemporary. But the goal of this course is not just to learn what and how these thinkers argued. By critically engaging with these texts and forming your own reasoned positions, you will also practice the skills involved in doing philosophy.
PHL210Y1Y – 17th and 18th Century Philosophy
Instructors: Douglas Campbell (F-Term) and Lisa Doerksen (S-Term)
Tuesdays 9:00-12:00 and Thursdays 9:00-11:00
Central texts of such philosophers as Hobbes, Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz, Locke, Berkeley, Hume, and Kant.
PHL217H1S – Introduction to Continental Philosophy
Instructor: Michael Blezy
Mondays 6:00-8:00 and Wednesdays 6:00-9:00
What, if anything, unites the diverse philosophical movements and thinkers that are labeled as ‘continental’? In this course, we will try to answer this question by reading some of the canonical works of continental thinkers. We will try to understand what these texts claim, how they work, and why they are written in the way that they are. Our readings are aimed at providing a glimpse into the problems and motivations animating transcendental idealism, German idealism, Marxism, phenomenology, existentialism, post-structuralism, and feminism. We will begin by discussing how the category of ‘continental philosophy’ came about, and how this determines the present landscape of philosophical thinking and philosophical practice. From this point on, our survey will be roughly chronological beginning with Kant and Hegel, before moving on to Marx, Nietzsche, Heidegger, Foucault, and Bartky. The hope is that by following this trajectory, we will be in a better position to understand both the diversity of continental philosophy, as well its continuity, in addressing questions in metaphysics, epistemology, philosophy of language, ethics, and politics.
Evaluation: Attendance and participation (10%); 3 two-page assignments consisting of a few short answer questions; see class schedule below for due dates (23.3% each x 3 = 70%); Final exam (3 hours) (20%) — date & time TBA
PHL232H1F – Knowledge and Reality
Instructor: Robert Matyasi
Mondays 3:00-6:00 and Wednesdays 3:00-5:00
This course is an introduction to some key issues in two central areas of contemporary philosophy: epistemology and metaphysics. Epistemology is the study of knowledge; metaphysics is the philosophical study of the nature of reality. In the epistemology section we will cover topics such as skepticism, the nature of epistemic justification, reliabilism, contextualism, and truth-tracking accounts of knowledge. In the metaphysics segment we will discuss causation and causal explanations, the nature of time, metaphysical questions concerning material objects, free will, and the possibility of time travel. We shall also cover some basic concepts of logic that are necessary to engage with these topics and that will prove to be useful in your future as a student of philosophy and a critical thinker.
Reading: All readings will be made available electronically through Blackboard. I expect you to do the readings closely and attentively at some time—you may find it helpful to skim them first and read them in detail after the lectures, whatever suits you best. The readings will be supplemented by a logic primer and lecture handouts summarizing the main arguments and directing your focus to the most essential parts of the readings.
Evaluation: Mid-Term Exam (20%); Short Essay (20%); Long Essay (30%); Final Exam (20%); Tutorial Participation (10%)
PHL240H1F – Persons, Minds and Bodies
Instructor: Elliot Carter
Tuesdays 6:00-8:00 and Thursdays 6:00-9:00
This course is an introduction to the mind-body problem and its connection to two areas of philosophical thought. The first part of the course focuses on personal identity. We will consider questions such as: what is the self, and how does it persist through time? If I’m identical with my past self, is it because of the continuity of my body, or the continuity of my psychological states (or something else)? And how is our concept of the self related to that of free will?
The second part of the course focuses on mental states (like beliefs and pains) and their connection to physical states (like states of the brain or the body). We will look at the way thinking about this connection has developed throughout the recent history of philosophy, surveying positions like behaviourism, the identity theory, functionalism, and dualism. We will consider whether the existence of consciousness is compatible with physicalism (the theory that all that exists is fundamentally physical).
PHL243H1S – Philosophy of Human Sexuality
Instructor: Mason Westfall
Tuesdays 6:00-9:00 and Thursdays 6:00-9:00
Sexuality occupies a unique position in our lives and the cultural imagination. It also presents a unique suite of philosophical questions. This course is an introduction to some of these questions and philosophical approaches to answering them. Some are metaphysical: what is love? Is consent in your head, or is it something you do? Some are ethical: is pornography morally objectionable? Are monogamous relationships best? And some are a bit of both: What is objectification and is it always morally problematic? What is the difference between flirting and being creepy? The academic readings will be supplemented with a variety of non-academic sources, including cultural criticism, short fiction, and scientific research.
Evaluation: 3×500 word papers, one paper may be replaced with an in class presentation; Final exam
PHL244H1F – Human Nature
Instructor: Prof. Thomas Mathien
Tuesdays and Thursdays 11:00-2:00
Aspects of human nature, e.g., emotion, instincts, motivation. Theories of human nature, e.g., behaviourism, psychoanalysis.
PHL245H1Y – Modern Symbolic Logic
Instructor: Robert Mason
This course is an introduction to modern symbolic logic. In the first half of the course we will focus on sentential logic. You will learn about arguments, semantics, symbolization, and derivations, and will develop skills for logical tasks related to these. The second half of the course will extend what you’ve learned to predicate logic
Evaluation: Weekly Online Quizzes (10%); Four In-Class Tests (50%); Final Exam (40%)
PHL271H1F – Law and Morality
Instructor: Steven Coyne
Mondays 9:00-12:00 and Wednesdays 9:00-11:00
Law and morality are both systems of norms, meaning that both tell people what they ought to do. While they often coincide with one another, occasionally they do not. On the one hand, it is legally impermissible, but probably morally permissible, to jaywalk through an empty intersection; on the other hand, it is legally permissible, but morally impermissible, to break a promise to a friend. While most philosophers think that this shows that law and morality can be separated from one another, most philosophers nonetheless also hold that law and morality have some necessary relationships to one another. In this course, we will consider three of these supposed relationships, which reflect the three central roles occupied by persons in legal systems. First, judges may wonder whether they can or must apply moral tests to establish whether someone has broken the law. Second, citizens may wonder whether they have a moral duty to obey the law. Finally, in crafting laws, legislators may wonder whether the immorality of some conduct permits or even requires them to criminalize it.
Reading: H.L.A. Hart, The Concept of Law (available for purchase in the bookstore). The remaining readings will be accessible through Blackboard.
Evaluation: Four Low-Stakes Writing Assignments (min. 250 words) – (+/-) from final grade; Two Essays (max. 1200 words) – 20% each; Midterm Test – 20%; Final Exam – 25%; Participation and Interpersonal Philosophy – 15%
PHL273H1S – Environmental Ethics
Instructor: Evan Taylor
Tuesdays and Thursdays 12:00-3:00
This course addresses a number of ethical questions relating to the environment and humans’ relationship to it. At the beginning of the course, we’ll look at a few different ways of thinking about the moral status of non-human living things, and the natural environment that supports them. We’ll then move to several more specific topics, including the ethics of eating meat, overpopulation and the scarcity of resources, obligations to possible future people, climate change policy and economics, and individual responsibility in contributing to environmental damage.
Evaluation: Reading Responses (10%); First Writing Assignment (25%); Second Writing Assignment (30%); Final Exam (35%)
PHL275H1S – Introduction to Ethics
Instructor: Griffin Klemick
Mondays 12:00-3:00 and Wednesdays 12:00-2:00
This course is an introduction to some major questions and works in the history of ethical theory. In particular, it focuses on two clusters of questions. The first cluster belongs to metaethics, containing such questions as:
- Do moral statements make claims about reality? Are they truth-apt?
- If so, are any of them actually true, or are they all the result of cognitive error?
- If some are true, are these truths grounded in our constructive activity? In the natural world? In neither?
We will consider non-cognitivist, error theorist, constructivist, and both naturalist and non-naturalist realist answers to these questions. The second cluster belongs to moral theory, containing such questions as:
- Is it always permissible for us to maximize the good? Can agent-centered restrictions on maximizing the good be justified?
- Is it always required for us to maximize the good? Do agents retain an option to prioritize personal projects or relationships over the best overall outcome?
- Is the requirement to treat others with respect derivable from the requirements of practical reasoning as such?
- Do moral theories centered on rules lose sight of important aspects of lived human experience? Conversely, can moral theories centered on virtues of character give adequate guidance as to how we should act?
Students in the course should gain the ability to explain these questions and their importance, as well as to expound and evaluate some of the major answers to them that have been offered. They should also strengthen their ability, in general, to read philosophical texts carefully and charitably, to evaluate philosophical arguments critically, and to practice clear and persuasive philosophical writing.
Evaluation: Short Essay (20%); Long Essay (45%); Final Exam (35%)
PHL281H1F – Bioethics
Instructor: Jessica Wright
Mondays 6:00-8:00 and Wednesdays 6:00-9:00
This course is an investigation of the moral, ethical, and legal issues arising in the practice of medicine and the use and creation of medical technologies. We will also be looking at cases that give rise to bioethical questions. The first half of the course will focus on bioethical questions to do with the medical care of and ethical status of individuals: questions having to do with birth (pregnancy, abortion), how doctors should treat patients (autonomy, truth-telling, informed consent), and the end of life (quality of life, ageing, and euthanasia). In the second part of the course we will focus on bioethical questions having to do with the practice of medicine and bioethical issues arising on a social level: issues having to do with how we understand concepts of disease, abnormality, and health, choosing designer babies, CRISPR gene editing, and choosing against disability. Questions that we will investigate in this course include: is abortion immoral? How much information should doctors give their patients about medical procedures? Is death always bad? Should we edit our genes to get rid of genetic diseases, disability, or old age? Should we be allowed to sell our own organs? How should we understand what ‘health’ is and who counts as healthy?
Evaluation: 10% Attendance and participation in tutorials (weekly); 20% First essay Due Monday May 21; 35% Second essay Due Monday June 11; 35% Final exam (date TBD, sometime the week of June 20-26)
PHL340H1S – Issues in Philosophy of Mind
Instructor: Aaron Henry
Mondays and Wednesdays 3:00-6:00
Typical issues include: the mind-brain identity theory; intentionality and the mental; personal identity.
PHL370H1S – Issues in Philosophy of Law
Instructor: Manish Oza
Tuesdays and Thursdays 6:00-9:00
Major issues in philosophy of law, such as legal positivism and its critics, law and liberalism, feminist critiques of law, punishment and responsibility.
PHL375H1F – Ethics
Instructor: Charles Dalrymple-Fraser
Tuesdays and Thursdays 6:00-9:00
In this course, we will work together to explore some of the roles and issues that various “bodies” present for ethical theory and practice. Some of the general questions we may consider include: How are different kinds of bodies valued or devalued? What roles can our bodies play in deliberation? How have different people and bodies been excluded from participating in ethical theory and practices? How do our bodies and bodily needs create dependencies and vulnerabilities? How do identities like gender, race, disability fit into our historical theorizing around right and wrong? What is a “good” or “better” body? Students will be offered explicit opportunities to help shape the content and direction of the course.
Reading: All readings and materials will be available through Blackboard at no additional cost
Evaluation: The evaluation for this course will be split between engagement (35%) and research and creation (65%). Engagement will be assessed through short written reflections on course materials and experiences of participation. Research and creation will be assessed by either (i) two short papers and a feedback reflection, OR (ii) an alternative research project in consultation with the instructor. Alternative assessments may be arranged for accessibility.
PHL382H1S – Death and Dying
Instructor: Matt Wurst
Mondays and Wednesdays 6:00-9:00
An intermediate-level study of moral and legal problems, including the philosophical significance of death, the high-tech prolongation of life, definition and determination of death, suicide, active and passive euthanasia, the withholding of treatment, palliative care and the control of pain, living wills; recent judicial decisions.
PHL388H1F – Literature and Philosophy
Instructor: Rachel MacKinnon
Tuesdays and Thursdays 3:00-6:00
This course aims to investigate the relationship between philosophy and literature. This means that we will be covering both the philosophy of literature and exploring the ways in which the two subjects work together or conflict. Some of the questions we will be asking are: Can literature count as philosophy? How can something which is technically false (literature) work in tandem with something that aims at the truth (philosophy)? What do we gain from literature? Does philosophy have shortcomings that literature can supplement? Can literature play a role in moral philosophy? How, exactly, do we relate to literature? The discussion of literature also touches on some important areas of philosophy, including aesthetics, ethics, epistemology, and metaphysics.
In this course, we will be reading philosophy (both ancient and contemporary) alongside works of literature. However, I want to define literature broadly: it does not have to just be things that belong to the “classics”. I want us, along the way, to consider what counts as literature and what our reasons are for including or excluding certain works. To this end, I encourage all students to bring their favourite works of literature into our discussions!
Evaluation: Written responses and participation (20%); First Paper (35%) -due May 24th; Second Paper (45%) – due June 14th