Courses (2023-2024 and 2024-2025)

The 2023-24 and 2024-25 Graduate Course listings have been posted below.

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About our Graduate Courses

Students who are not graduate students in the Department of Philosophy must secure an instructor’s approval before taking a graduate-level philosophy course. This level of approval will be sufficient for students of the Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology (IHPST) who are seeking to enrol in a course with a faculty member cross-appointed to IHPST and for Centre for Medieval Studies students. 

All other students not enrolled in the Department of Philosophy must have their request approved both by the course instructor and by the Director of Graduate Studies in Philosophy (DGS). Requests to the DGS should be submitted with a transcript (if no grades have been received in the current University of Toronto graduate program, then the transcript from the previous degree should be attached). 

Find detailed guidelines about how to enrol in courses on ACORN on our instructions sheet.

Fill out the SGS Add/Drop Course(s) Form, have it signed by the instructor, and submit it to the Graduate Administrator.

Students from other Ontario universities must request enrollment in U of T graduate-level courses through the Ontario Visiting Graduate Students Exchange Program. Contact the Graduate Office of your home university for more information.

We anticipate that all Philosophy graduate courses will meet in person. This is subject to change pending governmental and university health advisories.

Breadth Requirements

History of Philosophy and Philosophical Traditions Drawn from Geographical Regions

  1. Ancient
  2. Medieval
  3. 17th and 18th Century
  4. 19th Century
  5. 20th Century
  6. East Asian Philosophy
  7. South Asian Philosophy

(Note: This list is flexible and may be expanded to accommodate a wider range of philosophical traditions from geographical regions, depending on courses offered in any given year). 

Contemporary Problems of Philosophy

  1. Metaphysics, Epistemology, Philosophy of Science (MES)
  2. Values (Ethics and Metaethics, Social and Political Philosophy, Aesthetics, Philosophy of Religion) (V)
  3. Mind, Language, Logic (MLL)

2024-2025 Graduate Courses


Please note that course locations can be determined through Quercus for enrolled students. Philosophy students interested in auditing a course or who haven’t made up their minds yet can contact Evan Drapeau for information about the course location.

Fall 2024 Graduate Courses

HPS3010F Social Epistemology

Instructor: Joseph Berkovitz

Time: Tue 2-4 PM

Breadth Requirement: MES

Description: Traditionally, epistemology has dealt with the ways in which an individual acquires knowledge through perception and reasoning. However, in recent years it has become apparent that the traditional discussions of knowledge in general, and scientific knowledge in particular, fail to capture important aspects of the social dimension of knowledge. We acquire most of our beliefs from the testimony of others, including experts, and from social institutions that are in charge of the generation of knowledge. The relatively recent branch of philosophy that deals with the social dimensions of knowledge is called social epistemology. It has developed through dialogue with the history of science, sociology of scientific knowledge, anthropology, and philosophy of science. The course will provide an introduction to social epistemology, in general, and social epistemology of science in particular. It will deal with various aspects of the nature of knowledge from this new perspective, including issues such as the development of scientific knowledge, “knowledge that” (something true) vs. “knowledge how,” the influence of social and cultural factors on scientific methodology, scientific rationality and scientific knowledge, scientific realism vs. social constructivism, distributive cognition, holism vs. methodological individualism, trust, expertise, consensus, distributive epistemic injustice, and feminist epistemology.


JCY5116F Freud: Case Histories

Instructor: Rebecca Comay

Time: Thu 1-3PM  

Breadth Requirement: TBD

Description: This course will be devoted to reading Freud’s case histories. We’ll be paying close attention to the unstable relationship between the theoretical and the clinical registers in Freud’s text, with particular emphasis on the psychoanalytic concepts of transference, resistance, repetition, working-through, “construction in analysis,” and the end-of-analysis. In addition to the major case studies—Dora, Anna O, Little Hans, Schreber, Wolfman, Ratman—we will also consider the snippets of Freud’s own auto-analysis (e.g. the “specimen dream” in the Interpretation of Dreams, the Autobiographical Fragment, and other first-person texts, including Freud’s early correspondence with Fliess). Our reading of the primary texts will be accompanied by recent theoretical and critical engagements with the case histories, including those by Jacques Lacan, Hélène Cixous, Luce Irigaray, Nicolas Abraham and Maria Torok, Jacques Derrida, Jacqueline Rose, and Eric Santner.


MST3301F Themes in Medieval Philosophy

Instructor: Peter King

Time: Mon 9-11 AM

Breadth Requirement: HIS Medieval

Description: This course will focus on property and poverty—more specifically, on the theme of voluntary poverty and the critique of ownership and property that advocates of living such lives put forward. We will start with the mendicant movements of the 12th century and move on to concentrate on 13th-14th-century philosophical debates involving Thomas Aquinas, Bonaventure, William of St.-Amour, Gerard of Abbeville, John Duns Scotus, Peter John Olivi, and William of Ockham (mostly but not entirely Franciscans) in their efforts to develop an account of voluntary poverty that would be philosophically consistent and yet compatible with the official view of the church (usually represented by the papacy). Knowledge of Latin a definite plus but not required; the material is available in English translation.


PHL1111F PhD Proseminar: Women and Dualism in Early Modern Philosophy (required for and limited to first-year Philosophy PhD students)

Instructor: Marleen Rozemond

Time: Wed 9 AM-12 PM

Breadth Requirement: HIS/GEO 17th and 18th Century

Description: Recent search has unearthed a treasure trove of wrongly neglected philosophical writings by women during the early modern period. This course will explore two interconnected lines of thought. First, it examines the question whether the natural world is entirely material or not. Descartes and others argued that it is not and defended dualism. Margaret Cavendish and Anne Conway rejected dualism but also Hobbesian mechanistic materialism, proposing highly distinctive views, a type of “vitalist monism.” Along different lines, early modern women such as Mary Astell and, later, Mary Wollstonecraft argued that women have immaterial souls and rationality as men do and that women should be educated accordingly. So interesting questions arise about the connections between the ontology of human beings and the rights of women.


PHL2009F Seminar in Greek Philosophy: Ancient Ethical Theory

Instructor: James Allen and Jessica Gelber

Time: Wed 12-3 PM

Breadth Requirement: HIS Ancient

Description: The place of supreme importance in Ancient Greek (and following its lead, Roman) philosophy was occupied by Ethics, one of the three parts (along with Physics and Logic) into which the discipline came to be divided. The object of Ethics was to understand, and by understanding to help us achieve, the human good. The seminar will be a selective survey of central themes in ancient ethical reflection as they were handled by the principal ancient philosophers in the works that have proved the most lastingly influential. Our point of departure will be views about happiness (eudaimonia), assigned the role of the highest good and the ultimate end of all action by reference to which we are to understand everything that qualifies as good (and bad). We shall tackle issues about the different kinds of good and the contributions they make to the good life; the virtues and the intellectual, emotional, and desiderative elements in human nature of which they are the excellences; the place, if any, of pleasure, in the good life. Readings will be from Plato, Aristotle, and the authors who are our sources for Stoic and Epicurean ethical theory.


PHL2013F Topics in Chinese Philosophy: Early Confucianism

Instructor: Eric Hutton

Time: Fri 12-3 PM

Breadth Requirement: HIS/GEO East Asian Philosophy

Description: This course will provide a graduate-level introduction to early Confucian thought (roughly 6th to 3rd centuries BCE), focusing on three main texts: the Lunyu (aka The Analects), the Mengzi (aka The Mencius), and the Xunzi. No prior study of Chinese thought and no prior knowledge of the Chinese language will be required. Topics to be covered include Confucian ideas about ethics, moral psychology, moral epistemology, political philosophy, and potentially other topics, depending on student interest. The course will familiarize students with both primary sources and relevant secondary literature, with the aim of highlighting potential areas of dialogue between the Confucian and Western philosophical traditions, as well as of enabling graduate students to diversify their teaching competencies.


PHL2019F Topics in South Asian Philosophy: Veṅkaṭanātha on God

Instructor: Elisa Freschi

Time: Tue 3-6 PM

Breadth Requirement: HIS/GEO South Asian Philosophy

Description: The class will deal with the intervention of Veṅkaṭanātha (also known by the title of Vedānta Deśika, traditional dates 1269–1370) in the history of Sanskrit philosophy and how he radically reconfigured the school known as Viśiṣṭādvaita Vedānta by systematising the idea of surrender as a soteriological means and by reframing its epistemology of testimony and its teaching about commands. During the course, we will read articles on Veṅkaṭanātha, as well as texts by him (in their English translation), thus training the skill of reading philosophical texts from a different tradition.


PHL2057F Seminar in Seventeenth-and Eighteenth-Century Philosophy: Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason

Instructor: Nick Stang

Time: Tue 6-9 PM

Breadth Requirement: MES/HIS 17th and 18th Century

Description: This will be a graduate-level introduction to Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason. Our focus will be on the question, how is metaphysics possible as a science? Kant’s answer to this question has both a positive and a negative side. The negative side is an argument that metaphysics is not a possible science for human minds insofar as it concerns the world “as it in itself” (so-called things in themselves). The positive side is an argument that scientific metaphysics is possible for us, but only if it is restricted to how these things in themselves appear to human minds in experience. Textually, we will focus on the Preface, Introduction, Transcendental Aesthetic, and Transcendental Analytic, with some attention to the Dialectic, if time permits; we will spend most of our time on the metaphysical and transcendental deductions of the categories. Topically, we will discuss the nature of space and time, the cognitive powers of the human mind, the system of fundamental concepts of the understanding (categories), their origin in the logical functions of judging, how to prove their validity for objects in space and time, and the nature of transcendental idealism (esp. Kant’s idealism about time). Prior familiarity with Kant will not be presupposed, but students who have not read the Critique before are encouraged to read as much of it as they can on their own over the summer.


PHL2101F Seminar in Metaphysics: Metaphysical Modality

Instructor: Michael Caie

Time: Mon 3-6 PM

Breadth Requirement: MES

Description: In this course we’ll survey several topics concerning metaphysical modality (metaphysical possibility and necessity). Topics we’ll discuss in various levels of detail include: (i) What is metaphysical modality, and can it be analyzed in other terms (e.g. in terms of essence or in purely logical terms)? (ii) In what sense, if any, is metaphysical modality somehow “broader” than all other varieties of modality? (iii) Are the laws of nature metaphysically necessary, and how does metaphysical modality relate to nomic modality? (iv) Are there (or could there be) any objects whose existence is metaphysically contingent? (v) What is the logic of metaphysical modality? (vi) Can there be merely haecceitistic differences between some metaphysical possibilities, i.e., are there distinct metaphysical possibilities that agree about the distribution of qualitative properties and relations, but differ about which individuals play which roles? (vii) What is the relation between metaphysical modality and counterfactuals? (viii) What is the relation between metaphysical modality and time?


PHL2111F Seminar in Epistemology: Rationality and Self-Consciousness

Instructor: David Barnett

Time: Mon 12-3 PM

Breadth Requirement: MES

Description: Rationality requires a lot of us, from avoiding inconsistent beliefs to intending what we believe are necessary means to our ends—and more. Some philosophers think rationality also requires self-consciousness, understood in one way or another. This course examines recent work on rationality, self-consciousness, and possible connections between the two.

Central question will include:

  • What are rational requirements, and what is their normative force?
  • What specific rational requirements are we subject to, and why those?
  • How is introspective self-consciousness different from perceptual consciousness of objects? How is it related to reasoning?
  • Are there other kinds of self-consciousness, such as bodily self-consciousness?
  • How are the different kinds of self-consciousness related to rationality? Could a rational agent lack bodily self-consciousness? Could they lack introspective self-consciousness?

Readings are still TBD, but the emphasis will be on recent work, maybe in addition to a few classics.


PHL2115F Topics in Epistemology: Evidence and Self-Knowledge

Instructor: Nilanjan Das

Time: Thu 12-3 PM

Breadth Requirement: MES

Description: Some contemporary epistemologists subscribe to two theses. The first is mentalism:  what evidence we have depends solely on our mental states. The second is access internalism: we always have epistemic access to facts about evidence we have. Arguably, mentalism and access internalism can be true together only if we always have epistemic access to facts about those mental states which determine what evidence we have. Does any plausible theory of self-knowledge (i.e., knowledge about our own mental states) support this assumption? The aim of this seminar is to explore this question. Along the way, we will read recent papers and book chapters on iteration principles about knowledge, evidence, and awareness, as well as philosophical and empirical work on self-knowledge.


PHL2122F Advanced Logic: Causation and Counterfactuals

Instructor: Franz Huber

Time: Thu 6-9 PM

Breadth Requirement: MES/MLL

Description: This graduate course in advanced logic will deal with the logic of counterfactuals and causation. We will begin by reviewing the possible worlds semantics for modal statements. Then we will study the so-called similarity approach to counterfactuals. Next, we will focus on the relation between causation and counterfactuals, as well as discuss what the relata of the causal relation are. Against this background we will then study the structural equations approach to causal counterfactuals that has made its way into philosophy in the past two decades. This will include a discussion of interventions in terms of which structural equations are often interpreted. It will also include a discussion of empirical results on the role that judgments of normality—in both its descriptive and evaluative form—play for judgments of (actual) causation. We will conclude by looking at an alternative approach to causation, and, if time permits, we will briefly look into topics that relate causation and probability: causal models, causal inference, and causal decision theory.


PHL2172F Seminar in Philosophy of Mind: Common Knowledge

Instructor: Jennifer Nagel

Time: Tue 9 AM-12 PM

Breadth Requirement: MES/MLL

Description: Epistemology often focuses on what people know as private individuals, but new and interesting questions arise when we examine what pairs or groups of individuals can know in common. What does it mean for people to share a common understanding of something? Do we calculate common knowledge during live face-to-face conversations? Why does the classical conception of common knowledge generate paradoxes, and is there any way to escape them?  Authors to be read include Lewis, Heal, Barwise, Bicchieri, Stalnaker, Gilbert, Frith, Bavelas, Williamson, Greco, and Lederman.


PHL2191F Seminar in the Philosophy of Language: Egocentric Content and the Nature and Limits of the Intellect

Instructor: Gurpreet Rattan

Time: Mon 9 AM-12 PM

Breadth Requirement: MES

Description: The Egocentric Intellect is an account of what the intellect and its cognitive function is, what its limits are, and what the sources of those limits are. This course articulates the Egocentric Intellect account of the intellect. The intellect is the cognitive basis of a thinker’s capacity for critical reflection on their own thinking and of their capacity for critical intersubjective evaluation of others’ thinking (prominently, for example, in disagreement). The function of the intellect is to provide a proprietary kind and quality of knowledge—informed by critical reflection and critical intersubjective evaluation. We analyze the cognitive goods and cognitive resources implicit in practices of critical reflection and intersubjective evaluation. The analysis suggests that the intellect is subject to limits. We investigate the question of whether there are principled limits to the intellect that apply even to idealized versions of ourselves. We examine a strategy of argument to explain principled limits according to which the cognitive resources of the intellect are insufficient to achieve its cognitive goods. We explore the deeper ground for the limits of the intellect. The deeper ground is a view about the metaphysics of thought or content according to which thoughts themselves are not objective in nature. We try to explain what such an egocentric metaphysics for thought would be. We investigate how such a metaphysics limits or distinguishes the kinds of cognitive relations that can be taken to such a metaphysics, and how these limits and distinctions are present (or not, as the objective view would have it) in the analysis of critical reflection and intersubjective evaluation. Overall, we investigate whether an alternative, egocentric metaphysics for thought explains principled limits for the intellect.

Issues to be discussed span topics in the philosophy of language, the philosophy of mind, and epistemology: the sense/reference distinction; reference to propositions; abstractionism about abstracta, especially propositions; content indeterminacy and intransitive semantic coordination; deflationism about semantic notions; egocentric metaphysics; the epistemology of reflection; the epistemology of disagreement; the first-person perspective; intersubjectivity and objectivity; relativism.


PHL2195F Philosophy of Biology: Biological Perspectives on General Philosophy of Science

Instructor: Denis Walsh

Time: Thu 9 AM-12 PM

Breadth Requirement: MES

Description: General philosophy of science developed largely independently of the philosophy of biology. In light of the growing maturity of the philosophy of biology, it is worth asking how it might inform—or transform—the foundational issues in general philosophy of science. The objective of this series of seminars is to present a range of topics in the general philosophy of science from the perspective of the philosophy of biology. These include laws of nature; models and theories; causation, explanation, emergence, and essentialism; principles about knowledge, evidence, and awareness; as well as philosophical and empirical work on self-knowledge.


PHL2198F Advanced Introduction to Philosophy of Science

Instructor: Rasmus Larsen

Time: Fri 9 AM-12 PM

Breadth Requirement: MES

Description: Philosophy of science is a subbranch of philosophy concerned with the foundational aspects of scientific inquiry, such as its basic methods, epistemic limitations, and social implications. This course offers an advanced introduction to a broad range of classic, contemporary, and emerging topics in philosophy of science. Themes to be explored during the semester may include the demarcation of science vs. non-science, the scientific method, theory formation and testing, scientific realism and empiricism, scientific progress, inductive and abductive reasoning, and modelling and taxonomic categorisation. We may also explore more applied issues such as bias in scientific inquiry, AI and digital knowledge representation, challenges in mental health research, and the replication crisis in behavioural science.


PHL2222F MA Proseminar: The Philosophy of the Family (required for and limited to first-year Philosophy MA students)

Instructor: Andrew Franklin-Hall

Time: Wed 9 AM-12 PM

Breadth Requirement: Values

Description: In the wake of women’s equality, the sexual revolution, the liberalization of divorce law, the recognition of same-sex marriage, and the expansion of state authority over education and children’s welfare, the family has changed dramatically over the past 150 years. Nevertheless, it remains the social institution with the primary responsibility for the care of children, while marital relationships (or something very like them) still structure many people’s personal lives. In this course, we will examine the moral and legal status of the family, with particular focus on parental authority, children’s rights, and marriage (or whatever might replace it). Readings will include texts by Elizabeth Brake, Harry Brighouse and Adam Swift, Clare Chambers, Matthew Clayton, Anca Gheaus, Axel Honneth, Carrie Jenkins, and Joseph Millum.


PHL3000F PhD Professional Development Seminar

Instructor: Donald Ainslie

Time: Mon 6-9 PM (Fall 2024 and Winter 2025)

Description: The aim of this course is to prepare students entering the job market for careers as professional philosophers. Students will present and receive feedback on work from their dissertations, and receive training on preparing dossier materials, creating a website, and interviewing. This course is CR/NCR and is required for those who wish to use the departmental placement services.


PHL3000F MA Professional Development Seminar (required for and limited to first-year Philosophy MA students)

Instructor: Christian Pfeiffer

Time: Mon 6-9 PM

Description: This four-session course provides MA students with professional advice. The topics will be pedagogy; writing philosophy; graduate studies in the overall structure of the university; and philosophical research. The seminar is a required course for all MA students, including those in the Philosophy of Science stream, and is graded on a CR/NCR (credit/non-credit) basis.


Winter 2025 Graduate Courses


HPS4011S Cognitive Technologies: Philosophical Issues and Debates

Instructor: Karina Vold

Time: Mon 1-3 PM

Breadth Requirement: MES

Description: Many technological developments have brought with them significant changes in both the modes and scope of human thinking, including how we learn, how we remember, and how we perceive and engage with the world. This seminar will introduce graduate students to philosophical issues and debates that arise from the development of cognitive technologies. We will analyze and discuss key epistemological, metaphysical, and ethical issues that sit at the intersection of philosophy of cognitive science, philosophy of technology, and neuroethics. Topics covered will include situated views of cognition, cognitive artifacts, cognitive enhancement, and artificial intelligence.


MST4011S Medieval Islamic Philosophy

Instructor: Jon McGinnis

Time: Tue 9-11 AM

Breadth Requirement: HIS/GEO Medieval

Description: TBD


PHL2002S Plato: Plato’s Later Dialogues

Instructor: Rachel Barney

Time: Wed 12-3 PM

Breadth Requirement: HIS Ancient

Description: This course will work through a selection of Plato’s later dialogues, trying to understand the argumentation (and the drama, such as it is) of these often puzzling texts and to grasp the connections among them. Is there, as some scholars have thought, a narrative of philosophical problem-solving to be told uniting the Theaetetus, Parmenides, Sophist, Statesman, Philebus, and Timaeus? What problems in metaphysics, epistemology, psychology, and philosophical method is Plato trying to solve in these works? What new methods and philosophical resources does he bring to bear, and how exactly do they operate? What are the results arrived at by the argument of each work, and do they warrant taking “late Plato” to represent a unified philosophical project?

No knowledge of Greek or prior knowledge of Plato is required (though of course both would be helpful). Students will be expected to write two mini-papers and one longer one, either developing a mini-paper or on a third topic.


PHL2007S Seminar on Aristotle: Aristotle’s Metaphysics Gamma

Instructor: Paolo Crivelli and Christian Pfeiffer

Time: Wed 6-9 PM

Breadth Requirement: HIS Ancient

Description: This seminar is devoted to a close reading and discussion of the fourth book of Aristotle’s Metaphysics. The following topics will be discussed: The place of Gamma in the Metaphysics; Aristotle’s conception of metaphysics; his doctrine that being is said in many ways; his defense of the principle of non-contradiction as the firmest of principles; his arguments against relativism and Heraclitus’ theory of flux.

We will concentrate on Aristotle’s primary text, using secondary literature as appropriate. Knowledge of Greek is not required, although it will be helpful.


PHL2084S Seminar in Nineteenth-Century Continental Philosophy: Kant and Heidegger

Instructor: Tarek Dika and Owen Ware

Time: Tue 3-6 PM

Breadth Requirement: HIS 19th Century/HIS 20th Century

Description: Few would deny Kant’s importance for the development of Heidegger’s thinking. Yet the details of the Kant-Heidegger comparison tend to remain ignored or ill-understood by scholars. This seminar will take the concept of selfhood as an entry point into the philosophical frameworks of these two thinkers. For Kant, the notion of “self” admits of at least four different senses: (1) the empirical self, (2) the transcendental self, (3) the noumenal self, and (4) the moral self. These different senses of selfhood are of course interrelated for Kant, as they play central roles in both his theoretical and practical philosophy. But unpacking these different senses of self proves rather difficult, and it requires us to examine a range of texts often considered in isolation from one another.

Heidegger provides an interpretation of the different senses of “self” in Kant and identifies problems about their unity and underlying ontological presuppositions, above all in Kant and the Problem of Metaphysics and Basic Problems of Phenomenology. Drawing on an original ontology of the “self” or “subject” (which he terms Dasein) in Being and Time, Heidegger argues that Dasein is neither an ontologically simple substance nor a formal condition of the possibility of experience, but rather a concrete individual who exists in relation to definite possibilities of itself. And yet, at the heart of Heidegger’s ontology of Dasein there lies a phenomenology of temporality as self-affection that is Kantian in origin. The second part of the course will be devoted to Heidegger’s interpretation of Kant and his own phenomenological interpretation of the being of Dasein.

Similarities and differences between Kant’s and Heidegger’s respective philosophical methodologies will be emphasized throughout.


PHL2089S Seminar in Twentieth-Century Continental Philosophy: The Art of Revolution

Instructor: Rebecca Comay and William Paris

Time: Thu 12-3 PM

Breadth Requirement: HIS 20th Century/Values

Description: What is the relationship between art and revolutionary transformation? How is revolution represented and staged in theatre, music, or the visual arts (including cinema, photography, and posters)? Conversely, is there an aesthetic dimension to revolution itself—for example, how are we to understand the dramaturgical, rhetorical, or performative dimension of collective action, and can we understand historical transformation in terms of figure, trope, and genre (epic, tragedy, comedy, etc.)? How are we to understand the seemingly anti-aesthetic, destructive impulse of revolutionary iconoclasm? Finally: What is the role of art in a counterrevolutionary epoch—for example, late capitalism—when social transformation seems impossible, unrepresentable, and even unimaginable? Under such conditions can art be other than consolatory and compensatory?

In this seminar, we will discuss these questions, and more, as we investigate concepts such as reification, alienation, subjectivity (both individual and collective, both conscious and unconscious), ideology, trauma, utopia, and poeisis. There will be a special emphasis on decolonial revolutions and rebellions of the oppressed in the context of racial capitalism. Readings will include a diverse set of authors such as Friedrich Schiller, Marie-Olympe de Gouges, Karl Marx, Vladimir Lenin, Aimé and Suzanne Césaire, Éduard Glissant, Frantz Fanon, Frederick Douglass, Harriet Jacobs, Ida Wells, Bertolt Brecht, Ernst Bloch, Walter Benjamin, Theodor Adorno, Sylvia Wynter, and Christina Sharpe. We will also be looking closely at specific artworks to investigate the relation between the theorization and the production of radical art.


PHL2105S Topics in Metaphysics: Time and Change

Instructor: Jessica Wilson

Time: Wed 3-6 PM

Breadth Requirement: MES

Description: What is time, what is change, and how do entities (objects, events, processes) persist through time and change, as they intuitively seem to do? In this seminar, we will familiarize ourselves with and critically assess a range of metaphysical accounts offering answers to these questions, in light of ordinary experience, apparent problematics, and our best science.


PHL2126S Philosophy of Logic: Logic, Reality, and Mentality

Instructor: Benj Hellie

Time: Tue 6-9 PM

Breadth Requirement: MES/MLL

Description: An argument, from certain premisses to a certain conclusion, is sometimes “logically valid”: its form guarantees that the conclusion follows from the premisses. Mathematical logic investigates this property of logical validity by describing and taxonomizing “ways logical validity could be” (properties to which logical validity bears important resemblances); the philosophy of logic investigates logical validity by proposing and disputing theories of its nature. (Evidently these investigations inform one another: the ways validity could be are constrained by what validity is; and validity cannot be something that is not a way validity could be.)

This course contrasts two broad outlooks in philosophy of logic—particularly, regarding the nature of “guaranteed following.” The dominant, logical realist outlook (Frege, Tractatus, Tarski, Kripke, Fine, Williamson, Dorr) understands “following” as transference of truth, and the “guarantee” as across all possibilities for the truth (metaphysically possible worlds, perhaps). A minority, logical mentalist outlook (Hare, Kamp, Yalcin, Bledin, Hellie; to some extent Field) understands “following” instead as transference of (something like) rational endorsement, and the “guarantee” as across all possibilities for rational endorsement (phenomenologically possible stances, perhaps). To secure dialectical tension, we will develop and sustain a neutral background structure, apt to represent either logical realist validity or logical mentalist validity, depending on the flip of a switch.


PHL2132S Seminar in Ethics: Hume and Humean Moral Theories

Instructor: Donald Ainslie

Time: Mon 3-6 PM

Breadth Requirement: Values

Description: TBD


PHL2133S Topics in Ethics: Expressivism, Pragmatism, and Inquiry

Instructor: Phil Clark

Time: Thu 9 AM-12 PM

Breadth Requirement: Values

Description: The course will certainly fall in the category of metaethics, but one of the central questions is what metaethics really is. Is metaethics the metaphysics of ethics? We will explore an alternative conception of metaethics, on which many of the central problems belong to epistemology, the philosophy of mind, the philosophy of action, and especially the study of inquiry. We will look at expressivism, neo-expressivism, robust realism, and a view I am calling genericist naturalism, and we will consider the place of pragmatism in the theoretical landscape. Likely suspects include Simon Blackburn, John McDowell, Elizabeth Anscombe, Philippa Foot, Dorit Bar-On, Anton Ford, Huw Price, Jamie Dreier, Andy Egan, Connie Rosati, Christine Tiefensee, and Michael Ridge.


PHL2135S Metaethics: Motivational and Experiential Content

Instructor: Nathan Charlow and Nathan Howard

Time: Tue 12-3 PM

Breadth Requirement: MLL/Values

Description: It’s misleading to say that something is tasty without having tasted it, at least in ordinary cases. Why? Many think that judgments of taste involve a so-called experiential constraint, which, for example, requires tasting something before saying that it’s tasty. This class examines an undertheorized connection between experiential constraints and motivational judgment internalism, the view that moral judgments intrinsically motivate. We’ll begin by reading classic work in metaethics by Michael Smith, John McDowell, and Justin D’Arms and Daniel Jacobson as preparation for examining contemporary debates concerning moral testimony from, inter alia, Alison Hills, Paulina Sliwa, and Julia Markovits. We will try to approach that debate by putting it in dialogue with recent work in the philosophy of language and linguistics concerning experiential constraints from Dilip Ninan, Rachel Rudolph, Christopher Kennedy, Malte Willer, Lisa Bylinina, and others.


PHL2141S Political Philosophy: Fairness in Exchange

Instructor: Brookes Brown

Time: Fri 9 AM-12 PM

Breadth Requirement: Values

Description: This class will consider debates about fairness in exchange, that is questions about fairness that arise from the fact that one or more parties do something to the benefit of another. Topics addressed will include debates about what gives rise to or characterizes cases of interpersonal reciprocity, whether it is possible to have duties of gratitude and what such obligations might entail, what relationship, if any, exists between reciprocity and the duties of fair play sometimes said to arise in cases of large-scale collective benefit, whether we can make sense of the idea of a “fair wage” or “fair market price” and more.


PHL2151S Aesthetics: On Criticism and the Standard of Taste

Instructor: Mark Kingwell

Time: Mon 12-3 PM

Breadth Requirement: Values

Description: Taste is out of conceptual fashion in contemporary analytic aesthetics, and yet it continues to animate many parts of general aesthetic discourse. In this seminar we will consider the role of judgments of taste as delivered by critics both pre- and post-Kant’s Third Critique (Critique of Judgment). Does it still make sense to speak of taste? Closely related: What is the role of critics and aesthetic criticism in judgments of taste? Do social and technological changes alter the function and status of critics with respect to art? Thinkers to be considered include Shaftesbury, Hume, Kant, Veblen, Bourdieu, Frye, Fussell, and Carl Wilson.


PHL2175S Philosophy of Perception: Skills, Malleability, and the Disputed Border between Perception and Cognition

Instructor: Sonia Sedivy

Time: Thu 12-3 PM

Breadth Requirement: MLL

Description: What do we see and how do we do so? We will examine some of the ways that these core questions are debated today. The first debate is over which properties we perceive. Do we perceive only so-called low-level properties such as colours and contours? Or do we perceive high-level properties such as being a pine tree or a painting? Is this distinction sound? What is the empirical evidence? The second issue concerns the boundary between perception and cognition. Though just about everyone agrees there is such a boundary, how is it to be drawn and where? What distinguishes perceptions from beliefs or thoughts? How malleable is perception? The third issue is perceptual learning and skill. This is a new area of inquiry in philosophy that may change and expand our view of what we can see and how malleable perception is.


PHL2223S MA Proseminar II: Spinoza and Modern Jewish Philosophy (required for and limited to first-year Philosophy MA students) 

Instructor: Michael Rosenthal

Time: Wed 9 AM-12 PM

Breadth Requirement: HIS 17th and 18th Century

Description: Is Spinoza a heretic, or is he the founder of a new vision of modern Jewish life?  We will look at some key texts of Spinoza’s philosophy and examine his critique of traditional religion and his radical political theory. We will explore later thinkers, some who were inspired by his example to create a new philosophy of Jewish life, and others who believed that he continued to pose a great danger to the community, even as his ideas became increasingly accepted.  What does this complex reception indicate about his thought and the possibility of modern Jewish philosophy?


PHL3000Y PhD Professional Development Seminar

Instructor: Donald Ainslie

Time: Mon 6-9 PM (Fall 2024 and Winter 2025)

Description: The aim of this course is to prepare students entering the job market for careers as professional philosophers. Students will present and receive feedback on work from their dissertations, and receive training on preparing dossier materials, creating a website, and interviewing. This course is CR/NCR and is required for those who wish to use the departmental placement services.


Summer 2025 Graduate Courses


PHL2091H The Critical Theory of Society

Instructor: Joseph Heath

Time: Tue and Thu 12-3 PM (May/June)

Breadth Requirement: HIS 20th Century/Values

Description: Philosophers have often been troubled by theoretical difficulties raised by the practice of social criticism. To criticize something is to say that it is in some way wrong. The act of criticism appears therefore to assert a form of normative and/or epistemic superiority, which in turn raises questions about the authority of the critic. For example, a diagnosis of ideology in others seems to imply that the critic has escaped from its effects. Yet what grounds are there for believing this? A major objective of critical theorists working in the tradition of the Frankfurt School has been to produce a theory that is fully reflexive, in the sense that it offers both a critique of society and a fully transparent account of the authority of the critic. In this course we will study some of the puzzles, dead ends, and insights that this effort has led to. The first half of the course will focus on attempts to explain the normative stance of the critic, the second half on efforts to establish the epistemic authority.


PHL2018H South Asian Philosophy: Seeing in Sanksrit

Instructor: Jonardon Ganeri            

Time: Mon and Wed 9 AM-12 PM (July/August)

Breadth Requirement: HIS/GEO South Asian Philosophy

Description: In aesthetics, considered as a branch of the philosophy of perception, it is common to distinguish between seeing-as and seeing-in. Seeing-as consists in seeing an object under a concept. Seeing-in is the mode of seeing involved in, for example, seeing a horse in the painted surface of a canvas. The course will investigate how this distinction is understood in classical and contemporary South Asian philosophy. We will review classical sources including Nyāya philosophy of perception and Indian aesthetics (so-called rasa theory), where we will consider the role of attention in poetry and theatre. We will also examine the work of two 20th-century Indian philosophers: Krishnacandra Bhattacharyya (1875–1949) and Bimal Krishna Matilal (1935–1991). We will explore K.C. Bhattacharyya’s theory of seeing absences, and the relationship he claims exists between absence perception and subjectivity. We will examine B. K. Matilal’s reconstruction of a relationalist theory of perception from classical Nyāya sources, as well as his account of amodal completion, the phenomenon by which one sees a whole object despite being in visual contact with only its front surface. The class will include class visits by two specialists in Buddhist theories of subjecless seeing. In all this, we will draw extensively on contemporary analytical philosophy of perception to guide and structure our explorations, for any discussion of classical Indian sources without reference to contemporary debates must remain merely historical.


2023-2024 Graduate Courses

Please note that course locations can be determined through Quercus for enrolled students. Philosophy students interested in auditing a course or who haven’t made up their minds yet can contact Evan Drapeau for information about the course location.


Summer 2024 Graduate Courses (May/June)


PHL2057H Causation, Mind and World: The Philosophy of Mary Shepherd

Instructor: Jonathan Cottrell           

Time: Mon and Wed 123 PM           

Breadth Requirement: HIS 18th Century/HIS 19th Century (depending on topic of final essay)

Description: Mary Shepherd (1777–1847) is a brilliant, unjustly-neglected philosopher active in the early nineteenth century. She developed an original, systematic philosophy that combines a novel metaphysics of causation and the external world with a nonsceptical epistemology, in opposition to the idealism of George Berkeley and the scepticism of David Hume. Shepherd’s philosophy was highly regarded in her day but fell into obscurity after her death. Today, it’s a treasure trove of ideas for philosophers exploring alternatives to Humeanism in metaphysics. This course will focus on her two main philosophical works, An Essay upon the Relation of Cause and Effect (1824) and Essays on the Perception of an External Universe (1827). We’ll explore Shepherd’s central claims and arguments with a view to both their historical significance and their applicability in contemporary philosophy. We’ll also read selections by some of the philosophers whom Shepherd ably criticized, including Berkeley, Hume, and Thomas Brown, an early nineteenth-century Humean.


PHL2132H Seminar in Ethics 

Instructor: Phil Clark             

Time: Tue and Thu 123 PM           

Breadth Requirement: Values 

Description: The course will certainly fall in the category of metaethics, but one of the central questions is what metaethics really is.  Is metaethics the metaphysics of ethics?  We will explore an alternative conception of metaethics, on which many of the central problems belong to epistemology, the philosophy of mind, the philosophy of action, and especially the study of inquiry.  We will look at expressivism, neo-expressivism, robust realism, and a view I am calling genericist naturalism, and we will consider the place of pragmatism in the theoretical landscape.  Likely suspects include Simon Blackburn, John McDowell, Elizabeth Anscombe, Philippa Foot, Dorit Bar-On, Anton Ford, Huw Price, Jamie Dreier, Andy Egan, Connie Rosati, Christine Tiefensee, and Michael Ridge.