100-Level Courses (24-25)

2024-25 Fall/Winter 100-level Courses


Note: PHL100Y1 and PHL101Y1 are exclusive of each other and have the same learning outcomes.

PHL100Y1Y – Introduction to Philosophy

Prof. Donald Ainslie
Tuesday and Thursday 11:00-12:00

This course offers an introduction to philosophy through a historical survey.  In the first term, we look at the great ancient traditions of China, Greece, South Asia, and the Islamic world as they explore the nature of morality, the structure of reality, the role of the divine, and the human capacity for knowledge.  In the second term, we look at how philosophy responded to the rise of science in 17th-century Europe and after.  Why is experimental science so successful in understanding nature? Is there more to nature than science reveals? And how do human beings – our moral practices and our very practice of understanding nature scientifically – fit into the scientific world?  We conclude by exploring challenges to the modern attempts to reconcile philosophy and science.

Readings: Selections from Xunzi, Zhuangzi, Plato, Aristotle, Nyaya and Buddhist philosophers,  Ibn Tufayl, René Descartes, Princess Elisabeth of Bohemia, David Hume, Immanuel Kant, Mary Wollstonecraft, Friedrich Nietzsche, A. J. Ayer, Simone de Beauvoir, Gilbert Ryle, and Frantz Fanon.

Evaluation: Three short assignments in the fall; two critical essays in the winter; December and April exams. There are mandatory weekly tutorials, participation in which is worth 10% of your overall mark.

PHL101Y1Y – Introduction to Philosophy

Prof. Jim John
Mondays and Wednesdays 10:00-11:00

This course will introduce you to philosophy. Its main purpose is to acquaint you with the kinds of questions philosophers ask and to impart an understanding of why those questions matter. A secondary purpose is to improve your skills as a critical reader, thinker, and writer.  We will consider some of the perennial philosophical problems: problems to do with God, free will, personal identity, knowledge, human well-being, death, mind and body, science, morality, justice and political authority, and the meaning of life. The readings for the course will feature a mix of classic and contemporary writings by global philosophers.

Reading: TBA

Evaluation: TBA

PHL196H1F – Philosophy, Film and Social Criticism

Prof. Mark Kingwell
Wednesday and Thursday 11:00-13:00

This course will critically examine the role of cinema in relation to selected topics and themes in social and political philosophy; these will vary from year to year, but may include race, ethnic and cultural ‘other’-ness, class, social conflict, citizenship, cosmopolitanism, and human rights. Films will be screened in class and discussed against the background of focused critical and philosophical readings.

Reading: TBA

Evaluation: two term papers plus in-class participation and short weekly reflection papers.

PHL197H1F – Introduction to Philosophical Anthropology

Prof. Joseph Heath
Mondays 15:00-17:00

Humans are a unique species in the extent to which we rely upon social learning in order to acquire the knowledge and skills required to survive and prosper. This is what makes us cultural beings. And yet culture is itself a biological adaptation, one that does not replace, but rather supplements, our more archaic cognitive systems. The question of how these two forces, the biological and the cultural, interact in order to determine our behaviour is one of the most pressing questions in the human sciences. In this course, we will explore this issue, focusing on what is known as the puzzle of human cooperation. We will begin by considering how evolution through natural selection imposes limits on cooperative behaviour. We will then consider what culture is, how it arises, and how the development of cultural transmission creates certain exemptions from the biologically imposed limits on the scope of cooperativeness. We will end by examining the psychological underpinnings of these social systems, using a framework known as “dual-process” psychology. These readings will serve as a basis for reflection upon philosophical topics such as the extent of human freedom, the status of morality, the nature of progress, as well as the meaning of life.

Readings: Richard Dawkins, The Selfish Gene; Joseph Henrich, The Secret of our Success; Keith Stanovich, The Robot’s Rebellion

Evaluation: 2 Writing Assignments and a Final Exam

PHL197H1S – Introduction to Philosophical Anthropology

Prof. Jim John
Mondays and Wednesdays 13:00-14:00

Philosophical anthropology is the subject that poses the most fundamental questions about human nature and the human condition. Taking as its point of departure the most up-to-date scientific understanding of human nature, from anthropology broadly conceived, it goes on to inquire, in a disciplined fashion, about the implications of these views for perennial philosophical questions about human rationality, morality, the possibility of progress, the existence of god and the meaning of life. This course will examine one or more topics in this domain, as a more general introduction to the discipline.

Readings: TBA

Evaluation: TBA

PHL199H1S – Ethics and Fiction

Prof. Mark Kingwell
Tuesdays 13:00-15:00

The goal of this seminar is to investigate ethical questions by considering works of prose fiction, mostly novels, and how literature functions as an ethical medium. We will reflect on what narrative writing can teach us about the pressing challenges of choice and responsibility, and how it can help expand our understanding of human consciousness. The special theme of this iteration of the seminar is friendship: what does it mean, what is its value, what are its limitations?

This is a seminar course, which means it is focused on discussion and group analysis. Please attend meetings prepared to engage with the course reading and your fellow students. There is a lot of reading in the course, basically a novel a week. Try to schedule your time accordingly – I know you will be very busy! If possible, read ahead.

Reading: TBA

Evaluation: two term papers plus in-class participation and short weekly reflection papers.