100-Level Courses

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

PHL100Y1Y – Introduction to Philosophy

Prof. Peter King
Tuesdays and Thursdays 12:00-1:00

This course is a historical introduction to philosophy which takes up some basic questions about human life as they have been addressed in the Western philosophical tradition, such as: What is a life worth living? What is a just political order? What is the basis for judgments of right and wrong? Is there a God? What can I know, and how can I know it? What is the nature of consciousness? In pursuit of answers to these questions, we will examine the views of influential philosophers of the past, in chronological order: We will look at answers proposed by Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, Hume, Kant, Nietzsche, and several contemporary philosophers. Primary readings will be supplemented by the course lectures and, after the first week of the first term, by tutorial discussion groups. Our concern in this course is not simply the scholarly one of who said what when, but to learn the practice of philosophy, of how to try to make sense of our existence. The goal is to learn how to raise and address questions in a systematic and reasoned fashion while learning something about the traditions, methods, and concerns of philosophy.

Readings: TBA

Evaluation: TBA

PHL101Y1Y – Introduction to Philosophy

Prof. James 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 (among other things) the existence of God, free will, personal identity, knowledge, human well-being, the significance of death, the relation between mind and body, science, morality, justice and political authority, and the meaning of life.

Reading: TBA (But will consist of short selections from classic and contemporary works on the course topics.)

Evaluation: TBA (Most likely: four short term papers; midterm exam; final exam; attendance and discussion participation at weekly tutorials.)

PHL196H1 – Multiculturalism, Philosophy and Film

Prof. Francesco Gagliardi
Mondays and Wednesdays 10:00-12:00

This course will critically examine the role of cinema in the construction and exploration of the figure of the racial, ethnic, cultural and social “other”. Our topics will include (1) racial, ethnic and cultural identity and its reciprocal relationship with cinema, (2) the notion of realism in relation to the representation of race and ethnicity in film, (3) the cinematic representation of inter-ethnic and intra-ethnic conflict, (4) the position of cinema in the debate between assimilation and multiculturalism, and (5) the ways in which cinema can help illuminate a cluster of relevant notions in political philosophy including citizenship, communitarianism, cosmopolitanism, and the relation between individual rights and group rights. Films will be screened in class and discussed against the background of focused critical readings.

Reading: TBA

Evaluation: TBA

PHL197H1 – Introduction to Philosophical Anthropology

Prof. Joseph Heath
Tuesdays 2:00-4:00

The Puzzle of Human Cooperation: Most animal species, with a few notable exceptions, are extraordinarily uncooperative. Social insects, such as ants, bees and wasps, are among the exceptions. So are human beings. However, in the case of social insects, there is a relatively straightforward biological explanation for the high levels of sociality that they exhibit. The case of humans, on the other hand, represents something of an evolutionary mystery. There is nothing in our reproductive biology that distinguishes us in any important respect from other primates. Yet other primates are unable to sustain cooperation in groups of more than about 100. This course will examine the puzzle of human cooperation from a naturalistic perspective, focusing upon the role that culture, language and rationality play in sustaining large-scale human societies.

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

Evaluation: TBA

PHL198H1 – Philosophy of Time

Prof. Michael Miller
Tuesday 4:00-6:00

The passage of time is a fundamental aspect of human experience: we are born, we grow older, and eventually we pass away. During our lives our experience of the past, present, and future are distinct. We can influence the world in the present and the future, but it does not seem that we can influence the past. We have hopes about the future, memories of the past, and experiences of the present. In this seminar we will explore insights from contemporary philosophy and physics concerning the nature of the passage of time. Questions to be considered may include the following: What does it mean to say that time passes? Does time really pass at all?  How do we experience time? Why can we influence the future but not the past? Is it possible to travel backward in time? Is time even real? What is time?

Reading: TBA

Evaluation: TBA

PHL199H1 – Trump, the Rule of Law and the Rise of Illiberal Democracy

Prof. David Dyzenhaus
Tuesday 1:00-3:00

This seminar will examine the important idea in our culture of the rule of law–the idea that there is a virtue to having what the state can do to its subjects governed by law. It will investigate concrete examples of what happens when the rule of law is put under stress, as is arguably the case under the Trump administration. It will also examine the way in which these developments are related to the rise of what gets called ‘illiberal democracy’, a notion celebrated by Victor Orban in Hungary, and by other Central and Eastern European politicians. We will also spend some time on the rule of law issues that arose in Canada this year in the SNC Lavalin matter.

Reading: Most (perhaps all) readings will be available over the internet.

Evaluation: 10%– class participation; 10%–one presentation to the class of the reading material for the week; 30%–in class test the week before Reading Week; 50%–2500 word paper on the themes of the course, due on the last day of term.