400-Level Courses

2020-21 Fall/Winter 400-level courses

 

Note about Prerequisites:

All 400-series courses have a prerequisite of at least 4.0 full credit equivalents in Philosophy. Please consult the academic calendar for information about prerequisites.

Instructions for Enrolling in 400-level seminars:

1. PHL400H1 to PHL451H1 are undergraduate-level courses. Students may sign up for these courses on ROSI.

2. Students who have not completed the prerequisite for any 400-level seminar must obtain the permission of the course instructor before enrolling in the course. Failure to do so may result in removal from the course without prior consultation.

3. To ensure sufficient spaces in 400-level seminars for students completing Philosophy specialist and major programs, only third- and fourth-year Philosophy specialists (including Bioethics and combined specialists) and fourth-year majors are permitted to register in these courses during the first round of enrolment. Once restrictions are lifted in the second round of enrolment, any students who have completed the general prerequisite of eight half-courses in Philosophy and the recommended preparation may enrol in 400-level seminars.

4. During the priority period in the first round of enrolment, students who enrol in more than the required number of 400-level courses for program completion (specialist, two; major or combined specialist, one) may be removed, without consultation, from the additional 400-level course(s).

5. Students in 400-level courses must attend the first class or contact the instructor to explain their absence. Failure to do so may result in removal from the course.

PHL400H1F — SEMINAR IN ANCIENT PHILOSOPHY

Instructor: TBA
Fridays 15:00-18:00

This course will have dual-delivery lectures.

This course will feature an advanced discussion of the principal figures and themes in ancient and/or medieval philosophy.

Readings:  TBA

Evaluation: TBA

PHL402H1S — SEMINAR IN EARLY MODERN PHILOSOPHY

Instructor: TBA
Mondays 15:00-18:00

This course will have dual-delivery lectures.

An advanced discussion of the principal figures and themes in the philosophy of the 17th and/or 18th centuries.

Reading: TBA

Evaluation: TBA

PHL403H1S — SEMINAR IN 19th CENTURY PHILOSOPHY

Prof. Michael Blezy
Mondays 12:00-15:00

This course will have dual-delivery lectures.

What is history? How are we to account for historical change? Is history progressing towards some predetermined end? Is there ultimately only ‘one history,’ or does the term ‘history’ refer to a number of distinct eras (that have unfolded in a number of different places) that have happened to follow one another? In this course, we will attempt to answer such questions through a close reading of two of the giants of 19th-century German philosophy: Hegel and Marx. In the first part of the course, we will familiarize ourselves with Hegel’s idea that history is to be understood as the unfolding of “Spirit” (Geist) by reading the Introduction to the Philosophy of History and selections from The Philosophy of Right. In the second part of the course, we will then read a variety works by Marx (e.g., Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right, Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844, Manifesto of the Communist Party, Wage Labor and Capital) that center around Marx’s critique of Hegel and argue for and defend the idea that “history is the history of class struggle.” By the end of the course, students will have a firm grasp of such issues and concepts as progress, dialectics, idealism, historical materialism, class struggle, alienation, the role of revolution in bringing about historical change, and the nature of ideology.

Reading: TBA

Evaluation: TBA

PHL405H1S — SEMINAR IN PHILOSOPHY OF MIND

Prof. Jonardon Ganeri
Tuesdays and Thursdays 12:00-13:30

This course will have dual-delivery lectures.

This course will focus on the advanced study of a problem in the philosophy of mind.

Reading: TBA

Evaluation: TBA

PHL406H1S  — SEMINAR IN METAPHYSICS

Prof. Trevor Teitel
Wednesdays 15:00-18:00

This course will have dual-delivery lectures.

Ontology and Metaontology

Ontology is the branch of metaphysics that asks what objects there are. This course will have three parts. In the first, we’ll look at some of the weirder views in this area that philosophers have defended. Views we may consider include: (i) the doctrine that there are only simple objects without parts, like fundamental particles, but no objects composed of multiple parts, like tables and chairs; (ii) the monist doctrine that there is only one object, or that all objects somehow depend on one object; (iii) the doctrine that there are no objects at all, or that what we traditionally think of as objects are somehow instead patterns of instantiation of certain properties; and (iv) the idealist doctrine that all objects are somehow conscious or mental, or otherwise depend on such objects. In the second part of the course, we’ll look at defenses of more commonsensical conceptions of what objects there are. In the process, we’ll further scrutinize the various considerations that were taken to support the more radical and weird views from part one. In the third and final part of the course, we’ll take a brief tour of the large field of metametaphysics. In particular, we’ll look at several attempts to argue that the ontological debates from parts one and two are somehow defective or ill-posed, perhaps because the participants in these debates are merely using language in different ways, but not disagreeing about what the world is like. We’ll also look at defenses of metaphysics and ontology from these skeptical attacks. Our focus will be on contemporary work. Students enrolling in the course should be comfortable with the basics of first-order logic (of the sort covered in an introductory course like PHL245).

Reading: TBA

Evaluation: Course evaluation will likely consist of weekly writing exercises, a take-home exam, and a final paper.

PHL407H1F — SEMINAR IN ETHICS

Instructor: TBA
Tuesday 12:00-15:00

This course will have dual-delivery lectures.

An advanced discussion of issues in moral philosophy, including issues of applied ethics.

Reading: TBA

Evaluation: TBA

PHL408H1S — SEMINAR IN PHILOSOPHY

Prof. Nick Stang
Tuesdays and Thursdays 13:30-15:00

This course will have dual-delivery lectures.

How is metaphysics possible?

In the Critique of Pure Reason Kant asks, how is the science of metaphysics possible? In this seminar, we will ask the same question, but about contemporary metaphysics. ‘Metaphysics’ is one of the most important branches of contemporary philosophy, but what is it exactly? Philosophers give various different definitions of metaphysics – the study of ‘what there is’ (or what there is ‘in reality), the study of the ‘fundamental’ structure of reality or ‘the world’, the articulation of our most basic conceptual scheme, etc. We will examine and compare these different conceptions of metaphysics and ask the question, how is metaphysics, so conceived, possible in the first place? Are human minds capable of grasping the fundamental structure of reality? If so, why? And what are the specific methods by which metaphysicians are capable of doing this (e.g., inference to the best explanation, conceptual analysis, etc.)?

Reading: While the question is inspired by Kant, reading will be drawn exclusively from 20th- and 21st-century analytic philosophy, e.g., Carnap, Quine, Strawson, Lewis, Sider, Thomasson, Hirsch, Eklund, Rayo, Williamson, etc. No previous familiarity with Kant expected.

Evaluation: Bi-weekly response papers, participation, final essay

Recommended Preparation: PHL232H1

PHL410H1F — SEMINAR IN CONTINENTAL PHILOSOPHY

Prof. Mark Kingwell
Tuesdays 12:00-15:00

This course will have dual-delivery lectures.

An advanced study of recent philosophical discussions within the continental tradition.

Readings: TBA

Evaluation: TBA

 

PHL412H1F — SEMINAR IN POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY

Prof. Andrea Lanza
Mondays 15:00-16:00

This course has dual-delivery lectures with asynchronous content posted weekly.

Advanced study of some topic in social or political philosophy.

Reading: TBA

Evaluation: TBA

PHL412H1S — SEMINAR IN POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY

Prof. Shruta Swarup
Wednesdays 18:00-21:00

This course has dual-delivery lectures.

Most of us have prudential reasons to comply with the laws of our state. But is there a moral duty to obey these laws, and if so, what is its ground? Philosophers have advanced varied arguments for the claim that there is such a duty – for the claim that we have “political obligation.”  In this seminar, we will examine these arguments, as well as the skeptical replies of critics.

Reading: TBA

Evaluation: TBA

PHL413H1S — SEMINAR IN APPLIED ETHICS

Prof. Jordan Thomson
Fridays 17:00-20:00

This course will have dual-delivery lectures.

Effective Altruism

Effective Altruism is a social movement that encourages people to do the most good they can do. For most relatively affluent people, doing the most good we can do would involve making two changes to how we currently live: First, we would have to give more. That is, we would have to donate more of our resources to charitable causes. Second, we would have to give more effectively. That is, we would have to direct our resources to organizations that do the most good per dollar spent.

In this course, we will examine a number of interesting philosophical issues raised by Effective Altruism. Questions to be addressed include: How much are we morally required to do in the name of helping others? Do we have a moral duty to give to charities that will do the most good with our money, or may we choose charities based on what we personally care about? Does it make sense to say that an organization that prevents malaria does more (or less) good than one that helps refugees?

Reading: TBA

Evaluation: TBA

PHL414H1F — SEMINAR IN PHILOSOPHY OF RELIGION

Prof. Robert Gibbs
Tuesdays and Thursdays 17:00-18:00

This course will have online, synchronous lectures.

While Buber’s book I and You is one of the most prominent philosophy books from the 20th century, it is part of an ongoing conversation in the philosophy of language. This course will explore a series of different thinkers’ accounts of the you, exploring not only the human sociality performed by saying “you” to someone else but also the nature of prayer and saying “you” to God. There are many basic questions: Does saying “you” make the you present? Is the I and you symmetrical? Can the relationship performed in language survive beyond the moment of speaking? How does the I change in addressing the you?

Because some (or all) of this course will be happening online, the framing question is, Can online interaction (either typed chat or video meeting) be an I-you address? Is in-person instruction itself better suited to I-you relations?

To facilitate reflection on both the challenge of the class format and the basic questions, there will be research activities requiring students  1) to post on a discussion board representations of I-you relations (poems, prayers, video clips, songs, scripts, academic prose (!), etc.); 2) to comment on each others’ posted materials; and 3) to present in class (for a synchronous discussion) why you chose this material and how it relates to the reading of that week.

Readings: TBA

Evaluation: TBA

PHL416H1S — SEMINAR IN PHILOSOPHY OF LAW

Prof. Sophia Moreau
Thursdays 12:00-15:00

This course will have dual-delivery lectures.

In this seminar, we will look at a variety of questions concerning discrimination, the circumstances under which it is wrong or unfair, and the purposes of anti-discrimination law. This is a relatively young philosophical field; even 15 years ago, there was very little written of a serious philosophical nature on discrimination, but there has been a sudden surge of interest in the topic from philosophers all over the world. We’ll talk in our first class about the reasons for the longstanding philosophical neglect of discrimination, and about the reasons for our current interest in it. It makes for an exciting field of study, since many theories are still in their infancy, in the process of being worked out. We will read many different theories of why discrimination is wrong: mental-state theories, which locate the wrong in the discriminator’s own biases; expressivist theories, which locate it in the social message sent by discriminatory acts; subordination theories, which locate it in the problematic social status of the groups that are discriminated against; and freedom-based theories, which locate it in the freedom denied to groups that face discrimination. We will also think about the role of stereotypes in discrimination, and about the relative obligations of private individuals and the state. Finally, we will try to think philosophically about the issues raised in some recent legal cases, such as Masterpiece Cake Shop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, Ewert v. Canada, and the Dutee Chand case.

Reading: TBA

Evaluation: TBA

PHL418H1S — SEMINAR IN SOUTH ASIAN PHILOSOPHY

Prof. Elisa Freschi
Mondays 12:00-15:00

This course will have dual-delivery lectures.

An advanced study of one or more topics in South Asian Philosophy.

Reading: TBA

Evaluation: TBA

PHL440H1S — CLINICAL BIOETHICS

Instructor: TBA
Thursdays 3:00-6:00

This course will have dual-delivery lectures.

An advanced study of topics in bioethics, taught in conjunction with clinical bioethicists associated with the health-care organization partners of the University of Toronto Joint Centre for Bioethics.

Reading: TBA

Evaluation: TBA

PHL446H1S — SEMINAR IN DECISION THEORY

Prof. Franz Huber
Mondays 18:00-21:00

This course will have dual-delivery lectures.

This seminar in decision theory will be an introduction to decision and game theory based on Martin Peterson (2017), An Introduction to Decision Theory, 2nd ed. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press), available online.

Decision theory studies what one ought to do when some more or less desirable outcomes of one’s actions depend on some external facts about which one is uncertain. Game theory studies what one ought to do when some more or less desirable outcomes of one’s actions depend on the choices made by others one is interacting with. Uncertainty is characterized in terms of probabilities, desires are characterized in terms of utilities, and together they determine the expected utility of one’s actions. This course introduces these notions and their mathematical representations, and it critically reflects on philosophical questions such as whether one should always take the action that maximize one’s expected utility, whether uncertainty is subjective or objective, and why uncertainty does, or ought to, obey the laws of probability.

Reading: TBA

Evaluation: Details will be announced in January, but the assignments will include (a) weekly comments on the readings, as well as (b) weekly problem sets. So, while the course is structured along philosophical problems, please be prepared to use mathematical symbols and logical formulas, as well as to calculate and solve equations and to prove and derive theorems.

 

PHL447H1F — SEMINAR IN PHILOSOPHICAL LOGIC

Prof. Franz Huber
Mondays and Wednesdays 19:00-20:30

This course will have dual-delivery lectures.

This seminar 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 the interventions in terms of which structural equations are often interpreted. It will also include a discussion of empirical results on the role 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.

Reading: TBA

Evaluation: Details will be announced in September, but the assignments will include (a) a first paper draft, (b) a revised and final paper, as well as (c) weekly comments on the readings.

PHL451H1S — SEMINAR IN PHILOSOPHY OF LANGUAGE

Prof. Imogen Dickie
Mondays 15:00-18:00

This course will have dual-delivery lectures.

An advanced study of a topic in the philosophy of language.

Reading: TBA

Evaluation: TBA

PHL455H1F — SEMINAR IN PHILOSOPHY OF SCIENCE

Prof. Trevor Teitel
Wednesdays 15:00-18:00

This course will have dual-delivery lectures.

From Physics to the ‘High-Level’ Sciences

In this course we’ll look at some central topics in the philosophy of science, in each case focusing on how the issues change as we move from fundamental physics to ‘high-level’ sciences like biology, chemistry, psychology, and economics. As far as possible we’ll discuss the issues in the abstract, without presupposing knowledge of any particular science. Still, students with backgrounds in particular sciences are encouraged to apply the general issues we’ll discuss to examples from their own fields. Questions we’ll look at include:

  • Do high-level sciences ‘reduce’ to physics? And what does this reductionist claim even amount to?
  • Physicists often speak of having discovered certain laws of nature. But what is a law of nature? And in what sense, if any, might high-level sciences also contain laws of nature?
  • Scientists often seek conclusions about what causes what. But in virtue of what does one event cause another? If physics teaches us about laws of nature, does it also deliver causal conclusions? Or is causation somehow a distinctively high-level phenomenon in a way that laws of nature aren’t?

The other topics we will discuss will be determined by students’ interests. Options include: (i) case studies of particular examples of alleged reductions (like from thermodynamics to statistical mechanics, or from classical to molecular genetics); (ii) the probabilistic conclusions of different sciences, and how the probabilities in certain physical theories relate to those found in high-level sciences; (iii) recent attempts to explain the success of all high-level sciences in terms of statistical mechanics; and (iv) different accounts of “natural kinds,” and whether we should expect a single account that encompasses kinds in physics as well as those in high-level sciences.

Reading: TBA

Evaluation: Course evaluation will likely consist of weekly writing exercises, a take-home exam, and a final paper.