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Queen's University
 

200 Level Courses

Course Offerings for 2014-15:

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PHIL 201/3.0 Philosophy and Medicine    3L/S

J. Duffin  Winter Term (Mon 1:00 - 2:30; Wed 11:30 - 1:00)

PREREQUISITE: Completed 30.0 or more units.

Medical ideas have always focused on how to identify disease, treat it, and predict its outcome. The definition of normal and abnormal is the business of medical epistemology; yet the parameters, evidence, and definitions of this activity have changed through time in concert with social, philosophical, and technical change. This course provides an overview of the history of medical ideas, by focusing on a wide selection of primary sources about diseases and about philosophy of knowledge, from Homer to this year's Globe & Mail. Students read short passages written by philosophers, historians, physicians, writers, and journalists to discover the theoretical underpinnings of the construction of medical knowledge.

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PHIL 203/3.0 Science and Society 3L/S

S. Sismondo Fall Term (Mon 1:00 - 2:30; Wed 11:30 - 1:00)

PREREQUISITE: 6.0 units in Philosophy.  PLEASE NOTE:  Students who have second-year standing/30 units can be registered in this course if space is available.  Please contact PHILUG@queensu.ca and include your full name and student number.   

Science with a human face

This course is about two things. First, it is about science as a social activity. Scientific research is performed by groups of people, and scientific knowledge is an achievement of those groups: what counts as scientific knowledge is the result of agreement, and the same applies to appropriate methods for pursuing, establishing, formulating and circulating knowledge. Second, fully appreciating the social basis of science creates new opportunities for larger societies’ engagement with science, as well as some limits to that engagement. We’ll be exploring these opportunities and limits towards the end of the course.

The course does not presume that students have any background in the sciences, though we will read about some technical scientific questions, debates, histories and results. As a result, all students – whatever their backgrounds – will learn a little science.

Assessment will be on the basis of short essays, spaced evenly over the term.

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PHIL 203S/3.0  (Online Course) Science and Society

M. Smith Winter Term

This course is offered through Continuing and Distance Studies.  For more information on the content of this course, please go to the following website:  http://www.queensu.ca/artsci_online/courses/science-and-society/winter 

PLEASE NOTE:  Students who have second-year standing/30 units can be registered in this course if space is available.  Please contact PHILUG@queensu.ca and include your full name and student number.   

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PHIL 204/3.0 Life, Death, and Meaning 3L

M. Taylor Fall Term (Wed 10:00 - 11:30; Fri 8:30 - 10:00)

PREREQUISITE: 6.0 units in PHIL.  PLEASE NOTE:  Students who have second-year standing/30 units can be registered in this course if space is available.  Please contact PHILUG@queensu.ca and include your full name and student number.   

 

Students will examine questions we often put in the backs of our minds — questions we don’t always want to ask or think about.  For example:  “Why are we here?”  “What is the meaning of life?”  “How should we understand our own mortality?”  “If, sometime in the future, life no longer exists, does what we do and believe and care for now matter?”

We will consider a variety of perspectives on these questions, drawing on both philosophical and literary sources.

Specific topics may include:  “Would life still have meaning if we were immortal?”  “Is it unethical to have children?”  “How should we understand suicide?”  And, of course, “What can philosophy tell us about the meaning of life?”

The course will involve lectures and in-class discussion, as well as written assignments and a final exam.

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PHIL 204/3.0 Life, Death, and Meaning 3L

N. Najand Winter Term (Tues 4:00 - 5:30; Thurs 2:30 - 4:00)

PREREQUISITE: 6.0 units in PHIL.  PLEASE NOTE:  Students who have second-year standing/30 units can be registered in this course if space is available.  Please contact PHILUG@queensu.ca and include your full name and student number.   

 

Students will examine questions we often put in the backs of our minds — questions we don’t always want to ask or think about.  For example:  “Why are we here?”  “What is the meaning of life?”  “How should we understand our own mortality?”  “If, sometime in the future, life no longer exists, does what we do and believe and care for now matter?”

We will consider a variety of perspectives on these questions, drawing on both philosophical and literary sources.

Specific topics may include:  “Would life still have meaning if we were immortal?”  “Is it unethical to have children?”  “How should we understand suicide?”  And, of course, “What can philosophy tell us about the meaning of life?”

The course will involve lectures and in-class discussion, as well as written assignments and a final exam.

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PHIL233/3.0  Greek Philosophy 3L

J. Miller Fall Term (Mon 11:30 - 1:00; Thurs 1:00 - 2:30)

PREREQUISITE:  A GPA of 2.60 in 6.0 units in PHIL or CLST.

EXCLUSIONS:  no more than 1 course from PHIL232; PHIL233.

PHIL 233 has two objectives.  The first and more obvious is the introduction of some key ideas and arguments of the ancient philosophers.  The second and less obvious might be described as metaphilosophical:  it is the inculcation of an appreciation of the "philosophical turn" taken by ancient Greek society and the actual dialectic of ancient Greek philosophy.  Readings, lectures and assignments all reflect and support these objectives.  By the end of the term, students will have some sense of the amazing achievement of ancient Greece as well as some of the main philosophical innovations of the major Greek philosophers.

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PHIL 240S/3.0  (Online Course) Philosophy of Education

P. Fairfield Winter Term

PLEASE NOTE:  Students who have second-year standing/30 units can be registered in this course if space is available.  Please contact PHILUG@queensu.ca and include your full name and student number.   

This course is offered through Continuing and Distance Studies.  For more information on the content of this course, please go to the following website:   http://www.queensu.ca/cds/courses/phil.html

This on-line course introduces students to the philosophy of education through an examination of a few major twentieth-century texts as well as several recent essays. The focus of the course is the educational thought of John Dewey—the foremost philosopher of education of the first half of the twentieth century—as well as Paulo Freire, Ivan Illich, and Hans-Georg Gadamer, three of the most notable philosophers of education of recent times. We shall examine such issues as the nature and aims of the learning process, the debate between educational progressives and conservatives, the relation of education to experience, educational technology and dialogue, and the politics of education.

This course may be taken as an elective and does not presuppose any prior background in philosophy.

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PHIL 250/6.0 Epistemology and Metaphysics 3L/S

H. Laycock (Fall)/J. Mozersky (Winter) (Wed 1:00 - 2:30; Fri 11:30 - 1:00)

PREREQUISITE: (A GPA of 2.0 in 6.0 units in PHIL) or (A grade of B- in 3.0 units in PHIL and level 2 or above in a COGS plan). 

Fall Term:  Reality, objective knowledge, and the realm of appearances.

We are, of course, familiar with the world as we experience it. But can we know the world as it is in itself, completely independent of experience? And does this idea make any sense? We explore these ideas of Appearance and Reality through the works of Descartes and Locke, introducing students to the major philosophical schools of rationalism and empiricism. The term continues by exploring the idea of the fundamental constitution of reality itself. This idea, which is central to the work of the very earliest pre-Socratic thinkers, continues through Plato and Aristotle, up into the post-positivist metaphysics of the 20th and 21st Centuries.

 

Winter Term:  The Structure of Reality: Time, Change, Identity and Necessity 

What is the structure of time and how does that relate to our experience of time?  Is it possible for something to remain the very same thing before and after a change?  Just what is the nature of possibility (and necessity) anyway?  Metaphysics is the study of the general structure of reality.  In this term, we will focus on the nature of time, change, identity and modality (possibility and necessity).  These concepts are central to our understanding of the world yet they remain puzzling in fascinating ways, so we shall work toward a coherent and comprehensive understanding of them.  We shall conclude the course with a consideration of the question of the nature of metaphysical knowledge: how is it possible to come to know abstract and general features of reality?

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PHIL 256/3.0 Existentialism 3L

A. Mercier, Winter Term (Mon 10:00 - 11:30; Wed 8:30 - 10:00)

PREREQUISITE: 6.0 units in PHIL.

This course will examine classic existentialist notions through classic existentialist texts, such as Kierkegaard’s critique of philosophy and religion, Nietzsche’s critique of humanity and traditional morality, Sartre’s views on freedom, bad faith and authenticity, Simone de Beauvoir's views on oppression and action, as well as through contemporary literature. 

The course will focus on the personal repercussions of these ideas for the meaning of one’s own life and the value of one's actions.

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PHIL 257/6.0 Ethics 3L/S

S. Leighton/ R. Kumar Fall-Winter Term (Mon 4:00 - 5:30; Wed 2:30 - 4:00)

PREREQUISITE: A GPA of 2.0 in 6.0 units in PHIL. 

Passion, Virtue and Happiness:

Term one addresses the moral philosophy of Plato and Aristotle.  Their central question concerns how one should live, and leads us to consider what living well is, whether it requires being a good and virtuous person, and what these are.  Other matters to be considered include, the challenge of moral skepticism, the appropriate roles for the passions, reason, good and bad fortune.

The format of the course will be lecture-discussion.  The aim is to promote reflection on the above matters, and will include trying to come to grips with sometimes difficult texts, the philosophical visions offered, particular claims made, the arguments meant to support them, and (as far as we can tell) the truth about these matters, and the reasons why.

The basis for evaluation will be a mixture of in class exams, and written assignments.

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Reason, Value and Moral Obligation:

Term two:  People attach a great deal of importance to doing the morally right thing. They feel guilty if they fail, and they  blame others when others fail. What explains why people take living morally to be so important? Would we all live better lives if we ceased to care about doing so? Further, though people want to do the morally right thing, they often disagree about what that is. What makes it the case that a certain way of acting is the morally right thing to do? Is it some kind of truth that can be discovered through reason? Or is something the morally right thing to do because of how people feel about? We will explore  some of the most important answers to these questions as through the careful examination of the work of Hume, Kant, Mill, Nietzsche, Moore, Ayer, Steveson and Foot.

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PHIL 259/3.0 (Online Course) Critical Thinking

N. Salay Fall Term

This course is offered through Continuing and Distance Studies.  For more information on the content of this course, please go to the following website:   http://www.queensu.ca/cds/courses/phil.html  

The ability to think critically about the arguments we read and hear is a skill everyone ought to have in this modern age of information overload. The best way to learn this skill, any skill, is with a lot of practise. In this class you will get just that: you will learn how to identify the logical structure of arguments, how to see through rhetoric to the core claim of an argument, and how to assess the merits of these arguments. Since the complement to thinking clearly is writing clearly, you will also be doing a fair bit of it, developing your own arguments and critiquing those made by your peers. Provided you put in the time, you will be a better and more confident thinker and writer by the end of this term.

 

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PHIL 261/3.0 Philosophy of Mathematics 3L/S

S. Sismondo Winter Term (Tues 11:30 - 1:00; Fri 1:00 - 2:30)

PREREQUISITE: Completed 30.0 or more units.

How can we have knowledge about such odd things as mathematical objects?

Much philosophy of mathematics has been driven by a debate about the nature of mathematical objects: When we know something mathematical, what is that knowledge about? Closely connected are debates about the nature of mathematical knowledge: Because mathematical objects aren’t present to us in the way that material objects are, how can we have knowledge about them? We’ll be tackling these problems head-on, and along the way will identify a few additional problems.

One of the standard answers to the first problem, and the one with which we’ll begin, is mathematical platonism, the claim that mathematical objects are independent of any thinkers, thoughts or practices. This claim manages simultaneously to be extremely attractive (because it makes sense of the apparent solidity of mathematics) and implausible (because of the difficulties it creates for the second, epistemological, set of problems). We’ll try to make sense of the phenomenon of mathematics by exploring platonism and some alternatives.

The course does not presume any particular knowledge of either math or logic. However, one of the benefits of the course is that we’ll learn a little fun math, and occasionally some mind-blowing math. None of it will be more challenging than an engaged fifteen year-old can handle.

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PHIL 263/3.0 Philosophy of Religion:

Challenging Prejudice, Grounding Morality and Making Meaning      3L

J. Davies Fall Term (Tues 8:30 - 10:00; Fri 10:00 - 11:30)

PREREQUISITE: 6.0 units in PHIL or RELS.  PLEASE NOTE:  Students who have second-year standing/30 units can be registered in this course if space is available.  Please contact PHILUG@queensu.ca and include your full name and student number.   

Religion is counted among the forces that cause wars and encourage discrimination. Many believe it spreads superstition and willful blindness to facts and arguments that challenge its fundamental dogmas.  Yet religion also generates the conceptual frameworks, practices, and community to enable resistance to violence and injustice.  It supports many in their efforts to come to terms with loss, death, and the meaning of life.  Religion is something about which most of us have strong opinions and strong feelings.  For that reason it presents us with a golden opportunity to interrogate our own prejudices and thereby to sharpen our capacities for philosophical inquiry.  

We will study some short texts by key figures in the history of European philosophy (Plato on piety; Kant on the relation of religious belief to moral reason; and Levinas on suffering). We will also read a recently published book by Alain de Botton, who explores the positive value of diverse religious practices from an atheist perspective.   The course challenges you to enhance your ability to read philosophical texts very carefully and to further develop your capacity to critically and constructively engage with philosophical questions and texts (orally and in writing).

Regular classroom participation is expected. Evaluation is based on three in-class tests and an essay as well as a discretionary overall participation mark.

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PHIL 270/3.0 Minds and Machines L/S

N. Salay Fall Term (Tues 4:00 - 5:30; Thurs 2:30 - 4:00)

PREREQUISITE:  6.0 units in PHIL.  PLEASE NOTE:  Students who have second-year standing/30 units can be registered in this course if space is available.  Please contact PHILUG@queensu.ca and include your full name and student number.   

EXCLUSIONS:  PHIL170*

How do our brains make up our minds?  Do they?  Or is there more to mind than brain?  These and related questions together motivate research in today’s hottest and most dynamic field — Cognitive Science.  

The course will begin with a brief overview of the traditional themes in the philosophy of mind, but the bulk of the term will be spent investigating contemporary research programs in cognitive science.  Throughout, we will be examining issues with a philosophical eye, critiquing approaches and synthesising ideas across the various sub-disciplines — cognitive psychology, computer science, neuroscience, and linguistics.  The topics we will cover throughout the term include, but are not limited to, the following: formal systems; physical symbol systems; neural networks; A-life; emergent systems; dynamical systems; cognitive linguistics; embodied cognition.

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PHIL 273/3.0 Continental Philosophy, 1800-1900: 

The Emergence of Existentialism and Hermeneutics        3L

P. Fairfield Fall Term (Mon 10:00 - 11:30; Wed 8:30 - 10:00)

PREREQUISITE: Completed 30.0  or more units.

This course provides an interpretation of three key figures in nineteenth-century continental European philosophy: Søren Kierkegaard, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Wilhelm Dilthey. Major themes include the origins of existentialism and hermeneutics. While “existentialism” is a twentieth-century term, its roots as a philosophical movement lie in the writings of Kierkegaard and Nietzsche in particular. Nietzsche and Dilthey were major figures in hermeneutics or the philosophy of interpretation, and their respective contributions to this field are a focus in this course. Additional themes include the critique of modern epistemology and metaphysics, religion and religious morality, and the conditions and limits of human understanding. The format is lecture with discussion.

This course may be taken as an elective and does not presuppose any prior background in philosophy.

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PHIL 276/3.0 Critical Perspectives on Social Diversity  3L

J. Nielsen Winter Term (Mon 11:30 - 1:00; Thurs 1:00 - 2:30)

PREREQUISITE: 6.0 units in PHIL at the 100-level or permission of the Department.  PLEASE NOTE:  Students who have second-year standing/30 units can be registered in this course if space is available.  Please contact PHILUG@queensu.ca and include your full name and student number.   

An Introduction to philosophical issues regarding sexism, racism, ageism, homophobia, classism, imperialism and other forms of oppression. 

NOTE:  The course is intended to prepare students for upper level courses in feminist philosophy and the philosophy of culture. 

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PHIL 296/3.0 Animals and Society 3L

Z. Weisberg Winter Term (Tues 10:00 - 11:30; Thurs 8:30 - 10:00)

PREREQUISITE: Completed 30.0 or more units.

This course provides students with an introduction to historical and contemporary debates regarding attitudes towards and treatment of nonhuman animals within Western societies, and explores our ethical and political responsibilities toward them. Some key guiding questions of the course include: What criteria or characteristics make nonhuman animals worthy of moral consideration? The capacity to suffer, self-awareness, possessing emotions or reason? If animals are worthy of moral consideration, are they also capable of being agents or participants in the shaping of human-animal relations? Are there ways in which we can structure social and political life to make them more responsive to the preferences and goals of animals themselves? To help answer these questions, this course examines a wide range of human-animal relations, including the use of domesticated animals as food, pets, working animals, or research subjects, as well as our relations with wild animals (including both animals in the wilderness and the urban wildlife that lives amongst us). In all of these contexts, Western societies have historically operated on the assumption that humans have the right to use, and if necessary to harm or kill, animals for our benefit. Yet the traditional religious or scientific justifications for this claim have increasingly been challenged as we learn more about the mental and emotional capacities of animals. Indeed, an increasing number of animal rights theorists and practitioners argue that there is no valid justification for the right to use animals for our benefit. We will explore these debates over the status of animals, and consider what society would look like if we fundamentally rethought our relations to animals. Existing laws typically define animals as the property of their human owners – a framework that many critics argue is unable to afford any true protection to the rights and interests of animals. Various models have been proposed to supplement, or entirely replace, this property framework, including proposals to accord legal standing or legal personhood to animals, to recognize companion animals as members of the family, to accord farm animals and service animals the rights of workers, to accord wilderness animals rights to territory, and more generally to recognize animals as members of our political community, with rights to representation or citizenship. In exploring these debates, we will consider their complex links to other forms of social differentiation which have defined some people as less than fully human (e.g., in relation to gender, race and class). How would ‘animal liberation’ impact on the struggles of women, racial minorities, indigenous peoples and others?

Structure: Lectures with opportunity for discussion in class.

Assessment: a mixture of in-class exams and written assignments.

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Kingston, Ontario, Canada. K7L 3N6. 613.533.2000