Department of Philosophy

DEPARTMENT OF

Philosophy

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200 Level Courses

These are courses and descriptions for 2018-19.

 

PHIL 203 - Science and Society - Online course

M.C. Smith

WINTER (3.0)

Philosophical issues ‐ both epistemological and ethical ‐ involved in specific debates about the relationship between science and social issues. The course may focus, for instance, on recent ‘popular’ sociobiology efforts by biologists and others to establish scientific theories of human nature and human potential.Philosophical issues - both epistemological and ethical - involved in specific debates about the relationship between science and social issues. The course may focus, for instance, on recent ‘popular’ sociobiology efforts by biologists and others to establish scientific theories of human nature and human potential.

LEARNING HOURS   120 (36L;84P)

PREREQUISITE  Level two or above

 

PHIL 204 - Life, Death, and Meaning

L. Jamieson

FALL (3.0)

An examination of whether life has ‘meaning’, and a consideration of different philosophical interpretations of the meaning of life, the significance of death for the meaning of life, and whether it even makes sense to speak of life as having meaning.

LEARNING HOURS   120 (36L;84P)

PREREQUISITE  Level 2 or above or completed 6.0 units in PHIL

 

PHIL 247—Practical Ethics

K. Gordon-Solmon

WINTER (3.0)

This course will subject a range of issues in practical ethics to philosophical scrutiny.  Topics may include obligations to further generations, the ethics of war and self-defence, whether torture is every permissible, the ethics of deception, the morality of genetic enhancement, the nature of exploitation, and moral objections to organ sales

LEARNING HOURS 120 (36l; 468P)

PREREQUISITE:  Level 2 or above or completed 6.0 units in PHIL

 

PHIL 250-- Epistemology and Metaphysics

D. Bakhurst

FALL/WINTER (6.0)

This course provides an examination of central debates in epistemology and metaphysics from the early modern period to the present. Focusing on the work of such thinkers as Descartes, Locke, Berkeley, Hume, Kant, and Wittgenstein, we shall discuss questions of the nature and justification of knowledge, mind and body, freedom and determinism, personal identity and social being, truth and meaning.   

Texts: The book L. P. Pojman and L. Vaughn (eds), Classics of Philosophy, 3rd edn. (Oxford University Press) contains many of the central texts; further readings will be available on e-reserve.

LEARNING HOURS   240 (72L;168P)

PREREQUISITE   (A GPA of 2.0 in 6.0 units in PHIL) or (a grade of B- in 3.0 units in PHIL and registration in a COGS Plan).

 

PHIL 256 – Existentialism

L. Guenther

FALL (3.0)

Existentialism is more than a theory; it’s a practice of radical freedom and responsibility.  Inspired by Nietzsche’s perspectivism and by the phenomenological tradition, existentialism takes the concrete experience of individual consciousness as the starting point for philosophy.  Many existentialists hold that the world, in itself, is meaningless and absurd; there is no God and no universal measure of right and wrong, good and evil.  In the absence of objective standards for knowledge and ethics, individuals must choose or create their own meaning, accepting full responsibility for the implications of their choices.  This includes the responsibility to affirm and support the freedom of others; to do otherwise would be “bad faith,” or a refusal to affirm the radical freedom of all human beings.  Ultimately, the practice of individual freedom demands a struggle for collective liberation from oppressive structures such as sexism, racism, and economic inequality, which block the full expression of existential freedom and responsibility. 

In this course, we will study four influential existentialists: Camus, Sartre, Beauvoir, and Fanon.  In the final section of the course, we will focus on the question of collective liberation by critically analyzing each philosopher’s response to the French occupation of Algeria and the Algerian War of Independence (1954-62).

LEARNING HOURS 120 (72l;168p)

PREREQUISITE:  Level 2 or above or completed 6.0 units in PHIL

 

PHIL 257-- Ethics

FALL/WINTER (6.0)

Fall Term -- S. Leighton; Winter Term – R. Kumar

A study of problems in moral and/or political philosophy from the ancient or early modern period to the present.

Fall Term: This half of the course will be an introduction to moral philosophy as seen through the eyes of Plato and Aristotle.  Works to be examined are Plato’s Republic and Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics.  Sample topics to be considered include the possibility of an ultimate aim, responses to moral skepticism, the relative importance and place of virtue, emotion and happiness.

Winter term: Modern moral philosophy is centrally concerned with questions concerning the nature of moral obligation and moral wrongdoing. In this term of the course, we will consider three of the most important ones.  First, why is it that some ways of treating people are morally wrong? Second, how can we know whether what we are thinking of doing would be morally wrong? And third, what explains why most of us try and avoid wrongdoing? We will think through  these matters by examining how they arise and are addressed in the work of Hume, Kant, Sidgwick, and Nietzsche. 

Course Structure: Classes will consist of lectures with some opportunity for discussion. 

LEARNING HOURS   240 (76L;168P)

PREREQUISITE   A GPA of 2.0 in 6.0 units in PHIL.

 

PHIL 259 - Critical Thinking - Online course

N. Salay

FALL Term (3.0)

In this class you will learn how to think critically; you will learn how to evaluate arguments, claims, beliefs, and so on as well as how to make solid arguments of your own.  You will learn how to think clearly, a powerful skill indeed.  Since the complement to thinking clearly is writing clearly, this critical thinking course also includes a writing component.  Many of the assignments require short essay or paragraph-style answers.  These will be marked on content, grammar, and style.

 

PHIL 261 – Philosophy of Mathematics

Topic:  Adventures in the Abstract

M.C. Smith

Winter (3.0)

The philosophy of mathematics is especially interesting because it brings together a number of questions in metaphysics, epistemology and the philosophies of thought and language. After a very quick run through some historical views, we will address largely contemporary material that deals with these questions, among others:

  • What, if anything, is the subject-matter of mathematics?
  • What is mathematical objectivity? Are there mathematical objects?
  • How can mathematical truths be known?
  • What is a proof? What do proofs prove?
  • What does paradox teach us about the mathematical realm?
  • How can we explain the applicability of mathematics in natural science and daily life? 


We will be reading work by Kant, Russell, Hilbert, Boolos, Quine, Putnam, Field, Yablo and others. No particular mathematical background will be assumed. 

LEARNING HOURS   120 (36L;84P)

PREREQUISITE Level 2 or above or completed 6.0 units in PHIL

 

PHIL 270—Minds and Machines

N. Salay

WINTER (3.0)

In this course we will survey the contribution of philosophy to the cognitive sciences.  Our focus will be on providing an holistic understanding of the various perspectives brought by each of the disciplines, in particular, cognitive psychology, computer science, neuroscience, and linguistics, through an investigation of how the various approaches ultimately frame and answer our questions about the mind.  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 themes in cognitive science from a philosophical perspective.  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.

NOTE   Each week, students will be assigned a number of articles or chapters for reading and will be expected to be able to discuss the readings in class.

LEARNING HOURS   120 (36L;84P)

PREREQUISITE  Level 2 or above or completed 6.0 units in PHIL

 

PHIL 271 - Philosophy and Literature

D. Knight

WINTER (3.0)

Topic: Literature and Film

What is literature, exactly? What is film? And how are these two media — one based in language, one in perception — related?

This year, PHIL 271 will survey a range of central topics at the heart of the philosophies of literature and film. We’ll consider the ontology question: What sort of things are works of literature and cinema? We’ll ask just what fiction is, metaphysically speaking, and what exactly a fictional narrative amounts to. We’ll consider how we engage emotionally and ethically with literary and cinematic works. And we’ll ask how we understand, interpret, and evaluate works of literature and cinema.

While the official title of this course focuses on “Philosophy and Literature,” the real range of material under examination includes virtually all works of narrative fiction, and these of course extend beyond the purely “literary” to include popular fiction, Hollywood films and works of the so-called art cinema, comics and so forth.

Along the way, we will examine novel to film adaptations, questions of film and literary genres (science fiction and romance will be two main examples), and the debate around “high” and “low” art as that distinction (itself debatable!) pertains to novels and movies. If time permits, we will consider some of the emerging interactive narrative forms.

Students can expect to write four short reports on our readings (each 500-750 words maximum), and two essays, one in the first half of the course and one in the second half (1500-1800 words). There will be no final exam.

LEARNING HOURS 120 (36L;84P)

PREREQUISITE  Level 2 or above or completed 6.0 units in PHIL

 

PHIL 275-- Thinking Gender, Sex and Love

J. Davies

WINTER

This course complements material taught about gender, sexuality and love from different disciplinary perspectives including History, Psychology, Biology, Health, and Gender Studies among other departments. PHIL 275 has a discipline specific emphasis on classic and contemporary philosophical literature, figures, and methods.

The critical thinking skills taught in this course are accessible to student who have not studied philosophy before and are transferable to other disciplines. 

Philosophy concentrators will benefit from the topic/problem focus on familiar philosophical figures and schools (from Plato to Foucault, utilitarianism, liberalism, deontology) as well exposure to thinkers, perspectives and literatures with which they may be less familiar.

LEARNING HOURS   120 (36L;84P)

PREREQUISITE  Level 2 or above or completed 6.0 units in PHIL

 

PHIL 276 - Critical Perspectives on Social Diversity — Principal’s Dream Course

L. Guenther

Winter (3.0)

Indigenous scholar Eve Tuck calls on communities to suspend “damage-centered research” that relies on pain and injury for its theory of change, and to cultivate a “desire-based research” that affirms the “complexity, contradiction, and the self-determination of lived lives” (“Suspending Damage,” p. 416).  Rather than focusing on the victimization of oppressed groups, desire-based research and pedagogy supports the agency of people in diverse social locations to survive, resist, refuse, and cultivate resurgence.  In this course, we will develop a critical toolkit of concepts and methods for desire-based research on race, class, gender, sexuality, and disability, in conversation with primary texts and theoretical reflections on recent social movements such as Occupy, Black Lives Matter, Idle No More, #MeToo, and movements for queer and trans liberation, disability rights, prison abolition, and radical ecology.  Students will work in active-learning groups to create a collective project on a specific social movement, and they will also be guided through an inquiry-based process to develop their own individual research paper.  

LEARNING HOURS 120 (72l;168p)

PREREQUISITE  Level 2 or above or completed 6.0 units in PHIL

 

PHIL 296—Animals and Society

A. Tam

WINTER (3.0)

This course introduces students to historical and contemporary debates regarding the treatment of nonhuman animals within Western societies, and explores our ethical responsibilities toward them. The course examines a range of human- animal relations, involving domesticated, working, research subjects and wild animals.

LEARNING HOURS   120 (36L;84P)

PREREQUISITE  Level 2 or above or completed 6.0 units in PHIL