Department of Philosophy



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Graduate Courses     

Offered 2018-19

 Note:  All course information is subject to change until the final 2018-19 University timetable is posted.


Philosophy Graduate Timetable for 2018-19               


PHIL 802 — Current Issues in Moral Philosophy I

R. Kumar

WINTER (3.0)

What do we owe future generations?

Some of the most difficult moral questions we now confront concern the ways our way of life is likely to have very bad consequences for the lives of those who will live hundreds of years from now. In this seminar, we will look at a selection of these questions, such as: do we have duties to protect the interests of future generations? Are they different in character from the duties we owe to those who make up the existing generation?  Does morality require us to make happy people, or should we only be concerned with the well-being of those who exist? Does the survival of humanity morally matter, and if so, why?

Readings will include work by Parfit, McMahan, Scheffler, Shiffrin, Broome, and Mulgan.


PHIL 402/803 — Current Issues in Moral Philosophy II

Special Topic:  The Ethics of Self-Defense

K. Gordon-Solmon

FALL (3.0)

When is it morally permissible for one human being to kill another? Many people believe that killing a person is permissible when doing so is necessary to save one’s own life. But surely this isn’t always the case. It would be wrong, for example, to use an innocent bystander as a human shield against an oncoming bullet. Some philosophers also claim that it would be wrong to shoot down a human projectile (who’s been involuntarily shot of a cannon, say), even knowing the force of the impact will be fatal to you. In this course, we'll focus on the range of arguments that have been advanced in the contemporary literature on the ethics of self- (and other-) defense.

For the first eight weeks of term, we’ll concentrate on (1) what sorts of factors make it permissible to kill a person in self-defense, and (2) Jeff McMahan’s groundbreaking Responsibility Account of liability to defensive killing, and its critical reception. Over the last four weeks of term, we’ll examine, against the background of the Responsibility Account, a series of discreet problems within the ethics of self-defense; topics will include the relevance of intentions to the permissible infliction of harm, what (if any) defensive actions it’s permissible to take against those who justifiably threaten lethal harm, and the difference numbers make to the permissibility of killing liable threateners. Readings will be by Judith Thomson, Mike Otsuka, Jeff McMahan, Warren Quinn, Jonathan Quong, Saba Bazargan, Seth Lazar, Victor Tadros, and Frances Kamm.


PHIL 805 — Social and Political Philosophy I

Special Topic: Distributive Justice

A. M. Macleod

WINTER (3.0)

An exploration of some central questions of distributive justice. 
Themes (with sample questions within brackets):
The Domain of Distributive Justice (How are judgments about just conduct, just institutions, and just states of affairs related?) 
Justice and Law (Is consistency in the application of unjust laws a form of justice?) 
Distributive Justice and the Market (Can meaningful judgments of justice be made about market-determined distributions of wealth, power and opportunity?) 
Distributive Justice and Utilitarianism (Is there a viable utilitarian perspective on issues of distributive justice?) 
Justice and Rights (What role do considerations of distributive justice play in the justification of rights?) 
Justice and Libertarianism (How far is the voluntariness of the transactions to which individuals and groups are parties the key to justice in society?) 
Justice and Democracy (What is the relationship between questions about the justice of a society’s laws, institutions and policies and questions about their democratic endorsement?) 
Justice and Contractarianism (What light do hypothetical contract arguments throw on the nature of justice?) 
Justice and Equality (Could equality of opportunity be all that justice requires?) 
Justice, Economic Inequality, and Incentives (Is there an objection from the standpoint of justice to incentive-providing economic inequalities?) 
Justice and Desert (What contribution do notions of desert or merit make to our understanding of what is involved in treating people fairly?) 
Justice and Efficiency (Are justice and efficiency competing values, subject to trade-off?) 
Discussion will be based on handouts and on selections from books and articles.
In addition to regular participation in the weekly seminars, the only formal requirement is the submission of a relatively brief (c. 4,000-word), “argumentative” paper on some seminar-related topic.


PHIL 806 — Current Issues in Social and Political Philosophy II

Special Topic: Human Flourishing and Equality

C. Sypnowich

FALL (3.0)

Flourishing and Equality -- The idea of flourishing is central to the philosophy of the ancients, particularly Aristotle, in which it figures as a measure of the good for both the person and the community.  The task of the community is to enable the person to live well, in concert with the individual’s own commitment to the good life.  However, with the rise of liberal neutralist conceptions of politics, contemporary ethical discussion tends to assume a division of labour between questions of the good life, the province of moral philosophy and individual choice, and questions of justice, the province of political philosophy and the community.

This course focuses on how the idea of human flourishing can inform a theory of equality. It might be said that equality is something everyone believes in; virtually all political philosophies across the spectrum claim to be egalitarian, be it in their insistence on individuals’ equal rights to liberty and property or the importance of redistributing wealth more equally.  We are all egalitarians now, we can proclaim, in the rather triumphalist mood that characterised many commentaries on the occasion of the millennium.  However, the concept of equality has also been challenged by a number of factors: the collapse of the Soviet Union and societies of ‘state socialism,’ the rise of right-wing critiques of the welfare state, and controversy within egalitarian debate itself.

This course looks at the idea of equality in light of a range of contemporary debates, drawing on a number of key writings among contemporary egalitarians, including the instructor’s recent work.

Texts: Instructor’s recent book, Equality Renewed and articles by an array of contemporary philosophers in the field of ethics, broadly understood.

Course structure: This is a seminar, so it is imperative that students come to class prepared to talk about the course material.  The first couple of classes will be structured around lectures given by the instructor, with discussion.  Thereafter classes will be structured around students’ comment sheets to prompt discussion.  Comment sheets consist of a two-page, double-spaced short paper that sets out and analyses one or both of the readings.  Students should be prepared to discuss the comment sheet with the class.  Comment sheets will be submitted at the end of the class to be marked.

Assessment: A mix of short written pieces to facilitate class participation as well as a substantial final essay.


PHIL 809 — Colloquium in Political, Legal & Moral Philosophy

J. Thomas and G. Webber

FALL (3.0)

This Colloquium course explores new work in legal and political philosophy. Once every two weeks, a legal, moral, or political philosopher will present a paper falling within the general boundaries of the Colloquium’s ambit.

In alternate weeks, students will meet with the Colloquium convenors (Professors Thomas and Webber) to prepare for the forthcoming session, examining the paper in depth. Students registered for the course will include law students and graduate students in philosophy and political studies.

Student evaluation will be a combination of participation (40%), six short reaction pieces (each worth 5% for a total of 30%), and a term paper (30%). Participation will be evaluated by contributions during the seminar discussion in advance of the session with the author as well as engagement with the author during the session in which the author presents his or her paper.

Students will be selected by application. 


PHIL 410/810 - Topics in the History of Philosophy
Special Topic: 19th and 20th century Indian Philosophy
M. Ram Murty
FALL (3.0)

Description:  We will survey the contributions of about a dozen contemporary Indian philosophers such as Vivekananda, Aurobindo, Gandhi, Tagore, Krishnamurti and Radhakrishnan, to name a few.

Their relevance to the modern problems of philosophy will be explored and discussed in some detail.  The themes range from epistemology, humanism, aesthetics and political philosophy.


PHIL 821 — Ethical Issues II

Special Topic: Settler Colonialism and the Carceral Power: Decolonizing Foucault

L. Guenther

WINTER (3.0)

In Canada, Indigenous people are ten times more likely to be incarcerated than non-Indigenous people.  The disproportion is even more extreme in the Prairie provinces, reaching a factor of 33 in Saskatchewan.  The number of Indigenous women behind bars more than doubled between 2001 and 2012, even as the cases of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women were routinely neglected by police.  And yet, in spite of this national crisis—as well as similar patterns in Australia, New Zealand, and the United States—there is relatively little theoretical research on the relation between settler colonialism and carceral power.

In this seminar, we will explore the possibilities and limits of Foucault’s genealogical method for problematizing Indigenous hyper-incarceration in Canada.  Foucault’s engagement with “subjugated knowledges,” his distinction between sovereign and disciplinary power, and his biopolitical account of race as a sorting mechanism between “those who must live” and “those who may die” seem useful for understanding the structural violence of incarceration, and his account of neoliberal governmentality helps to show how this violence is rationalized and justified by the state as the management and care of at-risk populations.  But Foucault’s relative neglect of colonial power demands a broader critical interrogation of the history and politics of settler colonialism and Indigenous genocide. 

The seminar undertakes to address this gap by reading Foucault in relation to work by Indigenous scholars such as Leanne Simpson, Glen Coulthard, Patricia Monture, Audra Simpson, and Eve Tuck, as well as non-Indigenous critics of settler colonialism such as Robert Nichols, Sherene Razack, and Patrick Wolfe. 


PHIL 841 — 20th Century Philosophy I

D. Bakhurst

Fall (3.0)

This course will examine in detail two remarkable works of mid-20th Century British philosophy, Gilbert Ryle’s The Concept of Mind (1949) and Elizabeth Anscombe’s Intention (1959). We will explore the striking insights these texts offer into the nature of mind and action, the methods and techniques of “ordinary language philosophy”, and the continued influence these works have today. Topics will include: the errors of Cartesianism; knowing-that versus knowing-how; the nature of habit; the analysis of action; intentional action and responsibility. The course will conclude with a one-day conference at which students present papers.


Ryle, Gilbert, The Concept of Mind

Anscombe, G. E. M., Intention

Wiseman, Rachael, Guide to Anscombe’s Intention


PHIL 445/845—Major Figures

Special Topic:  Spinoza

J. Miller

FALL (3.0)

An examination of the key ideas from a major figure in the history of philosophy. Philosophers studies will vary from offering to offering, including Aristotle, Aquinas, Kant, Mill and Rawls.


PHIL 451/851—Current Issues in Epistemology

E. Paul

WINTER (3.0)

An examination of major issues in contemporary epistemology. Possible topics include justification, internalism and externalism, foundationalism and coherentism, and social epistemology.


PHIL 452/863 - Current Issues in Metaphysics

Special Topic: Structure and the observer

J. Mozersky

FALL (3.0)

An examination of major issues in contemporary metaphysics. Possible topics include causation, properties, time, modal theory, and induction.


PHIL 464/864 — Philosophy of Mind

Special Topic: Cognitive Science

N. Salay

WINTER (3.0)

This semester we will work our way through a new text, possibly Andy Clark’s new book, Surfing Uncertainty: Prediction, Action, and the Embodied Mind. No prior experience in mind/cognitive science is required as I will be filling in around the text with the relevant background material when and where required.

Philosophy of Mind/Cognitive Science has really come a long way in the past five years. As an inquiry into what some call “the final frontier,” namely mind, it is certainly one of the most interesting and exciting fields. In the course of our investigation, topics we will look at include cognition, memory, attention, language, logical inference, neural nets/statistical inference, consciousness, self-identity, ego, and free will, to name but a few. By the end of the course you will have a good grounding in the central issues of contemporary philosophy of mind and cognitive science.

This is a seminar course and, consequently, participation is expected: it will contribute to your evaluation in the form of weekly commentaries, both written and verbal, and general discussion.


PHIL 870 - Topics in Philosophy in Science

Special Topic:  Science and Public Reason

S. Sismondo

WINTER (3.0)

The first half of this course will be an advanced introduction to Science and Technology Studies. The second half of the course will explore some large issues for public reason in connection with scientific claims. How should we understand skepticism about climate change or the safety of vaccines? How should we understand the apparent general erosion of trust in science as a contributor to public policy? What kinds of large-scale epistemic structures need to be put in place to improve the ways in which conflicts in public reason play out?


PHIL 473/873 — Philosophical Logic

A. Mercier

WINTER (3.0)

An examination of major issues in the philosophy of logic. Possible topics to be considered include deviant logics, the nature of identity, modal logics and the paradoxes of material implication and strict conditionals.


PHIL 493/893 — Ethics and the Environment

Special Topic:  Environmental Philosophy

M. Smith

WINTER (3.0)

This course will engage with a number of key environmental and ecological issues such as biodiversity and extinction, preservation or conservation, climate change, eco-feminism, deep ecology, and ecological community, drawing on a number of philosophical traditions in ethics, hermeneutics, political philosophy, and phenomenology together with various understandings of ecology and post-humanism. The aim is to provide both an overview of the variety of current topics encompassed within environmental philosophy and to encourage participants to develop critical and innovative approaches to questions of direct practical import. While the focus will generally be on our ethical relations to non-human entities and our understanding and interpretation of these relations we will be particularly concerned to examine the ways in which our ethical evaluations might be informed by and inform our understandings of particular places/environments.


PHIL 989 — Clinical Practicum in Biomedical Ethics

C. Cline / D. Campbell

WINTER (3.0)

This course will explore real-life issues and cases encountered in health-related settings at the bedside, in the boardroom, at the benchside and in the community.  Through supervised observation and discussion, students will explore ethical issues in areas such as: emergency, intensive and critical care; palliative and end of life care; pediatrics; mental health; transplantation; reproductive health care and technologies; rehabilitation and long-term care; community and home care; business and management of health care organizations; health research; and public health.