Department of Philosophy



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100 Level courses

These are courses and descriptions for 2018-19.


PHIL 111.001 - What is Philosophy??

S. Sismondo


Are you looking for a broad introduction to philosophy? Here’s a course structured both around some important themes and the broad sweep of philosophy’s history. We’ll explore arguments about reality, knowledge, ethics and politics, from antiquity to 2018. We’ll be dealing with abstract issues about such things as the basis of morality, but will also apply what we learn to a few contemporary moral issues.  Students in this course will be evaluated on the basis of a number of small assignments each term. There will be no midterm or final exam.

NOTE   Students considering a Major or Medial Plan in PHIL are strongly urged to take PHIL 111/6.0 or PHIL 115/6.0 in their first year.

LEARNING HOURS   240 (72L;168P)

EXCLUSION   No more than 1 course from PHIL 111/6.0; PHIL 127/6.0; PHIL 151/3.0.


PHIL 111.002 - What is Philosophy?

J. Miller


An introduction to philosophy through the examination of a number of classic philosophical works, with an evaluation of the positions and arguments offered in each.

NOTE   Students considering a Major or Medial Plan in PHIL are strongly urged to take PHIL 111/6.0 or PHIL 115/6.0 in their first year.

LEARNING HOURS   240 (72L;168P)

EXCLUSION   No more than 1 course from PHIL 111/6.0; PHIL 127/6.0; PHIL 151/3.0.


PHIL 115 - Fundamental Questions

J. Davies


Topic: How to love wisdom and challenge ignorance.

Can philosophy help us overcome the limitations of personal prejudice? Can philosophy enable us to ask or even understand questions from beyond our familiar cultural horizons? Can philosophy make us better people, individually or collectively?

In PHIL 115 we explore questions that have engaged lovers of wisdom and virtue from the Buddha and Socrates to contemporary activists in the Idle No More movement. How can we live good lives? What is wisdom and virtue? How are error and ignorance produced? How does emotion affect good judgment and how is good judgment recognized? Our survey of the (mostly male and European or Euro-American) figures that have dominated the study of western philosophy is enriched by consideration of the works of individuals and wisdom traditions whose contributions are often overlooked by western academics. We pay particular attention to the role played by racism and other systems of dominance in reproducing ignorance along with inequality. We examine how critical perspectives function to resist ignorance.

While you learn from the insights achieved by various thinkers and schools of thought, you are also encouraged to ask your own questions and to imagine how we might best respond to them. Classroom exercises and course assignments provide opportunities to learn how to better listen, and to look for philosophical insights and arguments in written texts; and opportunities to practice communicating your own insights and arguments, orally and in writing.

Evaluation is based on short writing assignments, plus one midterm test and exam per term, as well as a discretionary overall participation mark.

NOTE   Students considering a Major or Medial Plan in PHIL are strongly urged to take PHIL 111/6.0 or PHIL 115/6.0 in their first year.

LEARNING HOURS   240 (48L;24T;168P)


PHIL 151 - Great Works of Philosophy

Topic:  Knowing Well and Living Well

M.C.  Smith

FALL (3.0)

Our exploration of some of the classic works of western philosophy will be guided by two main threads. The first is: what can we know, and how? And the other is: how should we live, and why? To address these questions, we will examine some of the works of Aristotle, Descartes, Hume, Kant, and Mill (among others), and see how a critical engagement with their thought brings us to practice philosophy as a living, breathing discipline.

Text: Classics of Philosophy, 3rd edition, ed. Pojman & Vaughn.

Assessment: a combination of open-book in-class tests, short papers, and a final exam.

EXCLUSION   No more than 1 course from PHIL 111/6.0; PHIL 151/3.0.

LEARNING HOURS   120 (36L;84P)


PHIL 153 - The State and the Citizen


WINTER (3.0)

This course introduces students to the central questions of political philosophy through an examination of the relation between the state and the citizen:  What is the rationale, if any, for government?  Is there a right to private property?  What does equality entail?  Should people have legal and political equality, equality of opportunity, or social equality?  Is popular sovereignty compatible with the capitalist state?  Why have anarchists, feminists, and Marxists traditionally viewed the concept of citizenship with suspicion?  In the struggle to articulate new forms of citizenship, can citizenship theory be extended to nonhuman animals?  What does it mean to refer to a position as "conservative," "liberal," "socialist," or "communist"?  Students will become familiar with these political ideologies as well as the similarities and tensions between them.

LEARNING HOURS   120 (36L;84P)


PHIL 157 - Moral issues

U. Schuklenk

FALL (3.0)

Topic:  An Introduction to Biomedical Ethics

In this course we will look at moral issues in the biomedical and health fields. We will start off with a brief introduction to moral philosophy and influential ethical theories. From there we proceed to analysing a comprehensive range of bioethical problems, including questions such as when human life (or anything, for that matter) attains moral standing, whether terminal illness is an ethically defensible eligibility threshold in Canada's medical aid in dying legislation, whether catastrophically ill patients have a moral right to access experimental drugs, and many other issues like those.

Course Text: Helga Kuhse, Udo Schuklenk, Peter Singer (eds). 2016. Bioethics: An Anthology - 3rd Edition. Wiley Blackwell: Chichester. 

Supplementary Text: Bruce Jennings (ed). 2014. Bioethics - 4th EditionVol 1-6. Macmillan: Farmington Hills, Mich. (Electronic copy available thru Stauffer Library) 


30% of grade

Submit, starting from week 4, ending week 11 *one* question that you would like to see discussed during the weekly tutorial sessions. The questions must be accompanied by a paragraph-long rationale for why you wish to discuss this particular question. The rationale must demonstrate that you have done the required readings for the week, and should refer to content provided in the readings. Your tutors will choose from your questions material for the tutorial. Your questions must be submitted via onQ Dropbox to your tutor by 5 pm the day before your tutorial. 

20% of grade

Group presentation during tutorials. Starting week 4, in each tutorial two groups of students will argue for/against a particular moral point of view. You will be graded based on the content and style of your presentation, in equal measure. Each group will consist of between 5-6 students.  Each group has a maximum of 20 min to present their case. Note that the later your presentation occurs during the term the better you need to perform to achieve the same grade. This is designed to ensure that those who have more time to prepare are not unfairly advantaged over those who happen to present earlier in the term.

50% of grade

1 x 500 word essay (10% of grade), 1 x 650 word essay (18% of grade), 1 x 750 word essay (22% of grade) on topics announced during the course. The respective actual submission deadline will be announced when the essay topic is circulated. You will always have at least 7 days to submit your essay, usually more than that. 

LEARNING HOURS: 120 (24L;12T;84P)