This course is an introduction to essential principles of reasoning and critical thinking. It is designed to develop students’ abilities to evaluate various forms of reasoning, to examine critically beliefs, conventions, and theories, and to develop sound arguments. Emphasis will be given to decision-making and arguments in ordinary language, particularly those addressed to issues of public concern and moral debate.
Philosophy is devoted to the critical and creative examination of such fundamental questions as: What can be known? Does existence have meaning? What is a worthwhile life? What moral obligations do people have to one another? What makes a society just? Philosophy provides systematic training in the framing of these questions and in the rigorous analysis of the issues they involve.
The course examines competing moral perspectives on topics such as capital punishment, suicide, euthanasia, abortion, genetic engineering, friendship, marriage, parenthood, discrimination, inequality, poverty, foreign aid, and the environment. The aim is to help the student to develop a coherent set of principles to deal with these and other topics.
The traditional problems of free will and political freedom and different concepts and conceptions of freedom and liberation are considered. In addition, there will be an examination of some contemporary thought on freedom and liberation.
An examination of the major philosophies of life and an assessment of the reasons for and against their adoption. Consideration will be given to various forms of collectivism and individualism and to various views of what is ultimately worth striving for.
The philosophy of sex and sexuality concerns the nature and moral significance of sexual behaviors. Topics may include the concept of sex, sexual identity, sex and love, sex and marriage, rape, and prostitution.
When, if ever, is it morally permissible to kill another human being, or yourself? What is morally problematic about killing? Is killing morally worse than letting die? Are we morally obligated to prevent as many deaths as we can? This course explores these questions and others through a discussion of classical and contemporary philosophical readings.
This course provides a historical and logical analysis of methods commonly used in science. Possible topics include science vs. pseudo-science, natural vs. social sciences, modes of reasoning, observation and experimentation, construction and empirical testing of theories and models, and thought experiments.
Is truth relative to cultures or ways of seeing the world? Is objectivity a fiction? Is the claim to have the truth merely a tactic of manipulation? Is sincere advocacy just another form of propaganda? These are a few of the questions we will ask in this course.
Does God exist? Do souls exist? What is the self? Could a computer ever think? What can we know about reality? Students explore these questions and others through a discussion of classical and contemporary philosophical readings.
Students will examine autonomy as a concept, and evaluate its appropriateness as an educational goal. Students will be challenged to consider the role of education in their personal growth and development, as well as possibilities for their own agency in this development.
Are such values such as good and bad, or beautiful and ugly, a part of the nature of the world or do they exist only in our minds? What is the role of pleasure and virtue, or knowledge and beauty in a life well lived? Students consider the work of moral philosophers and philosophers of art who try to identify the concepts and principles that help us to answer these questions.
This course introduces the fundamentals of symbolic logic. Both the propositional and predicate calculus are covered as well as various standard proof techniques.
An introduction to moral philosophy designed to lead the student to examine the foundations of their moral positions. To this end historical and contemporary answers by philosophers to questions such as the following will be examined: What ought I to do morally and ultimately why I ought to do it? Are ethical positions simply relative: (a) to a person? (b) to a society? What is the relation between science and morality? Why be moral?
Students examine theories of right and wrong. Some of the questions students will discuss include: do the ends justify the means? Is right and wrong relative to a culture? Can we justify a particular set of moral rules? Is deception always morally wrong? When, if ever, is killing morally permissible?
This course is about the nature and significance of evil events, actions, characters, and institutions. Topics include historical accounts of evil, suffering, skepticism about evil, evil and mental illness, terrorism, torture, and genocide.
The nature of the ecological crisis will be examined. Philosophical responses to it will be presented which will involve analysis of the concepts of animal rights, of the intrinsic value of nature, and of obligations to future generations. A portion of the course will be spent on the application of the theoretical concepts to specific ecological issues including population and world hunger, pollution, and the sustainable society. Part of the objective of the applied section will be to raise issues of public policy within a philosophical framework.
Students ask the questions, “What is happiness?” and “How can I live a happy life”? These questions will be approached through a mixture of historical and contemporary texts, as well as theoretical and empirically informed writings. Students will consider how philosophical accounts of happiness apply to their own lives.
A critical examination of core works in the history of political philosophy. Philosophers discussed often include Plato, Aristotle, Machiavelli, Hobbes, Locke, Mill, Rousseau, Marx, and Nietzsche.
This course introduces students to the major schools of contemporary political thought, such as utilitarianism, liberal egalitarianism, libertarianism, Marxism, communitarianism, and feminism. Among the issues addressed are the justification of state power, the role of human nature in determining political arrangements, democracy and the rights of minorities, the tension between liberty and equality, and the just distribution of resources.
This course studies science in its social context. Contemporary and historical case studies provide a basis for examining effects of scientific and technological innovation on society, whether social values are implicated in scientific discovery and justification, and ways in which social and economic institutions shape scientific practice.
Students consider such topics as: the relations among science, technology, and engineering, the centrality of design to technology, the virtues and vices of looking for technological solutions to human problems, the technological world-view, technology and sex or gender, and technology and risk.
Students will study writings on mind by important philosophers from antiquity to the twentieth century.
What is the relation between your thoughts and feelings and whatever is happening simultaneously in your brain and the rest of your body? This course introduces students to arguments for and against a variety of answers to this question.
Students in this course investigate the nature of consciousness, feelings, and motivation.
A philosophical examination of the nature and rationality of religious belief and practices.
An examination of the extent to which business objectives can, must, or do conflict with moral objectives, and of the extent to which business organizations can be brought into harmony with moral objectives. This will involve treatment of the relevant aspects of ethical theory.
Students study topics related to the criminal justice system, including settler and Indigenous definitions of crime, police, courts, and prisons. Ethical questions about these legal topics, considering both defences and critiques of the Canadian system, exploring alternative systems, and attempting to discover what true justice looks like are raised.
Students consider ethical and legal questions about the delivery of healthcare, including questions about caring for the vulnerable while respecting their dignity, assessing the values involved in decisions about the end of life, and how healthcare would be delivered in a just society.
Students are introduced to ethical issues within constitutional and common law to answer the following questions: Does the Charter protect human rights? When is it ethical to sue another individual (or corporation) for trespass, defamation, or negligence? How might we change these legal systems to better serve the public good?
Students examine Greek philosophy before the time of Socrates followed by careful readings of selected dialogues by Plato.
Students study Aristotle’s views (focusing on topics in metaphysics, psychology, knowledge, and ethics), together with a brief examination of several Hellenistic philosophers.
Students address a number of topics concerning the arts that preoccupy contemporary philosophers, such as: the art instinct, our emotional engagement with fiction, the enjoyment of horror, the aesthetics of photography, everyday aesthetics, public art, the role of museums, and outsider art.
Is there such a thing as a fixed and essential human nature? If so, what is it? What are we like as beings in the universe, on earth, in history? This course will consider a range of classical and contemporary responses to these questions. Included among the views that will be addressed are those of Aristotle, Hobbes, Rousseau, Darwin, Marx, and Freud, as well as existentialist, behaviorist, and feminist accounts.
Works that have been discussed in recent years include: Shakespeare’s King Lear, Marlowe’s Dr. Faustus, Melville’s Billy Budd, Conrad’s Lord Jim, Walker Percy’s The Moviegoer, Tom Stoppard’s Jumpers, and Richard Ford’s The Sportswriter. Students seek to answer philosophical questions about literature. For instance, what cognitive and moral values are associated with our reading of literature? How do we explain our emotional reactions to fictional works? Why do we enjoy the experiences elicited by literary tragedy and horror?
A critical examination of influential works in the history of educational thought.
Students consider the following ethical and legal questions that arise from developments in biotechnology and the biomedical sciences: What are appropriate guidelines for human and animal experimentation? Should limits be placed on the use of reproductive and genetic technologies? How should genetic engineering be used in agriculture?
This course examines philosophical issues in feminism, such as sexism, oppression, social construction, essentialism, gender, race, and class. Attention is paid to ties between theory and practice.
Students examine questions such as: Are all sports games? What is a game? What ethical constraints should be imposed on participants in games and sports? What values should games and sports encourage?
Does life have a meaning? How can you live your life authentically? What defines who you are? Students examine answers to these questions from the nineteenth- and twentieth-century existentialist and alternative traditions (including, e.g., Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Heidegger, Sartre, de Beauvoir, and Camus).
Metaphysics seeks to determine whether we can know any general truths about the world. What is it to exist? What is it to be an individual? What are the fundamental kinds of things and relations? Consideration is given to the principal metaphysical theories that form part of the Western philosophical tradition, e.g., materialism, idealism, dualism, and monism. The course will also consider the major problems and concepts of metaphysics, e.g., time, space, substance, essence, free will, determinism, and causality.
Environmental Aesthetics is concerned with aesthetic appreciation of nature and human-made or human-influenced environments. Topics will include the nature and value of natural beauty, the relationship between art appreciation and nature appreciation, the role of knowledge in the aesthetic appreciation of nature, and the importance of environmental participation to the appreciation of environments.
Students explore various views on the nature and value of both wealth and money. In addition, attention will be paid to what economic rights are and which ones best serve social interests. No knowledge of economics is presupposed.
Topics covered often include natural law theory, legal positivism, the separability thesis, relations between law and morality, legal interpretation, the economic analysis of the law, and legal skepticism.
Students examine philosophical aesthetics. Topics include: representation, expression, the cognitive aspects of art and aesthetic experience, the logic of taste, aesthetic value, and the relation between art and emotion, as well as the nature of certain art forms, like those of literature, architecture, and dance.
This course is an enquiry into the nature and aims of education. Topics considered will include analyses of the concept of education, evaluation of contrasting views about what constitutes an ideal education, and implications of various theories of knowledge for methods of teaching and learning. Selections from historical and contemporary thinkers will be studied.
This course will deal with philosophical questions concerning, or arising in, film. These include general issues of perspective, evidence, knowledge, and objectivity, as well as more specific questions, such as: What is the nature of representation in film? Can film be construed as a language? What constitutes uniqueness in film? What constitutes excellence? What is the logic of film criticism? These and other questions will be addressed in an effort to clarify the nature of the relation between philosophy and film.
How is it that words and sentences mean what they do? One answer to this question is that linguistic meaning is determined by the speaker’s intentions; another is that it is determined by social practices. Each answer raises issues regarding the relation of language to both thought and reality.
This course examines the various concepts of human knowledge and attempts to find the limits of that knowledge. Traditional approaches to problems in the theory of knowledge will be considered as well as current work.
We commonly evaluate beliefs as rational or irrational; justified or unjustified; responsible or irresponsible. But what do these terms mean and when are they correctly applied? Can beliefs be ethical? These and related questions are debated by contemporary epistemologists. This course seeks to interpret and assess the main competing views.
This course continues and develops the work of PHIL 2301. It offers students of all faculties opportunities for further growth in reasoning skills, in part through supervised practice in the logical appraisal of extracts from a variety of important writings. Some branches of logic are developed beyond the level of PHIL 2301. The complete predicate calculus (with identity) is applied to arguments of ordinary English. Inductive logic, and practically significant areas of logical theory, are developed considerably. Scientific method and the general methods of some other disciplines are analyzed in some depth.
Contemporary argumentation theory draws upon several disciplines: philosophy of language, cognitive psychology, feminist philosophy, and communications theory. This course will examine the concept of argument through the lens provided by argumentation theorists. Alternative conceptions of argument will be critically examined and an overview of the development of argumentation theory will be provided.
A critical examination of the works from this movement, focusing on the areas of metaphysics and epistemology. Descartes, Malebranche, Spinoza, and Leibniz are among the philosophers typically studied.
A critical examination of the works from this movement, focusing on the areas of metaphysics and epistemology. Hobbes, Locke, Berkeley, and Hume are among the philosophers typically studied.
A lecture and seminar course on Kant’s theory of knowledge.
Students examine the philosophy of Immanuel Kant and a selection of nineteenth-century philosophers. Topics include the “death of God”, the relation of philosophy to other disciplines and practices (history, psychology, religion, and art), the nature of scientific knowledge, and the natures of objectivity and subjectivity.
Students examine the philosophical repercussions of the scientific revolution in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Topics include the relation between science and religion, human freedom, and the foundations of science. Philosophers covered may include, Bacon, Descartes, Elisabeth, Spinoza, Conway, Cavendish, Locke, Berkeley, Leibniz, Châtelet, and Hume.
An introduction to the main problems of the philosophy of science designed to familiarize students with some of the contemporary analyses of scientific concepts and methods.
A critical study of the philosophical views on the course of human history (its pattern, purpose, and value) and an examination of the aim, nature, and validity of historical knowledge.
A lecture and seminar course examining the 19th century origins of the existentialist movement in contemporary philosophy, with specific investigation of the writings of Kierkegaard and Nietzsche.
A lecture and seminar course examining the 20th century expression of the existentialist movement in contemporary philosophy, through close study of the writings of Heidegger, Sartre, Camus, and others.
This course is a study of one or more topics or figures in recent or contemporary phenomenology, hermeneutics, or deconstruction. Philosophers discussed in the course may include Husserl, Heidegger, Gadamer, Levinas, Foucault, and Derrida.
This course is a critical investigation of normative ethical theories, such as theories about what makes right actions right, good states of affairs good, and virtuous people virtuous. The theories discussed may include: those that evaluate the morality of actions based on their consequences, those that evaluate the morality of actions based on intrinsic features such as whether they respect autonomy, and those that evaluate the morality of actions based on the sorts of people who characteristically perform such actions.
Students investigate the nature of morality, assessing rival theories. Topics include moral language and moral reasoning. Students analyse key moral concepts, such as obligation and virtue.
Starting from the question “Why be moral?”, students assess rival accounts of the foundations of morality. Topics may include the relations between ethical values and other values and the place of ethical commitment in a life experienced as worth living.
Students consider questions such as: When are we morally responsible for what we do? When do we share responsibility for a harm that has been brought about by a collective? Should we hold organizations morally responsible for wrongfully causing harm? Can the moral responsibility of organizations always be reduced to the moral responsibility of individual members?
Moral psychology is an interdisciplinary study that draws on empirical research about human psychology and behavior and conceptual work in philosophical ethics.
PHIL 3850-3875 Directed Study: Reading Courses in Philosophy
6 credit hours
Prerequisite: Six (6) credit hours in PHIL, consent of instructor, and permission of Chairperson
The subject matter of this course will be determined by the student in consultation with the instructor.
PHIL 3876-3899 Directed Study: Reading Courses in Philosophy
3 credit hours
Prerequisite: Six (6) credit hours in PHIL, consent of instructor, and permission of Chairperson
The subject matter of this course will be determined by the student in consultation with the instructor.
The course explores methodological, conceptual, metaphysical, and epistemological questions that arise in modern biology. Possible topics include scientific revolutions, experimentation, biological laws, theoretical modeling, objectivity, reductionism, species concepts, evolution vs. creationism, human nature, and biological theories of gender, race, and sexuality.
This course explores methodological, conceptual, metaphysical, and epistemological questions that arise in modern physics. Possible topics include scientific revolutions, experimentation, laws of nature, space, time, matter, causality, indeterminism, non-locality, thought experiments, and theoretical unification.
This course will consider how major theories of justice such as Kantian constructivism, economic contractarianism, and utilitarianism deal with important issues in international justice such as the law of peoples, distributive justice, human rights, and democratization.
An intensive study of one or more topics in moral, political, and/or legal philosophy.
Students read the founding texts of pragmatism from the late-19th and early-20th centuries (e.g., by Peirce, James, and Dewey). Students analyze the pragmatist critique of traditional western philosophical ideas about meaning, truth, reality, foundations of knowledge, and practice. Students examine the historical reception of pragmatism and assess its continuing importance.
A lecture and seminar course that examines the origins, expressions, and significance of the contemporary analytic movement in philosophy.
This course examines the contributions of feminist philosophers to historical and contemporary philosophical thought in diverse areas of inquiry, such as ethics, political theory, metaphysics, epistemology, philosophy of science, and philosophy of mind.
Students engage in an intensive study of one or more topics in social philosophy. Social Philosophy is broadly defined as the study of conceptual and normative issues concerning social relationships, practices, and institutions.
Honours students have the option of completing a thesis on an approved topic. The permission of the Chairperson of the Department and the availability of a thesis supervisor are required.
PHIL 4826-4849 Special Topics
3 credit hours
Prerequisite: 12 credit hours in PHIL including 6 hours at the 2000 level or above
These courses focus on a topic of research interest to the professor. The topics will vary from year to year.
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