200-Level Courses

Note about Prerequisites/Co-requisites for 200-level courses:
No course offered by the department at the 200-level carries any prerequisite except PHL201H1 which requires the completion of four Arts and Science full course equivalents (FCE’s) and PHL233H1 which has a co-requisite of 1.0 FCE in Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, Engineering, or Computer Science.



Prof. Peter King
Tuesdays and Thursdays 12:00-1:00

This course is a survey of ancient philosophy, which lasted for a millennium.  Philosophy developed as an integral part of classical civilization; in this course we will look at the various ideas, arguments, theories, schools of thought, and ways of life that were key to making ancient philosophy the distinct social and intellectual movement that it was.  We will touch on most areas of philosophy — ethics, politics, epistemology, natural philosophy, and metaphysics (but not much on logic or aesthetics).  The course is organized in four parts: (i) Socrates and the Sophists; (ii) Plato; (iii) Aristotle; (iv) the Epicurean and the Stoic schools.  We’ll also look at some of the Presocratics in the course of (i)-(iii).  The first term will cover (i)-(ii), the second (iii)-(iv), concentrating on Plato and on Aristotle respectively.  The course is structured around the historical development of ancient thought, but we will pay a great deal of attention to philosophical questions viewed systematically and practically.

Readings: John Cooper, *Plato: Complete Works* (Hackett 1997); John Ackrill, *A New Aristotle Reader* (Princeton 1989); Brad Inwood and   Lloyd Gerson, *Hellenistic Philosophy* (Hackett 1997 second ed.).

Evaluation: four short 5-6pp papers (@15%); final examination (25%);   tutorial attendance and participation (15%).



Prof. James Davies
Tuesdays 11:00-2:00

An introduction to philosophy focusing on the connections among its main branches: logic, theory of knowledge, metaphysics, and ethics. This course is intended for those with little or no philosophy background but who have completed four FCEs in any subject. We will focus on the nature of knowledge and scientific method; the existence and nature of free will and moral responsibility; the existence and nature of God; and the nature of the mind. This is a writing intensive (WIT) course – the assessment schedule includes an essay draft revision which will be assessed based on response to comments on a first draft.

Reading: Feinberg & Shafer-Landau, Reason & Responsibility: Readings in some Basic Problems of Philosophy. Supplementary readings will be made available on blackboard.

Evaluation: midterm exam, final exam, argument summary, essay draft one, essay draft two.



Prof. Martin Pickave
Tuesdays and Thursdays 11:00-12:00

This course is intended as an introduction to central topics in early medieval philosophy. Since the ‘discovery of the will’ is often regarded as one of the most distinctive legacies of early medieval philosophy, this course will focus on will, free choice, and related issues – such as human happiness and moral goodness. But we shall also examine discussions about the acquisition of knowledge, the nature of time, and proofs for the existence of God. Authors to be studied include Augustine (354-430), Boethius (ca. 480-524/5), Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109), and Peter Abelard (1079-1142).

Readings: Augustine, Confessions, translated by H. Chadwick (Oxford World’s Classics, Oxford UP 1998); Boethius, Consolation of Philosophy, translated by P.G. Walsh (Oxford World’s Classics, Oxford UP 1999); Anselm of Canterbury, Basic Writings, translated by Th. Williams (Hackett 2007); Peter Abelard, Ethical Writings, translated by P.V. Spade (Hackett 1995).

Evaluation: Two short essays (800 words, 20% each); midterm exam (20%); final exam (30%); attendance and participation (10%).



Prof. Deborah Black
Tuesdays and Thursdays 11:00-12:00

In this course we’ll read a variety of philosophical works from the 13th and 14th centuries, when the West first gained complete access to the works of Aristotle and the writings of Islamic and Jewish philosophers. The result was a period of intense philosophical speculation, controversy, and debate. We’ll focus on the issues of central concern to medieval philosophers, such as the existence of God, the eternity of the world, free choice, human nature and knowledge, and the relation between faith and reason. Some of the philosophers whom we’ll be reading are Thomas Aquinas, Henry of Ghent, John Duns Scotus, and William of Ockham.

Readings: Arthur Hyman, J. J. Walsh, T. Willliams, eds. Philosophy in the Middle Ages, 3rd edition; other readings TBA.

Evaluation: Term work (details TBA, but will include at least one essay): 50%; 2-hour final examination: 35%; Tutorial/participation: 15%.



Prof. Margaret Morrison
Tuesdays 1:00-3:00

This course is designed to be an introduction to the philosophical ideas that developed in conjunction with the scientific revolution and extended into the eighteenth century.  The scientific revolution marked a move away from medieval/scholastic accounts of the place of human beings in nature that emphasised final causes and an unquestioning attitude toward accepted beliefs (especially the role of God in physical explanation).  The revolution emphasised a rather different view of the world by focussing on material (efficient) causes and a new spirit of inquiry that stressed man’s use of reason to arrive at basic truths about nature.  The work of Copernicus marked the beginning of the revolution but it was not fully articulated until the seventeenth century with the scientific work of Newton.  It was completed in the eighteenth century in a period that became known as the “enlightenment”.

These new developments in science resulted in new methods of examining the world and new standards of evaluation for knowledge claims.  Two competing schools of thought, rationalism and empiricism, provided different ways of accounting for the production and development of human knowledge.  The rationalism of Descartes and Leibniz stressed the primacy of reason and innate ideas in arriving at basic truths while the empiricists, Berkeley and Hume, believed that all knowledge and the acquisition of ideas began with experience.  During the course we will examine these various characterizations of knowledge and the various ways in which both rationalism and empiricism departed from earlier accounts, many of which emphasised the primacy of religion as the source of all knowledge of the physical world.  The course concludes with an analysis of Kant’s critical philosophy which was an attempt to overcome difficulties inherent in rationalism and empiricism by bridging the gap between them.

Readings: TBA

Evaluations: TBA


Prof. Charles Cooper-Simpson
Tuesdays and Thursdays 11:00-12:00


Readings: TBA

Evaluations: TBA



Prof. Adam Murray
Mondays and Wednesdays 12:00-1:00

This course is an introduction to epistemology and metaphysics.

Broadly speaking, epistemology is the branch of philosophy that investigates the nature of knowledge, while metaphysics is the branch of philosophy that investigates the nature of reality. Topics to be covered in the course include the skeptical challenge and responses, the nature and structure of epistemic justification, the nature of causation, and the metaphysics of persistence and time.

Readings: TBA

Evaluations: Student evaluation will consist in a combination of in-class tests, a final examination, and a term paper.



Prof. Imogen Dickie
Tuesdays and Thursdays 12:00-1:00

This course is an introduction to metaphysics (the study of the fundamental constituents of reality) and epistemology (the study of the conditions for knowledge) designed for students with backgrounds in mathematics and/or the sciences.

The course will be divided into four blocks:

Block 1 – Metaphysics: Causation. What does it really mean to say that one event ‘causes’ another? Do scientific theories uncover causal relations?

Block 2 – Epistemology. What kind of justification is required if it is to be rational to accept a scientific explanation of something? Does justification for our ordinary beliefs (like your belief that you are reading these words right now) work the same way as justification for beliefs in the elements of scientific theories?

Block 3 – Mathematics as a case study. Is mathematics ‘about’ some part of reality (the ‘mathematical realm’)? If it is, are numbers ‘objects’ in anything like the sense that tables and trees are? What is the role of mathematics in scientific theories? Could there be science without numbers?

Block 4 – Scientific progress and philosophical questions. What is the impact of scientific progress on ‘big’ traditional philosophical questions, for example the question of whether we have free will, and the question of whether there can be thought without consciousness?

Co-requisite: 1.0 FCE in Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, Engineering, or Computer Science.
Recommended Preparation: Background in science and/or mathematics will be presupposed.

Readings: TBA

Evaluations: participation grade; three or four short papers; mid term test; final exam.



Prof. Gabriel Citron
Tuesdays 3:00-6:00

Usually our attention is fully absorbed in the details of life’s everyday routines. But every now and then something jogs us out of that absorption, and we are struck anew by the bizarre fact of our existence: Why on earth are we here? Does anything actually matter? Does our existence have any greater meaning or significance?!

One way to think about religions is as systems of thought and action that have developed in response to these fundamental questions about the meaningfulness – or meaninglessness – of life. They do this by presenting a vision of the ultimate nature of reality, and of the way that life should be lived in accordance with that reality. They claim that if we live our lives in a way that fits with the true nature of things, then our lives will be worthwhile, will have a point, and will be meaningful.

Of course, different religions, and different religious thinkers, offer conflicting visions of reality and life. In this course we will study four different views of ultimate reality: (i) the view that there is one ultimate being and that everything else is its creation (classical theism); (ii) the view that all things are really one, and that ultimate reality is the essence of everything (pantheism); (iii) the view that there is no one thing that is the true reality, but rather there is a multiplicity of ultimates all jostling with one another (polytheism); and finally, (iv) the vision of a world without any ultimate or ultimates at all (atheism).

Over the semester we will investigate each of these four worldviews, by means of ancient, medieval, and modern philosophical texts from a number of religious and atheistic traditions. In each case we will also consider what kinds of life the different visions of reality might naturally lead to. And in doing so we will think about how that combined vision – of the nature of reality and of the good life – might solve, dissolve, or ameliorate, some of the fundamental questions about life’s worth and meaning. Finally, we will examine a variety of arguments that philosophers have put forward for and against these worldviews, and we will consider what one is to do when confronted by so many conflicting arguments and positions all of which are trying to claim our allegiance.

Reading: PDFs of all the readings will be posted on Blackboard

Evaluation: TBA



Prof. Vincent Shen
Mondays 5:00-7:00; Wednesdays 5:00-6:00

This is an introductory course (both historical and systematic) to the major philosophical traditions in China, such as Confucianism, Daoism, Bud­dhism, and their development from ancient to modern times in four periods: 1. the emergence of Confucianism, Daoism, and other minor schools; 2. the introduction of Buddhism and development of various sects of Chinese Mahayana Buddhism; 3. the development of Neo-Confucianism; 4. challenges from the West and later development. Major thinkers, basic concepts, texts, and their historical contexts will be the focus of discussion.

Reading: Fung Yu-lan, A Short History of Chinese Philosophy, New York: The Free Press, 1976. (that you may purchase at UofT Bookstore)

Evaluation: Attendance (15%), midterm in-class test (25%), final in- class test (25%) and term paper (35%).

Exclusion: EAS 241H1, which is the same course.



Prof. David Barnett
Mondays and Wednesdays 3:00-4:00

A traditional view holds that human life begins at conception, that an adult at the end of his or her life can be the same person who was once a child and who was before that that an embryo, and that this very same person will go on to survive the death of his or her body.  In this course, we will examine whether this traditional conception of human existence holds up to critical scrutiny.  Our central questions will include:  When, during the development of an embryo into an adult human being, does one’s existence begin?  Do fetuses have the same moral rights as adults?  What is a mind, and what is the mind’s relationship to the brain?  Do animals have minds, and could robots or computers have minds someday?  Do you have an immaterial soul that is capable of surviving the death of your body and brain?  When does one’s existence come to an end, and why is death bad?

Readings: A Dialogue on Personal Identity and Immortality, by John Perry; readings from the course website and from The Mind’s I: Fantasies and Reflections on Self and Soul, edited by Douglas Hofstadter and Daniel Dennett

Evaluations: One short writing assignment and a longer (2,000 word) paper, and midterm and final exams



Prof. Ronald De Sousa
Wednesdays 6:00-9:00

Philosophical issues about sex and sexual identity in the light of biological, psychological and ethical theories of sex and gender; the concept of gender; male and female sex roles; perverse sex; sexual liberation; love and sexuality.

Readings: TBA

Evaluations: TBA



Prof. Bryan Reece
Tuesdays and Thursdays 6-7:30

What sorts of beings are we? How do we differ from other forms of life? What is the best sort of life for us? To what extent do our motivations differ from those of non-human animals? To what extent do we act freely and responsibly? We will explore these questions by studying selections from an array of philosophers throughout history who have formulated theories of who we are and how we fit into moral and political communities.

Reading: TBA

Evaluation: Evaluation will be a function of daily reading quizzes, a short paper, and a final exam. Every student enrolled in this class must have a registered clicker and bring it to class every session.



Prof. Alex Koo
Mondays 2:00-4:00, Wednesdays 2:00-3:00

Logic is a central pillar of philosophy that has its roots in ancient civilizations. Aristotle was one of the first to formalize the discipline into a highly applicable system for analyzing arguments. Logic was modernized by Frege at the end of the 19th century, and also by Russell and Whitehead at the start of the 20th century. Since then, logical tools have become essential in many areas of analytic philosophy such as philosophy of science, philosophy of language, and epistemology.

Modern Symbolic Logic is a purely technical course in first-order logic. Students will learn the meaning of logical symbols and develop the skills for performing derivations in both propositional and predicate logic. These tools allow for an abstract analysis of arguments, help develop critical and logical thinking skills, leads to a more precise understanding of natural language, and ultimately result in better reading and writing skills.

Readings: Online texts.

Evaluation: Ten Weekly Online Quizzes; Four Tests; Final Examination.


Prof. Franz Huber
Mondays 6:00-9:00

Probability and Inductive Logic is an introduction to the mathematical theory of probability and its applications in philosophy. On the philosophical side we will mainly be concerned with the so-called problem of induction and its reception in the philosophy of science, where it is discussed under the heading of ‘confirmation theory.’ On the mathematical side we will study propositional and predicate logic as well as elementary set theory in order to be able to formulate the theory of probability.

Readings: TBA

Evaluation: 8 Short Assignments (40%); Mid-Term Examination (20%); Final Examination (40%)



Prof. Andrew Franklin-Hall
Tuesdays and Thursdays 10:00-11:00

This course will provide an introduction to Western political philosophy through the lens of three major values: freedom, equality, and community.  After a survey of Aristotle’s ideas about the political community, we will examine the three great social contract thinkers—Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau—and their endeavors to explain the foundations and boundaries of legitimate authority and material inequality in a way consistent with the basic freedom and equality of all.  Next we turn to liberal, socialist, and conservative thinkers of the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries—like Tocqueville, Smith, Marx, and Mill—who wrestled with questions about the trajectories of a market economy and the proper scope of state power.  Finally, we turn to the great twentieth-century synthesis of liberalism and socialism in the work of John Rawls, and the New Left analysis of the politics of identity and exclusion in the pages of Iris Marion Young.

Readings: Steven Cahn (ed.), Political Philosophy: The Essential Texts, 3rd Edition (Oxford University Press, 2015) and supplementary materials.

Evaluation: TBA



Prof. Sophia Moreau
Mondays 1:00-3:00

In this course, we will examine some of the most important debates in contemporary legal philosophy by asking a series of questions about the relationship between law and morality. We will start with some questions about the nature of law and the role of moral principles in adjudication. How do we know what the law is?  Does correctly identifying and applying the law ever require a judge to engage in controversial moral argument?  Then we will look at two important values, liberty and equality.  We will examine the different ways in which legal systems have understood these values, and we will ask which kinds of liberty and which kinds of equality should matter to us.  Which liberties should the state protect?  What limits does this place on majority rule?  Do judges really have the power to constrain the majority, when they infringe the liberties of minorities?  Should they have this power?  Should the state always treat everyone equally?  What does it mean to treat everyone equally, and why do we care about this?  Do we care primarily about social and political status –the absence of domination and of second-class citizens?  Or do we care about the equal distribution of certain important opportunities?

Readings: TBA

Evaluation: TBA



Jacob Stump
Mondays 3:00-4:30

A study of environmental issues raising questions of concern to moral and political philosophers, such as property rights, responsibility for future generations, and the interaction of human beings with the rest of nature. Typical issues: sustainable development, alternative energy, the preservation of wilderness areas, animal rights.

Reading: TBA

Evaluation: TBA



Prof. Thomas Hurka
Mondays and Wednesdays 11:00-12:00

This course will introduce the main questions of moral philosophy, under three main headings. 1) The Nature of Morality: Do moral judgments apply universally or are they all relative to a particular society or person? What is the relation between morality and religion? Can moral judgments be objectively true or do they merely express emotions? 2) Moral Principles: What are the most general principles that determine which actions are right and which are wrong? Do these principles tell us always to do what will bring about the most good, and , if so, what does that good consist in? Or is it sometimes wrong to do what will have the best result? If so, why? 3) Applied Ethics: How does philosophy help us address particular moral problems such as ones about world hunger euthanasia, and war?

Readings: Course reader.

Evaluation: Essay 1 (20%); Essay 2 (35%); Final Exam (35%); Tutorial (10%)



Prof. Andrew Franklin-Hall
Mondays and Wednesdays 1:00-2:00

This course will examine ethical and political issues relating to health care and medical research from a philosophical point of view.  Questions to be examined include the following:  When, if ever, should doctors act contrary to the will of the patient?  When is a patient incapable of making his own decisions, and how should decisions be made for him?  Under what circumstances is it legitimate to experiment on human subjects?  Is abortion morally defensible?  Should genetic engineering of human beings be permitted?  Under what circumstances, if any, should doctors assist patients in dying?  What is the just way to distribute health care resources?  These are all urgent practical issues, but they also raise profound philosophical questions about the nature of life and death, the contours and limits of our right to autonomy, our responsibilities for the well-being of others, the relationship between therapeutic care and knowledge production, and what it is to be human.

Readings: Lewis Vaughn (ed.), Bioethics: Principles, Issues, and Cases, 2nd Edition (Oxford University Press, 2013) and supplemental materials.

Evaluation: TBA



Prof. Devlin Russell
Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays 1:00-2:00

An historical and systematic introduction to the main questions in the philosophy of art and beauty from Plato to the present. These include the relation between art and beauty, the nature of aesthetic experience, definitions and theories of art, the criteria of excellence in the arts, and the function of art criticism.

Reading: TBA

Evaluation: TBA



Thomas Ferretti
Mondays 6:00-9:00

This course is about philosophical and ethical issues related to the conduct of business. There is a widespread consensus that business actors should not only respect the law but should also respect ethical or social responsibilities beyond the law. How to conceive of these responsibilities? How are managers supposed to reconcile ethical or social responsibilities with the obligation to maximize shareholder value and other economic pressures? Should political ideals such as democracy have a role within firms? What should we think of business practices such as the sharing economy or responsible investing? During this course, we will discuss these and related questions.

Reading: Mandatory readings are listed in the syllabus. The texts will be available on Blackboard.

Evaluation: 1st structured paper (15%); 2nd structured paper (15%); Extended Abstract (15%); Final writing assignment (25%) ; Final exam (30%)