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Philosophy - Courses

All courses listed are three hours a week unless otherwise indicated. Not all courses are offered each term or each academic year.

Please note the middle digit of course numbers denotes specific topics or areas of study.

34-110. Introduction to Western Philosophy
An introduction to philosophy through the study of major figures and movements in the Western philosophical tradition. The figures and themes selected for any given year will be chosen by the instructor.

34-112. Philosophy and Human Nature
What is human nature? How do we think of ourselves as human beings? The course will examine several of the principal theories of human nature that have been put forward in Western philosophy.

34-129. Contemporary Moral Issues
A critical examination of philosophical arguments about controversial moral issues. Readings will be chosen by the instructor on issues connected with one or several of such areas as: biomedical ethics, euthanasia, suicide, environmental ethics, the treatment of animals, war and violence, pornography, censorship.

34-130. Philosophy and Popular Culture
A philosophical inquiry into one or more of the more important contemporary cultural forms and phenomena. Topics may vary and may include popular music, television, virtual reality, sexual roles and stereotypes, or other topics.

34-160. Reasoning Skills
An explanation of, and practice in, the basic knowledge, skills and attitudes which are essential components of reasoning well. (Antirequisite: 34-161 and 34-162.)

34-162. Logic and Argumentation
Basic deductive logic and argumentation theories and their application to the interpretation, assessment and construction of arguments used in the humanities, social sciences, and sciences as well as in discourse in the public realm. Topics include: deductive, inductive, presumptive reasoning or arguments, elementary sampling, differences between the kinds of support in different fields, elementary rhetoric and dialectic, and common fallacies. (Prerequisite: Open only to students in the BAS program.) (Antirequisite: 34-160, 34-161.)

34-221. Introduction to Ethics
A survey of the main contending theoretical positions on such basic questions of ethics as: Are all moral values and norms subjective or objective, relative or absolute? What makes right actions right? What is the good life for human beings?

34-222. Social and Political Philosophy
An examination of some of the main contending theories about the nature of society and the state, or of some of the central controversies in social and political theory. (Prerequisite: 34-110 or 34-112 or semester 3 or above standing; or consent of the instructor.)

34-224. Business Ethics
An introduction to some central ethical notions (e.g., justice, the common good, moral vs. legal obligation); application of these issues and concepts to cases drawn from the experiences of business men and women (concerned with such issues as corporate responsibility, conflict of interest, honesty in advertising, preferential hiring, corporate responsibility for environmental externalities).

34-226. Law, Punishment and Morality
An introduction to the philosophical issues related to understanding the nature of law and legal obligation, the relation between law and morality, and the purpose of punishment. The theoretical points and distinctions will be illustrated by their applications to particular current issues. (Prerequisite: semester 3 or above standing, or consent of the instructor.)

34-227. Environmental Ethics
What ethical obligations do we have to the non-human environment? The course examines various answers to that question. Topics may include: animal rights, the moral status of non-human life, the intrinsic value of ecosystems, the importance of wilderness, deep ecology, eco-feminism, economic development, environmentalism, and politics.

34-228. Technology, Human Values and the Environment
An exploration of the philosophically important ethical concepts of human nature, freedom, progress, the good life, moral responsibility, and the environment as these relate to advances in technology. Topics may include: pollution, mass production, the commodification of nature, new technologies (e.g., biotechnology, nanotechnology).

34-236. Feminism and Philosophy
An examination of key themes in philosophical feminism and feminist theory, such as sexism and oppression, theories of women, sex, gender, language, and feminist identity, methodology, and politics. (Prerequisite: 34-110 or 34-112 or semester 3 or above standing, or consent of the instructor.)

34-237. Labour and Social Justice
An examination of the philosophical problems raised by the nature and function of labour in a changing society. Topics to be addressed may include: the relationship between labour and the struggle for democracy, labour as a social movement, the relationship between labour and conceptions of the good life, the relationship between economic and human value, technology and the nature of labour, and the sexual division of labour. (Also offered as 54-237.) (Prerequisite: 3rd semester standing.)

34-240. Philosophy of Religion
An examination of the philosophical problems involved with religious belief and language. Can the existence of God be proven? Can the non-existence of God be proven? Can claims to religious knowledge be legitimized? Is there a unique logic of religious language that is cognitively meaningful? Is there any basis for claims about life after death? What is the nature of faith? These are the sorts of questions which are dealt with in this course. (Prerequisite: Semester 3 or above standing.)

34-250. Metaphysics
An examination of fundamental questions about the nature of reality. What kinds of things are real; what distinguishes the real from the ideal, or the real from the illusory? Are there abstract entities (e.g., numbers)? The nature of necessity and possibility, essence and existence. (Prerequisite: 34-110 or 34-112 or semester 3 or above standing, or consent of the instructor.)

34-252. Existentialism
A study of the views of some of the major existentialists. Figures studied may include Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Sartre, Merleau-Ponty, Camus, and Jaspers. (Prerequisite: Semester 3 or above standing.)

34-254. Theory of Knowledge
An examination of the nature of knowledge, with topics such as: definitions of knowledge, accounts of its structure, the extent and limits of knowledge, the relationship between experience and knowledge, the bases of rational or justified belief formation. (Prerequisite: 34-110 or 34-112 or semester 3 or above standing, or consent of the instructor.)

34-255. Knowledge and Community
The course explores the relationship between what individual people know and their participation in communities. Topics may include: the ways communities rather than individuals can hold knowledge; how cognitive authority depends on a person's membership in, and social position within, a community; the role of testimony in knowledge; how the legal system creates knowledge; the roles of gender, race, class and culture in knowledge; and the ethical implications of experience and understanding. (Prerequisite: semester 3 or above standing.)

34-260. Informal Logic: Fallacy
The objective is to develop the ability to discriminate between good and bad arguments found in everyday settings, using the concept of fallacy. A variety of kinds of fallacy are explained, and the skill of identifying them is taught. The basic tools for analyzing arguments are presented and put to use. Material for analysis is drawn from newspapers, current periodicals, and other sources of actual arguments. (Prerequisite: 34-160 or 34-161 or semester 3 or above standing; or consent of the instructor.)

34-261. Informal Logic: Argumentation
The objective is to develop the ability to analyze and evaluate extended arguments found in the public media, books and articles, and to construct a well-argued case. (Prerequisite: 34-260 or 34-160 and semester 3 or above standing; or consent of the instructor.)

34-262. Symbolic Logic
The course covers propositional logic as well as an introduction to the basic concepts of predicate logic. Topics include the construction of symbolic representation of natural language sentences, semantic methods for evaluating symbol formulas, and methods of constructing deductions or proofs. (Prerequisite: Semester 3 or above standing, or permission of the instructor. Antirequisite for non-Philosophy majors: 60-231, 62-190.)

34-266. Reasoning about Weird Things
How to evaluate extraordinary claims, such as claims about psychic phenomena (e.g. ESP), subliminal messages, crop circles, and water divining. The course may include topics such as: the limits of personal experience as a source of evidence, expert opinion, assessment of studies, scientific method. (Prerequisite: Semester 3 or above standing; or consent of instructor.) (Students may not receive credit for both 34-161 and 34-266.)

34-270. Plato
Early Greek philosophy with emphasis on Socrates and Plato, with
readings from a cross-section of early Greek philosophers and from Plato's dialogues. (Prerequisites: Semester 3 or above standing and one prior Philosophy course.)

34-271. Aristotle
Later Greek philosophy to the close of classical antiquity with emphasis on Aristotle, with readings from Aristotle, the Epicureans, the Stoics and Plotinus. (Prerequisites: Semester 3 or above standing and one prior Philosophy course.)

34-274. Early Modern Philosophy: The Rationalists
The major rationalist themes of European thought at the time of the scientific revolution, such as: universal doubt, the nature of knowledge, the primacy of subjectivity, mechanism, the mind-body relationship, kinds of substances, freedom and determinism, God and the world. Philosophers studied may include Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz, among others. (Prerequisite: 34-110 or 34-112 or semester 3 or above standing, or consent of the instructor.)

34-275. Early Modern Philosophy: The Empiricists
The major empiricist themes of European thought in the17th and 18th centuries. Topics may include: the attack on innate ideas, the nature of knowledge, faith vs. reason, the nature of a person, materialism, immaterialism and scepticism, human nature vs. reason, causation and human action, the evidence for a deity. Philosophers studied may include Locke, Berkeley, and Hume, among others. (Prerequisite: 34-110 or 34-112 or semester 3 or above standing, or consent of the instructor.)

34-280-289. Special Topics
Special Topics courses will be offered occasionally, as resources allow, to meet a demonstrated academic need, where that need cannot be satisfied by any of the regular course offerings. Interested students should inquire in the Philosophy office. (Prerequisites: Semester 3 or above standing and permission of an advisor in Philosophy.)

34-323. Globalization and Social Justice
Theories of the effect of globalization on the production and distribution of harms and goods. Topics may include: effect on the underdeveloped world of high standards of living in the developed world; effect on the survival of indigenous cultures of tensions between cultural and economic development; women and development; measuring social justice in a world with cultural differences; relationship between democracy and the global economy; democracy and social justice. (Prerequisite: Semester 3 or above standing, or permission of the instructor.)

34-329. Animals and Ethics
The course examines philosophical views about our relationship to animals and the relation of these views to the evaluation of moral principles and ethical theories, including notions of justice and rights. It may cover such topics as: attitudes towards animals, animal awareness and autonomy, whether moral consideration should be extended to animals, whether animals have rights. (Prerequisites: Semester 3 standing and at least one prior Philosophy course, or permission of the instructor.)

34-330. Theories of Nature
Our relation to the environment is shaped in part by our conception of nature. The course explores different and sometimes competing conceptions of nature, considering such questions as: Is nature like a machine? Is it like an organism? Does it evolve? Is nature creative? Are all things in nature interconnected? (Prerequisites: Semester 3 standing and at least one Philosophy course, or permission of the instructor.)

34-342. Philosophy of Education
A critical examination of theories about the nature, goals and values of education. The approach of the course may be historical, contemporary or a combination. (Prerequisites: Semester 3 or above standing and at least one prior Philosophy course, or consent of the instructor.)

34-343. Aesthetics
Aesthetics is concerned with problems which arise in the appreciation of objects which are deemed to have aesthetic value. Problems which may be raised in this course include the nature of aesthetic experience and aesthetic objects such as works of art and nature, as well as problems related to aesthetic value and judgment. (Prerequisite: Semester 3 or above standing.)

34-353. Mind, Action, and Personal Identity
An examination of: contemporary views of the nature of mind and its relationship to body; whether human action is free, determined, or both; the relationship between a theory of personal identity and the answers to the preceding questions. (Prerequisite: 34-110 or 34-112 or semester 3 or above standing; or consent of the instructor.)

34-355. Post-structuralist Theory
Philosophers studied in this course may include Derrida, Foucault, Lyotard, Deleuze, and Guattari. (Prerequisite: 34-110 or 34-112, or at least one 200-level Philosophy course, or consent of the instructor.)

34-356. Mind Design and Android Epistemology
This course explores the implications of artificial intelligence and cognitive modelling research for issues in the philosophy of mind and epistemology, including: the nature of mental states; thinking as largely linguistic, and alternatives; and effects of the way we think of mental states on the way we think about reasoning and knowing. (No specific background in science required, but an introductory-level course in psychology or computer science recommended.)

34-357. Philosophy of Science
What is a scientific explanation? A theory? How does observation relate to theory? Do theories describe reality, or are they just conventional tools? The course examines answers to these and similar questions, and the general conceptions of science behind the answers. (Prerequisite: Semester 3 or above standing or consent of the instructor.)

34-359. Women, Knowledge and Reality
An exploration of feminist theories about knowledge and reality that inform and are informed by scholarship in Women's Studies. Students examine how gender might affect identity, reasoning, objectivity, and evidence, and in turn, how such variations might affect feminist political practices. (Prerequisites: Two courses at the 200-level or above from Women's Studies and/or consent of the instructor.) (Also offered as Women’s Studies 53-300.)

34-360. Argumentation Theory
Topics may include: the nature and uses of argument; the evaluation of argument; arguments and argumentation; the relations between argument and rhetoric, logic, and pragmatics; linguistic theories of argument; ethics and epistemology related to argument; the role of argument in philosophy. (Prerequisite: 34-260 or 34-261, or consent of the instructor.)

34-370. Philosophy of the Enlightenment
The Enlightenment ushers in a new era in modern philosophy whose tenets are the autonomy of reason in the face of prejudice, individual dignity as the foundation for social justice, moral progress through human perfectibility, and the scientific explanation of the world of nature. This course explores the emergence and development of these ideas in the work of prominent representatives of the Scottish, French and German Enlightenment such as Hume, Smith, Reid, Rousseau, Voltaire, Diderot, D’Alembert, Lessing, Kant, Wollstonecraft, and Herder.(Prerequisite: At least third semester standing, and one philosophy course with a middle digit of seven, or permission of the instructor.)

34-376. Kant
A study of the critical philosophical writings of Immanuel Kant. Topics may include Kant's theories about: the limits of human knowledge, how knowledge in mathematics and the natural sciences is possible, whether it is possible to have moral knowledge, whether it is possible to have religious knowledge. (Prerequisite: 34-274 or 34-275, or consent of the instructor.)

34-377. Hegel and German Idealism
A study of early 19th century philosophy centered on the idealism of G.W.F. Hegel, focusing on such problems as the nature of the dialectic, the notion of absolute spirit, and the Hegelian conception of philosophy. (Prerequisite: 34-271 or 34-274, or consent of the instructor.)

34-378. Nineteenth Century Philosophy
Various nineteenth century thinkers may be studied in this course including Kierkegaard and Nietzsche, but also Dilthey, Schopenhauer, Comte, Mill, and others. (Prerequisite: 34-110 or 34-112, or at least one 200-level Philosophy course, or consent of the instructor.)

34-400 to 34-410. Senior Seminars
Senior seminars are the undergraduate sections of M.A. courses. (Normally open only to Philosophy majors in the final year of their program. Consent of the instructor is required. Consult a program advisor during the term preceding planned registration.)

34-470. Recent German Philosophy
Significant developments in German philosophy in the twentieth century will be examined. Portions of the course may be devoted to Husserl (the founder of the phenomenological school), Heidegger (a seminal figure in existentialism), Gadamer (a key figure in the development of hermeneutics), Critical Theory (a Freudian and Marxist approach to social and economic issues), and second-generation critical theorists such as Habermas. (Prerequisite: 34-100 or 34-112, or one 200-level Philosophy course, or permission of instructor.)

34-471. Recent French Philosophy
A study of significant developments in recent French thought as found in Bergson, Sartre, Merleau-Ponty, Bataille, and Levi-Strauss, for example. (Prerequisite: 34-110 or 34-112, or at least one 200-level Philosophy course, or consent of the instructor.)

34-472. Recent British Philosophy
A study of significant developments in recent British thought in this century, as embodied in key works by figures such as Russell, Moore, Wittgenstein, and some contemporary analytic philosophers. (Prerequisite: 34-110, 0r 34-112, or at least one 200-level Philosophy course, or permission of instructor.)

34-473. Recent American Philosophy
A study of major thinkers who shaped recent American thought, with emphasis on the development of pragmatism at the hands of Peirce, James, and Dewey, and the works of recent analytic philosophers such as Quine and Carnap. (Prerequisite: 34-110 or 34-112, or at least one 200-level Philosophy course, or consent of the instructor.)

34-491. Honours Seminar
The aim of the seminar is to give students a solid historical background in a given area of philosophy (e.g. ethics, epistemology, metaphysics). A philosophical theme is traced through a number of key figures in the history of philosophy. (Open only to four-year Honours in Philosophy students in their final year.)