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Fall 2021 Course Offerings

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Special Terms for Fall 2021:

The ongoing global coronavirus pandemic has necessitated a few changes to Philosophy course offerings in the Fall semester of 2021: While you can expect the quality of instruction to continue at the same high standards as before, the mode of class delivery will vary for this semester. For Fall 2021, every course listing will indicate whether materials are offered in person, dual-delivery, online-asynchronous, or online-synchronous mode. Here is what these terms mean:

 

PHLA11H3: Introduction to Ethics

Instructor: Julia Nefsky

Lecture Mode: Online, asynchronous
Tutorial Mode: Online, synchronous

Description: Ethics is concerned with concrete questions about how we ought to treat one another as well as more general questions about how to justify our ethical beliefs. This course is an introduction that both presents basic theories of ethics and considers their application to contemporary moral problems.

 

PHLB07H3: Ethics

Instructor: Rachel Bryant

Lecture Mode: In-person
Tutorial Mode: Online, synchronous

Description :"How should I lead my life?” might be the most important question we can ask ourselves. In this course, we will ask the question from an ethical point of view, and investigate the answers offered by four major theories in the western philosophical tradition: Aristotle’s virtue ethics; Kant’s deontology; classical utilitarianism; and Beauvoir’s existentialist ethics. Each theory suggest a different principle around which we should organize our lives. According to Aristotle, we should aim for a life of virtuous activity. For Kant, respect for human dignity should be our number one commitment. Utilitarians think that we should live in a way that maximizes the aggregate happiness of all sentient beings. And Beauvoir argues that our ultimate purpose should be to realize existential freedom. As we study, discuss, and write about historically important philosophical texts, we will also engage with contemporary philosophers who apply ideas from those texts to current ethical issues.

 

PHLB09H3: Biomedical Ethics

Instructor: Joshua Brandt

Lecture Mode: Online, asynchronous
Tutorial Mode: Online, synchronous

Description: This course is an examination of moral and legal problems in medical practice, in biomedical research, and in the development of health policy. Topics may include: concepts of health and disease, patients' rights, informed consent, allocation of scarce resources, euthanasia, risks and benefits in research and others.

 

PHLB20H3: Belief, Knowledge and Truth

Instructor: Benj Hellie

Lecture Mode: Online, synchronous

Description: An examination of the nature of knowledge, and our ability to achieve it. Topics may include the question of whether any of our beliefs can be certain, the problem of scepticism, the scope and limits of human knowledge, the nature of perception, rationality, and theories of truth.

 

PHLB31H3: Introduction to Ancient Philosophy

Instructor: Christian Pfeiffer

Lecture Mode: In-person

Description: In this course, I will present a thematic overview of Ancient philosophy, centered around the following questions: 1. Happiness: Is there an answer to the question of what the best life is for humans? 2. Freedom and Determinism: In what sense are our actions free? Are freedom and determinism mutually exclusive? 3. Knowledge and Belief: How does knowledge differ from true belief? Can we ever attain knowledge? 4. Plato’s Metaphysics: What are Plato’s Forms? What epistemological and ontological role do they have? We will study how Socrates, Plato, Stoics, Epicureans, and Sceptics answer these questions.

 

PHLB35H3: Introduction to Early Modern Philosophy

Instructor: Michael Blezy

Lecture Mode: Online, synchronous

Description: This course will introduce students to the thought of three key early modern figures: Francis Bacon, René Descartes, and Baruch Spinoza. We will begin the course with an in-depth study of Bacon’s New Organon (1620), focusing particularly on Bacon’s ground-breaking vision of a system of natural science founded on observation and induction. The course will then turn to Descartes’ early attempt to give a strictly mechanistic explanation of natural phenomena (specifically, light, meteors, and living things) in his posthumously published The World (1664), before turning to his more traditional philosophical work on the nature of substance, God, and the foundation of knowledge in Discourse on Method (1637). We will then move on to Spinoza – specifically his idea of the good life and his critique of superstition and traditional sources of authority in his Treatise on the Emendation of the Intellect (1677). Finally, the course will conclude by slowly working through Spinoza’s main argument in The Ethics (1677) that, contrary to Descartes, there is one, eternal substance with infinite modes. By the end of the course, students should be familiar with such philosophical concepts and topics as: the scientific revolution, inductive and deductive methods of explanation, the nature of substance, the mind-body problem, the ontological argument for God’s existence, the status of the “I,” and the nature of philosophical method.  

 

PHLB50H3: Symbolic Logic I

Instructor: Philip Kremer

Lecture Mode: Online, synchronous

Description: An introduction to formal, symbolic techniques of reasoning. Sentential logic and quantification theory (or predicate logic), including identity will be covered. The emphasis is on appreciation of and practice in techniques, for example, the formal analysis of English statements and arguments, and for construction of clear and rigorous proofs.

 

PHLB81H3: Theories of Mind

Instructor: Elliot Carter

Lecture Mode: In-person

Description: This course is an introduction to philosophical thinking about the mind-body problem: the problem of explaining how mental things (like thoughts, experiences, sensations, desires, and so on) are related to physical things (like your body, your brain, and their physical parts). Here are some of the questions we will consider: is the mind separate from the physical world? If so, how can mental events and physical events causally interact (as they seem to when, for example, stubbing your toe causes pain)? If minds are not separate from the physical world, what sort of physical thing are they? Could mental phenomena like the ‘aboutness’ of thoughts, the painfulness of pains, or our subjective perspective on the world really be nothing more than certain arrangements of physical things?

 

PHLB99H3: Philosophical Writing and Methodology

Instructor: Jessica Wilson

Lecture Mode: Online, synchronous

Description: In this writing-intensive course, students will become familiar with tools and techniques that will enable them to competently philosophize, on paper and in person. Students will learn how to write an introduction, how to appropriately structure philosophy papers, how to accurately present someone else's position or argumentation, how to critically assess someone else's view or argumentation, and how to present and defend their own positive proposal or argumentation. Students will also learn many specific skills, such as how to `signpost', how to identify and charitably interpret ambiguities in another discussion, and how to recognize and apply various argumentative strategies. Last but not least, the course will have a significant grammar and style component.

 

PHLC05H3: Ethical Theory

Instructor: Julia Nefsky

Lecture Mode: Online, synchronous

Description: Philosophers offer systematic theories of ethics: theories that simultaneously explain what ethics is, why it matters, and what it tells us to do. This course is a careful reading of classic philosophical texts by the major systematic thinkers in the Western tradition of ethics. Particular authors read may vary from instructor to instructor.

 

PHLC07H3: Death and Dying

Instructor: Joshua Brandt

Lecture Mode: Online, synchronous

Description: An intermediate-level study of the ethical and legal issues raised by death and dying. Topics may vary each year, but could include the definition of death and the legal criteria for determining death, the puzzle of how death can be harmful, the ethics of euthanasia and assisted suicide, the relationship between death and having a meaningful life, and the possibility of surviving death.

 

PHLC09H3: Topics in Continental Philosophy (Phenomenology of Race and Gender)

Instructor: Michael Blezy

Lecture Mode: Online, synchronous

Description: This course will introduce students to issues of race and gender through a study of the concrete experience (“what it is like”) of being a certain race or gender. We will begin by familiarizing ourselves with the study of phenomenology and its aims by briefly tracing the history of phenomenology from Edmund Husserl’s “science of experience” to Jean-Paul Sartre’s and Simone De Beauvoir’s “existential” phenomenology. With this history in the background, the course will then draw upon the Frantz Fanon's Black Skin, White Mask in order to criticize the inadequacies of these early attempts at phenomenology from a post-colonial and race-relations perspective. From there, the course will shift to a study of a newly emerging field of “critical” phenomenology, which focuses on the lived experience of race and gender. In addition to drawing on contemporary theories of the experience of being gendered offered by such thinkers as Lisa Guenther and Alai Al-Saji, students will be familiarized with the phenomenologies of race provided by Sarah Amed and Mariana Oretga. By the end of the course, students should have a firm grasp of such issues and concepts such as: the nature of appearances, the definition (and limits) of transcendental philosophy, embodiment, the self, agency, post-colonial theory, the social-historical determinates of race and gender, and the philosophical distinction between sex/gender.  

 

PHLC31H3: Topics in Ancient Philosophy: Plato

Instructor: Doug Campbell

Lecture Mode: In-person

Description: This course will explore the central aspects of Plato's philosophy. We shall focus mainly on the Philebus and Statesman. These dialogues are dedicated to his ethics and political philosophy, but they contain important statements of his metaphysics and methodological views as well. We will rely on other excerpts from other dialogues, including the Timaeus, Republic, and Laws, as needed, especially to help make sense of the rich metaphysical and cosmological problems with which the Philebus and Statesman are concerned. Students should expect to establish a command of Plato's most important philosophical theories as they are developed across a range of dialogues, as well as an understanding of the connections between different areas of Plato's thought. As we shall see, Plato thinks that answering ethical and political questions requires developing a metaphysics and methodological framework.

 

PHLC60H3: Metaphysics

Instructor: Jessica Wilson

Lecture Mode: Online, synchronous

Description: In this seminar-style course, we consider one or two metaphysical topics in depth, with an emphasis on class discussion. This semester we will explore the philosophically foundational topics of fundamentality and metaphysical dependence. We will assess a representative range of available accounts of these notions; along the way we will consider a number of salient questions on the topic, including whether there is a generic notion of metaphysical dependence or rather just many specific notions, and whether fundamentality should be characterized as primitive or rather in terms of (an absence of) metaphysical dependence.

 

PHLC80H3: Philosophy of Language

Instructor: Philip Kremer

Lecture Mode: Online, synchronous

Description: An examination of philosophical issues about language. Philosophical questions to be covered include: what is the relation between mind and language, what is involved in linguistic communication, is language an innate biological feature of human beings, how do words manage to refer to things, and what is meaning.

 

PHLC92H3: Political Philosophy

Instructor: Hamish Russell

Lecture Mode: In-person

Description: This course draws on the resources of philosophy to debate some pressing issues in public life. The first half will discuss competing interpretations of the ideal of equality: is equality about counting everyone’s preferences equally, or about ensuring everyone has equal opportunities, or about eliminating oppressive social relations? The second half will cover three of the following topics, as chosen by the class: free speech and its limits; the morality of lawbreaking; feminist political philosophy; democratic socialism; and the politics of anger.

 

PHLC95H3: Topics in the Philosophy of Mind

Instructor: Elliot Carter

Lecture Mode: In-person

Description: This year’s course will focus on the philosophy of perception. Perception is central to philosophical thinking about the nature of the mind and our knowledge of the external world. Here are some of the questions we’ll consider in this course: what are we directly aware of in perceptual experience? Does the existence of illusions and hallucinations suggest that what we’re directly aware of is something constructed by our minds rather than objects in the external world? If someone who was blind from birth could recognize a cube by touch alone, could they recognize a cube by sight if they gained the ability to see? How many senses do we have, and what makes them distinct? Are perceptual experiences always experiences in a single sense modality, or do we have experiences that combine input from multiple senses?

 

PHLD09H3: Advanced Seminar in Bioethics

Instructor: Doug Campbell

Lecture Mode: In-person

Description: This course is about decision-making in health-care settings. The course is divided into two units. The first unit concerns the decision-making context. For instance, we will talk about whether it is morally permissible to coerce people into making the decisions that promote health as an outcome; whether we can (and should) change the context of a choice in order to make a certain decision more likely, perhaps without the patient’s knowledge that this is happening; the role of oppression in limiting the choices that we can make; and more. The second unit will be about the way that our decision-making power – sometimes called ‘competence’ – is conceptualized. We will begin by looking at a traditional conception of competence and then complicate it by looking at, among other things, the way that mental illness and psychiatric diagnoses affect our decision-making power. 

 

PHLD20H3: Advanced Seminar in Theory of Knowledge

Instructor: Benj Hellie

Lecture Mode: Online, synchronous

Description: This courses addresses core issues in the theory of knowledge at an advanced level. Topics to be discussed may include The Nature of Knowledge, Scepticism, Epistemic Justification, Rationality and Rational Belief Formation.

 

PHLD31H3: Advanced Seminar in Ancient Philosophy

Instructor: Christian Pfeiffer

Lecture Mode: In-person

Description: “Socrates,” C.C.W  Taylor writes, “has a unique position in the history of philosophy. On the one hand, he is one of the most influential of all philosophers, and on the other one of the most elusive and least known.”  Since Socrates wrote nothing, we have to rely on reports by others, mainly Plato. That’s why he is elusive, and one question we will pursue is to what extent we can reconstruct the historical Socrates at all.  On the other hand, Socrates is presented as a figure of total moral and intellectual integrity in Plato’s dialogues. For this reason, Socrates continues to be seen as the ideal philosopher. Drawing on several early dialogues of Plato (because they present a picture that is close to the historical Socrates), we will explore the philosophy of Socrates, focusing on the following topics: 1. Socrates’s disavowal of knowledge and his distinctive method of philosophical conversation (‘The elenchus’). 2.  His search for the definition of ethical terms, such as courage, piety, temperance. 3. His claim that virtue is knowledge and the role of expertise in living a happy and successful life. 4. His critique of the sophists. 5. Socrates’s trial (his defense speech and his argument why he should obey the laws).

 

PHLD78H3: Advanced Seminar in Political Philosophy

Instructor: Hamish Russell

Lecture Mode: In-person

Description: Almost everyone agrees that freedom is an important political value—perhaps the most important value. But there is much disagreement about what freedom actually entails. Some people claim their freedom is under attack whenever they are required to do something they don’t want to do, such as wear a mask at the grocery store. For others, more serious threats to livelihood are salient: the freedom to criticise the government without risking arrest, the freedom to move through the world without fearing violence from strangers or police, or the lack of freedom that comes with poverty and economic precarity. In this seminar, we will read some of the most careful thinkers on the meaning and value of freedom. We will attend especially to how freedom connects or conflicts with other political values, such as equality, welfare, and community. We will also discuss specific topics that challenge our assumptions about freedom, such as paternalism, privacy, prisons, power in the workplace, and sexual preferences. You will get to vote for the topics that we focus on in the second half of the course.

 

PHLD88Y3: Advanced Seminar in Philosophy: Socrates Project

Instructor: Rachel Bryant

Lecture Mode: In-person

Description: The Socrates Project Seminar is a full-year seminar course that provides experiential learning in philosophy in conjunction with a teaching assignment to lead tutorials and mark assignments in PHLA10H3 and PHLA11H3. Roughly 75% of the seminar will be devoted to more in-depth study of the topics taken up in PHLA10H3 and PHLA11H3. Students will write a seminar paper on one of these topics under the supervision of a UTSC Philosophy faculty member working in the relevant area, and they will give an oral presentation on their research topic each semester. The remaining 25% of the seminar will focus on the methods and challenges of teaching philosophy, benchmark grading, and grading generally.

 

PHLD89Y3: Advanced Seminar in Philosophy: The Socrates Project for Applied Ethics

Instructor: Joshua Brandt

Lecture Mode: In-person

Description: The Socrates Project for Applied Ethics is a seminar course which occurs over two terms that provides experiential learning in philosophy in conjunction with a teaching assignment to lead tutorials and mark assignments in PHLB09H3. Roughly 75% of the seminar will be devoted to a more in-depth study of the topics taken up in PHLB09H3. Students will write a seminar paper on one of these topics under the supervision of a UTSC Philosophy faculty member working in the relevant area, and they will give an oral presentation on their research topic each semester. The remaining 25% of the seminar will focus on the methods and challenges of teaching philosophy, benchmark grading, and grading generally.