Winter 2023 Course Offerings

Land Valley Trail in Winter

PHLA10H3: Reason and Truth

Instructor: Rory Harder

Lecture Mode: In-person
Tutorial Mode: In-person

Description: An introduction to philosophy focusing on issues of rationality, metaphysics and the theory of knowledge. Topics may include: the nature of mind, freedom, the existence of God, the nature and knowability of reality. These topics will generally be introduced through the study of key texts from the history of philosophy.

 

PHLB07H3: Ethics

Instructor: Nathan Howard

Lecture Mode: In-person
Tutorial Mode: In-person

Description: What is the difference between right and wrong? What is 'the good life'? What is well-being? What is autonomy? These notions are central in ethical theory, law, bioethics, and in the popular imagination. In this course we will explore these concepts in greater depth, and then consider how our views about them shape our views about ethics.

 

PHLB09H3: Biomedical Ethics

Instructor: Eric Mathison

Lecture Mode: In-person
Tutorial Mode: In-person

Description: This course will introduce students to some of the main topics in bioethics, including informed consent, truth telling, privacy, medical assistance in dying, abortion, and emerging technologies. We will consider both theoretical questions (e.g., What is death? What are the goals of medicine?) as well as some applied and policy questions (e.g., When should vaccinations be mandatory? How do we ethically distribute scarce resources such as organs?).

 

PHLB11H3: Philosophy of Law

Instructor: Rowan Mellor

Lecture Mode: In-person

Description: A discussion of right and rights, justice, legality, and related concepts. Particular topics may include: justifications for the legal enforcement of morality, particular ethical issues arising out of the intersection of law and morality, such as punishment, freedom of expression and censorship, autonomy and paternalism, constitutional protection of human rights.

 

PHLB13H3: Philosophy and Feminism

Instructor: Rachel Bryant

Lecture Mode: In-person

Description: bell hooks characterizes feminism as a “struggle to end sexist oppression,” or gender-based oppression (hooks, Feminist Theory from Margin to Center, p. 24). In this course, we will take a philosophical approach to feminism so conceived. First, we will explore the notion of oppression. Second, we will investigate various accounts of gender. This will give us a basis for examining some of the conceptual tools that feminist philosophers have offered for understanding and struggling against gender-based oppression.

 

PHLB17H3: Introduction to Political Philosophy

Instructor: Avia Pasternak

Lecture Mode: In-person

Description: This course will introduce some important concepts of and thinkers in political philosophy from the history of political philosophy to the present. These may include Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Aquinas, Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, G.W.F. Hegel, John Stuart Mill, or Karl Marx. Topics discussed may include political and social justice, liberty and the criteria of good government.

 

PHLB30H3: Existentialism

Instructor: TBD

Lecture Mode: In-person

Description: A study of the views and approaches pioneered by such writers as Kierkegaard, Husserl, Jaspers, Heidegger and Sartre. Existentialism has had influence beyond philosophy, impacting theology, literature and psychotherapy. Characteristic topics include the nature of the self and its relations to the world and society, self-deception, and freedom of choice.

 

PHLB58H3: Reasoning Under Uncertainty

Instructor: Rory Harder

Lecture Mode: In-person

Description: Much reasoning and decision-making, from everyday life to the depths of science, occurs in a context of uncertainty. How do we know if a certain drug works against a particular illness? Who will win the next election? Should I buy home insurance for an unlikely but severe disaster? This course examines various strategies for dealing with uncertainty. Topics include the basics of critical thinking, probabilistic reasoning and the nature of probability, and the process of scientific confirmation and refutation.

 

PHLB60H3: Introduction to Metaphysics

Instructor: Elliot Carter

Lecture Mode: In-person

Description: Metaphysics is the branch of philosophy that deals with fundamental questions about the nature of reality. Here are some questions we will cover in this course: is the nature of the world independent of the way it appears to us? What, if anything, makes a person today the same person they were 10 years ago? Are there genuine alternative possibilities, and if so, what kind of thing are they? What is causation? Is free will an illusion? Does time really pass? Along the way, we will also consider whether and how it is possible to answer such questions.

 

PHLB91H3: Theories of Human Nature

Instructor: Michael Blezy

Lecture Mode: In-person

Description:  Kant famously claimed that philosophical questions such as (1) What can I know? (2) What should I do? (3) What can I hope for? all come down to a fourth question: (4) What is man? In this course, we will attempt to answer the question, “What is man?” or, more precisely, “What is the nature of the human being?” through a careful reading of the work of Kant and a variety of other thinkers in the Kantian and post-Kantian tradition (e.g., Schiller, Fichte, Cassirer, Marx, Freud, Heidegger, Foucault). By the end of the course, students should be familiar with the philosophical response to such questions as: Is there a human nature? What, if anything, sets human beings off from other creatures in the animal kingdom? Is it possible to be alienated from our human nature? What role does education play in the human being realizing its nature? How are we to conceive of the social-historical determinants of human nature? What role does time or temporality play in the constitution of our human nature?  

 

PHLC06H3: Topics in Ethical Theory

Instructor: Rachel Bryant

Lecture Mode: In-person

Description: The topic on which we'll focus is ethics and the animal. We will investigate how some important classical and contemporary philosophers present the ethical dimensions of human beings’ relationships with and treatment of other animals. In doing so, we will learn not only about animal ethics, but also about how the theories we study conceive of and value human beings, and how our treatment of other animals reflects how we conceive of and value human beings.

 

PHLC10H3: Topics in Bioethics

Instructor: Eric Mathison

Lecture Mode: In-person

Description: This course will be an intermediate-level study of the goals and scope of medicine. New technologies (e.g., gene editing) and new laws (e.g., legalized assisted dying) are changing medicine. Some healthcare professionals argue that this is for the worse and that these changes represent a departure from the true purpose of medicine. We will assess these claims by exploring some of the following questions. What are the goals of medicine? To what extent should patients be able to decide which treatments they receive? What happens when healthcare providers disagree with these requests? Should they be allowed to conscientiously object? We will apply these questions to a variety of practical problems, including assisted dying, abortion, and enhancement technologies such as gene editing.

 

PHLC22H3: Topics in Theories of Knowledge

Instructor: Elliot Carter

Lecture Mode: In-person

Description: This course addresses particular issues in the theory of knowledge in detail. Topics will vary from year to year but may typically include such topics as The Nature of Knowledge, Scepticism, Epistemic Justification, Rationality and Rational Belief Formation.

 

PHLC32H3: Topics in Ancient Philosophy: Aristotle

Instructor: Doug Campbell

Lecture Mode: In-person

Description: This course will be about Aristotle's natural philosophy. We will cover such important philosophical subjects as the nature of reality, causation, change, explanations, God, and the cosmos. If time permits, we will also talk about Aristotle's views of non-human animals. The major texts that we will read are Aristotle's PhysicsMetaphysics, and De Caelo. We'll probably also read his texts on animal biology, most likely at least Parts of Animals and perhaps History of Animals. This course is suitable for anyone interested in these deep, complicated philosophical questions, even without a background in ancient philosophy; no prerequisites will be enforced.

 

PHLC37H3: Kant

Instructor: Michael Blezy

Lecture Mode: In-person

Description: In the last decade a growing number of scholars have drawn attention to the startling contrast between Kant’s moral and political theory, with its inspiring enlightenment ideas regarding human autonomy, equality, dignity and freedom, and Kant’s Eurocentrism and racism. On the one hand, Kant is famous for calling for a “league of nations” that would secure civil constitutions across the globe that would protect individualand ensure that enlightened states would not backslide into a “state of nature” or “barbarism” (a state that Kant equates with human unfreedom). On the other hand, when it comes to what Kant has to say about the issue of just which societies are to be counted amongst the “civil” societies that would make up such a league, as well as how to bring societies into the fold of the rightful condition that would be characterized by this league’s success (what Kant calls a “state of mankind” or a “state of freedom”), we find some harrowing suggestions. Kant not only argues that it is permissible for states to “coerce” their neighbours into a condition, but they are in fact morally obliged to “force” societies into such a condition (presumably with violence) if they are not recognizably Kantian civil societies. What is more, Kant’s problematic views on the nature of human races and the ranking of the races, as well as his limited understanding of cultures outside of Europe, results in Kant again and again undervaluing or disregarding altogether non-European forms of culture and social organization.

            Taken together, these facets of Kant’s thought have led to scholarly reassessment of Kant’s work and, in particular, the extent to which it is entangled with the history of colonialism. Does Kant’s moral and political philosophy, combined with his social and anthropological theories, supply states with a rationalization, justification, or philosophical backing for colonial adventures? Does Kant’s account of what counts as a human person have a “threshold,” such certain people are not subject to the same moral obligations as others? How are we to decide what constitutes a “civil” society? And when is it morally right, if ever, to intervene in the affairs of sovereign nations? In this course we will address these issues in two main ways. First, through a close study of a number of Kant’s moral, political, and anthropological writings. Second, by familiarizing ourselves with Professor Dale Turner’s account and defense of indigenous sovereignty, This is Not a Peace Pipe: Towards a Critical Indigenous Philosophy. By the end of the course, students will be in a position to evaluate just how Kant stands vis-à-vis colonialism and the colonial project, as well as Turner’s critique of western liberalism and colonialism, and, in particular, the ugly history of how the colonial project played out in the context of Canada.

 

PHLC51H3: Symbolic Logic II

Instructor: Phil Kremer

Lecture Mode: In-person

Description: After consolidating the material from Symbolic Logic I, we will introduce necessary background for metalogic, the study of the properties of logical systems. We will introduce set theory, historically developed in parallel to logic. We conclude with some basic metatheory of the propositional logic learned in Symbolic Logic I.

 

PHLC72H3: Philosophy of Science

Instructor: Elliot Carter

Lecture Mode: In-person

Description: This course will consider one or two topics in the Philosophy of Science in depth, with an emphasis on class discussion.

 

PHLC80H3: Philosophy of Language

Instructor: TBD

Lecture Mode: In-person

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.

 

PHLD09H3: Advanced Seminar in Bioethics

Instructor: Nathan Howard

Lecture Mode: In-person

Description: This advanced seminar will focus on consent in both sexual and medical contexts to get a clearer picture of what makes valid consent informed in each case, with a view to getting clearer on why consent matters in general. 

 

PHLD78H3: Advanced Seminar in Political Philosophy

Instructor: Avia Pasternak

Lecture Mode: In-person

Description: This advanced seminar will delve more deeply into an issue in political philosophy. Topics will vary from year to year, but some examples include: distributive justice, human rights, and the political morality of freedom. Students will be required to present material to the class at least once during the semester.

 

PHLD87H3: Advanced Seminar in Philosophy of Mind

Instructor: Rory Harder

Lecture Mode: In-person

Description: This course offers in-depth examination of selected contemporary theories and issues in philosophy of mind, such as theories of perception or of consciousness, and contemporary research examining whether minds must be embodied or embedded in a larger environment.

 

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: Socrates Project for Applied Ethics

Instructor: Eric Mathison

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.