PHLA10 - Reason and Truth

Winter Session 2021

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 problems that have arisen through the history of philosophy.

Special Notices

End of Class. But there is one more assignment due next week on quercus (assignment 10).
Office hours as usual on Tuesday (April 13) and Thursday (April 15).

Final Examination. The exam will be 2 hours long. The format is a short answer section (similar to the mid-term) plus a short essay section. No length is suggested for the essay, but clear organization and a focussed topic is better than more words in my opinion.

Essay 2 Topics now available.This is a bit early and some topics are on issues we haven't yet covered but will get to soon, so please don't rush to start writing Essay 2. Find the topics here. Due 11:59pm on April 12th, 2021.

Important: please send questions, requests, and any other class issues to: (mail to other addresses will not be replied to).

Note lectures are not synchronous (quercus/acorn is wrong about that). Lectures will be uploaded to quercus in module called "lectures" and also in the "media gallery".

Office Hours: basic questions best addressed by sending an email to the class email address (as above). If you need/want to see me, please send a zoom invitation to the class email address (as above). This will have to be on a first-come, first-served basis (as it was when you used to come and knock on my door).


William Seager.
Office: MW388 (sadly irrelevant during pandemic).
E-mail: (for confidential or personal matters only)
Office Hrs (via ZOOM): 1-2pm Tuesdays, 2-3pm Thursdays, or by appointment.


Core Questions in Philosophy, 7th Edition by Elliot Sober.
The textbook is available at the bookstore and at various electronic book sources (e.g. vitalsource, amazon-kindle, etc.).

Plan of Course

My goal is to get through Parts I-IV of Sober's book. Since the first part is short, we can cover it in two weeks or so. That gives us about 3 weeks for each of Part II, III and IV (we won't cover Part V - if you are interested in taking an introductory course in ethics we offer PHLA11). You can keep track of our progress by checking the "Where Are We" section of this webpage as we go along. Our official readings will mostly be Sober's own lectures, but I encourage you all to read the original source material as well which is readily available online or in the library (if you need help finding it, please ask).


The final grade will be based upon two short papers (each worth 25% of the final grade), a set of weekly exercises (worth altogether 5% of the final grade), a mid-term online quiz done on quercus (worth 15% of the final grade) and a final take-home exam also done via quercus (worth 30% of the final grade).

The Mid-Term Quiz: this will be an online quiz (length: one hour) which will consist of short answer questions similar to the kinds of questions found on the weekly assignments.

The Short Papers: these will be on topics to be provided on this web page. They should be no more than 1200 words long and no less than 1000 words long.
     Philosophy demands hard and careful thought, and such thought deserves clear and well organized writing for its expression. Some advice on writing philosophy papers will of course be provided in class and in tutorial, and here are a couple of links: Peter Horban's Writing a Philosophy Paper; James Pryor's Guidelines on Writing a Philosophy Paper; our own Professor Jessica Wilson's guide can be found here.
     Note also that late essays are not acceptable unless you have a valid reason for not being able to produce the essay in a timely fashion. We *may* accept late essays one week late with a one grade (10%) penalty. Please discuss any problems with your tutorial leader.

The Weekly Exercises: these will be sets of questions about the current readings. The questions will mostly be obvious and based entirely on the readings. Your answers will not be graded - you will receive credit for handing in your work ON TIME so long as a good faith effort has been made. Altogether, they are worth 5% of the final grade so you needn't feel devastated if you miss one. But it's an easy 5% and will help you keep up with the reading. Exercises can be worked on during your weekly tutorial while discussing the questions and uploaded to quercus.

The Final Exam: The exam will be 2 hours long. The format is a short answer section (similar to the mid-term) plus a short essay section.


Tutorials begin in the third week of class (that is the week starting January 25).

Every student is enrolled in a tutorial. These are small group sessions (this year done online) dedicated to discussion of the philosophical issues the class is currently working on. They are an invaluable opportunity for you to engage with an expert tutorial leader and your fellow students. An important part of philosophy involves open and collaborative discussion and argument. The tutorials can be the most fun part of the course. They are also where the weekly assignments and other work (midterm, essays) will be discussed. Believe me when I say that you will do better in the course if you regularly attend and participate in your tutorial.

Academic Integrity

Academic integrity is essential to the pursuit of learning and scholarship in a university, and to ensuring that a degree from the University of Toronto is a strong signal of each student’s individual academic achievement. As a result, the University treats cases of cheating and plagiarism very seriously. The University of Toronto’s Code of Behaviour on Academic Matters outlines the behaviours that constitute academic dishonesty and the processes for addressing academic offences. If you have questions or concerns about what constitutes appropriate academic behaviour or appropriate research and citation methods, you are expected to seek out additional information on academic integrity from your instructor or from other institutional resources (see U of T's Academic Integrity page).

Important Dates

Tuesday, January 12, 2021: First meeting of PHLA10F: intro videos available on quercus today. Sunday, January 24, 2021: Last day to add S classes.
Week of January 25, 2021: Tutorials start this week.
February 15-19, 2021: Winter Reading Week (no classes).
Thursday, February 25, 2021: Mid-Term Quiz Note new time. (Timed assignment on quercus, one attempt, one hour length, availability TBA).
Sunday, March 14, 2021 by 11:59pm: TERM PAPER I due. Topics here.
Monday, March 29, 2021: Last day to drop S courses without penalty.
Monday, April 12, 2021: Final dary of classes.
Monday, April 12, 2021 by 11:59pm: TERM PAPER II due. Topics here.
April 10-11, 2021: Study Break.
April 13-23, 2021: Final Examination Period.
FINAL EXAM: Saturday, April 17, 8-10pm. Format: short answer + short essay.

Where are we?

PANDEMIC METHODOLOGY: I will be recording lectures and uploading them to quercus. You'll be able to download and view the lectures for each week by Tuesday or Thursday, 12pm, but can watch them whenever it strikes your fancy.

Week of Jan. 11: Reading Sober chs. 1 and 2. Slides 1, Slides 2, Slides 3
Week of Jan. 18: Reading Sober, ch. 4. Slides 4
Week of Jan. 25: Reading Sober, ch. 5, some of ch. 6. Slides 5
Week of Feb. 1: Reading Sober, chs. 6-9. Slides 6, Slides 7.
Week of Feb. 8: Reading Sober, chs. 9 and 10, getting into 11. Slides 8
Week of Feb. 15: Reading Week: No Classes.
Week of Feb. 22: Tuesday, Feb. 23, Q & A zoom sessions 11-12pm and 1-2pm. A zoom invite will be sent.
                             Thursday, Feb. 25: Mid-Term Quiz.
Week of Mar. 1: Reading Sober, ch. 11 and into Ch. 12. Slides 9.
Week of Mar. 8: Reading Sober, ch. 12 and 13. Slides 10.
Week of Mar. 15: Reading Sober, ch. 14 and 15. Slides 11, Slides 12.
Week of Mar. 22: Reading Sober, ch. 16, 17, (skipping 18), 19. Slides 13.
Week of Mar. 29: Reading Sober, ch. 20-24. Slides 14.
Week of Apr. 4: Reading Sober, ch. 24-26. Slides 15.
Week of Apr. 12: All done but final assignment (#10) due on quercus. Slides 16.

Current Assignment

Assignment 1, due in tutorial, week of Jan 25. (Get assignment 1.)
Assignment 2, due in tutorial, week of Feb. 1. (Get assignment 2.)
Assignment 3, due in tutorial, week of Feb. 8. (Get assignment 3.)
Assignment 4, due in tutorial, week of Feb. 22. (Get assignment 4.)
Assignment 5, due in tutorial, week of Mar. 8. (Get assignment 5.)
Assignment 6, due in tutorial, week of Mar. 15. (Get assignment 6.)
Assignment 7, due in tutorial, week of Mar. 22. (Get assignment 7.)
Assignment 8, due in tutorial, week of Mar. 29. (Get assignment 8.)
Assignment 9, due in tutorial, week of Apr. 5. (Get assignment 9.)
Assignment 10, due on quercus, week of Apr. 12. (Get assignment 10.)

Philosophy Department (MW Building), University of Toronto Scarborough, 1265 Military Trail, Toronto, Ontario, M1C1A4

Office: MW 374       Phone: 416-208-2976