2020-21 Undergraduate Timetable
As Western University continues to respond to the changing circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, the Fall/Winter 2020-2021 course offerings may be subject to change. As you plan your course selections, we encourage you to review the academic timetable regularly and follow updates available on the Fall/Winter 2020-2021 course section of the Office of the Registrar Updates and FAQs website.
The Registrar is using the phrase “Distance Studies/Online” on the Timetable to designate any course that is not fully in-person. Below is a fuller explanation of Philosophy course delivery modes. Check individual course outline for delivery details.
|Course Delivery Type||Definition|
|Asynchronous Online||In this course type, teaching activities will take place online with no timeslot assigned (asynchronously). You may access the course material any time you wish however, there might be mandatory synchronous tutorials at a specified time during the week for which the course outline will detail.|
|Synchronous Online||These courses will offer an online component in which students will participate at the same time (synchronously). All teaching activities including tests will require mandatory attendance during scheduled online meeting times. Other components of the course may be offered asynchronously, (i.e., with no requirement for attendance at a designated time). Consult individual course outlines for details.|
|As long as the university considers face-to-face instruction with proper social distancing measures safe, the designated in-person component will be offered in a classroom on campus with strict adherence to public health protocols. Students have the option of choosing in-person or on-line delivery mode for these courses. Refer to individual course outlines for details.|
Reading Courses: Students apply for an advanced reading course must be in their third or fourth year registered in an Honors Specialization, Honors Double Major or Specialization module in Philosophy. Further information available here.
This course will be devoted to a selection of problems in the following areas of philosophy:
Epistemology or the theory of knowledge. We shall consider such questions as: Is knowledge possible? How, if ever, is it possible to justify one's beliefs?
Metaphysics or the theory of what exists. We shall consider such questions as: Does God exist? What is the nature of the mind? Do we possess freedom of the will?
Ethics or the study of the nature of right and wrong, good and bad. We shall consider such questions as: What makes an action right or wrong, permissible or impermissible? What makes something good or bad?
Practical Ethics or the study of how one ought to live. We shall consider such questions as: Is existence a benefit? Is abortion permissible? Is there an obligation to alleviate poverty in developing nations? Is it permissible to eat non-human animals? Is paternalism justified?
|Instructor: D. Klimchuk||Asynchronous online lectures with synchronous online tutorial||Course Outline|
This non-essay course is aimed at non-science majors who want to gain an understanding of the place of science in our world and how it relates to other parts of our culture, and at science students who want to gain an appreciation of the place of their discipline in the wider culture.
Science plays a central role in our lives. It is the source of new technological developments, and of information about safety and risks that are relevant to our decisions as individuals and as a society. Yet many people find science disquieting. There is a feeling that science destroys the wonder of nature. Moreover, many people mistrust what scientists tell them.
In this course, we will dive into an investigation of the nature of science and its place in modern culture. Among the questions to be addressed are: What distinguishes science from non-science? Are there limits to what science can or should explain? Should we place our trust in science? How can we, as non-scientists, tell whether we should rely on what news reports tell us about the results of scientific studies? What is the role and value of science in a democratic society?
|Instructor: W. Myrvold||Asynchronous online lectures with synchronous online tutorial||Course Outline|
In this course, we will consider a number of topics with a view to understanding the ways in which ethics, law and politics intersect, and the ways in which they can sometimes pull in different directions. We will start by having a look at the Canadian Constitution, and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in particular. The Constitution sets the framework in which law and politics are played out – it also embodies and enshrines various values that sound very much like ethical commitments. We will then consider various topics including medical assistance in dying, freedom of speech, public apologies, prostitution, food waste and the problem of lying.
Along the way, we will explore how complexity, pluralism and bias serve to make these topics so controversial and so difficult to resolve, once and for all. And, through in-class discussion, written work, and tutorial assignments we will learn how to engage in clear philosophical analysis, develop and defend multiple perspectives, and provide convincing arguments to support our conclusions.
|Instructor: T. Isaacs||Synchronous online Tuesday 1:30 - 2:30 with synchronous online tutorial
*Choice of in-person session Thursday 1:30-2:30 (refer to course outline)
This course will discuss some of the ideas that have shaped modern culture, politics, science, and philosophy. These “big ideas” are familiar and widely debated in our culture. What we often miss is how closely they are connected with philosophy. Many of the most powerful and influential ideas-- not only in philosophy, politics, and culture, but even in science and technology--developed through philosophical reflections on human problems. Thinkers such as Albert Einstein, Martin Luther King, Hannah Arendt, Charles Darwin, Alan Turing, and Isaac Newton began by asking new philosophical questions about old and established beliefs. Reading and discussing original texts by these and other authors, we will try to understand some of the most revolutionary and interesting of these ideas from a critical philosophical perspective. We will talk about the impact that they have had, might have, or ought to have on our lives and thought. “Big ideas” to be discussed include: justice, equality, evolution, infinity, freedom, determinism, materialism, computation, artificial intelligence, theism, atheism, skepticism, certainty, progress, evil, relativity, and others.
|Instructor: R. DiSalle||Synchronous online Monday 11:30 - 12:30 with synchronous online tutorial
*Choice of in-person session Wednesday 11:30-12:30 (refer to course outline)
This course offers students important critical reading, writing, and thinking skills for being successful at university and in the workplace. Students are taught criteria behind language use, which motivates the criteria of good reasoning. Based on these criteria students learn to represent the structure of complicated reasoning and how to assess it and construct it, with specific techniques for deductive and inductive reasoning. These methods are then applied to practical reasoning, particularly in the context of ethical decision making, as well as scientific and numerical reasoning. The course concludes by examining belief acquisition and the nature of bias using converging evidence from a number of research disciplines.
|Instructor: A. Mendelovici||Synchronous online Tuesday 9:30-10:30 with synchronous online tutorial||Course Outline
Modern formal logic including argument structure, propositional logic and elementary quantification. Applications to everyday reasoning and to computer "thinking" are considered, along with related issues in semantics and the philosophy of logic. Intended primarily for students not planning further studies in Philosophy or Logic.
Antirequisite(s): Philosophy 2250, Philosophy 2252W/X, Computer Science 2209A/B.
|Instructor: C. Viger||Synchronous online Wednesday 9:30 - 11:30||Course Outline|
In this introductory course on the philosophy of economics, we will examine the theoretical, methodological, and ethical foundations of contemporary economics. Topics will include the moral limits of markets, theories of well-being, inequality and distributive justice, and the evaluation of economic outcomes and policies. We will also examine the explanatory and predictive power of economic models and consider whether the principles of rational choice are justifiable. Discussions and supplemental material will relate course topics to current societal challenges. A background in philosophy or economics is not required.
|Instructor: R. Livernois||Synchronous online Tuesday, Thursday 10:30 - 11:30||Course Outline|
Astronauts age more slowly. Time can have a beginning. Space and time are curved. All these surprising claims are consequences of Einstein's revolutionary theories of relativity. This course explains these and related ideas in historical context and explores their philosophical significance. No physics and only grade 11 mathematics required.
|Instructor: C. Smeenk||Synchronous online Monday 10:30 - 12:30, Wednesday 11:30 - 12:30||Course Outline|
We live in a time in which environmental issues are very much in the news; climate change is one prominent issue.
This course is about how to think about such things. How are we to react to sometimes contradictory information in the media? Once we believe we know what is happening, what are the causes and solutions? Is environmental degradation an inevitable by-product of the presence of more than 7 billion human beings, or is it rooted in some fact about our culture? Is it the Western attitude towards the natural world? Is it something about our economic system? If we want to protect our environment, what is it that is worth saving, and why? Do we have a duty to protect Nature which is independent of its benefits to human beings? Is governmental regulation the answer, or should we let markets take care of things? This course is an invitation to think about and discuss these philosophical questions and others, and to investigate what others have said about them.
|Instructor: W. Myrvold||Synchronous online Tuesday 1:30 - 3:30, Thursday 2:30 - 3:30||Course Outline|
Will robots take all our jobs? Will humans become cyborgs? Will nano-technology revolutionize medicine? As we rely more and more on machines and other new technologies, they are changing how we interact with the world and one another. In this course, we will consider the impact of artificial intelligence on our current lives and on our future. It has been said that “Philosophy will be the key that unlocks artificial intelligence”—presumably for the better. On the other hand, the Oxford philosopher Nick Bostrom has warned that advances in superintelligence may soon make humans obsolete. Who should we believe? This course will address these and other issues by first considering some traditional questions in philosophy of mind—e.g., Can a robot think? What is the Turing Test? Can machines ever be conscious?— before turning to a consideration of some of the ethical and social implications of this new technology.
|Instructor: M. Anderson||Asynchronous online lectures with synchronous online tutorial Friday 12:30 - 1:30||Course Outline|
An introduction to core issues in the philosophy of psychiatry. Topics may include: a survey of historical and contemporary theories of the nature of mental disorder and its treatment; case studies designed to highlight controversies surrounding specific mental disorders, most notably, Depressive Disorders, Personality Disorders, Eating Disorders, and the Psychoses.
|Instructor: L. Charland||Synchronous online Tuesday, Thursday 10:30 - 11:30||Course Outline|
In his treatise Meditations on First Philosophy (1641), the French philosopher René Descartes put forward the idea that “minds”, in so far as they are thinking things, differ from physical bodies, which do not think. Descartes’ claim that the mind and body are separate substances—a view referred to as “substance dualism”—prompted philosophers and scientists to wonder: How can minds be studied scientifically if they are not a part of the physical world?
We will consider a variety of different answers to this question by critically evaluating areas of philosophy and science that have emerged historically to understand the nature of the mind and its place in the physical world. We will begin by considering Cartesian dualism and the mechanical philosophy as well as the empiricism of John Locke. The sciences that will then be the focus of our analysis include phrenology & localization theory, early physiology, psychophysics, experimental psychology, Gestalt psychology, evolutionary psychology, intelligence testing, William James’ psychology, learning theory and behaviourism Freudian psychoanalysis, later physiology, developmental psychology, cognitive psychology, artificial intelligence, functional neuroanatomy and cognitive neuroscience. We will begin by considering a set of conceptual tools on offer in philosophy of science and philosophy of mind and will then use these tools to guide our analysis of each of the sciences we will consider.
|Instructor: J. Sullivan||Synchronous online Monday, Wednesday 2:30 - 3:30||Course Outline|
An examination of philosophical approaches to understanding relationships of power, privilege, and oppression. The material will include work in feminist philosophy, critical race theory, and/or postcolonial theory. There will be discussion of forms of oppression along the lines of gender, race, class, disability, and sexuality, with a focus on intersectional analyses.
Course Outline Philosophy 2630F/G.
|Instructor: C. McLeod||Synchronous online Tuesday 2:30 - 3:30
*Choice of in-person session (refer to course outline)
The meaning and moral significance of death, as well as the implications of being conscious of one's own mortality. Drawing upon both classical and contemporary philosophical texts, we will approach the topic of death by attempting to answer some of the following questions: When is something considered dead? What, if anything, survives the bodily death of a person? Should death be feared? Is suicide ever rational? What are we thinking of when we try to think of no longer existing? Does the inevitability of death make life meaningless? If death isn’t bad for a person, does that mean murder is morally okay?
|Instructor: R. Robb||Asynchronous online||Course Outline|
It is sometimes said that the phrase “business ethics” is an oxymoron. In this course, we will attempt to dispel this popular conception. By working our way through many of the moral issues to which the practice of business gives rise, we will show that the interests of business people and moral philosophers converge. Topics include: What is the nature of moral reasoning? Do corporations have social responsibilities? What social responsibilities do corporations have when operating in the global context? Are there universal ethical principles that can guide the conduct of multinational corporations? Do international sweatshops violate human rights? Can the capitalist market economy be justified? What constitutes a just distribution of the goods and services produced by society? What are the rights of employees in the workplace? Do employees have the right to due process? Is business bluffing ethical? When is advertising ethically questionable? How much information about a product is a corporation morally obligated to disclose to consumers, and how and to whom should this information be disclosed?
|Instructor: D. Proessel||Asynchronous online||Course Outline|
We spend a considerable portion of our lives in the digital world. What moral considerations ought to guide our conduct as digital citizens? This class will engage materials that explore the following sorts of questions: What are our rights and responsibilities in the digital world? How is social media changing our relationships? How do we balance copyright claims against demands for open access? How do we trade off anonymity and accountability? What’s the relationship between our virtual identities and our physical identities? What constraints, if any, shape our digital identities? Is piracy always wrong? Does a hacker’s code of ethics make any sense? Is cyberbullying worse than other forms of bullying? How should we respond to sexism, racism, homophobia and other forms of hate and exclusion in online communities? Where do and don’t smartphones belong? Are there constraints on how we edit and present images online?
|Instructor: R. Robb||Asynchronous online lectures||Course Outline|
We will study the fundamental concepts of law and the philosophical principles on which they are based. The course is divided into four sections, two each term, as follows: the first term will be spent on tort law and contract law; the second term criminal law and constitutional law. There will also be an introduction to the basic structure of our court system, the difference between statute law and common law, and some basic knowledge of the legal process.
In the study of tort law, the main focus will be on the law of negligence, including the expanding areas of liability of product manufacturers, tavern owners, and other public-private entities. We will be reading an essay describing the difference between American and Canadian approaches to tort law, and illustrating themes that are ever-present in the law's development.
In the study of contract law, the student will gain an understanding of the basics of contract law by looking at pivotal cases and applying the principles found in those cases in various other situations. Again, a philosophical essay will lead the way to conceptual underpinnings of contract law. For criminal law, the questions of culpability, intention, and available defences are considered. Finally, constitutional law will be studied with the main focus on the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and litigation based on that legislation.
While there is no claim that the student will gain knowledge of the most current state of the law, there will be an effort to consider current events and controversial issues that are topical during the study of the course. In addition, and in conjunction with the cases studied, will be a discussion of the philosophical principles that underlie, justify and inform the law. Controversial areas of the law will be discussed including such topics as the independence of the courts from political influence, freedom of speech, pornography, abortion law, the tension between legal obligations to accused persons and the rights of victims of crime etc.
|Instructor: J. Hildebrand||Synchronous online Monday 7:00 - 9:00||Course Outline|
This course will provide students with an introduction to the questions confronted by the main figures of Ancient Greek philosophy (Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, and the Hellenistic Philosophers). We shall examine such questions as: What is philosophy and how should it be practiced? What is the underlying nature of reality? Is the fundamental state of the universe motion or stability? Is knowledge possible? If so, how do we acquire it? Can we have knowledge of a changing world or does knowledge require eternal, unchanging objects (e.g. Plato’s Forms)? What is the nature of happiness and how does one attain it? How many kinds of friendship are there? Is friendship necessary for happiness?
|Instructor: D. Henry||Asynchronous online||Course Outline|
The early modern period (roughly 1600-1800) was an intellectually rich and immensely influential chapter in the history of philosophy. In this course, we will survey some of its key figures and ideas. We will consider issues in metaphysics (materialism, the nature of substance, accounts of causality, personality and immortality), epistemology (the challenge of skepticism, whether any ideas are innate), natural theology (proofs of God’s existence), the philosophy of mind (the nature and extent of consciousness, the relation of mind to body), and innovations in political philosophy (social contract theory).
|Instructor: B. Hill||Synchronous online Monday, Wednesday, Friday 9:30 - 10:30||Course Outline|
A very first introduction to philosophy of language, this course will focus on fascinating social and ethical issues about “talk”, such as: how language shapes perception; gender-neutral language; racist and sexist language, including slurs and “cat calls”; linguistic reform and the purported “decline of English grammar”; prohibitions on pornography and hate speech; lying and misleading; bullshitting and nonsensical speech; “fake news”.
The course is focused on “talk” in another sense. Rather than lectures, there is a heavy emphasis on in-class discussion.
Antirequisite(s): The former Philosophy 1260A/B.
|Instructor: R. Stainton||Synchronous online with choice of in-person: Tuesday 2:30 - 4:30
Choice of in-person or online group discussion: Thursday 2:30 - 3:30 or 3:30-4:30 (refer to course outline)
Philosophy of science addresses questions such as: What is the difference between science and non-science? What makes scientific knowledge trustworthy? Does science give us objective knowledge of the world? If so, can this knowledge extend beyond what is directly observable? What is the place of science in society, and what are the ethical obligations of scientists?
We will address these questions in connection with two instances of scientific revolution: the Copernican revolution at the birth of modern science and the Darwinian revolution in the 19th and 20th centuries. Both of these reveal key aspects of scientific methodology and they have important implications for the relation between science and wider society. We will look at the writings of some scientists involved, as well as major works by philosophers of science who studied these historical shifts. The aim is for students to form their own thoughts on the questions to be addressed.
Antirequisite(s): The former Philosophy 2030F/G
|Instructor: E. Desjardins||Asynchronous online||Course Outline|
This course is intended for students in the Western Interdisciplinary Science Curriculum. Its objective is for students to gain an appreciation for aspects of science not typically covered in science courses. Topics covered: scientific methodology and modes of scientific inference, science, public relations, and the media, science and the public sector, and research ethics.
Antirequisite(s): Philosophy 1030A/B.
Prerequisite: Enrolment in Year 2 of the Integrated Science Program (WISc).
|Instructor: W. Myrvold||Synchronous online Thursday 6:30 - 9:30||Course Outline|
From governments to transnational corporations to radical environmental organizations, everyone agrees that we should pursue the idea of sustainability. But what exactly does this mean? What ought to be sustained, and what is required to make that possible? Is sustainability a mere trendy ideology? Is it a justified ethical ideal? Or is it a scientifically based endeavour to live well in a complex and increasingly populated world? Some experts now suggest that sustainability requires resilient, life-supporting social-ecological systems as well as intergenerational justice and equity. This course explores this proposal and fosters reflection on the philosophical issues it raises.
|Instructor: E. Desjardins||Asynchronous online||Course Outline|
The course surveys historical and contemporary views about the relationship between the mind and body and the place of mental properties in the natural world. The readings are from primary sources with accompanying commentary. Topics include metaphysical questions about the nature of the world (materialism, idealism, or dualism), materialist theories of mind (behaviourism, identity theory, functionalism), and questions about the possibility of artificial intelligence, the special nature of consciousness, what mental states are, how they get their meaning, and how they cause behaviour.
|Instructor: J. Marsh||Synchronous online Tuesday 11:30 - 1:30, Thursday 11:30 - 12:30||Course Outline|
An introduction to the main problems of epistemology. In Fall 2020, the course will focus on classic readings by three philosophers pertaining especially to three sub-topics: What knowledge, the nature and plausibility of skeptics, the relationships between knowledge on the one hand versus representation (whether linguistic or mental) and “being” on the other.
|Instructor: R. Stainton||Synchronous online Wednesday 2:30- 4:30
Online group discussion: Tuesday 3:30-4:30 or Monday 4:30-5:30 (refer to course outline)
Existentialists define who we are through what we do and how we live our lives. We cannot turn to external sources such as religion, morals, or public opinion to tell us what to do, or how to find meaning. That is our task in life. This does not mean we are not responsible for others, for the environment, for ourselves. But there is no formula for how to accomplish this responsibility, which can be both terrifying and freeing. In this course, we will turn to classic existentialists such as Simone de Beauvoir, Jean-Paul Sartre, Friedrich Nietzsche and Martin Heidegger who raise these fundamental existential questions, along with thinkers such Hannah Arendt and Frantz Fanon who question the relation of truth to politics, as well as the limits of freedom such as racialization. We explore how we find meaning in our everyday existence, which is marked by the paradox of seeming to have the limitless choice at the same time as there is external pressure to succeed and conform. Ultimately we learn from these thinkers that there are no absolute truths, yet that does not mean that all truths are relative, that there is no right or wrong. Our responsibility is to find our own path in the world we share with others.
|Instructor: H. Fielding||Synchronous online Thursday 3:30 - 5:30 (refer to course outline for further details)||Course Outline|
This course introduces students to the attempts by scholars to understand whether, and the degree to which, humans can be held responsible for their actions. Do humans have ethical duties and responsibilities toward one another or themselves? If so, on what grounds do they have those ethical duties? The primary focus of our survey of the scholarly responses to these questions will consist first in a review of the dominant concerns in meta-ethics, followed by a survey of the most prominent ethical theories.
|Instructor: R. Robb||Asynchronous online||Course Outline|
Ethical issues in health care represent some of the most pressing issues faced by Canadians. In this course, students will learn about the most important bioethical issues across the human life span, from conception to death. At what point in development do human beings acquire moral status? Is it ethical to select human embryos for desirable features? When patients and physicians disagree about treatment, who has the final say? What do we owe the global poor? And can we harvest organs for transplantation from the dead? Diverse philosophical approaches to these— and other—bioethical problems will be considered with an emphasis on the role of moral reasoning. Readings and in-class lectures will be supplemented with discussion of real-world bioethics cases. The course is recommended for students considering a career in the health professions, or those who seek a deeper understanding of contemporary social issues. No prior background in philosophy is assumed.
Antirequisite(s): Health Sciences 2610F/G.
|Instructor: C. Weijer||Asynchronous online with synchronous online tutorial: Monday 4:30-5:30||Course Outline|
This course is an introduction to various political and ethical issues that arise when considering the function and practice of the media. These include: What is ethical theory and what, in particular, are the duties and responsibilities of those engaged in disseminating information? What is the relation between the media and the market? Is the news a mere commodity? Is the mass media a “propaganda machine” representing the commercial interests of the property class? Or is the media an instrument of democracy, a “fourth estate” fostering the pursuit of truth and objectivity? What are the foundations and limits of freedom of the press in a liberal society? What is the role of the media in the formation of social, civic and moral space? Do we live in a post-truth world and how is this related to the phenomenon of fake news? What might it mean to say that our experiences are mediated and how in a globalized world do such mediations construct and make possible the appearance of distant others? What risks and promises do these mediations pose for the other? What, for instance, is the connection between the media and political violence or between the media and minorities? What role can the media play in the construction of a just moral order? And why does the globalization of news give rise to a rethinking of the principles of journalism ethics?
|Instructor: D. Proessel||Asynchronous online||Course Outline|
A critical study of the philosophical foundations of political thought--from natural rights to contractarianism, from utilitarianism to socialism. The class will examine the classic historical texts of political philosophy. Authors studied may include Plato, Aristotle, Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Hume, Kant, Mill, Hegel and Marx.
|Instructor: M. Milde||Synchronous online Tuesday 11:30 - 1:30, Thursday 12:30 - 1:30||Course Outline|
An intermediate survey of later Scholasticism and reactions to it on the part of such figures as Montaigne, Bacon, Melanchthon, John Dee, and the Cambridge Platonists.
Prerequisite(s): Philosophy 2202F/G.
|Instructor: B. Hill||Synchronous online Monday 1:30-2:30||Course Outline|
An intermediate survey of foundational works by philosophers in the Cartesian tradition including the study of portions of Descartes's Principles of Philosophy and developments of its themes by such proponents and opponents as Hobbes, Gassendi, Arnauld, and Malebranche.
Prerequisite(s): Philosophy 2202F/G.
|Instructor: B. Hill||Synchronous online Monday, Wednesday, Friday 1:30 - 2:30||Course Outline||Trello|
An introduction to Analytic philosophy—the revolutionary early 20thcentury reorientation that shaped today’s philosophical landscape and catalyzed intellectual developments from physics to psychology to computer science. Readings explore the "linguistic turn,” the revolt against metaphysics and idealism, logical positivism, ordinary language philosophy, and Quine’s turn to holism and naturalism.
Prerequisite(s): Philosophy 2250 or Philosophy 2252W/X or one of Philosophy 2260F/G or Philosophy 2400F/G or Philosophy 2500F/G.
|Instructor: R. DiSalle||Synchronous online Monday 2:30 - 4:30, Wednesday 3:30 - 4:30||Course Outline|
In this course we examine at Aristotle’s most important ethical work, the Nicomachean Ethics. Aristotle conceives of ethics as a practical discipline whose aim is to help us improve our lives and achieve happiness, which is the chief human good. Like Plato Aristotle takes virtue to be of central importance to achieving our good, though he disagreed with him over what virtue is and how we acquire them. Aristotle also held that in order to live a good human life we need to develop a proper attitude towards various “external goods” including friendship, pleasure, honour and wealth, and how these fit into a well-ordered life. This course aims to explore Aristotle’s ethical theory through close examination of the text. Topics covered include: happiness, moral education, virtue, the doctrine of the mean, friendship, justice, pleasure, and moral weakness. This course is designed for undergraduates with no prior training in Ancient philosophy and no knowledge of Ancient Greek is presupposed.
Prerequisite(s): Philosophy 2200F/G or Philosophy 2202F/G or Philosophy 2700F/G.
|Instructor: D. Henry||Asynchronous online||Course Outline|
During the past three decades, neuroscience has made major strides in advancing our understanding of the brain and nervous system, consciousness, cognition and behaviour. Such advances have prompted interest in neuroscience among philosophers of mind and philosophers of science, leading to the creation of two new philosophical research areas: “neurophilosophy” and “philosophy of neuroscience”. Neurophilosophers are interested in questions such as: Are mental states nothing over and above brain states? How does the brain enable subjective and emotional experiences, higher-order consciousness and cognition? What kinds of claims about traditional philosophical issues such as the mind-brain relationship, free will and human morality can be made on the basis of neuroscientific data? What are the implications of neuroscience for the law? What are the ethical implications of enhancing or altering human brain function? Philosophers of neuroscience, in contrast, are concerned with questions like: What is the nature of explanation in neuroscience? What kinds of assumptions inform neuroscientific research? What makes for a good or reliable neuroscientific experiment? In this course we will address each of these questions. The course should be of interest to students majoring in philosophy, cognitive science or neuroscience.
|Instructor: J. Sullivan||Synchronous online Monday 10:30 - 11:30||Course Outline|
Epistemology considers questions about knowledge: what it is to have knowledge, as opposed to mere opinion or conjecture, and how we can justify our claims to knowledge. For this reason, it has played a part in the history of the other main branches of philosophy, metaphysics and ethics, examining the justification for our claims to knowledge about what there is, and how we ought to act. For the same reason, an epistemological inquiry has played a part in the history of science and mathematics, and every intellectual field in which there is a need to examine the grounds of our beliefs. This course considers some of the most important problems in the theory of knowledge, from a selection of classical and contemporary viewpoints. In this way, we will gain some insight into the origins, motivations, and evolution of these problems as well as their implications for contemporary thought. Topics will include justification of beliefs, the relation between sense and reason, skepticism and certainty, foundationalism and coherentism, connections between knowledge and language, deductive and non-deductive inference, epistemological naturalism, and the role of the a priori in our common sense and scientific knowledge.
Prerequisite(s): Philosophy 2500F/G.
|Instructor: J. Sullivan||Synchronous online Wednesday 2:30 - 3:30||Course Outline|
An examination of 20th century and contemporary continental philosophy. Readings will be drawn from phenomenological, deconstructive, post-structuralist and feminist texts and/or from the work of the Frankfurt school. Topics to be considered will include some of intersubjectivity, sexual difference, community, racialization, perception, community, hermeneutics and critical theory.
Prerequisite(s): Third or Fourth-year standing in the Honours Specialization, Honours Double Major, or Specialization module in Philosophy or permission of the Department.
|Instructor: H. Fielding||Synchronous online Tuesday 4:30 - 5:30, Thursday 3:30 - 5:30||Course Outline|
Why do social psychologists typically study individuals? Why do universities have separate departments for psychology, anthropology, sociology, and education? Is there such a thing as society? Modern Western thought privileges the individual actor as the principal explanatory unit for understanding society: individuals are said to make independent choices about how to vote, about the kinds of work that they do, about what counts as beautiful, and so on. But this is not the only possible way to understand society. In this course, we will examine the historical reasons why Western thought came to understand the individual's relation to society in the way that it has. We will explore how this conception of the individual has led scientists and researchers to look to the mind in order to explain economic, political, and social phenomena. We will also explore several alternatives to individual-based explanations. In doing so, we will venture into educational theory, developmental psychology, feminist epistemology, cultural anthropology, and evolutionary ecology. At the end of the course, we will have an understanding of why Western thought has come to be carved up in the particular way that it has, and we will have a firm grounding in a set of ideas about how to put it back together.
|Instructor: E. Baggs||Synchronous online Monday 12:30 - 1:30, Wednesday 12:30 - 2:30||Course Outline|
In this course we will explore Plato’s political philosophy from its origins in Socratic philosophy, through the Republic, and culminating in the Statesman and Laws. Political philosophy as a discipline was invented by Plato. The Platonic corpus as a whole contains reflections on the origins of political institutions, the concepts used to interpret and organize political life, the meaning and value of justice, the relation between the aims of ethics and politics, and the merits of political expertise as an antidote to the power of rhetoric. The course will examine such questions as: What is justice? What are the goals of a just society? What motivates people to act justly? Indeed, why should one be just? Why should I obey the laws of the state, and what are the limits (if any) to my obligation? What if a law requires the citizen to perform an act that she correctly believes is unjust? Is civil disobedience justified in these cases or should the citizen always obey the commands of the state without question? What was Plato’s attitude towards democracy? Was he openly hostile to it, or was he a champion of open societies and a friend of democratic politics? Was his political philosophy authoritarian, and if so, how strong was his authoritarian streak? What form of government is best? How should political offices be distributed? How is moral and political reform achieved? What role should the state play in the moral education of its citizens? What is the relation between citizen and state? Is the happiness of the individual to be subordinated to the good of the state?
Prerequisite(s): Philosophy 2200F/G or Third and Fourth Year Honours standing in Philosophy.
|Instructor: D. Henry||Asynchronous online||Course Outline|
This seminar will revolve around Leibniz’s Nouveaux essais sur l’entendement humain [New Essays on Human Understanding] (1765). In 1697 Leibniz had tried to engage Locke in a discussion of An Essay concerning Human Understanding (1690) be sending him some critical notes, but Locke was not interested. After the publication of Pierre Coste’s French translation of the Essay, Leibniz began writing an extended critical discussion of it in the form of a dialogue between a Lockean and a Leibnizian critic, Leibniz’s New Essays. It is a unique work in Leibniz’s corpus because of its critical engagment with the work of another philosopher. It is highly prized by scholars, and because the format pushes Leibniz outside of his own system and forces him to criticize and explain his ideas to an opponent who does not share his presuppositions, it provides an interesting perspective to students of Leibniz’s philosophy.
|Instructor: B. Hill||Synchronous online Friday 9:30-11:00||Course Outline|
Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason was the culmination of several strands in the tradition of early modern philosophy. But it was also a decisive turn away from the tradition in fundamental respects. Kant compared his “Critical” turn to the Copernican revolution in astronomy: Copernicus had shown that some motions we observe in the heavens are actually motions of ourselves, the observer; Kant argued that metaphysical principles we ascribe to the world are actually features of our own cognition. Kant’s “Critical philosophy” had a profound effect on the development, not only of metaphysics and epistemology, but also psychology, logic, mathematics, and the sciences. In this course we will consider the fundamental ideas and arguments of the Critique, beginning with some of the pre-Critical writings that embody Kant’s engagement with previous philosophers and the gradual transition toward his mature view. We will emphasize his changing views on the relation between reason and experience, the character of a priori knowledge, and the nature and purpose of metaphysics.
Prerequisite(s): Philosophy 2202F/G.
|Instructor: R. DiSalle||Synchronous online Wednesday 11:30 - 2:30||Course Outline|
This course explores areas of common interest between philosophy, psychology and neuroscience, including consciousness, computation, representation, modularity, memory and embodiment, from both scientific and philosophical perspectives. We will also explore methodological issues, including the power and limitations of fMRI and other brain imaging technologies, and the structure of scientific inference.
NB: This is a graduate seminar, cross-listed as an undergraduate 4th-year advanced topics course in philosophy. If you don’t have prior experience in 3rd-year courses such as Philosophy of Mind or Philosophy of Neuroscience, this is likely not a good choice.
Students are recommended to have taken Philosophy 3410F/G or Philosophy 3450F/G
|Instructor: M. Anderson||Synchronous online Tuesday 2:30 - 5:30||Course Outline|
The narrative of the human pursuit of knowledge has traditionally excluded the voices that were not in power. In this course, we will focus on scientific and technical knowledge and on women. This is a rich case that gives us instruments to recognize the importance of diversity in science. The course is organized in two parts: the first historical and sociological, the second philosophical.
First, we will consider the historical and sociological contexts that have prevented women from accessing and producing scientific knowledge. The students will be introduced to a selection of remarkable women of science, from antiquity to our days. We will discuss the ground-breaking aspects of their work and the specificities of their experience as scientists. We will highlight how gender identity, race and economical background contribute to create different experiences.
We will then discuss questions at the center of the feminist reflection on science: How biases manifest in scientific production? Does the gender of the knower make a difference? At the light of these questions, what does objectivity mean? We will discuss some of the answers these questions have been given in the field of feminist epistemology, the perspectives these answers opens for general epistemology, and the relation between these issues and current scientific research.
|Instructor: F. Vidotto||Synchronous online Monday 2:30 - 5:30||Course Outline|
This seminar explores foundational and methodological issues in theoretical and applied ecology. First, we will try to answer some foundational questions: What is ecology? What representations of nature have been entertained and presupposed by scientific ecology and since the 20th century? How do these representations compare to Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK)? Exploring these questions will allow us to take a critical look at the idea of “balance of nature” and it will be the occasion to reflect on the ontological status of ecological entities. From there, we will borrow the path of philosophy of science and look at discussions about model building, generalizations, explanations, and experiments in ecology. In the last portion of the course, we will turn to philosophical issues arising in conservation biology and restoration ecology. What justifies the actual concern for biodiversity? What is biodiversity? Is the Anthropocene forcing conservation biology and restoration ecology to change their goals? Their theoretical frameworks? This portion of the course will include discussions about the complex relationship between humans and the rest of nature and it will introduce students to the resilience thinking movement and the framework of adaptive co-management which have emerged from significant shifts in worldviews, practices, and environmental values that took place toward the end of the 20th century. This seminar is also a great opportunity to develop advanced skills in identifying and formulating philosophical issues as well as exchanging ideas with peers in structured group discussions.
|Instructor: E. Desjardins||Synchronous online Tuesday 11:30 - 2:30||Course Outline|