2021-2022 Undergraduate Timetable

The department is excited to announce that the majority of classes for the upcoming 2021-22 term are scheduled for in-person delivery. Please note that all scheduling is dependent on the relevant public health measures, and any changes to the below schedule will be updated here and on the Western Timetable. Please continue to monitor our website and the timetable for updates, and see below for a further description of each of the teaching methods:

Course Delivery Type Definition
In Person 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.
Blended Blended courses have both in-person and online instruction components. Teaching activities with mandatory attendance will be clearly outlined and scheduled in the course outline.

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 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.

Reading Courses: Students in their third or fourth year registered in an Honors Specialization, Honors Double Major or Specialization module in Philosophy may apply for one advanced reading course during their degree. Further information available here.

1000- Level Courses                                                                                           

Philosophy 1020: Intro to Philosophy

A look at some central questions in philosophy, including: Does God exist?  What is knowledge?  Truth? How do we distinguish between right and wrong?  What justifies political authority?  Does morality ever permit or require us to break the law? Specific topics will include: race and racism, fake news, and the justification and limits of rights in property.  Examples and case studies will be drawn from a wide range of disciplines and areas, from the natural and social sciences to art and music.

Antirequisite(s): Philosophy 1000E, Philosophy 1022E, Philosophy 1100E, Philosophy 1250F/G, Philosophy 1300E, Philosophy 1350F/G.

Extra Information: 2 lecture hours, 1 tutorial hour.

Instructor: D. Klimchuk Asynchronous online lectures with in-person tutorials Course Outline

Philosophy 1040G: Ethics, Law, & Politics

In our everyday experiences, we are confronted by situations in which we have to decide what is right, and what is wrong. Broadly, we can think of these as ethical “moments”, where we have to make a certain kind of judgment: normative or moral judgment. We ask: what is morally permissible in these circumstances? What is morally obligatory? What is forbidden? The answers that we give are important – they will guide our actions, or we may use them to evaluate the actions of others. Either way, they will determine what counts as a right action, or who is a good person.

Politics and law sometimes generate very similar experiences – we ask ourselves whether an action is legal or illegal, which tax or environmental policy is the best for the country, whether the government has done something to violate our rights, and so on. There are many instances where ethics, law and politics intersect. Recently, Canada made medical assistance in dying (MAID) legally permissible. Previously, any doctor or medical practitioner who participated in medically assisted suicide would have been liable to prosecution and punishment under various provisions of the Criminal Code of Canada. The debates surrounding this controversial topic were (and continue to be) complex. Is MAID ever justifiable? Is it something that people have a right to receive? If it is going to be done, how is to be implemented? What are the limits? Who will pay? And what happens when people fundamentally disagree on some or all of these issues?

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, prostitution, food waste, veganism, and the issue of “prominent religious symbols”.

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.

Extra Information: 3 hours.

Instructor: M. Milde In-person lectures Tuesday and Thursday 11:30-12:30 with in-person tutorial Course Outline

Philosophy 1130F: Big Ideas

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. Historic figures such as Albert Einstein, Martin Luther King, Alan Turing, as well as many of the transformative thinkers of our own time, 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, determinism, materialism, computation, artificial intelligence, theism, atheism, skepticism, certainty, evil, relativity, and others.

Extra Information: 3 hours.

Instructor: R. DiSalle In-person lectures Tuesday and Thursday 11:30-12:30 with in-person tutorials Course Outline

Philosophy 1230A: Reasoning & Critical Thinking

An introduction to the basic principles of reasoning and critical thinking designed to enhance the student's ability to evaluate various forms of reasoning found in everyday life as well as in academic disciplines. The course will deal with such topics as inductive and deductive reasoning, the nature and function of definitions, types of fallacies, the use and misuse of statistics, and the rudiments of logic. Primarily for first year students.

Antirequisite(s): Philosophy 1000E, Philosophy 1200.

Instructor: A. Mendelovici Asynchronous online lectures Course Outline

Philosophy 1230B: Reasoning & Critical Thinking

An introduction to the basic principles of reasoning and critical thinking designed to enhance the student's ability to evaluate various forms of reasoning found in everyday life as well as in academic disciplines. The course will deal with such topics as inductive and deductive reasoning, the nature and function of definitions, types of fallacies, the use and misuse of statistics, and the rudiments of logic. Primarily for first year students.

Antirequisite(s): Philosophy 1000E, Philosophy 1200.

Instructor: A. Mendelovici Asynchronous online lectures Course Outline

2000- Level Courses                                                                                           

Philosophy 2020: Basic Logic

This is an introductory course in formal logic, which may be used to satisfy the logic requirement for the HSP module in Philosophy. The focus of the course is on Modern Symbolic Logic. The first term focuses solely on propositional or sentential logic; the second term is dedicated to first-order predicate logic. A system of natural deduction is introduced for proving statements and assessing natural language arguments. A formal language is introduced along with techniques for translating between this formal system and natural language. Truth tables are used to test for truth-functional properties. A more efficient system of truth trees is then introduced to test for these properties. Time permitting the course will conclude with a brief introduction to modal and other alternative logics.

Antirequisite(s): Philosophy 2250, Philosophy 2252W/X, Computer Science 2209A/B.

Extra Information: 2 hours.

Instructor: C. Viger In-person lectures Wednesday 8:30-10:30 AM Course Outline

Philosophy 2032F: Einstein for Everyone

This course considers the work of Albert Einstein and its impact, focusing mainly on the theories of relativity and cosmology. Mathematics will be kept to a minimum, and no physics background will be assumed. The course starts with special relativity, as formulated by Einstein in 1905. We will discuss Einstein’s two postulates and explore their strange consequences for the behavior of measuring rods and clocks, and explain the meaning and importance of the relativity of simultaneity. How did Einstein discover special relativity? We will look at the historical context of his work, showing how it related to 19th century physics. We will also consider various consequences of the theory, such as E = mc2, and alleged paradoxes (such as the twin paradox). We then turn to Einstein’s most striking achievement, the general theory of relativity (1915). This theory is based on the remarkable idea that spacetime is curved. We will develop the background needed to understand this concept and the other basic ideas of the theory, and consider consequences of the theory related to cosmology and black hole physics. We will also consider Einstein’s innovative path to general relativity as exemplifying an effective critical analysis of a physical theory.

Extra Information: 3 hours.

Instructor: C. Smeenk Asynchronous online lectures Course Outline

Philosophy 2037G: Philosophy and AI

Will robots take all our jobs? Will humans become cyborgs? Will nano-technology revolutionize medicine? As we rely more on machines, they are changing how we interact with the world and one another. In this course we will consider the impact of technology on our current lives, and on our future.

Extra Information: 2 lecture hours, 1 tutorial hour.

Instructor: M. Barnes  Blended course: In-person lectures Thursday 9:30-10:30 AM Course Outline

Philosophy 2050F: Scientific Search for the Mind

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?
In this course, 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. The sciences that will be then be the focus of our analysis include: phrenology & localization theory (e.g., Francis Gall, Pierre Flourens, Paul Broca, Carl Wernicke), early physiology (e.g., Hermann von Helmholtz), psychophysics (e.g., Gustav Fechner), experimental psychology (William Wundt), Gestalt psychology (e.g., Edward Titchener), evolutionary psychology (Charles Darwin on emotions in man and animals), William James’ psychology, learning theory and behaviorism (Ivan Pavlov, John Watson and B.F. Skinner) Freudian psychoanalysis, later physiology (e.g., Karl Lashley, Wilder Penfield), developmental psychology (e.g., Alfred Binet & Jean Piaget), artificial intelligence (e.g., Alan Turing), 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.
This course is designed for and should be of interest to students majoring in the humanities and/or the sciences.

Extra Information: 3 hours.

Instructor: J. Sullivan In-person lectures Monday 12:30-1:30 and Wednesday 11:30-1:30 Course Outline

Philosophy 2062F: Power, Privilege, & Oppression

To say our society is racist, sexist, or the like is to say it is marked by systems and relationships of power that are oppressive to certain groups of people. This course examines these systems and relationships and considers what philosophers have said about them. We will explore their answers to questions that include the following: What does it mean to be oppressed or be the target of something like homophobia or ableism? How should we understand power as it occurs in relationships of both oppression and privilege? How do different systems of oppression intersect and inform one another? How do tools of oppression (e.g., microaggressions, stereotyping) work? How can people be empowered to resist their own oppression or the oppression of others? How can they act in solidarity with one another to achieve this goal?

The above questions fit under categories that correspond to different ways that power can manifest itself: as domination (power over others), as resistance (power to resist), and as solidarity (power with others). The course will be divided up according to these three topics. We will also apply the theories we learn to case studies such as those of police violence against Black people, reproductive injustice toward Indigenous people, the misgendering of trans people, and Quebec’s ban on government employees wearing religious “symbols” such as the hijab.

Antirequisite(s): Philosophy 2630F/G.

Extra Information: 3 hours.

Instructor: C. McLeod Blended course with in-person classes that meet on Mondays, with one section meeting from 9:30-10:45, another from 11:00-12:15, and yet another from 2:30-3:45 Course Outline

Philosophy 2073G: Death

This course is focused on understanding and engaging the arguments that scholars have made about death. The specific arguments we consider attempt to answer the following questions: What does it mean to say that a person is dead? What, if anything, survives beyond death? Is death bad? Conversely, is immortality good? Are there any circumstances in which it is morally permissible to bring about the death of another and if so, why?

Extra Information: 3 hours.

Instructor: R. Robb Online lectures synchronous Thursday 11:30-1:30 and asynchronous Course Outline

Philosophy 2074F: Business Ethics

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 relation between business and free market capitalism? 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 which 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? Is affirmative action morally justified? 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? Is business bluffing ethical? When is advertising ethically questionable? What rights and obligations do employees and employers have in the workplace? Do employees have the right to know of work-related safety hazards? Is whistle-blowing morally justified?

Extra Information: 3 hours.

Instructor: D. Proessel In-person lectures Monday, Wednesday, and Friday 1:30-2:30 Course Outline

Philosophy 2078G: Ethics for a Digital World

We spend a considerable portion of our lives in the digital world. What moral considerations ought to guide our conduct as cyber-citizens, given the possibility that online behaviour is morally distinct from real world behaviour? This class will engage materials that address the philosophical issues raised by these two questions: Specifically: What’s the relationship between our virtual identities and our physical identities? How is online activity changing our interpersonal relationships? What are our rights and responsibilities toward others in the cyberworld? How do we trade between the potentially conflicting values of anonymity and accountability? How do we balance copyright claims against demands for open access? Is piracy always wrong? Does a hacker’s code of ethics make any sense? How should we respond to forms of hate and exclusion in online communities?

Extra Information: 3 hours.

Instructor: R. Robb Blended course with synchronous lectures Thursday 1:30-2:30 Course Outline

Philosophy 2080: Philosophy of Law

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, the tension between legal obligations to accused persons and the rights of victims of crime etc.

Extra Information: 2 hours.

Instructor: J. Hildebrand In-person lectures Wednesday 7-9 PM Course Outline

Philosophy 2200F: Ancient Philosophy

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?

Extra Information: 3 hours.

Instructor: D. Henry In-person lectures Tuesday 1:30-3:30 and asynchronous online lectures Course Outline

Philosophy 2202G: Early Modern Philosophy

A critical examination of key works of selected figures of the 17th and 18th centuries.

Extra Information: 3 hours.

Instructor: B. Hill In-person lectures Tuesday 1:30-3:30 and Thursday 2:30-3:30 Course Outline To Come

Philosophy 2260G: Introduction to Philosophy of Language

The course begins with an overview of differing theories about what languages are. This is followed by a traditional look at issues central to the philosophy of language in the 20th century including reference, meaning, speech acts, and metaphor. Contemporary critiques to these views are then presented from alternative perspectives, such as feminist philosophy of language. Finally, how languages influence our thinking and identity are considered.

Extra Information: 3 hours.

Instructor: C. Viger In-person lectures Wednesday 11:30-12:30 and Friday 10:30-12:30 Course Outline

Philosophy 2300G: Philosophy of Science

This introduction to the philosophy of science explores how philosophical questions are linked to sciences. Over the course of the semester, we will look at examples of successes and failures in science and reflect on issues such as: What are the aims of science? What demarcates science from pseudoscience? Does science progress? Is scientific knowledge objective? Are scientific representations real? How historical and social contexts affect the work of scientists? These questions will be explored through a wide range of topics that became the center of attention in the natural and social sciences, including astronomy, geography, climate science, evolution, genetics, ecology, and medicine.

Antirequisite(s): The former Philosophy 2030F/G.

Extra Information: 3 hours.

Instructor: E. Desjardins In-person lectures Thursday 6:30-9:30 PM Course Outline

Philosophy 2320G: Philosophy for Integrated Science

An introduction to aspects of science not covered in traditional science courses. This includes history of science, scientific methodology, ethical dimensions of conducting and applying research, and conceptual issues in specific disciplines. The role of the media in disseminating science and how science shapes public policy will be discussed.

*Please note that the attached syllabus for this course is identical to Philosophy 2300G, as the two courses will be merged.

Antirequisite(s): Philosophy 1030A/B.

Prerequisite(s): Enrolment in Year 2 of the Western Integrated Science program.

Extra Information: 3 hours.

Instructor: E. Desjardins In-person lectures Thursday 6:30-9:30 PM Course Outline

Philosophy 2355F: Sustainability: A Philosophical Perspective

From governments to transnational corporations to radical environmental organizations, everyone agrees that we should pursue the ideal 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? Is aiming for sustainability scientifically sound or have we overused the planetary resources to a point of no return? Some experts now suggest that sustainability is feasible, but it requires transformative changes. Inspired by the model-based analysis developed in the Limits to Growth, they look at various scenarios and assess what is needed to meet the United Nations 17 Goals for Sustainable Development while remaining within the 9 Planetary Boundaries. This course explores this proposal and fosters reflection on the philosophical issues it raises.

Extra Information: 3 hours.

Instructor: E. Desjardins Asynchronous online lectures Course Outline

Philosophy 2400G: Introduction to Philosophy of Mind

Controversies about the moral status of animals, embryos and PVS patients, not to mention the possibility of life beyond the grave, often trace back to a more fundamental controversy in the philosophy of mind: What are minds? This course is about this latter controversy. UNIT 1 begins by discussing two strikingly different pictures of the human mind that go back to the ancient world, viz., materialism and dualism. It then explores how these views were modified and contested in early modern Europe. UNIT 2 examines some more recent, i.e., 20th century, theories of mind and some difficulties they have faced (mostly having to do with pain, zombies, colours and/or bats). UNIT 3 surveys a variety of contemporary topics, including AI, simulated worlds and extended cognition.

Please note: as this is an introductory course, no background knowledge of these topics, or of the philosophy of mind, more generally, is expected or presupposed.

Extra Information: 3 hours

Instructor: Jonathan Marsh In-person lectures Monday, Wednesday, and Friday 12:30-1:30 Course Outline

Philosophy 2500G: Introduction to the Theory of Knowledge

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 the nature of perception, the relation between sense and reason, scepticism and certainty, knowledge of language, deductive and non-deductive inference, and the role of the a priori in our common sense and scientific knowledge. Although there are no formal prerequisites, some prior familiarity with philosophical texts will be assumed.

Extra Information: 3 hours.

Instructor: R. DiSalle Monday 1:30-3:30 and Wednesday 2:30-3:30 Course Outline

Philosophy 2557F: Existentialism

This course focuses on five philosophers of the existentialist movement, including Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Heidegger, Sartre and de Beauvoiur. A variety of themes will be investigated; most importantly, why these philosophers call into question the traditional view of the subject as detached from the world in a relation that is epistemic, and how, in doing so, they emphasize our existence as living individuals, that is, as always already situated in a world and as open to future possibilities. These two aspects come together in the idea that human existence involves having to create meaning out of the conditions in which we find ourselves—thus giving rise to related themes including: alienation, authenticity, freedom, and being with others. Accordingly, our investigation will include questions such as: What is our relation to the world and how does the world take on meaning in our everyday lives? What is freedom? To what extent is our freedom shaped by the world and others? What might it mean to live authentically? Who is the other and what role do others play in our lives?

Extra Information: 3 hours.

Instructor: D. Proessel In-person lectures Tuesday 6:30 pm to 9:30 pm Course Outline

Philosophy 2700F: Intro to Ethics & Value Theory

This course introduces students to the attempts by scholars to understand whether, and the degree to which, humans can/should be held responsible for their actions. Do humans have ethical duties and responsibilities toward one another or themselves? If so, what are the foundations of those ethical duties, and what do they demand? Our survey of the scholarly responses to these questions will be separated in two parts: First a review of prominent positions on meta-ethics, followed by a survey of the five dominant ethical theories.

Antirequisite(s): Governance, Leadership and Ethics 2002F/G.

Extra Information: 3 hours. This course is cross listed as GLE 2002F/G when offered at Huron Campus only.

Instructor: R. Robb Asynchronous online lectures Course Outline

Philosophy 2715F: Health Care Ethics

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? Should COVID-19 vaccinations be mandatory? 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 online video 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.

Extra Information: 2 lecture hours, 1 tutorial hour.

Instructor: C. Weijer Asynchronous online lectures Course Outline

Philosophy 2730G: Media Ethics

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 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? Should journalists be considered professionals, and how have new communication technologies shaped the practice of journalism?

Extra Information: 3 hours.

Instructor: D. Proessel In-person lectures Monday 10:30-12:30 and Wednesday 10:30-11:30 Course Outline

Philosophy 2991B: Special Topics (AI, Ethics, and Society)

The objective of this course is to introduce students to ethical frameworks for understanding artificial intelligence and data science in their social and political context. We will approach AI ethics from the perspective of the design of AI systems and how it intersects with society as a whole. Throughout this course, we will explore the utility and limitations of both technical and social interventions to ensure ethical AI. We will draw on a variety of case studies from fields such as medicine, finance, social science and law. By the end of this course, you will have the philosophical tools to question and challenge your own interactions with AI technologies, whether as an engineer, policymaker or user.

Extra Information: 3 hours.

Instructor: M. Hardalupas In-person lectures Tuesdays 9:30-12:30  Course Outline

Philosophy 2997F: Special Topics in Philosophy (Food, Culture, and Values)

Food is a central feature of the human condition—we all need to eat every day, multiple times per day. Food (and our relationship with it) is also psychically powerful and intimate—food comforts, pleases, and unites us in a way few other things do or can. This intimacy and ubiquity make food a central node in our conceptions of personal and cultural identities; food (and our relationship with it) is thick with the values that we use to define and orient ourselves within our worlds. Thus, food is an interesting locus for exploring—and critiquing—our personal and cultural values. This course is designed to provoke that often difficult and fraught process of reflective self-discovery and critique, a process made all the more difficult because it is directed at core personal and cultural values that are generally buried so deep as to be hidden even from ourselves.

Extra Information: 3 hours.

Instructor: B. Hill In-person lectures Monday 2:30-4:30 and Wednesday 2:30-3:30 Course Outline

3000- Level Courses                                                                                           

Philosophy 3003G: Plato

This course is a critical examination of the philosophy of Plato and (Plato’s) Socrates. Plato is agreed to be one of the most dazzling writers in the Western literary tradition and one of the most engaging and influential philosophers in the history of Western thought. The course will cover representative dialogues from each of the three traditional periods of Plato thought: the early “Socratic” dialogues; the so-called middle dialogues; and his late period. Throughout these dialogues we find the character of Socrates engaged in conversation with various Athenians on a whole range of philosophical issues: What is philosophical inquiry and how should it be conducted? Can rational arguments be used to convince people to follow their best interests or does philosophy need to rely on the art of persuasion (rhetoric)? Does knowledge require an unchanging world of Forms or can it be grounded in our immediate sensations of the things around us? Is it more shameful to commit injustice or to suffer injustice? Is the life devoted to the pursuit of pleasure philosophically defensible? If not, what role does pleasure occupy in the good life? Students will engage original texts in translation. Although the course is intended for students who wish to examine the philosophy of Plato and Socrates, it will also be suited for those with a general interest in the history of philosophy, ethics, and metaphysics.

Prerequisite(s): Please note that the prerequisites for Philosophy 3003G have been waived and all students who have not completed the prerequisite courses will be granted special permission to enroll. For special permission please contact the Philosophy department Undergraduate Program Coordinator Nicole Kirkpatrick at nkirkpat@uwo.ca

Extra Information: 3 hours.

Instructor: D. Henry In-person lectures Wednesday 9:30-11:30 AM and Friday 9:30-10:30 Am Course Outline

Philosophy 3026F: Locke

An intermediate study of Locke's Essay concerning human understanding and of related works and correspondence, both by Locke and his critics.

Prerequisite(s): Philosophy 2202F/G.

Extra Information: 3 hours.

Instructor: B. Hill In-person lectures Tuesday 1:30-3:30 and Thursday 1:30-2:30 Course Outline

Philosophy 3030G: Nietzsche

This course is a survey of Friedrich Nietzsche's philosophical writings, including texts from his early, middle, and late periods. Among the topics to be considered are his critique of morality, his perspectivalism, his theory of aesthetic creation and artisitic experience, his doctrine of eternal recurrence, and his declaration of the death of God.

Prerequisite(s): Philosphy 2200F/G or Philosophy 2202F/G. Extra Information: 3 hours.

Instructor: C. Dyck In-person lectures Monday 2:30-4:30 and Wednesday 2:30-3:30 Course Outline

Philosophy 3170F: Topics in the History of Ethics

This course is a comprehensive examination of one of Plato’s most famous dialogues, the Republic. The obstensible question of the Republic is, ‘What is Justice?’ But the Republic deals with a whole host of philosophical issues, ranging from tough ethical questions (Why should I be moral?), to metaphysical questions about the nature of reality (Can we trust our senses?), to questions about education (Should the State be in the business of moral development?), to asthetic questions (What grounds our judgements about beauty?). This course is suited to all students, both philosophy majors and students from other disciplines, whether this is your first journey through the Republic or whether you have travelled this road before.

Overview of Plato’s Republic: https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/plato-ethics-politics/

Prerequisite(s): Please note that the prerequisites for Philosophy 3170F have been waived and all students who have not completed the prerequisite courses will be granted special permission to enroll. For special permission please contact the Philosophy department Undergraduate Program Coordinator Nicole Kirkpatrick at nkirkpat@uwo.ca

Extra Information: 3 hours.

Instructor: D. Henry In-person lectures Wednesday 10:30-12:30 and Friday 10:30-11:30 Course Outline

Philosophy 3180G: Topics in the History of Political & Legal Philosophy

The dominant approach to political philosophy in the early modern period was social contract theory, according to which the only basis on which coercion can be legitimately exercised is through a set of institutions to which each has consented (or would or could consent), and is limited by the terms that structure such an agreement.  We will focus the rise of social contract theory in the seventeenth century, starting with Grotius, to the beginning of its decline in the eighteenth, with Kant.  Between the two we will also read Locke and Rousseau and some early modern critics of social contract theory such as Filmer and Hume.  We will begin with a dialogue of Plato’s that anticipates many ideas in this tradition and, after Kant, read Rawls, who followed it in many ways.  We will conclude by considering some contemporary scholarship on the tradition and ask what we can learn from it today.

Prerequisite(s): Philosophy 2200F/G or Philosophy 2202F/G or Philosophy 2700F/G or Philosophy 2800F/G.

Extra Information: 3 hours.

Instructor: D. Klimchuk In-person lectures Tuesday 10:30-12:30 and Thursday 11:30-12:30 Course Outline

Philosophy 3270F: Philosophy and Linguistics

An introductory survey of theories of linguistic meaning, drawing principally on classic articles in Analytic philosophy of language which have served as a foundation. Topics will include: reference, truth conditions and possible worlds; assertions and other speech act; speakers’ reference; conversational implicature; metaphor; indexicals and demonstratives; pragmatic determinants of what is said.

Authors will include: J.L. Austin, Emma Borg, Robyn Carston, Donald Davidson, Keith Donnellan, H. Paul Grice, David Kaplan, Saul Kripke, David Lewis, John Searle, Dan Sperber & Deirdre Wilson, Jason Stanley and Catherine Wearing.

Prerequisite(s): Please note that the prerequisites for Philosophy 3270F have been waived for students with the appropriate background in Logic. For special permission to enrol please contact the Philosophy department Undergraduate Program Coordinator Nicole Kirkpatrick at nkirkpat@uwo.ca

Extra Information: 3 hours.

Instructor: R. Stainton In-person lectures Tuesday 3:30-4:30 and Thursday 3:30-5:30 Course Outline

Philosophy 3420F: Philosophy of Psychology

The course is divided in six parts, following the required text. It begins with a historical overview of the philosophy of psychology to introduce the student to the issues. The second part of the course is methodological, investigating the nature of psychological explanation. Part three considers the role of representation in cognition and problems about how representations fit within a scientific world-view. Part four connects psychological concepts to their biological basis and raises issues about how psychology and neuroscience are related. Part five covers issues about perception and experience. The final section addresses issues of personhood and how the notion of a self fits together with the various processes considered in earlier sections.

Prerequisite(s): Philosophy 2400F/G or 3rd year standing in Psychology.

Extra Information: 3 hours.

Instructor: C. Viger In-person lectures Tuesday 8:30-10:30 AM and Thursday 9:30-10:30 AM Course Outline

Philosophy 3450F: Philosophy of Neuroscience

During the past three decades neuroscience has made major strides in advancing our understanding of the brain and nervous system, consciousness, cognition and behavior. 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, sensation, perception and cognition? What kinds of claims about traditional philosophical issues such as the mind-brain relationship, free will, mental illness 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 kinds of assumptions inform neuroscientific research? What makes for good or reliable neuroscientific experiments? What kinds of considerations should inform the development of classification systems for understanding cognition or mental illness?
In this course we will address each of these questions. The course should be of interest to students majoring in philosophy, psychology, cognitive science and/or neuroscience.

Extra Information: 3 hours.

Instructor: J. Sullivan In-person lectures Monday 9:30-11:30 AM and Wednesday 9:30-10:30 AM Course Outline

Philosophy 3730G: Research Ethics

The course will provide students in science, health science and the humanities with an introduction to ethical issues in human experimentation. The course will review relevant history, an ethical framework for research ethics, and cover core topics, including informed consent, confidentiality, benefit-harm analysis, participant selection, vulnerable participants and communities. Special topics, such as randomized controlled trials, Covid-19 human challenge studies, gene therapy trials, cluster randomized trials, social science research, and health policy and systems research may also be covered.

Extra Information: 3 hours. Philosophy 2715F/G is recommended, but not required.

Instructor: C. Weijer In-person lectures Tuesday 1:30-3:30 and Thursday 1:30-2:30 Course Outline

4000- Level Courses                                                                                           

Philosophy 4007G: Seminar in Ancient Philosophy

A close reading of the text of Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics with a focus on the human good, the ‘Function Argument’, character virtues, friendship, pleasure, practical wisdom, and the nature of happiness. Overview of Aristotle’s Ethics: https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/aristotle-ethics/

Prerequisite(s): Please note that the prerequisites for Philosophy 4007G have been waived and all students who have not completed the prerequisite courses will be granted special permission to enroll. For special permission please contact the Philosophy department Undergraduate Program Coordinator Nicole Kirkpatrick at nkirkpat@uwo.ca.  

Extra Information: 3 hours.

Instructor: D. Henry In-person lectures Tuesday 12:30-1:30 and Thursday 11:30-1:30 Course Outline

Philosophy 4310F: Problems in the Philosophy of Science

Synthetic biology is a relatively new field, but its applications already range far and raise number of concerns. In brief, synthetic biology is the design and construction of new biological parts, devices, and systems, and the re-design of existing, natural biological systems for useful purposes. In this course, we will alternate between understanding various types of research/application of synthetic biology, followed by a discussion of philosophical issues arising from that research/application.

Extra Information: 3 hours.

Instructor: E. Desjardins In-person lectures Friday 9:30-12:30 Course Outline

Philosophy 4311G: Problems in the Philosophy of Science

Theoretical physics today pursues a task begun by Galileo, Huygens, and Newton in the 17th century: to understand the physical actions of matter through mathematical laws. The philosophical questions that they raised in this pursuit continue to influence physical inquiry. This course will study some metaphysical issues regarding the character of theoretical physics as a representation of the physical world: the nature of theories and theoretical entities, the application of mathematics to the world, the role of conventions, and, generally, the progress (if any) of science from Newton to the present in method and in grasp of "the nature of things”. No special background in physics or math is presupposed, but some central ideas will be introduced in an intuitive way. Texts to be studied include works by Newton, Huygens, Maxwell, Poincaré, Einstein, Weyl, and Bohr, as well as contemporary literature.

Extra Information: 3 hours.

Instructor: R. DiSalle In-person lectures Wednesday 11:30-2:30 Course Outline

Philosophy 4331F: Women and Science

The course focuses on the intersection between scientific knowledge and women. We consider the historical and sociological contexts that prevented women from accessing and producing scientific knowledge. We then discuss the questions at the center of the feminist reflection on science and the different perspectives produced in the feminist epistemologies.

Extra Information: 3 hours.

Instructor: F. Vidotto In-person lectures Monday 2:30-5:30 Course Outline

Philosophy 4410G: Problems in Philosophy of Mind

An advanced treatment of a particular problem arising in the philosophy of mind.

Prerequisite(s): Philosophy 2400F/G

Extra Information: 3 hours.

Instructor: D. Bourget In-person lectures Friday 10:30-1:30 Course Outline

Philosophy 4751G: Gender and Race

This course deals with various types of philosophical questions about gender and race, including metaphysical, political, and ethical questions. We’ll analyze how well philosophers have approached these questions and we’ll do that with an intersectional lens—that is, a perspective that takes seriously how gender and race intersect with one another such that people’s gender (or gender identity) is affected by their race (or racial identity) and vice versa.

We’ll mainly discuss questions to which philosophers and others have given different answers, depending on whether they are focused on gender or race. For example, in response to the metaphysical question of whether people can change their gender or race, many argue that the answer is “yes” when it comes to gender but “no” when it comes to race. In response to a related metaphysical question—How is gender or race socially constructed?—philosophers’ answers also differ. Another example appears at the intersection of metaphysics and political philosophy with the question of whether a fully just world (not our current world!) would have gender or race in it, where some philosophers say “no” with respect to race but “yes, in some form” with respect to gender. Finally, in ethics, particularly applied ethics, there is the question of whether choosing the sex/gender or race of one’s future child—through techniques of assisted reproduction or processes of adoption—is morally permissible. Philosophers’ views on this question differ, sometimes again depending on whether they are talking about (sex/)gender or race.

Our goal will be to critically reflect on philosophers’ answers to these sorts of questions, asking in particular whether their answers make sense given how gender and race intersect2 with one another. We’ll also strive more generally to better understand gender and race, how they structure ourselves and our social worlds, and how they might do that differently.

Extra Information: 3 hours.

Instructor: C. McLeod In-person lectures Monday 11:30-2:30 Course Outline

Philosophy 4900G: Honours Capstone: Seminar

This seminar will introduce finishing Honours students to a specific area of contemporary philosophical research. Students will read and present on material recently published in the instructor’s areas of expertise.

The specific topic for Winter 2022 will be the metaphysics of words. Metaphysics is the theory of “being”. It encompasses issues such as what really exists, what fundamental categories things fall into, and how higher- and lower-level facts relate. For instance, questions about existence include whether free will really exists, whether God exists, and whether there are mind-independent facts. Regarding ontological categories, there seem to be abstract, concrete material and mental things: e.g., irrational numbers, rocks and tickling sensations respectively. There also seem to be both descriptive facts and normative facts: e.g., that Ottawa is the capital of Canada is descriptive whereas that it is permissible to kill in self-defense seems normative. As for levels of facts, some philosophers hold that abstract, ethical and mental facts must ultimately derive from purely physical ones, while others think that the former are basic and irreducible. They reject monism and reductionism.

A case study in metaphysics which has taken off as the “hot topic” in the last two years is the existence, nature and source of words. Do words really exist, or are they artifacts of a naïve pre-scientific view of language, just animal species are sometimes held to be? Many linguists believe just this. If words exist, which category do they belong to? Are words abstract, physical or mental things? Might they be a blend of all three? Philosophers have defended conflicting answers. What makes it the case that a word exists and has the properties it does? Physical facts? Human minds? Collective intentions? Related to these issues of categorization and reduction, how can a word be created, undergo change to its sound and/or meaning, and eventually cease to exist? Numbers can't do things like that! Finally, is there a normative correctness to words? Is there a right/wrong way to use a word? And if so, where does that correctness come from? From past or present common usage, say, or instead from the dictates of authorities and experts?

Influential authors we will begin with may include: Leonard Bloomfield, Sylvain Bromberger, Herman Cappelen, John Hawthorne, David Kaplan, Ernie Lepore, W.V.O Quine, Georges Rey and Linda Wetzel.

Students will be guided through the process of identifying recent articles and selecting “cutting edge” papers that could contribute to active research in metaphysics in general and on the metaphysics of words in particular. They may either address the case study or, if they wish, draw on lessons learned specifically from the metaphysics of words to speak to other issues about “being”, i.e., about what really exists, what categories things fall into, and about what reduces to what. Are races, genders or social classes unreal, e.g., in the way words are sometimes said to be? Is group responsibility reducible to individual responsibility, e.g., in the way that words are sometimes thought to reduce to the physical?

Prerequisite(s): Third or Fourth year standing in the Honours Specialization in Philosophy. 

Extra Information: 3 hours.

Instructor: R. Stainton In-person lectures Tuesday 3:30-5:30 and Thursday 3:30-4:30 Course Outline