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Courses and Breadth Requirement

Student smiling at the camera while she works on her laptop outside at a Balzac's table.

Students pursuing the Major Research Paper stream take seven courses overall, while those in the Thesis stream take five courses.
All students are required to take at least one course in three of the following four core areas of philosophy: Continental Philosophy, History of Philosophy, Metaphysics & Epistemology, and Value Theory.
Approximately the same number of courses in each of the four areas will be offered every year or over a two-year period.

History of Philosophy

This course involves a critical study of selected themes and doctrines in ancient Greek philosophy, with a focus on such seminal thinkers as Socrates, Plato, and/or Aristotle. Typical issues include: the nature of reality; the relation between universals and particulars; the nature of the soul and its relation to the body; the difference between knowledge and true belief, and between the different kinds of knowledge (philosophical, practical, mathematical, knowledge of the natural world); the nature of the good life and of virtue; the roles that reason, emotions, and appetites play in the virtuous person; the kinds of social, economic, and political structures that characterize the best society.

This course involves the critical examination of selected works from one or more of such major 17th and 18th Century philosophers as Descartes, Locke, Berkeley, Leibniz, Spinoza, Hume and Kant. Topics might include the structure, scope and limits of human knowledge; the primary-secondary quality distinction; concepts of space, time and matter; nature of causation; nature of perception, consciousness and self-consciousness; personal identity; how mind and body are related; nature and existence of free will and the problem of evil and theodicy; the nature and foundations of moral and political rights.

This course studies the philosophical thought of Immanuel Kant as presented in works such as the Critique of Pure Reason, the Groundwork to the Metaphysics of Morals, the Critique of Practical Reason, and the Critique of Judgment. Topics to be discussed may include a priori knowledge, idealism, perception, and causation; free will, moral obligation, and practical reason; beauty, aesthetic judgment, and artistic genius; or teleological explanation, organisms, and the philosophy of biology.

This course involves the critical examination of selected works from one or more of such major 19th Century philosophers as Fichte, Schelling, Hegel, Marx, Nietzsche and Kierkegaard. Typical themes to be addressed include: the nature of subjectivity and self-consciousness; the role that socio-economic institutions play in shaping human knowledge and self-identity; the nature of reason and its relation to history; social dimensions of freedom; arguments for and against the systematic character of human knowledge; the critique of modernity.

This seminar is devoted to classical and medieval South Asian philosophy. Important figures studied may include Nāgārjuna, Īśvarakṛṣṇa, Pakṣilasvāmin Vātsyāyāna, Buddhaghosa, Candrakīrti, Kumārila Bhaṭṭa, Śāntarakṣita, Ādi Śaṅkara, Utapaladeva, and Rāmānuja. Thematically speaking, we will explore South Asian philosophical debates concerning, for instance, personal identity, ontology, epistemology, philosophy of language, the nature of insight, and how these themes relate to the ethical quest for liberation from delusion and the sufferings that emerge in its wake.

This course involves a focused study of a particular topic in ancient philosophy, and may include, for instance, ancient women thinkers, Pre-Socratics, Hellenistic thinkers, and Neo-Platonists.

Value Theory

This course will explore a core theme in the general cluster of Philosophy of Human Rights, Law and Punishment. Examples include: transformations in philosophical theories of human rights, from Lockean Natural Rights theory to contemporary Egalitarianism (including Capability Theory and Feminist Theories); transformations in philosophical theories of punishment, revisioning deterrence, retributivism and restorative justice; transformations in philosophical theories of distributive justice (including Libertarianism, Rawls’ Theory, and other Egalitarian theories).

This course focuses on selected issues or figures in historical and/or contemporary moral philosophy. Typical topics to be dealt with might include: the sources of normativity; the metaphysical and epistemological underpinnings of moral experience; moral psychology and the nature of practical reason; the relation between morality and politics and/or religion; particular moral theories such as utilitarianism, Kantianism, virtue ethics, and contractarianism.

This course will involve a close study of some central issues in philosophical aesthetics. Topics may be drawn from one or more of the main fields within the discipline: the study of beauty (or the aesthetic), the philosophy of art, and the philosophy of criticism. Potential topics include: the nature of art; the relation between morality and art, the character of aesthetic experience, and the appropriate criteria for art criticism.

This course focuses on selected issues or figures in historical and/or contemporary social and political philosophy. Typical topics to be dealt with might include: the scope and justification of the state; the right vs. the good; multiculturalism and group rights; the relation between economics, ideology and politics; particular political theories such as libertarianism, liberalism, political realism, communitarianism, critical theory.

This course involves a close study of one or more philosophical topics in historical and/or contemporary feminist thought. Examples include: the nature and origins of gendered identity; feminist approaches to ethics; feminist epistemology; feminist perspectives on motherhood, sexuality, the body, and reproductive technology; critical approaches to gender-based oppression.

This course explores the metaphysics, semantics, and epistemology of morality. Possible questions may include: Are there moral facts and, if so, are they relative to individuals or society? Or, might morality somehow be objective? Can moral statements be true or false, or is moral discourse a matter of expressing our emotions? Is it possible for us to know anything about morality and, if so, how do we accomplish this? Through reason? Emotion? Intuition?

Classification Subject to a Given Version's Content

This course gives students the opportunity to engage in a rigorous and concentrated study of a specific canonical or contemporary philosophical topic.

This course gives students the opportunity to engage in a rigorous and concentrated study of the work of a major historical or contemporary philosopher.

This course consists of focused study in an area of philosophy under the supervision of a faculty member. Students wishing to pursue an Independent Readings elective must submit a proposal of study, approved by the course supervisor, to the Program Director: the content of an Independent Readings course cannot overlap with a student's coursework, ARE, or final project studies.  All Independent Readings are subject to Program Director's approval.

Metaphysics and Epistemology

This course is a study of what canonical and contemporary philosophers have said about several central problems in the theory of knowledge. Topics may include: theories of justification; scepticism; the limits of belief and knowledge; perception, intuition and other sources of evidence; the social construction of knowledge; science and pseudo-science; a priori and a posteriori knowledge; knowledge of mathematical truths.

This course is a study of what canonical and contemporary philosophers have said about religion. Topics may include: concepts of God and ultimate reality; arguments for and against the existence of God; the relationship between faith and reason; religious diversity; miracles; religion and science; religion and ethics.

This course will examine philosophical issues regarding both the nature of language and the relation of language to other matters. The first group of issues includes topics such as: what distinguishes linguistic communication from other types of communication; how metaphors work; the ways in which language is rule-governed; the distinction between semantics and pragmatics. The second group of issues includes topics such as: the relation between language and thought, between language and truth, language and rationality, and language and gender.

This course will examine a selection of views and issues that have arisen out of philosophical attempts to make sense of "the mind". Some of these views may be historical, while others will be contemporary. Issues taken up may include: mind-body dualism and its critics; materialism and its critics; behaviourism and its critics; the nature of sensory experience and its relation to thought; mind/brain identity theories; the relation(s) between thought and language; functionalism and its critics; the nature of consciousness; the possibility of "naturalizing" the mind; whether non-human animals have thoughts; whether computers do, or could in principle, think; emotions and their expression; innatist accounts of learning; cognition as information processing.

This course is a study of what historical and contemporary philosophers have said about several central problems concerning the nature of action. The course may include such topics as: free will and moral responsibility; the nature of agency; practical knowledge; the nature of intention and motivation; rationality and irrationality in action.

Continental Philosophy

This course is an in-depth study of the influential philosophical movement known as phenomenology, and of the ways this movement was taken up and developed by the existentialists of the 20th Century. Some of the typical issues to be studied include: the distinction between reflective and lived experience; the character of perception and embodied experience; the intersubjective constitution of the world's meaning; the breakdown of the subject/object dualism; the temporal structure of human reality; the significance of our encounter with death and nothingness. The main authors to be studied may include Husserl, Bergson, Heidegger, Sartre, and Merleau-Ponty.

This seminar examines a selection of the most important themes and developments in recent continental philosophy. Some of the topics to be examined may include: difference and alterity; the ‘ethical turn’; desire and the unconscious; critiques of subjectivity and self-identity; communicative action theory; bio-politics; performativity. The course will typically focus on the work of such philosophers as Foucault, Deleuze, Habermas, Irigaray, Kristeva, Levinas, Lyotard, Nancy, Butler and Žižek.

This seminar focuses on a branch of continental social and political thought known as Critical Theory.  Though diverse, Critical Theorists share roots in Western Marxism and a commitment to the critique of ideologies and social practices that perpetuate alienation and oppression.  Thinkers studied may include early forerunners, such as Marx, Nietzsche and Freud, members of the Frankfurt School, including Horkheimer, Adorno, Marcuse and Fromm, and contemporary figures, such as Habermas and Honneth.

This seminar will explore 20th- and 21st-century political ideas by philosophers and political theorists working within (or in relation to) the continental tradition, who seek to understand the crises of their times. Texts will be selected from European and non-European authors such as Hannah Arendt, Giorgio Agamben, Étienne Balibar, Franco Berardi, Simone de Beauvoir, Jacques Derrida, Roberto Esposito, Frantz Fanon, Achille Mbembe, Ranabir Samaddar, and Simone Weil. The course will focus on such themes as colonialism, identity, migration, populism, solidarity, resistance, racism, political crisis, technocapitalism, fascism, totalitarianism, or violence against women.

Courses Offered in Fall 2023

  • PH 8003: Professional Seminar – Prof. David Ciavatta
  • PH 8125: Critical Theory – Prof. Paula Schwebel
  • PH 8126: Kant – Prof. Pirachula Chulanon
  • PH 8122: Topics in Philosophy (Philosophy of Science) - Prof. Glenn Parsons

Courses Offered in Winter 2024

  • PH 8102: Metaphysics - Prof. Daniel Rubio
  • PH 8107: Human Rights and Justice - Prof. Alex Wellington
  • PH 8111: Social and Political Philosophy - Prof. Bob Murray
  • PH 8117: 19th Century Philosophy - Prof. David Ciavatta
  • PH 8128: Contemporary Continental Political Thought - Prof. Diane Enns