2016-17 Course List

(updated April 24, 2017)


NB: Students who are not  graduate students in the University of Toronto Department of Philosophy MUST secure the instructor’s approval before taking a PHL course.  You WILL NOT be able to add these courses to your schedule via ACORN.

Print a copy of the SGS Add/Drop Course(s) Form (which you can find here), have it signed by the instructor and submit it to the Graduate Office, Department of Philosophy.  

Students from other Ontario Universities must request enrolment through the Ontario Visiting Graduate Students Exchange Program.  Contact the graduate office of your home university.


Here you can find an up-to-date list of graduate courses. The courses are listed with instructors, times, and descriptions, as well as the breadth requirement(s) satisfied in each case. (Unless otherwise noted, PHL graduate courses will be taught at the Jackman Humanities Building on the fourth floor, Room 401 or Room 418.)

The areas of the breadth requirements are:


  1. Ancient
  2. Medieval
  3. 17th and 18th century
  4. 19th century
  5. 20th century


  1. Metaphysics, Epistemology, Philosophy of Science (MES)
  2. Values (Ethics and Metaethics, Social and Political Philosophy, Aesthetics, Philosophy of Religion) (V)
  3. Mind, Language, Logic (MLL)



AMP2000Y Proseminar for the Collaborative Program in Ancient and Medieval Philosophy (CPAMP)
Barney, Rachel
Mondays, 4:00-6:00 in LI 205 (Fall Term) / LI 301 (Winter term)
Limited to CPAMP students

This course is mandatory for CPAMP students in year 1 and 2; program students who have fulfilled this requirement are expected to attend regularly. Other interested doctoral students are welcome to attend as well and should contact the program director to indicate their interest. The proseminar has three components: a series of seminars; an ancient Greek philosophy reading group and a Latin medieval philosophy reading group. All students in the proseminar must attend the seminars and at least one of the reading groups; students are warmly encouraged to attend both reading groups. For the course schedule and details on the reading groups see the CPAMP website (http://cpamp.utoronto.ca/courses.html).


MST3346F Islamic Philosophy
Black, Deborah
Wednesday, 10-12 in LI 310
Breadth Requirement:  History – Medieval

An introduction to the major figures and themes in classical Islamic philosophy from the 9th to the 12th centuries, with a focus on the works of Al-Kindi, Al-Farabi, Avicenna, and Averroes. We will consider a range of philosophical problems, principally in the areas of metaphysics, philosophy of mind, and epistemology. Among the issues to be considered are the relations between religion and philosophy, proofs for the existence of God, creation and causality, and the nature of soul and intellect.


PHL1111F PhD Proseminar – Metaphysics: Being and Nothing
Hübner, Karolina
Wednesday, 12-3 in JHB 418
Breadth Requirement:  MES

Aristotle defined first philosophy, or metaphysics, as a science of being. Most broadly, this is what this course is about: being. The kinds of problems we will be investigating are, What does it mean to “be” or have “reality”? Are there different kinds or modes of being? What does it mean to have reality to a degree, or to be finite, or to have merely ideal being? How many things are there? What does it mean to say that something (for example, evil) is metaphysically “nothing”? All these questions are central to the history of philosophy, and some of them are once again on metaphysicians’ radar today.

In this course we will read key texts in the history of metaphysics – from ancient philosophy to recent scholarship – that tackle questions about being, its kinds, distinctions, and degrees. Concepts we will examine include substance, existence, infinity, monism, determination, objective and formal reality, and principle of plenitude. We will read works by Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz, Kant, Heidegger, Hegel, Quine, van Inwagen, Schaffer, and McDaniel.


PHL2007F Aristotle – Aristotle’s Metaphysics
Gerson, Lloyd
Monday, 9-12 in JHB 418
Breadth Requirement:  History – Ancient

Aristotle’s definition of a human being as an individual substance of a rational nature or as a rational animal has been more or less the default position for most of the history of philosophy. It is this definition that is Aristotle’s starting point for his accounts of cognition, agency, ethics, and politics. Beginning roughly in the 18th century, this definition has been in various ways under attack. Three obvious lines of attack come from David Hume, Charles Darwin, and most recently, computational science. In a way these three lines of attack are today being channeled into arguments against the uniqueness of human beings, for example, in the idea of animal rights and in the idea of artificial intelligence. These arguments lead us to core issues in epistemology, ethics, and politics. They even lead us to question the very possibility of philosophy as a source of knowledge independent of the natural sciences. This course will focus on the central arguments in the Aristotelian corpus regarding the nature of rationality and the universal properties that supposedly belong to all and only members of the human species. The main texts are taken from De Anima, Nicomachean Ethics, and Politics with some supplementary material from elsewhere in the corpus.  We will have continual recourse to contemporary literature that explicitly and implicitly challenges the Aristotelian account.


PHL2096F Seminar in Analytic Philosophy – Frege and Russell
Katz, Bernard
Friday, 12-3 in JHB 418
Breadth Requirement:  History – 20th Century

The development of formal logic toward the end of the nineteenth century promoted a philosophical style and method, which has become known as Analytic Philosophy. In this seminar, we will examine some of the central texts of two of the principal authors of this tradition, Gottlob Frege and Bertrand Russell. Our approach in the seminar will be historical: we shall try to gain an appreciation of these figures as systematic thinkers.

A course in formal logic (for example, an undergraduate course equivalent to PHL245H) is a prerequisite for this course.


PHL2105F Topics in Metaphysics – Kant and Analytic Metaphysics
Stang, Nicholas
Wednesday, 6-9 in JHB 418
Breadth Requirement:  MES

In the Critique of Pure Reason Kant took himself to have shown that metaphysics of a certain kind is impossible for human beings. However, two hundred years later we find metaphysics flourishing in analytic philosophy. On the one hand analytic metaphysics can seem continuous with early modern rationalism, focusing on many of the same concepts (e.g. grounding, modality) and even the same doctrines (e.g. the principle of sufficient reason, substance monism). On the other hand, analytic metaphysics differs in crucial respects from its pre-Kantian forebears; it is less epistemically ambitious and is not as wedded to its a priori status. Does Kant’s critique of metaphysics apply to contemporary analytic metaphysics, or, in the words of Kant’s 1790 essay On a discovery, has it been rendered superfluous (entbehrlich)? We will focus on what Kant’s critique of metaphysics has to do with four areas of contemporary metaphysical research: ontology (what there is), grounding, modality, and ‘meta-metaphysics’ (the nature of metaphysics itself). Readings will be drawn from Kant, as well as from analytic philosophers like Quine, Carnap, Lewis, Sider, Bennett, Fine, Schaffer, Wilson, etc. Time permitting, we may also consider some developments in post-Kantian German philosophy (Hegel, Heidegger) and their relevance to analytic metaphysics. This will not primarily be a seminar in historical exegesis; we will be attempting, primarily, to draw some philosophical ideas from Kant and apply them in a different historical and dialectical context. Prior familiarity with the Critique is recommended, but not, strictly speaking, required.


PHL2111F Seminar in Epistemology – Perception and Epistemology
Dickie, Imogen/Barnett, David James
Monday, 6-9 in JHB 418
Breadth Requirement:  MES

We will look at a range of issues radiating from the base question of how perception can be a source of knowledge of the external world. Topics to be discussed include the sense in which perceptual experience can be regarded as a kind of ‘openness’ to the world; the debate between representationalist and direct realist accounts of perceptual experience; the difference between the intentionality characteristic of experience and the intentionality characteristic of thought; the sceptical challenge for the case of putative knowledge from perception; dogmatism about perception as a source of knowledge; the costs and benefits of denying that knowledge is closed under known entailment, particularly in the perceptual case; the penetration of perception by cognition.

We will not suppose that students have any specific background in epistemology or philosophy of mind. For each topic, we will provide an introduction to the central issues, then advance to contemporary discussions.

Reading: TBA

Assessment: either a term paper or four short papers of which the best three will count towards the final grade.


PHL2131F Seminar in Ethics – Controlling Attitudes
Clark, Philip
Thursday, 12-3 in JHB 418
Breadth Requirement:  Values

Is there a way of constituting oneself as having a certain attitude by answering a question?  Recently various authors have put this idea to work on a wide variety of problems.  David Velleman, for example, claims that in addition to ordinary belief, which is receptive, there is a distinctively directive kind of belief.  He uses this idea to explain intention.  Richard Moran claims that in addition to the theoretical way of answering a question, there is a distinctively deliberative way, and uses this idea to explain how we know our own beliefs, feelings, desires and intentions.  And Pamela Hieronymi claims that we have a distinctively evaluative kind of control over some of our attitudes, and uses this to explain how we can be responsible for our attitudes.  We will consider what if any implications this work might have for an account of ethical reasoning.


PHL2142F Seminar in Political Philosophy – Marx’s Critique of Capitalism
Hussain, Waheed
Tuesday, 6-9 in JHB 418
Breadth Requirement:  Values

In Capital, Marx lays out a complex critique of market society based on the ideal of democratic social relations. This normative ideal continues to occupy an important place in contemporary philosophical debates about markets, corporations, liberal democracy and globalization. We will spend the first half of the class reading Capital with a view to understanding Marx’s conception of democratic social relations. We will spend the second half of the class looking at contemporary work in political philosophy that attempts to develop, elaborate or criticize the ideal.


PHL2152F Philosophy and Teaching – Universities
Gibbs, Robert
Thursday, 9-12 in JHB 418
Breadth Requirement:  History: 20th Century

What justifies the institution we call the university? What is the goal of it? Why go to it? This course will explore some of philosophical accounts of education and the university, focusing on the modern scientific university in Europe. The twentieth century represents a crisis of purpose, as the social function of university education comes into focus.  We will also reverse the question and then ask what sort of philosophy does the university require? What is the role of Philosophy as a discipline in the contemporary university?


PHL2171F Philosophy of Mind – Self-Knowledge
Nagel, Jennifer
Tuesday, 12-3    (note:  new time) in JHB 418
Breadth Requirement: MLL

What kind of self-knowledge is humanly possible, and how? This course explores a variety of answers to these questions, touching on issues including the nature of introspection, the contrasts between knowledge of self and others, pathologies of self-awareness, empirical work on metacognition, and skepticism about the self and about the idea that self-consciousness is distinctive. Authors to be read include Kristina Musholt, Peter Carruthers, John Perry, Elizabeth Anscombe, Jonardon Ganeri and Uriah Kriegel.


PHL2196F Topics in the Philosophy of Science – Epistemology of Computer Simulation           
Morrison, Margie
Monday, 12-3 in LA 213  (note: new location)
Breadth Requirement:  MES

The goal of the course is to introduce the topic of computer simulation as a scientific methodology and explore the epistemic and ontological issues that are relevant to its role in generating knowledge.  Those issues typically relate to comparisons with experiment, other traditional types of modelling, and how one should interpret the data/results generated in computer simulations.  The way we classify simulation (as experiment, modelling etc.) will inform the way we evaluate its results since different methodological assumptions and techniques will be brought to bear depending on what role the simulation is taken to have in knowledge production.


PHL2222F MA Seminar – Kant’s Ethics
Tenenbaum, Sergio
Wednesday, 3-6 in JHB 401
Breadth Requirement: Values

Kant’s practical philosophy has provided influential answers to central questions in normative ethics and the theory of practical reason (and perhaps slightly less influential answers to questions in applied ethics, such as the morality of haircuts and nail trimmings, and the comparative disvalue of alcohol abuse and gluttony). Kant’s views about moral motivation, the relation between freedom and rationality, the nature and content of the moral law, the value of human beings, the value of autonomy, and the relation between morality and rationality, have been at the forefront of contemporary debates. However, contemporary ethicists will often ignore large parts of Kant’s practical philosophy (especially its metaphysical commitments) and pick and choose the items they find most attractive. Meanwhile, Kant himself seems to have thought that his practical philosophy (and his critical philosophy more generally) formed a systematic whole, whose parts could not be so easily sold separately. In this course, we will aim for a historically accurate understanding of Kant’s practical philosophy, while also assessing the relevance of his work for contemporary ethics


PHL3000F MA Professional Development
Kingwell, Mark
Tuesday, 9-12   (the course will take place on 4 Tuesdays during the term; October 4, October 11, October 18 and November 22) in JHB 401

The seminar is geared to providing MA students with professional advice on teaching, grading, conference presentations, writing for publication, and life after graduation.



Winter Term 2017                                         

AMP2000Y Proseminar for the Collaborative Program in Ancient and Medieval Philosophy (CPAMP)
Barney, Rachel
Mondays, 4:00-6:00 in LI 205 (Fall Term) / LI 301 (Winter term)
Limited to CPAMP students

This course is mandatory for CPAMP students in year 1 and 2; program students who have fulfilled this requirement are expected to attend regularly. Other interested doctoral students are welcome to attend as well and should contact the program director to indicate their interest. The proseminar has three components: a series of seminars; an ancient Greek philosophy reading group and a Latin medieval philosophy reading group. All students in the proseminar must attend the seminars and at least one of the reading groups; students are warmly encouraged to attend both reading groups. For the course schedule and details on the reading groups see the CPAMP website (http://cpamp.utoronto.ca/courses.html).


MST 3309S Birth of the Will – Anselm and Augustine on the Will
Peter King
Monday, 2-4 in LI 310
Breadth Requirement:  History- Medieval

Close reading of texts from Augustine (Confessions, Free Choice of the Will, Grace and Free Choice, City of God) and from Anselm of Canterbury (Fall of the Devil, The Harmony of Free Choice and Foreknowledge) in which the idea of a separate quasi-autonomous psychological faculty of choice and decision, the “will,” is sketched out.  Particular attention will be paid to how this faculty is supposed to ground and explain ordinary psychological phenomena, such as weakness of will, commitment, decision, and the like.


PHL2005S Plato
Barney, Rachel
Thursday, 12-3 in JHB 418     (location updated – Jan 11)
Breadth Requirement:  History – Ancient

A slow reading of one or two Platonic dialogues, probably including either the Theaetetus or the Symposium.


PHL2011S Hellenistic Philosophy – Hellenistic Ethical Theory         (note: moved from F term)
Allen, James
Monday, 9-12 in JHB 418
Breadth Requirement:  History – Ancient

The new schools founded by Epicurus (the Garden) and Zeno of Citium (the Stoa) dominated the philosophy of the Hellenistic era, which begins according to historiographical convention with the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BCE (followed one year later by that of his teacher, Aristotle). Like Socrates and arguably to a greater extent than Plato and Aristotle, their immediate predecessors, the Stoics and Epicureans put ethics at the centre of philosophy. Using Cicero’s De finibus bonorum et malorum (On the ends of goods and evils) as our main text (and drawing on the largely fragmentary remains of other authors), the seminar will concentrate on the ethical theories of these two schools. Both were subjected to acute criticisms by the Academy, Plato’s school, which we shall also study. If time permits, we may also devote some attention to a so-called minor school, the Cyrenaics, who were antiquity’s radical hedonists and the only ancient philosophers to reject the idea that the highest good or end of life is identical with happiness.


PHL2015S Confucianism – Seminar on the Classical Confucian Philosophy
Shen, Vincent
Monday, 3-6 in JHB 401
Breadth Requirement:  Values

This seminar in Classical Confucian Philosophy will focus on the theories and concepts as shown in the Classical Confucian fundamental texts. We will analyze both traditional texts and recently unearthed bamboo slips, always with English translation. The discussions will be on Confucius, Zisi, Mencius and Xunzi and their theories and concepts of ultimate reality, virtue ethics, ritual, art (including poetry) and emotions etc.


PHL2101S Seminar in Metaphysics – Fundamentality and Metaphysical Dependence           
Wilson, Jessica
Tuesday, 6-9 in JHB 418
Breadth Requirement:  MES

In this course we will explore the metaphysically foundational topics of fundamentality and metaphysical dependence. We will become acquainted with and make progress towards assessing diverse accounts of these notions. For example, we will consider accounts of the fundamental as the non-dependent (as per Bennett and Schaffer) and accounts on which the fundamental provides a primitive hyperintensional basis for all else (as per Fine and Wilson); and we will consider accounts of metaphysical dependence as involving a primitive hyperintensional notion or relation of Grounding (as per Fine, Rosen, and Schaffer), as involving ‘small-g’ grounding relations such as identity, set membership, parthood, and the determinable-determinate relation (as per Wilson), as involving ‘building’ relations (as per Bennett), and as involving structure (as per Sider). Along the way we will encounter different methodological or metametaphysical approaches to the foundational notions of fundamentality and dependence, and will familiarize ourselves with salient applications of notions to, e.g., the question of how best to formulate physicalism.


PHL2131S Topics in Ethics – Ethical Theory
Hurka, Tom
Wednesday, 9-12 in JHB 418
Breadth Requirement:  Values

This course will examine a series of topics in ethical theory, some in metaethics (e.g. thick vs.  thin concepts, gradable vs. non-gradable concepts), some in the theory of the right (thresholds for constraints and for options, intervening agency), and some in the theory of the good (the values
of knowledge and achievement, moral desert).  They will be for the most part topics on which not a great deal has been written, so there’s scope for new proposals and new analyses.


PHL2141S Political Philosophy – Seminar on The Idea of the Social Contract
Novak, David
Thursday, 12-3 in JHB 401       (location updated – Jan 11)
Breadth Requirement:  Values

The seminar will deal with the idea of the social contract, which posits that the fundamental relationship of individual persons and society is constituted by a contract between the two parties. Only parties to the social contract are thereby entitled to make political and legal claims upon each other. This idea has been ubiquitous in western political philosophy from early modernity until the present day, even though it has ancient versions. Readings for the seminar will be selected from the writings of Plato, Hobbes, Spinoza, Locke, Rousseau, and Rawls.


PHL2143S Social Philosophy – Seminar on Beyond the Continental Divide 
Morgan, Michael L
Wednesday, 3-6 in JHB 418
Breadth Requirement:  History –  20th Century

Early in the twentieth century the Western philosophical tradition divided into two “streams” — the so-called continental and analytic traditions.  In recent decades, the work of various philosophers has led them to ignore this division and to philosophize across or beyond this “continental divide.”  In this course, we will explore a number of these figures and their thought.  Among the philosophers whom we shall examine and discuss are Stanley Cavell, Charles Taylor, Alasdair MacIntyre, Stephen Mulhall, Simon Glendinning, Cora Diamond, James Conant, Robert Brandom, and Paul Franks.  We may also consider recent work on Emmanuel Levinas that places him in conversation with analytic philosophy.


PHL 2151S Aesthetics
Sedivy, Sonia
Wednesday, 12-3 in JHB 401
Breadth Requirement:  Values

This course will examine relationships between philosophy of perception and aesthetics, which highlight different issues concerning perceptual experience. To start, we will examine John Dewey’s Art as Experience.  We will then use two books from 2016 – Bence Nanay’s Aesthetics as Philosophy of Perception and my Beauty and the End of Art, Wittgenstein, Plurality and Perception – to structure the issues.  Reading contemporary and recent articles from both fields, we will explore how aesthetics provides data that an adequate theory of perception needs to be able to explain, and how different theories of perception rise to the challenges.

Evaluation: 2 presentations, 2 papers (one short and one long), weekly reading responses.

**students interested in the course please read the introductions to Nanay and Sedivy 2016 for the first class (e-books are available through our library system, and hard copies will be available at Bob Miller Bookroom).


PHL2172S Seminar in Philosophy of Mind – Expressivism about the mental
Hellie, Benj
Monday, 6-9 in JHB 418
Breadth Requirement:  MLL

‘Metapsychology’ is concerned with thought about the psychological. ‘Metamonists’ and ‘metadualists’ disagree over the metapsychological question of the extent of similarity between thought about the psychological and thought about the nonpsychological: metamonists say they are similar, metadualists different. Metamonism has been thoroughly investigated by theorists such as Lewis and Chalmers; metadualism is relatively less familiar, but forms a natural alliance with the alluring but elusive doctrine of ‘simulationism’ (Heal). Most of the debates in contemporary philosophy of mind (internalism/externalism, physicalism/dualism, causalism/epiphenomenalism, representationalism/relationism, the personal identity literature) presuppose metamonism: metadualism is therefore a ‘universal solvent’ of sorts; its price is coming to terms with the abandonment of any ‘absolute conception of reality’. My book MS /Out of This World/ will be the central text, along with various highlights of the philosophy of mind literature since the 1960s.


PHL2190S Philosophy of Language:  Sense and Direct Reference
Yi, Byeong-uk
Friday, 12-3 in JHB 418
Breadth Requirement: MLL

In this course, we will study the advances and limitations of the so-called new theory of reference developed as an alternative to the so-called Fregean theory. The readings will be drawn from writings of classical authors, such as Frege, Russell, Kripke, Donnellan, Kaplan, and recent authors who develop or criticize the new theory. 


PHL2199S Seminar in Philosophy of Science – Scientific Realism and Natural Metaphysics
Seager, Bill
Thursday, 9-12 in JHB 418
Breadth Requirement:  MES

Scientific realism is the view that science aims at truth (as opposed to, for example, empirical adequacy) and is to a substantial extent succeeding. Its increasingly typical companion is natural metaphysics: the claim that the sole guide to truth in all domains  is scientific method and  scientific theorizing. This course will review the scientific  realism debate with the goal of assessing whether there is a viable anti-realist view  which would undercut natural metaphysics. Implications for the general project of physicalism will be considered in this light. Topics to be discussed include van Fraassen’s constructive empiricism and related anti-realist approaches to science, structuralism in the philosophy of science, Russellian monism and physicalism.


PHL2222S MA Seminar Philosophy of Perception: The Secondary Qualities
Matthen, Mohan
Tuesday, 9-12 in JHB 418
Breadth Requirement:  MLL

A study of sense qualities such as colour, sounds, speech, flavour, and other secondary qualities.  What makes them “secondary?” How should we construe their ontology and epistemology?  What about the primary qualities? Are they really any different?  Finally, how do we perceive space? Is it an object of perception or a primary or secondary quality?


PHL3000S PhD Professional Development
Sepielli, Andrew
Tuesday, 12-3 in JHB 401

The aim of this course is to prepare students entering the job market for careers as professional philosophers. Students will present and receive feedback on work from their dissertations, and receive training on preparing dossier materials, creating a website, and interviewing.


Summer Term 2017  – May/June    (as of April 24, 2017)

PHL2057F Seminar in 17th and 18th C. Philosophy – Hume 
Ainslie, Donald
Day/Time:  First session will be Friday, May 12 from 12:00 – 3:00 pm in JHB 418 (sessions will be various dates/times to be distributed at first class)
Breadth Requirement:  History – 17th-18th Century

This course will offer an in-depth examination of the philosophy of Hume; a close reading of the Treatise and Hume’s True Scepticism.