Bachelor of Arts, Major and Minor in Philosophy

Philosophy Courses

The Philosophy department offers courses required to complete VIU's Bachelor of Arts Major or Minor in Philosophy.

Course offerings vary from year to year. Check Generate a Timetable for available course offerings and Tentative Course Scheduling for the rotation of required courses. Check also Prerequisites for important information about course requirements.

PHIL 100  (3)  Rhetoric and Reasoning

A study of arguments used in everyday life using examples from newspapers, magazines, advertisements, etc., and emphasizing arguments in ordinary language (no symbolic logic) and learning to detect and avoid the bad reasoning of others. Topics include informal fallacies, difference between inductive and deductive reasoning, the role of logic in philosophy, oral argumentation. (3:0:0)

Prerequisite: None.

PHIL 103  (3)  How to Do Things with Words

A philosophical and practical inquiry into the nature of rhetoric. How do we persuade? How do reasons and feelings figure in transforming a point of view? In this course, we explore the nature of language, the use of reasons, and the role of feelings in forming beliefs. (3:0:0)

Prerequisite: PHIL 100.

PHIL 111  (3)  Intro to Philosophy: Knowledge and Reality

An introduction to the philosophical method of reasoning, notions of argument and validity, nature of explanation, ideas of meaning and understanding, specific skeptical arguments (e.g., relation between mind and body, the existence of minds other than one's own, existence of God). (3:0:0)

Prerequisite: None.

PHIL 112  (3)  Intro to Philosophy: Ethics

An introduction to moral philosophy and current theories of value, focusing on questions such as: What is the good? What ought one to do? Are all values relative? Is everything permitted? What is the importance of reason in making moral judgments? Is there knowledge of moral claims? (3:0:0)

Prerequisite: None.

PHIL 113  (3)  Indigenous Philosophy: Comparative Perspectives

An introduction to Indigenous Philosophy through dialogue and comparison with Western European Philosophy. Topics include nature, knowledge and wisdom. (3:0:0)

Prerequisite: None.

Co-requisites: None.

PHIL 158  (3)  Eastern Philosophy

An introduction to Eastern philosophy. Topics may include ethics, metaphysics, limits of knowledge, philosophy of mind, and the meaning of life from perspectives of Indian and Chinese philosophies. (3:0:0)

Prerequisite: None.

PHIL 200  (3)  The History of Modern Philosophy I

A study of 17th and 18th century Western Philosophy at the beginning of the Scientific Revolution, including works from Descartes, Spinoza, Hume and Kant. Questions in metaphysics, theory of knowlege and the philosophy of mind, still important today, will be examined as they were raised at that time. (3:0:0)

Prerequisite: None.

PHIL 201  (3)  The History of Modern Philosophy II

An introduction to developments between 1800 and 1950, especially the movement to 'empirical' philosophy as found in Phenomenology and Existentialism, Analytic Philosophy, and Marxist social/political Philosophy. (3:0:0)

Prerequisite: None.

PHIL 211  (3)  Philosophy in Literature: Existentialism I

A discussion of philosophic problems appearing in philosophical literature; a study of a number of philosophical novels, plays, and poems from the Western tradition, exploring the philosophical concerns of literary artists who have expressed their ideas in works of art. (3:0:0)

Prerequisite: None.

PHIL 212  (3)  Philosophy in Literature: Existentialism II

A study of the works of several major figures in Existentialism and Phenomenology, including Heidegger, Arendt, Husserl, Nietzsche, Simone Weil and Camus. Some of the themes to be studied include freedom and transcendence, the phenomenological bases of action in the world, and a phenomenological understanding of evil. (3:0:0)

Prerequisite: None.

PHIL 220  (3)  Philosophy and Film

An exploration of films as texts for the study of philosophical issues including the ways in which the medium of cinematic film can both reveal and conceal 'reality', and challenge or reinforce our assumptions about human identity, perception, aesthetics, politics, and gender. (3:0:0)

Prerequisite: None.

PHIL 221  (3)  Philosophy of Religion

An examination of fundamental questions which have occupied Western philosophers, including: Does God exist? Does the problem of evil pose an insoluble problem for the believer? What is the nature of the religious experience? Is religious belief rational? Do we survive our bodily death? Is revelation a source of knowledge? Is talk about God meaningful? What is faith? Can religious beliefs be verified or falsified? (3:0:0)

Prerequisite: One of PHIL 100, PHIL 111, or PHIL 112.

PHIL 230  (3)  Contemporary Social Issues

A study of current controversial social issues: abortion; euthanasia; paternalism; sexual morality; rights of prisoners, women, men, children, animals; civil disobedience; morality of war; topics currently debated in Parliament, legislatures, and the media; principles of morality, social and political philosophy. (3:0:0)

Prerequisite: At least one Philosophy, Humanities, or Social Sciences course.

PHIL 231  (3)  Social and Political Philosophy

A study of the following questions: What is the state? Is an individual obligated to obey the state? What are the limits to this obligation? What rights should the state guarantee? What is the ideal compromise between individual self interest and one's obligation to the state? What is the proper relationship between public law and private morality? (3:0:0)

Prerequisite: One of PHIL 100, PHIL 111, or PHIL 112.

PHIL 232  (3)  Bio-Medical Ethics

A discussion of the moral and legal problems arising out of the practice of medicine, e.g., experimentation, confidentiality, abortion, euthanasia, and allocation of scarce medical resources. Note: This course is approved for 45 hours of Category I study credit by the College of Family Physicians of Canada. (3:0:0)

Prerequisite: At least one Philosophy, Humanities, or Social Sciences course.

PHIL 233  (3)  Environmental Ethics

An examination of topical environmental concerns involving critical thinking skills and ethical understanding. Topics include preparing reasoned argument as distinct from opinion-argument based on fact, scientific projection and moral principles. Logical analysis and ethics will be explicitly taught. (0:3:0)

Prerequisite: A 100-level course in either Philosophy, Biology, Economics, or Geography.

PHIL 234  (3)  Business and Professional Ethics

Topics include: Who is responsible when a 'company' acts? Is the corporation a person? What is the point of a professional code of ethics? Is there any moral obligation to hire those who need a job? Logical analysis and ethics will be explicitly taught. (3:0:0)

Prerequisite: At least three credits of the degree English requirement, or any first-year PHIL course.

PHIL 235  (3)  Philosophy and Personal Relations

A discussion of understanding and morally assessing personal relations; of love, of friendship and of family. Topics include; what do children owe their parents? Is sex without love amoral? When is it legitimate to favour those we are close to ? What does it mean to be honest ? (2:1:0)

Prerequisite: Any 100-level Philosophy course.

Co-requisites: none

PHIL 240  (3)  Ancient Philosophy I: The Pre-Socratics to Plato

An introduction to philosophy covering such questions as: What are the ultimate constituents of reality? What is time? What is the best life for human beings? What kinds of things can we know? Figures such as Pythagoras, Parmenides, and Protagoras will be examined along with selections from Plato. (3:0:0)

Prerequisite: None.

PHIL 241  (3)  Ancient Philosophy II: Plato and Aristotle to the Roman Period

An introduction to philosophy covering such questions as: What should one strive for in this life? What responsibility do we have to our friends and community? What is the best form of government? Works from Plato, Aristotle, Epicurus and the Roman Stoics will be examined. (3:0:0)

Prerequisite: None.

PHIL 242  (3)  Greco-Roman Philosophy

The focus of this course is Hellenistic but especially early Roman metaphysics and epistemology and its relation to the pursuit of the human good and quality of life. The four main areas of examination are Epicureanism, Stoicism, Skepticism and Neo-Platonism. (3:0:0)

Prerequisite: None.

PHIL 243  (3)  Medieval Philosophy

A study of major figures in Western medieval philosophy such as Augustine, Avicenna, Ibn-Gabirol, Maimonides, Hildegard of Bingen, Aquinas, and Ockham. The course covers issues in metaphysics, epistemology, ethics and philosophy of religion. Credit will only be granted for one of PHIL 243 or PHIL 340. (3:0:0)

Prerequisite: Any Philosophy course.

PHIL 245  (3)  Aesthetics

An exploration of aesthetic experience in ordinary life and art. Topics include the nature and meaning of aesthetic experience; the social value of art; the moral and political functions of art; and cross-cultural understandings of aesthetic artifacts. Credit will only be granted for one of PHIL 245 or PHIL 345. (3:0:0)

Prerequisite: Second-year standing.

PHIL 248  (3)  Special Topics

An in-depth exploration of a topic of general interest which varies from term to term. Examples include issues around death and dying, information, science and technology, possibilities of machine consciousness, and treatment of non-human animals. This course can be repeated for credit if taking new topics. (3:0:0)

Prerequisite: None.

PHIL 251  (3)  Formal Logic

An introduction to Aristotelian Logic, sentence logic and Predicate Logic (Quantification theory). Topics include natural deduction, truth tables, identity and descriptions, truth trees, Venn Diagrams, translation of ordinary language into symbolic form. (3:0:0)

Prerequisite: Math 12 or PHIL 100.

PHIL 252  (3)  Understanding Scientific Reasoning

An examination of scientific literacy. Critical thinking skills developed include identifying types of arguments, understanding and evaluating reports of scientific findings, and discovering patterns of reasoning that are common to most sciences. The course is practical and general in nature. (3:0:0)

Prerequisite: PHIL 100.

PHIL 310  (3)  Introduction to Philosophical Thought

An introduction to theories of reality, knowledge, ethics, and politics. It is primarily for upper-level students who want a more sophisticated introduction to philosophy, but have no previous credits in the discipline. Cannot be used to meet upper level requirements for a philosophy major or minor. (3:0:0)

Prerequisite: Third-year standing.

PHIL 312  (3)  Philosophy of Law

An examination of the nature, scope and limits of law including the relations between law, morality and justice. Topics include theories of law such as positivism and legal realism. Issues examined may include the philosophical foundations of human rights, international law, civil disobedience, responsibility and the justification of punishment. (3:0:0)

Prerequisite: PHIL 112.

PHIL 330  (3)  Professional and Business Ethics

An examination of ethical issues arising in the contemporary professional and business setting; emphasis is on the mastery of representative ethical systems and concepts and their application to actual situations. (3:0:0)

Prerequisite: Any Philosophy course.

PHIL 331  (3)  Ethics in Health Care

An investigation into the various ethical problems and concerns that arise in the professional medial context. Issues such as the nature of the physician-patient relationship, informed consent and right to know, fetal experiments and human experiments in general, euthanasia, right to treatment, etc., will be discussed. The aim of this course is not to give definitive solutions but to inculcate an awareness and understanding of the nature of the problems involved. (3:0:0)

Prerequisite: None.

PHIL 333  (3)  Issues in Environmental Ethics

An in-depth study of conceptual issues in environmental ethics as they have been analyzed by writers working in the contemporary analytic tradition. This examination will be applied to problems of complex decision making. Topics include the possibility of legal standing for natural objects, the limitations of cost/benefit analysis, and the question of the existence of values separate from human valuing. (3:0:0)

Prerequisite: PHIL 233, or 6 credits of lower-level Philosophy, and one course in Biology, Economics or Geography.

PHIL 335  (3)  Philosophy and Personal Relations - Advanced

An exploration of the nature of relationships (love, friendship, and family) and what moral obligations, if any, they impose. Topics include: what do children owe their parents? Is sex without love immoral? When is it legitimate to favor those we are close to? What does it mean to be honest? (3:0:0)

Prerequisite: Third-year standing and any philosophy course.

PHIL 340  (3)  Issues in Medieval Philosophy

A study of major figures in Western medieval philosophy such as Augustine, Avicenna, Ibn-Gabirol, Maimonides, Hildegard of Bingen, Aquinas, and Ockham. The course covers issues in metaphysics, epistemology, ethics and philosophy of religion. Credit will only be granted for one of PHIL 243 or PHIL 340. (3:0:0)

Prerequisite: Any Philosophy course.

PHIL 345  (3)  Aesthetics (Advanced)

An exploration of aesthetic experience in ordinary life and art. Topics include the nature and meaning of aesthetic experience; the social value of art; the moral and political functions of art; and cross-cultural understandings of aesthetic artifacts. Credit will only be granted for one of PHIL 245 or PHIL 345. (3:0:0)

Prerequisite: Third-year standing.

PHIL 361  (3)  The Philosophy of Mind

An examination of contemporary theories in philosophical psychology and their historical roots. Questions explored might include: "how are mind and body related?"; "are humans merely material entities?"; how does psychological theory relate to ordinary-language explanation of behaviour?" Recommended for Psychology students. This course may be offered as Directed Studies. (2:1:0)

Prerequisite: Third-year standing plus PHIL 111 or PHIL 310.

PHIL 362  (3)  Special Topics in the Philosophy of Mind

This course is an in-depth examination of some of the central issues and problems in contemporary philosophy of mind. It covers topics such as mental causation, mental content, consciousness and the problem of qualia, intentionality and free will, the self and personal identity, mental representation, and intelligence (natural and artificial). (3:0:0)

Prerequisite: Third-year standing and either PHIL 111 or PHIL 310. PHIL 361 recommended.

PHIL 363  (3)  Epistemology

An examination of contemporary Anglo-American theories of knowledge. Topics to be considered include reliabilism as a response to Gettier examples, the conflict between foundationalist and coherence theories of empirical knowledge and the contemporary debate between empiricism and rationalism. Contemporary Continental theories of knowledge may also be considered. (3:0:0)

Prerequisite: PHIL 111 and one of PHIL 200, PHIL 201, PHIL 240, PHIL 241, PHIL 242, PHIL 243, or PHIL 340.

PHIL 364  (3)  Metaphysics

Metaphysics is the study of the general nature of reality. This course is an introduction to the main elements of contemporary Anglo-American metaphysics. Topics include the nature of time, change, causality, being, identity and freedom. Contemporary Continental critiques of metaphysics as a viable discipline may also be considered. (3:0:0)

Prerequisite: PHIL 111 and one of PHIL 200, PHIL 201, PHIL 240, PHIL 241, PHIL 242, PHIL 243, or PHIL 340.

PHIL 370  (3)  Philosophy and Social Science

An examination of issues arising from social science about the nature of personhood and the explanation of human social activity. Questions such as the following will be addressed: What is explanation? Is action merely behaviour? Should social science be like natural science? Can qualitative and quantitative research both be legitimate? (2:1:0)

Prerequisite: Third-year standing, any Philosophy course, and a Social Science course.

PHIL 399  (3)  Philosophy Internship

An opportunity for meaningful work experience. Includes a preparation course in the fall and a work placement (minimum 60 hours) and support seminar in the spring or summer. A general elective only; won't count towards the minimum number of PHIL courses needed for the philosophy major/minor. (1.5:1.5:0 —60 for 27 weeks)

Prerequisite: Must be of third-year standing or higher, with a min. "B+" average in completed Philosophy courses. Must have credit in PHIL 100 and at least four other Philosophy courses, and must pass an internship interview. CREW 100 is recommended for those interested in writing-focused internships.

PHIL 411  (3)  Existentialism and Phenomenology I

An examination of the central themes of Existentialism and Phenomenology, including the overcoming of metaphysical thought, the place of the self in the world, human freedom and transcendence, the meaning of temporality and the relation between Existentialism and Phenomenology as a particular philosophical method. (3:0:0)

Prerequisite: Third-year standing and any Philosophy course.

PHIL 412  (3)  Existentialism and Phenomenology II

An examination of existential and phenomenological conceptions of the past and of how the past provides the ground of authenticity. Topics include Nietzsche's analysis of the history of morality and Heidegger's account of the history of Being. We also consider the possibility of an existentialist ethic. (3:0:0)

Prerequisite: Third-year standing and any Philosophy course.

PHIL 420  (3)  Issues in Philosophy and Film

An exploration of films as texts for the study of philosophical issues including the ways in which the medium of cinematic film can both reveal and conceal 'reality' and challenge or reinforce our assumptions about human identity, perception, aesthetics, politics, and gender. A research paper is required. (3:0:0)

Prerequisite: Third-year standing; and min. 3 credits of either PHIL or LBST.

PHIL 430  (3)  Political Philosophy

A study of classical philosophical notions of the just organization of the state. Questions to be considered include: What counts as a just state? What are the virtues, duties, and responsibilities of citizenship? What are the classical justifications for civil disobedience? How are individual or group rights justified? (3:0:0)

Prerequisite: Third-year standing and 6 credits of Philosophy.

PHIL 431  (3)  Topics in Political Philosophy

A philosophical examination of central concepts, principles and arguments governing political life. Topics include: the basis of political obligation; the proper limits to state power; the legitimate scope of individual liberty; justifications for civil disobedience; the nature of social justice; appropriate relations between states. (3:0:0)

Prerequisite: Third-year standing and 6 credits of Philosophy.

PHIL 441  (3)  Advanced Topics in Moral Theory: Consequentialism

Consequentialism, making moral judgments and choosing actions in terms of consequences, is, in spite of its apparent problems, a social fact. In this course we will examine twenty-first century consequentialist theory as both response to philosophical criticism and as guidance in applied ethics. (3:0:0)

Prerequisite: Third-year standing and any Philosophy course.

PHIL 443  (3)  Moral Theory

A study of major philosophical theories about moral values, standards of right and wrong, human nature and the virtues. Questions covered include: what is the nature of goodness? Are all ethical claims relative to a person, situation, or culture? Are ethical concepts related to the existence of a divine being? (3:0:0)

Prerequisite: Third-year standing and 6 credits of Philosophy.

PHIL 444  (3)  Advanced Topics in Moral Theory: Virtue Ethics

A contemporary study of Virtue Ethics theories from an Aristotelian perspective. Topics include the relationship between human nature and ethics, virtues and vices, practical rationality, morality and social policy, as well as the relationship between virtues, happiness and the meaning of life. (3:0:0)

Prerequisite: Third-year standing and any Philosophy course.

PHIL 446  (3)  Plato and Aristotle

An advanced study of the works of Plato and Aristotle. Topics may include the nature of the good life, the distinction between ethics and metaphysics, and the notion of virtue. (3:0:0)

Prerequisite: Third-year standing. LBST 250 or POLI 260 or both PHIL 111 and 112.

PHIL 448  (3)  Selected Topics

A course for exploring special topics of interest which vary from term to term. Examples include the nature of tragedy, the philosophy of information, the ideas of Wittgenstein, the logic of explanation, or the philosophy of biology. This course can be repeated for credit (if taking new topics). (3:0:0)

Prerequisite: Third-year standing and one of PHIL 310, PHIL 111, or PHIL 112.

PHIL 448C  (3)  Selected Topics: Advanced Bioethics (Ends Jun 2018)

A course for exploring special topics of interest which vary from term to term. Examples include the nature of tragedy, the philosophy of information, the ideas of Wittgenstein, the logic of explanation, or the philosophy of biology. This course can be repeated for credit (if taking new topics). (3:0:0)

Prerequisite: Third-year standing and one of PHIL 310, PHIL 111, or PHIL 112.

PHIL 450  (3)  Philosophy of Language

This course examines key issues in the philosophy of language pertaining to reference and meaning. Topics include classic reference puzzles, roles of names and definite descriptions in sentences, meanings of meaning claims, meanings of metaphors, and skepticism about meaning claims. (3:0:0)

Prerequisite: PHIL 111 and third-year standing. PHIL 251 is recommended.

PHIL 458  (3)  Metaphysics and the Limits of Language

An examination of how the limits of language affect metaphysical questions as they apply to the meaning of life. (3:0:0)

Prerequisite: Third-year standing.

PHIL 463  (3)  Advanced Topics in Metaphysics and Epistemology

An intensive examination of one or two key texts in contemporary metaphysics or epistemology. Themes may include, but will not be limited to, the following: ontology, freedom and responsibility, skepticism, coherentism, and contextualism. (0:3:0)

Prerequisite: Third-year standing and 6 credits of Philosophy.

PHIL 465  (3)  Applied Ethics in the Justice System

An examination of the use of ethical reasoning to address a number of concerns in the justice system including the extent and nature of professional responsibility, exercising authority and the use of force, police corruption, the moral foundation of inmate/staff/professional client relations, the proper conduct of research. (3:0:0)

Prerequisite: One of PHIL 100, PHIL 111, or PHIL 112.

PHIL 475  (3)  Topics in the History of Philosophy

An exploration of representative works from particular historical periods with special attention to the cultural and intellectual setting in which they were embedded. This is an advanced course with topics selected by particular instructors. However, a common objective is increasing our understanding of philosophical method and the canon. (3:0:0)

Prerequisite: Third-year standing and at least one PHIL 200, PHIL 201, PHIL 240, or PHIL 241.

PHIL 490  (3)  Supervised Honours Thesis

An opportunity for independent study -- for students to research and write a longer paper (20-25 pages) on a topic of their choice. Students will be supervised and expected to present work in formalized stages. Course to be taken as directed studies. (1:0:0)

Prerequisite: Third-year standing and acceptance to the Honours Philosophy Program.

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