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Courses

 

Courses, 2017-2018

PHIL 5802: Core Practical Philosophy I (Graduate, Winter 2018)

This seminar offers an advanced survey of some central themes in contemporary practical philosophy. It is designed to ensure that students have sufficient background to pursue graduate-level research in these areas. Topics are drawn from recent work in metaethics, ethical theory, applied ethics, political philosophy and philosophy of law.

PHIL 5803: Core Practical Philosophy II (Graduate, Winter 2018)

This course is taken in conjunction with PHIL 5802. It is designed to prepare students to write the comprehensive examination in practical philosophy and to introduce them to the members of the Graduate Faculty working in these areas. It covers the same topics as PHIL 5802, and in the same order, but involves an additional set of readings each week.

Past courses, 2005-2017

PHIL 1002: Justice, Law, and Morality (Undergraduate)

This course is designed as a selective introduction to some central concepts in moral, political, and legal philosophy.  Such concepts include, but are not limited to: justice, liberty, rights, equality, law, and responsibility. For each topic we will look at several perspectives to see where contentious issues arise and how these issues might be best understood and possibly resolved.  Some of the questions we will address are these: What is justice and what does it promise to a society committed to its pursuit?  Is liberty an ultimate value, or perhaps only instrumentally good for other projects?  Is equality always better than inequality, or might there be exceptions?  How are law and morality connected?  Can they go in different directions?  For what are we responsible, and what might justify the state in punishing some of us?  While this course is not designed to be a prerequisite for subsequent courses in moral, political, and legal philosophy, it will provide a good foundation for further study in these subjects.

PHIL 2050: Philosophy of Law (Undergraduate)

This course offers a broad introduction to central questions in philosophy of law.  The topics covered include general theories about the nature of law, the relation between law and liberty, the nature of criminal responsibility, and international law.

PHIL 2070: Introduction to Ethics (Undergraduate)
This course provides a broad introduction to the major ethical theories in Western thought.  We ask several questions: What does it mean to say that a certain action is morally good or right?  Are there any universal or objective moral values, or is morality fundamentally relative to one’s culture and time?  Is moral disagreement ultimately irresolvable?

PHIL 3190: Issues in Constitutional Law (Undergraduate)

This course examines the nature of constitutions.  We will ask the following set of core questions: What is a constitution?  Why are constitutions thought to be valuable?  What do they promise to deliver?  What does a society commit itself to in recognizing in law fundamental divisions of power and sometimes basic rights and freedoms?  Existing and proposed constitutions give rise to unique and heated disputes.  We will attempt in this course to build understanding of the nature of constitutions and why their characteristic features are often matters of divided and mixed commitment.

PHIL 3195: Punishment and Responsibility (Undergraduate)

In this course we examine classic and contemporary answers to the question of the nature and justification of punishment. What are the purposes and aims of punitive practices, and are they legitimate? We begin with an introduction to various types of punishment and the conceptions of individual responsibility they presuppose. The bulk of the course is then devoted to critical examination of consequentialist, retributivist, rehabilitative, and expressivist theories of the aims and justifications of punishment.

PHIL 4180: Topics in Political Philosophy (Undergraduate)

One of the most significant challenges facing any political community is recognition of diversity among various groups along historical, cultural, linguistic, and religious dimensions.  While we shall ask in general about the best way to understand, explain, and justify such recognition and diversity, we will focus in particular on the question of whether there are specific conceptions of law and sovereignty which either help or hinder our moral and political imagination in such a task.  We will therefore begin with investigation of theories which reflect dominant ideas of law and sovereignty which exist in political communities, before devoting the bulk of the course to questions about recognition, diversity, and pluralism.

PHIL 4190: Topics in Philosophy of Law (Undergraduate)

Self-determination is among the most under-developed areas of international law.  Historically, self-determination might have simply referred to the right held by states to their sovereignty, but twentieth century conventions, failed states, dissolved unions, and a recent International Court of Justice decision suggest that the scope of self-determination might be much broader now.  This course will explore some of the significant philosophical and moral issues which surround the international law of self-determination, by attempting to answer the following set of core questions: who, exactly, has a right to self-determination under international law?  Under what conditions can a group exercise such a right, and when, if ever, might a group lose its right?  What are the obligations of other states to recognize new entities asserting self-determination?

PHIL 4802: Core Practical Philosophy I (Undergraduate)

This seminar offers an advanced survey of some central themes in contemporary practical philosophy. It is designed to ensure that students have sufficient background to pursue graduate-level research in these areas. Topics are drawn from recent work in metaethics, ethical theory, applied ethics, political philosophy and philosophy of law.

PHIL 5670/LAW 5670: Legal Philosophy Between State and Transnationalism (Graduate, Law)

This year-long seminar course analyses, from a philosophical perspective, emerging issues at the intersection of transnationalism, law, and philosophy, with a particular focus on: (1) The impact of social diversity and transnationalism on social organization and law; (2) The uncertainty of the rule of law in contexts of state and international emergencies; (3) The erosion of state sovereignty and its impact on the general theory of state and law; (4) Possible forms of transnational wrongdoing and liability (legal, moral, political); (5) The value and nature of human rights in national and transnational settings. These topics will often be covered in overlapping ways, and not all of them may be covered in any given year.


The seminar is also structured around eight guest seminars (four per term) in which a leading theorist comes to present some of his/her work, which is then subjected to discussion and critical analysis. These seminars form part of the Nathanson Centre’s Legal Philosophy between State and Transnationalism seminar series.

PHIL 5802: Core Practical Philosophy I (Graduate)

This seminar offers an advanced survey of some central themes in contemporary practical philosophy. It is designed to ensure that students have sufficient background to pursue graduate-level research in these areas. Topics are drawn from recent work in metaethics, ethical theory, applied ethics, political philosophy and philosophy of law.

PHIL 5803: Core Practical Philosophy II (Graduate)

This course is taken in conjunction with PHIL 5802. It is designed to prepare students to write the comprehensive examination in practical philosophy and to introduce them to the members of the Graduate Faculty working in these areas. It covers the same topics as PHIL 5802, and in the same order, but involves an additional set of readings each week.

PHIL 6510: Jurisprudence II (Graduate)

The goal of this seminar is to examine the insights and limits of existing legal theories as these face new challenges posed by the flourishing of novel forms of legal order, ranging from the United Kingdom's devolution of power to Scotland, to integration of European law-states to the point of consideration of a shared constitution, and the rise of super-national institutions such as the International Criminal Court.

PHIL 6550: Core Problems in Legal Philosophy (Graduate)

In recent years debates in the philosophy of law have taken a distinctly methodological turn, with the aim of resolving longstanding disputes and potentially giving rise to new questions for investigation.  This seminar aims to survey some recent work in the methodology of philosophy of law.  We shall take as our guide the following question: is there something about the nature of law, however that might be conceived, which demands that law ought to be explained in some way rather than another?  General themes which will be explored in their relation to law include naturalism, social construction, conceptual analysis, moralized concepts, and necessity.  Authors to be read include H.L.A. Hart, Joseph Raz, Brian Leiter, Fred Schauer, and Natalie Stoljar, among others.

PHIL 6560: Issues in Contemporary Legal Philosophy (Graduate)

Contemporary analytical jurisprudence typically operates with two presumptions in the construction of general theories of law.  First, the modern sovereign state is the primary example of law, against which other types of law (eg, international law) can be adversely compared.  According to this first presumption, philosophical study of the sovereign state alone is sufficient to draw general conclusions about the nature of law.  Second, for purposes of analysis the class of sovereign states which are examined are presumed to exist under conditions of stability, ie, where the state legal system is generally efficacious and secures order.  In this course we shall suspend both presumptions, yet focus mainly on the second.  We shall explore what can be learned about the nature of law by viewing it under both stable and unstable conditions.  Unstable conditions include those such as one finds in failed, failing, or weak states, and relatively stable states in times of perceived emergency (think, eg, of Canada’s imprisonment of Japanese-Canadians during the second world war).

PHIL 6570: Philosophy of International Law (Graduate)

There can be little doubt that law’s most familiar setting is the sovereign state, yet such familiarity has had a negative effect on legal theory: many legal theorists suppose that their work is largely complete once a theory of state law has been developed, and any non-state types of law can subsequently be viewed by means of adverse comparison with state law.  On this approach, many non-state types of law seem to suffer from a number of serious defects: international law, for example, often appears to be incoherent, contradictory, nonbinding, impossible, and indistinguishable from morality and politics.  Is international law really this radically defective, or do these apparent problems reveal shortcomings in the theories of international law themselves? In this course we will assess the prevailing approach to non-state law by examining several intriguing philosophical accounts of international law.  In particular, we will investigate to what extent international law resembles, and ought to resemble, state law, but also how it might differ from and so succeed under conditions different from those of state law.  To work towards our objective we will ask the following set of core questions: (i) what are the sources of international law?; (ii) is centralized enforcement necessary for the existence of international law?; (iii) how is international law similar to but also different from morality and politics?; and (iv) what is state sovereignty, and is it compatible with international law? 

PHIL 6800: First-Year PhD Seminar (Graduate)

This seminar will explore philosophical issues arising from the determination and use of concepts, categories, and kinds across several philosophical areas as well as at the intersections between philosophy and the natural and social sciences.  We will ask the following set of core questions, among others: What are natural kinds and why do we need to posit them?  Are there social or human kinds in the social domain, just as there are natural kinds in the natural domain?  Do all scientific categories correspond to natural kinds?  And do categories in the social sciences correspond generally to social kinds?  Are all or some social kinds significantly different from natural kinds, since they are supposed to be evaluative, normative, interactive, and/or subjective?  The first half of the seminar will be devoted to abstract, theoretical debates about concepts, categories, and kinds, while the second half will turn to investigation of such debates as they appear in the special context of the philosophy of law.

At Osgoode Hall Law School:

LAW 2720: Jurisprudence
This seminar offers a critical survey of contemporary issues in jurisprudence.  These include: the nature of law and legal systems; the character of legal reasoning; indeterminacy in law; the relations among law, morality, and politics; and legal rights and obligations.  Our work focuses on a close reading of some central books in modern legal theory.

LAW 5670: Legal Philosophy Between State and Transnationalism

(see PHIL 5670 above)

   
 
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