Spring 2018 - PHIL 100W E200

Knowledge and Reality (3)

Class Number: 13137

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Tu 6:30 PM – 9:20 PM
    HCC 1600, Vancouver

  • Exam Times + Location:

    Apr 19, 2018
    7:00 PM – 10:00 PM
    Location: TBA



An introduction to some of the central problems of philosophy. Topics to be discussed include the different theories of reality; the nature and sources of knowledge, truth, evidence, and reason; the justification of belief and knowledge about the universe. These topics and problems will be considered as they arise in the context of issues such as: relativism versus absolutism; the existence of God; personal identity; the nature of the mind and its relation to the body; free will and determinism; the possibility of moral knowledge. Open to all students. Students with credit for PHIL 100 may not take this course for further credit. Writing/Breadth-Humanities.


Philosophy is traditionally divided into four major projects: metaphysics, epistemology, value theory, and logic. This “Knowledge and Reality” introduction to philosophy focuses on the first two.

Metaphysics is the investigation of the fundamental nature of reality. It seeks to understand the world as it really is, its most basic components and structure. Some metaphysical questions concern the nature of human persons and their relation to the rest of the world (e.g. What is the mind? Do we have free will?). Others concern the nature of the physical world generally (e.g. What are space and time?). Still others are more abstract (e.g. What does it mean for something to be possible or necessary?) Many metaphysical questions have a scientific component, and but the principal tools of metaphysics are reason, conceptual analysis, and thought experiment.

Epistemology is the investigation of the nature and possibility of knowledge, and related problems of knowing. Traditionally its fundamental question is a purely analytical one: What does it mean to “know” something? With a clarified concept of knowledge, we can turn to the problem of what, if anything, we can actually know about the world. Part of that project is situated within philosophy of science. Science is our best system for acquiring knowledge of the natural world; in thinking about its objectives and practice, we confront several epistemological questions.


PHIL 100W may be applied towards the Certificate in Liberal Arts, the Writing Requirement and the Breadth-Humanities Requirement.

Course learning outcomes: 
- Read a text carefully and critically to reconstruct the arguments and objections it presents.
- Formulate philosophical questions for productive written and verbal discussion, with a focus on conceptual distinctions and objections.
- Confront issues in metaphysics and epistemology as living problems, questions that are: provisionally treated as having objectively correct answers, and yet, 
understood as the subjects of long-running debates, without settled answers that can be simply learned and memorized.


  • Exam 1 20%
  • Exam 2 (Final Exam) 35%
  • Paper 35%
  • Contributions to class discussion 5%
  • Reading responses 5%


Written work for this course will be submitted via Turnitin, a third party service licensed for use by SFU. Turnitin is used for originality checking to help detect plagiarism. Students will be required to create an account with Turnitin, and to submit their work via that account, on the terms stipulated in the agreement between the student and Turnitin. This agreement includes the retention of your submitted work as part of the Turnitin database. Any student with a concern about using the Turnitin service may opt to use an anonymous identity in their interactions with Turnitin. Students who do not intend to use Turnitin in the standard manner must notify the instructor at least two weeks in advance of any submission deadline. In particular, it is the responsibility of any student using the anonymous option (i.e. false name and temporary e-mail address created for the purpose) to inform the instructor such that the instructor can match up the anonymous identity with the student.



"Philosophy of Science" 2nd ed., by Samir Okasha - ISBN 978-0198745587

All other required readings will be distributed by the instructor.

Registrar Notes:

SFU’s Academic Integrity web site http://students.sfu.ca/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating.  Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the University community.  Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the University. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the University. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html