Spring 2019 - PHIL 150 D100

Great Works in the History of Philosophy (3)

Class Number: 5805

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Tu 2:30 PM – 4:20 PM
    BLU 10011, Burnaby

    Th 2:30 PM – 3:20 PM
    AQ 3149, Burnaby

  • Exam Times + Location:

    Apr 11, 2019
    3:30 PM – 6:30 PM
    WMC 3260, Burnaby



A thematic survey of some classical texts in the history of Western philosophy, from late Antiquity to the 19th century, including by figures such as Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Aquinas, Descartes, de Gournay, Elisabeth of Bohemia, Spinoza, Leibniz, du Châtelet, Hume, Astell, Wollstonecraft, Kant, Mill, Hegel, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, and others. Themes may include the nature of the human being, the role of God in philosophical thought, conceptions of the good life, and others. Open to all students. Students with credit for PHIL 151 may not take this course for further credit. Breadth-Humanities.


The aim of this course is twofold. First, we shall consider some of the enduring philosophical questions as they were posed and investigated by some of the great philosophers in the history of the western philosophical tradition (from ancient Greece to 18th-century Europe). Second, we shall aim to understand the nature of systematic philosophical thought itself as it is exemplified in a variety of formats: dialogues, treatises and meditations.

Our focus will be on classical questions concerning the fundamental nature of reality. Can we prove that God exists? If so, what can we know about God? What are the conditions under which we can know anything at all? Are we free beings, or are we determined by the laws of nature to act at every moment in just one way? Or could we be both? Are we embodied minds, or are our minds entirely distinct from our bodies? Is the way we represent the world accurate, or are there ways we see the world that are owed to the subjective nature of our minds? What is the meaning of life? And what role does philosophical thought play in our lives?

We shall begin by reading several of Plato’s dialogues. We shall then turn to Saint Thomas Aquinas’s writings on God, causality and being. And we will close by considering two of the great systematic works of philosophy from the early modern period: Rene Descartes’ Meditations on First Philosophy and David Hume’s Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding. Along the way, we shall read excerpts from works by others, likely including Saint Anselm, Aristotle, Princess Elisabeth of Bohemia, John Locke and Anne Conway.


PHIL 150 may be applied towards the Certificate in Liberal Arts and the Breadth-Humanities Requirement.


  • The Levels (3 – 6 short assignments) 30%
  • Term Paper (1400 – 1800 words) 35%
  • Final Exam 35%



Aquinas, Selected Philosophical Writings (Oxford). ISBN: 978-0199540273

Descartes, Selected Philosophical Writings (Cambridge)). ISBN: 978-0521358125

Hume, An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding (Hackett). ISBN: 978-0872202290

Plato, Five Dialogues (Hackett). ISBN: 978-0872206335

Department Undergraduate Notes:

Thinking of a Philosophy Major or Minor? The Concentration in Law and Philosophy? The Certificate in Ethics? The Philosophy and Methodology of Science Certificate?
Contact the PHIL Advisor at philmgr@sfu.ca   More details on our website: SFU Philosophy

Registrar Notes:

SFU’s Academic Integrity web site http://www.sfu.ca/students/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