Fall 2020 - PHIL 100W D100

Knowledge and Reality (3)

Class Number: 3950

Delivery Method: Remote


  • Course Times + Location:

    Sep 9 – Dec 8, 2020: TBA, TBA

  • Exam Times + Location:

    Dec 13, 2020
    Sun, 5:00–5:00 p.m.



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.


The scope of philosophical inquiry is virtually unlimited – and far too broad to cover in its entirety in a single course. The aim of this course is to introduce students to the project and methods of philosophy by examining a series of questions related to a single broad theme: persons.

We shall begin by asking: what is a person? Is this notion biological? Metaphysical? Moral? Is personhood a matter of being conscious? Or is it a matter of possessing freedom of the will? Could non-human animals be persons? What about sophisticated robots?

We shall then turn to interrelated questions that concern the nature of the self and the survival of persons over time. Could I survive total amnesia as the same person? Would it be possible for me to exist in another body? What can mental illness teach us about the nature of the self and survival? Is there even any self that could survive over time?

Finally, we will close by turning to questions concerning the value of persons and the meaning of life. Do persons possess a right to life? If they do, does it follow that it is always wrong to end their lives? Does the innocence of a person’s life matter? How can we live meaningful lives? Aren’t we just tiny meaningless specks in a vast universe?


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


  • The Levels – up to 5 short written assignments. 30%
  • One 1200 – 1500 word term paper. 35%
  • A take-home, open-note, open-book final examination. Due Dec 13 at 5:00 pm. 35%


Lecture delivery: remote, asynchronous (recorded content).
Tutorial delivery: remote, synchronous.  Online presence strongly encouraged during scheduled tutorial time. 

Online attendance is not required for any component of the course, but it is strongly encouraged for synchronous TA sessions on Zoom. The instructor will also lead optional 45-minute Q&A sessions every week. These will be recorded and uploaded to Canvas for students who are unable to attend.


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.



In order to complete this course, students must have access to a computer or other internet accessing device that permits streaming video, word processing and teleconferencing with Zoom.


  • Perry, A Dialogue Concerning Personal Identity and Immortality. ISBN: 978-0915144532
  • All other required readings will be made available in electronic format through Canvas or the SFU library website.

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


Teaching at SFU in fall 2020 will be conducted primarily through remote methods. There will be in-person course components in a few exceptional cases where this is fundamental to the educational goals of the course. Such course components will be clearly identified at registration, as will course components that will be “live” (synchronous) vs. at your own pace (asynchronous). Enrollment acknowledges that remote study may entail different modes of learning, interaction with your instructor, and ways of getting feedback on your work than may be the case for in-person classes. To ensure you can access all course materials, we recommend you have access to a computer with a microphone and camera, and the internet. In some cases your instructor may use Zoom or other means requiring a camera and microphone to invigilate exams. If proctoring software will be used, this will be confirmed in the first week of class.

Students with hidden or visible disabilities who believe they may need class or exam accommodations, including in the current context of remote learning, are encouraged to register with the SFU Centre for Accessible Learning (caladmin@sfu.ca or 778-782-3112).