Spring 2022 - PHIL 455W B100

Contemporary Issues in Epistemology and Metaphysics (4)

Causation and Time

Class Number: 7354

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Fr 9:30 AM – 12:20 PM
    WMC 3250, Burnaby

  • Prerequisites:

    Two 300 division PHIL courses.



May be repeated for credit. Writing.


Selected Topics: Causation and Time

[Note: this course is to be taught concurrently with PHIL 804.]

Separately, each of the topics of the nature of causation, and the nature of time and its passage, have perplexed since Aristotle. Recently, massive advances in causal modelling techniques seem to have advanced this discussion; many of these advances, though, are purely epistemological, presupposing some notion of causation and providing tools to discover and represent it, but not providing the foundational or metaphysical considerations of what it is that is thereby discovered. This course will follow discussions of what causation is, starting with some Early Modern works and continuing through the contemporary discussion. We will focus in particular on how time has been and could be used to identify causation as distinct from other relations, and how time fundamentally relates to causation. Both causation and time are asymmetric, and their arrows point in the same direction. Is one more fundamental than the other? Does the direction of one determine the direction of the other, or are both determined by something else? We will cover key highlights in both the metaphysics and methodology of causation, using time as the angle into this large discussion.


This course may be applied towards the Writing Requirement (and the upper division Writing Requirement for Philosophy majors).


  • Participation: Students will submit one precis of a reading each week at the start of class. Students will submit one in-depth discussion question each week prior to the day of class, on Canvas, and respond to or comment on at least one other student’s discussion question. Students get two ‘mulligan’ weeks when they can skip submitting that week. 20%
  • Workshopping of term paper drafts: Students will be providing feedback to each other on term paper drafts; this grade is for the comments each student give to the paper(s) on which they are to comment. Note that you are also required to have a draft ready to circulate to others on which they will comment. 5%
  • 2-page detailed outline of term paper: due two weeks before the last class session. Each student will also briefly present this to the rest of class (we will go around and everyone will give a one or two minute overview of their paper). 5%
  • Term paper: Students will complete one paper of original research. 70%


Course delivery: in person, blended – additional weekly hour to be made up by discussions of the readings on Canvas discussion boards instead of in person (see grading section for more detail).

This is a W course. Students will complete a fully written draft of their term paper prior to the end of term, receive feedback on it, and submit a final, polished version in the exam period. Both the first and final drafts will be graded.



Students must have access to internet and a computer/other device that permits streaming video, word processing and teleconferencing with Zoom. There is likely to be at least one guest professor from another university to speak during the course of the term.


All readings will be made available through the Canvas page or will be downloadable from SFU Library.

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

New elective grade policy : P/CR/NC, pilot project for 2021 and Spring 2022. List of exclusions for the new policy. Specifically for Philosophy: 

  • Students can use a P or CR to satisfy any requirement for a major, joint major, honours, or minor in Philosophy (with the exception of Honours tutorials).
  • Students can use a P or CR to satisfy any prerequisite requirement for any PHIL course.
  • Students can use a P (but not a CR) to satisfy any requirement for the Ethics Certificate, or the Philosophy and Methodology of Science Certificate.
  • Philosophy Majors and Honours students can use a P (but not a CR) to satisfy any WQB requirement.

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 spring 2022 will involve primarily in-person instruction, with safety plans in place.  Some courses will still be offered through remote methods, and if so, this will be clearly identified in the schedule of classes.  You will also know at enrollment whether remote course components will be “live” (synchronous) or at your own pace (asynchronous).

Enrolling in a course acknowledges that you are able to attend in whatever format is required.  You should not enroll in a course that is in-person if you are not able to return to campus, and should be aware 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.

Students with hidden or visible disabilities who may need class or exam accommodations, including in the context of remote learning, are advised to register with the SFU Centre for Accessible Learning (caladmin@sfu.ca or 778-782-3112) as early as possible in order to prepare for the spring 2022 term.