Spring 2024 - PHIL 150 D100

Great Works in the History of Philosophy (3)

Class Number: 7325

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Jan 8 – Apr 12, 2024: Mon, 2:30–4:20 p.m.

    Jan 8 – Apr 12, 2024: Wed, 2:30–3:20 p.m.



A survey of some classic texts in the history of philosophy. See the course outline for more detail on the specific figures and themes covered. Open to all students. Students with credit for PHIL 151 may not take this course for further credit. Breadth-Humanities.


By way of introduction to philosophy, this course surveys different answers to the question "What is philosophy for?" through a selection of significant philosophical works. In the first part of the course, we will consider the answer "philosophy is for living a good life," asking whether this is true, what this might require, and how it could be achieved. In the second part of the course, we will consider the answer "philosophy is for thinking critically," exploring what some philosophers have said about the methods, aims, and outcomes of such thinking. In the final section, we will consider the answer "philosophy is for envisioning how society should organize itself" by reading both proposals for, and criticisms of, how society is organized.

In addition to well-known western sources in the history of philosophy students will read sources in Classical Chinese, Indian, and Arabic philosophy, as well as some 20th century Black American and feminist philosophers.


PHIL 150 may be applied towards the Breadth-Humanities Requirement.

By the end of this course, students should be able to (i) identify both the explicit and implicit premises of an argument, and (ii) evaluate an argument in terms of whether it is valid and sound. Students will also develop philosophical skills of (iii) charitably reconstructing arguments, and (iv) raising pointed objections. Students should also acquire (v) a general understanding of different periods and domains of inquiry in philosophy.

Videos: Why Study Philosophy? and Meet our professors!


  • In-class short answer test (1 hour) 30%
  • In-class essay (1 hour) 30%
  • In-class short answer and essay (2 hours - 20% each part) 40%


All graded work for this course will be completed in class; your only homework is to do the readings and come to class prepared to listen, ask questions, discuss and take notes!



In addition to the following texts available at the bookstore, students will be able to access other readings via the course website. There are also many online versions of these texts available, though I recommend caution as there can be translation differences; if you are using an online source, try to ensure you are using the same translation.

Plato's Five Dialogues, 978-0-87220-633-5
Confucius's Essential Analects, 978-0-87220-772-1
Descartes's Discourse and Meditations, 978-0-87220-420-1
Astell's A Serious Proposal to the Ladies, 781551113067
Hume's Enquiry, 978-0-87220-229-0
J.S. Mill's On Liberty, 978-0-915144-43-3


Your personalized Course Material list, including digital and physical textbooks, are available through the SFU Bookstore website by simply entering your Computing ID at: shop.sfu.ca/course-materials/my-personalized-course-materials.

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 philcomm@sfu.ca   More details on our website: SFU Philosophy

Registrar Notes:


SFU’s Academic Integrity website 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