Spring 2020 - PHIL 150 D100

Great Works in the History of Philosophy (3)

Class Number: 7788

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    We 1:30 PM – 2:20 PM
    WMC 3210, Burnaby

    Fr 12:30 PM – 2:20 PM
    WMC 3210, Burnaby

  • Exam Times + Location:

    Apr 22, 2020
    12:00 PM – 3:00 PM
    AQ 3159, 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 Ch√Ętelet, 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.


This course provides an historical introduction to major themes and figures of the Western philosophical tradition, from the pre-Socratic philosophers of the 5th and 6th Centuries B.C. (B.C.E.) to the modern period. By following a chronological approach, we will be able to see how discussions developed and evolved over time in the ever-changing and dynamic “Great Conversation” that is philosophy. Students will learn how to approach historical texts contextually, to engage them both charitably and critically. Figures studied will include Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Anselm, Aquinas, Descartes, Elizabeth of Bohemia, Wollstonecraft, Mill, and Arendt. As we engage together with the thought and writings of these philosophers, we, too, will be part of the Great Conversation!

In-class instruction will be lecture-based, with ample time given for discussion in both small and large groups. Class time may sometimes include other interactive or active learning activities, and audio and/or visual media may also be employed. Students are expected to attend weekly lectures having read and considered the material assigned for that week, and prepared to share their own reactions and actively listen to those of others. Students should also be attentive to assignment expectations and due dates, and proactive in seeking assistance or accommodation as needed.


PHIL 150 may be applied towards the Breadth-Humanities Requirement. It is a required course for the Philosophy Major


  • Quizzes 10 x 1% each 10%
  • Assignments 3 x 5% each 15%
  • Essay 15%
  • Participation 10%
  • Midterm exam 20%
  • Final Exam - see note below 30%


NOTE: Due to Covid-19 pandemic, final exam is optional and is switched to take-home exam, as outlined below: 

Final exam (OPTIONAL) 30%

The OPTIONAL final exam is a 48-hr take-home, due at 11:59pm on 22 April. It will consist of five questions on the topics covered throughout the course, each requiring a one-page “mini-essay” response. In total, the writing required will be approximately equivalent to the final essay (i.e., ~1500 words), and should therefore be considered an additional major (but very time-limited) assignment. The questions will be cumulative, covering the entire length and breadth of the course content.

STUDENTS WHO DO NOT WISH TO WRITE THE FINAL may choose instead to receive their term grade, scaled appropriately, as their final grade (i.e., the weighting of each category will be multiplied by 10/7 to bring the total to 100%).

Note: if a student chooses to write the take-home final, but does more poorly on it than on their term work, that student’s final grade will be calculated as though they did not write it; in other words, the optional final is guaranteed to not lower one’s grade (though it will not necessarily raise it, either).


Quizzes: There will be 12 short in-class quizzes (consisting of multiple choice, short answer, etc.). These quizzes will not be announced in advance, and therefore rely on your regular attendance to complete successfully. Failure to attend a class in which a quiz takes place will result in a grade of zero on that quiz; no make-ups are permitted. However, your two lowest quiz grades will be dropped when calculating your final grade (i.e., your final grade will only take into account your 10 best quiz grades).

Assignments: Three short written assignments will cumulatively prepare students to write their main essay.

Essay: One longer written assignment (approx. 1500 words) will be due toward the end of term. Possible essay topics will be distributed by the end of February, and clear instructions and expectations for essay writing will be given throughout the course.

Participation: Participation will be graded both on your attendance in class (5%), and on your active and thoughtful engagement with and contribution to course content (5%). My evaluation of the “engagement” portion of your participation grade may include your participation in class (asking questions and contributing to in-class discussion and activities), and/or one-on-one email, in-office, and after-class discussions with me; someone who is shy about speaking in groups should not be concerned that this will adversely affect her grade, so long as she or he makes an effort to engage in other ways. I am more concerned with the quality than with the quantity of active participation: throughout the term, I will be watching for evidence that you are engaging meaningfully and thoughtfully with readings, lectures, and in-class discussions.

Midterm: A 90-minute midterm exam will be held during regular class time.



Plato, Five Dialogues, 2nd edition, trans. G.M.A. Grube. Hackett, 2002.
ISBN: 978-0-87220-633-5

Anselm, Proslogion, trans. T. Williams. Hackett, 2001. 
ISBN: 978-0-87220-565-9

Descartes, Meditations on First Philosophy, trans. D.A. Cress. Hackett, 1993. 
ISBN: 978-0-87220-192-7

Mill, On Liberty, ed. E. Rapaport. Hackett, 1978. 
ISBN: 978-0-915144-43-3

All supplemental readings will be supplied by the instructor.

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