Fall 2021 - PHIL 455W E100

Contemporary Issues in Epistemology and Metaphysics (4)

Issues in Modal Logic

Class Number: 7451

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Mo 4:30 PM – 8:20 PM
    WMC 2522, Burnaby

  • Prerequisites:

    Two 300 division PHIL courses.



May be repeated for credit. Writing.


Selected Topics: Philosophical Issues in Modal Logic

[Note: this course is to be taught concurrently with PHIL 803. It is highly recommended that students have previously taken PHIL 110 or MACM 101.]

Modal logic is the logic of possibility and necessity: a formal system for reasoning about what must be and what could be. Modal logics extend the languages of propositional and predicate logic with modal operators, allowing philosophers to formalize a range of questions about metaphysical possibility, knowledge and belief, obligation and permission, determinacy and indeterminacy, and more. This course is a first exploration into these formal systems, with an emphasis on the metaphysical foundations of modal logics in their various applications. Potential topics (with student input) include actualist interpretations of quantified modal logic, the Barcan formulas, inner and outer truth, counterpart theory, naming and reference, contingent identity, and logical normativity. No prior experience with modal logic is assumed, but students should have some background in formal propositional and predicate logic. Collaboration on problem sets and writing projects will be encouraged.


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


  • Students will have a choice of how their work will be weighted in this course: they may choose between Options 1, 2, and 3, as per the Notes below. 100%


Option 1:

  • 50%     Problem sets
  • 50%     Final project or paper

Option 2:

  • 20%     Problem sets
  • 80%     Final project or paper

Option 3:

  • 20%     Presentation on class reading (article, not modal logic textbook)
  • 80%     Final project or paper



James Garson, Modal Logic for Philosophers (ISBN-13: 978-0521682299)

Additional readings will be posted on Canvas.

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 Spring/Summer/Fall 2021. 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 fall 2021 will involve primarily in-person instruction, with approximately 70 to 80 per cent of classes in person/on campus, with safety plans in place.  Whether your course will be in-person or through remote methods 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 fall 2021 term.