Fall 2021 - PHIL 803 G100

Selected Topics in Metaphysics (5)

Issues in Modal Logic

Class Number: 7527

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

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



Selected Topics: Philosophical Issues in Modal Logic

[Note: this course is to be taught concurrently with PHIL 455W. It is highly recommended that students have previously taken PHIL 110, MACM 101, or another logic course.]

Important note regarding enrollment: All seats are reserved for Philosophy Graduate students. Enrollments from other departments will be considered only upon submission of the Graduate Course Add Form, and with instructor's permission. All such enrollments will be done in or after the first week of classes.

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.


Successful completion of this course will satisfy the “M&E Stream” distribution requirement toward the MA degree for Philosophy graduate students. However, in consultation with the instructor, graduate students may choose to write final papers that fall into the "History Stream" or "Values Stream" instead.


  • Graduate students will have a choice of how their work will be weighted in this course: they may choose between Options 1, 2, and 4, as per the Notes below. Students must match their final paper to the stream designation towards which they'd like to count the class. 100%


Option 1:

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

Option 2:

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

Option 4:

  • 20%     Problem sets
  • 20%     Presentation on class reading (article, not modal logic textbook)
  • 60%     Final project or paper



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

Additional readings will be posted on Canvas.

Graduate Studies Notes:

Important dates and deadlines for graduate students are found here: http://www.sfu.ca/dean-gradstudies/current/important_dates/guidelines.html. The deadline to drop a course with a 100% refund is the end of week 2. The deadline to drop with no notation on your transcript is the end of week 3.

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.