Philosophy 357  Topics in History of Philosophy: Identity and Perspectives

Summer Semester 2012 | Day | Burnaby


INSTRUCTOR  Jill Fellows


Most of the material for this course can be accessed online. Some excerpts will be placed on reserves in the library. You will have to find one book:

  • Sigmund Freud, Civilization and its Discontents, W.W. Norton, 1990.
    There are copies of this book available online, but as far as I can see, most of them are not easy-to-read translations, so I suggest you find the print version I indicated.


This is a course on personal identity, exploring the issues and problems that arise in the attempts to define and understand the self. The sense of self and the intrinsic value of the individual are deeply cherished legacies of Western civilization, and they ground many of our contemporary values - but for that very reason, they seem self-evident and therefore taken for granted. The readings in this course attempt to bring the notion of the "self" into question. In this course we will examine the relationship between identity and self-consciousness and the relationship between the self, self-consciousness and others. We will consider the ways in which the perspectives of others might affect one's understanding of one's own identity. In exploring these questions, we will draw on works from philosophers in the analytic and continental traditions of philosophy, and will also rely on some works of literature.


  1. Consider the possible importance of the assumed relationship between consciousness and personal identity.
  2. Consider the role of others in defining the self and developing a personal identity.
  3. Examine possible explanations for the historical devaluation of the body in discussions of personal identity.
  4. Evaluate whether or not the self is a genuine metaphysical entity, or a social construct (and examine this dichotomy as well).
  5. Listen to others carefully, speak clearly and thoughtfully, construct consistent, persuasive and logical formal essays, practice academic integrity.




First Essay (5-7 pages)


Second Essay (5-7 pages)


Swing Percentage (whichever of the first two essays is better will be weighted more heavily)


Third essay (7-9 pages)




Group Presentations


Discussion Questions



Note: Philosophy 357 has a prerequisite: PHIL 100 or 151 or  permission from the instructor.