PHIL 100W Knowledge and Reality

Fall Semester 2012 | Day | Burnaby


INSTRUCTORJill McIntosh, WMC 5606


It must seem to you at this moment that you are reading a course outline. But are you really? Are you sure? Perhaps you are having a (slightly odd) dream. What about other beliefs you have—are they true? For example, you probably believe you have a brain in your skull and that other people do, too. Is that belief identical to a state of that brain? Or are beliefs non-physical? Could something that lacks a brain have beliefs? What if you are a brain in a vat wired up so as to have experiences as though you were a normal human? You would have (be?) a brain, but you wouldn’t have a skull. What if what you think of as other people are all figments of your imagination and you are the only thing that exists?

This course is an introduction to philosophy, focussing primarily on issues in epistemology and metaphysics (that is, those concerning knowledge and reality respectively). Questions likely to be discussed include some of the following: What is knowledge? Do we have knowledge of the external world, and, if so, how do we get it? What is the mind? What is the relationship between the mind and the body?

The course is designed with two broad goals in mind. One, it will give you a chance to consider some interesting philosophical issues. These issues are central to an exploration of the human condition, and everyone should have an opportunity to reflect on them. Two, it will provide you with an opportunity to improve your critical reading, writing, and thinking skills, thereby helping you with almost any intellectual endeavour in which you subsequently choose to engage.

REQUIRED ITEMS (available from the Book Store):

  1. Introduction to Philosophy, 5th edition. John Perry, Michael Bratman, and John Martin Fischer (eds), Oxford University Press, 2010.
  2. Writing Philosophy: A Guide for Canadian Students, 2nd edition. Lewis Vaughn and Jillian Scott McIntosh, Oxford University Press, 2012.
  3. i>clicker*


  • Participation: 20%
  • Two Papers, with re-writes: 15% and 25%
  • In-class midterm: 10%
  • Final Exam: 30%

* As you may know, i>clickers can be used in different classes. If you already have one, don’t buy another. If you don't already have one, buy one knowing that you can use it in other courses. That said, you do not need to own the one you use, but you do need one (the same one) that you can bring to every lecture. Once term is underway, you can go on-line to link the clicker to your student computing id (if you have not already done so) to receive credit for its use in this class. So, borrowing one is fine, but it is your responsibility to ensure you have it when you need it (every lecture) and that you have logged on to link (“register”) it to your computer id. You cannot share one with somebody registered in this class—in any given class, a particular clicker can be linked to only one student. However you get your clicker, it must have a visible original serial number on the back in order for you to link it to your user id.

 Students will be required to submit written work to for plagiarism-checking; also, other sites may be used for anonymous peer review or as the basis for class discussion. Details by the end of Week 2.

NOTE: Philosophy 100W has no prerequisites. Philosophy 100W may be applied toward the Certificate in Liberal Arts, the W-requirement, and the Breadth-Humanities-requirement.