PHIL 100W Knowledge and Reality

Summer Semester 2013 | Day | Burnaby


INSTRUCTOR: Dai Heide, WMC 5655 (dheide at


We shall concern ourselves, in very broad terms, with the nature of the self, the nature of the world and the nature of the relationship between the two. Our primary goal is to do some original philosophical thinking about these topics ourselves. We shall engage this goal in two ways: 1) by reading and discussing how some of the best minds of the past several millennia have answered these questions; and 2) by writing frequently about these (and other, related) questions and revising one’s writing in light of feedback. By engaging in this way, students will learn the fundamental principles of analytical writing, including argument reconstruction and analysis.

We shall begin by reading selections from Hume’s Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding and Descartes’ Meditations on First Philosophy. This classic text shall lead us to focus on several related questions:

  • To what degree is our belief in the existence of the physical world justified?
  • Is the mind a non-physical, soul-like thing? Or is it a material part of the body?
  • Are human beings free to do as they please? Or are we mere cogs in nature’s deterministic causal mechanism?
  • Could I survive total amnesia? The loss of my body? Could I exist in a different body?
  • Is death a bad thing?


  • Perry, Bratman and Fischer (eds.), Introduction to Philosophy: Classical and Contemporary Readings. 6th edition. Oxford University Press. (ISBN: 9780199812998)
  • Vaughn and McIntosh, Writing Philosophy: A Guide for Canadian Students. 2nd Canadian edition. Oxford University Press. (ISBN: 9780195446746)


  • Six short written assignments, written in tutorial: 10%
  • One 400 – 600 word paper, including revision: 15%
  • One 600 – 800 word paper, including revision: 20%
  • One 1400 – 1600 word final paper, including revision: 30%
  • Final exam: 25%
  • All written assignments other than those written in tutorial must be submitted to Turnitin in both draft and final versions. Failure to do so will result in a failure to complete the course requirements, and will be grounds for failing the course.

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