Problems of Philosophy

Humanities & Social Sciences
Course Code
PHIL 3300
Semester Length
15 weeks
Max Class Size
Method Of Instruction
Typically Offered
To be determined
New Westminster


Course Description
This course will provide students with an introduction to Philosophy through a survey of those widely recognized problems characteristic of the discipline. The course will consider problems such as: freedom and determinism, the nature of reality, how knowledge is possible, the basis of moral judgments, the existence of God, theories of social justice, personal identity, the mind-body problem, the nature of beauty. The course will be based upon some number of thematically arranged readings drawn from contemporary and/or historical sources. This course is primarily intended to provide an upper level elective for students completing degree programs at Douglas.
Course Content

This course will assume on the part of students, a level of preparation in writing and critical thinking roughly commensuate with completion of a year of post-secondary study. Students will be presumed to have had first-year level instruction and experience in writing critical and argumentative essays in some field of study. They will be required to demonstrate the ability to explore independently beyond assigned readings and information presented in lectures. This will generally include reading in course subject areas beyond the texts assigned by the instructor and incorporating this material into written coursework.  Extra material may include secondary criticism and commentary, unassigned texts by the author under study or relevant cultural or intellectual history.

The course is to be taught as a survey of some number of specific philosophical problems united by a common theme.  Although choice of particular problems to cover will vary from instuctor to instructor.  Each offering of the course is expected to provide more generality than any particular 1000 or 2000-level Philosophy course and will include a choice of subjects that crosses the subject areas of 1000 and 2000-level Philosophy courses to some degree. A particular offering of the course would typically include 5-7 Problems. Problems to be covered in the course may include, but are not limitted to the following:


  1. Freedom and Determinism: analyse the positions of hard determinism,  soft determinism and indeterminism and their answers to the question concerning whether human beings have free will; explain the assumption of hard determinism required for scientific explanation and its consequences for understanding free will and choice.
  2. The Nature of Reality: analyse the positions of realism and idealism, the place of materialism in any scientific explanation of the universe, the nature of universals and particulars, and the difference between existence and essence; explain nomological accounts of physical reality and the problem of change and permanence.
  3. The Existence of God: analyse the ontological, cosmological and teleological arguments for the existence of God, as well as the concept of an absolute being, and the logical consequences of this conception for an understanding of the nature of the universe and human existence; explain whether evolutionary biology is a refutation of teleology in nature, the project of fideism and religious faith, and the problem of evil. 
  4. The Problem of Knowledge: analyse the positions of rationalism and empiricism, the significance of the distinction between reason and sense perception for our knowledge of the world, as well as representationalism as an accurate mirror of the external world; explain the problem of skepticism and the distinction between certainty and belief.
  5. Moral Judgement: analyse the basis of moral judgements, especially the difference between deontological, consequentialist and virtue theories in ethics, as well as the tenability of divine command theory and the relation between science and moral values; explain the problem of moral relativism as opposed to an objective basis for moral judgements. 
  6. Social Justice: analyse the competing theories concerning the nature of justice, especially the difference between formal and substantive theories of justice, positive and negative rights, the notion of fairness, the principle of equality, and the relation between justice and liberty; explain the distinction between retributive and distributive justice, as well as the problem of punishment and the problem of economic desert. 
  7. Personal Identity: analyse the problems which arise for the position that there is a personal identity, the sense of a constant human agency which is meaningfully distinct from the body and which underlies changing experiences, as well as what death signifies for such identity. 
  8. Existential Questions: explain the problem of meaning in human existence, including the relation between purpose and chance, the ends of life, the possibility of happiness, and the question of absurdity. 
  9. The Mind-Body Problem: analyse the nature of mind and different theoretical accounts of its functioning, including property dualism, epiphenomenalism, supervenience, physicalism and substance dualism, as well as the difference between perception, cognition and affectivity; examine the nature of subjective, first-person experience and its consequences for physicalism. 
  10. Aesthetic Judgement: analyse problems surrounding the conception of art and the beautiful, including the issues of  aesthetic attitude, art as expression, art as symbolism, art as truth, and art as social institution, as well as the relation between beauty and pleasure, harmonious form, intellectual discernment; explain the competing positions of objectivity and subjectivity of aesthetic value.


Methods Of Instruction

Lecture and Seminar

Means of Assessment

Evaluation will be based upon course objectives and will be carried out in accordance with Douglas College Policy.

The instructor will provide a written course outline with specific criteria for assessment during the first week of classes.


Any combination of the following totaling 100%


Essays: 20% – 80%

Tests: 20% – 80%

Instructor's General Evaluation (participation, improvement, quizzes, short assignments, etc.): 10% – 20%

TOTAL : 100%

Learning Outcomes

The general objectives of the course are:

  1. to introduce students to some of the major problems encountered in Philosophy;
  2. to introduce students to the inter-relations of philosophical problems that arise in various areas of Philosophy;
  3. to develop an appreciation of the significance of philosophical analysis in contexts such as science, morality, social theory, aesthetics, religion;

Specific learning outcomes: by the end of the course, successful students should be able to:

  1. demonstrate an understanding of the concepts employed in philosophical analysis, such as  reason, argument, abstraction, universal, principle, theory, tenet, belief, verification, coherence, foundation, assumption, experience, judgement, deduction and induction;
  2. explain and analyse competing positions on fundamental issues, understand why such views are incompatible, and recognize the place of commitment to any specific position in a person’s worldview;
  3. distinguish philosophical accounts of  problems from other kinds of theoretical explanations, such as those found in the natural and social sciences;
  4. develop an ability to employ aspects of conceptual analysis and reasoning, as well as critical thinking skills, in the context of framing and writing about philosophical issues;
  5. appreciate the nature and role of argumentation;
  6. explain some of the traditional philosophical arguments that support specific positions or conclusions.
Textbook Materials

Sample texts (one of the following):

Bailey, Andrew and Martin, Robert M. First Philosophy: Fundamental Problems and Readings in Philosophy, 2nd edition. (Peterborough: Broadview Press, 2011).

Melchert, Norman. The Great Conversation: A Historical Introduction to Philosophy. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2014)

Mulvaney, Robert J. Classic Philosophical Questions, 14th edition. (Toronto: Pearson, 2012)

Moore, Brooke Noel and Kenneth Bruder. Philosophy: the Power of Ideas, 5th edition. (Toronto: McGraw-Hill, 2007)

Rauhut, Nils. Ultimate Questions: Thinking about Philosophy, 3rd edition. (Toronto: Pearson, 2011)

Schick, Theodore and Lewis Vaughn. Doing Philosophy, 5th edition. (Toronto: McGraw Hill, 2013)

Sober, Elliott, Core Questions in Philosophy, 6th edition. (NJ: Prentice Hall, 2012)

Solomon, Robert and McDermid, Douglas. Introducing Philosophy for Canadians (Toronto: Oxford University Press, 2011)

Velasquez, Manuel. Philosophy: a Text with Readings, 12th edition. (CA: Wadsworth Publishing, 2014)



At least 18 credits worth of courses successfully completed.





Requisite for


Course Guidelines

Course Guidelines for previous years are viewable by selecting the version desired. If you took this course and do not see a listing for the starting semester / year of the course, consider the previous version as the applicable version.

Course Transfers

Institution Transfer Details Effective Dates
Athabasca University (AU) AU PHIL 2XX (3) 2016/09/01 to -
Capilano University (CAPU) CAPU PHIL 1XX (3) 2016/09/01 to -
Coast Mountain College (CMTN) CMTN PHIL 101 (3) 2016/09/01 to -
College of New Caledonia (CNC) CNC PHIL 101 (3) 2016/09/01 to -
College of the Rockies (COTR) COTR PHIL 2XX (3) 2016/09/01 to -
Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU) KPU PHIL 1100 (3) 2016/09/01 to -
Langara College (LANG) LANG PHIL 1XXX (3) 2016/09/01 to -
Northern Lights College (NLC) NLC PHIL 1XX (3) or NLC PHIL 2XX (3) 2016/09/01 to -
Trinity Western University (TWU) TWU PHIL 105 (3) or TWU PHIL 106 (3) 2016/09/01 to -
University Canada West (UCW) No credit 2016/09/01 to 2016/12/31
University Canada West (UCW) UCW PHIL 3XX (3) 2017/01/01 to -
University of British Columbia - Vancouver (UBCV) Any 2 of DOUG PHIL 1102 (3) or DOUG PHIL 1103 (3) or DOUG PHIL 1151 (3) or DOUG PHIL 1152 (3) or DOUG PHIL 1250 (3) or DOUG PHIL 3300 (3) = UBCV PHIL 100 (6) 2004/09/01 to 2015/04/30
University of British Columbia - Vancouver (UBCV) Any 2 of DOUG PHIL 1102 (3) or DOUG PHIL 1103 (3) or DOUG PHIL 1151 (3) or DOUG PHIL 1152 (3) or DOUG PHIL 2250 (3) or DOUG PHIL 3300 (3) = UBCV PHIL 100 (6) 2015/05/01 to -
University of British Columbia - Vancouver (UBCV) Any 2 of DOUG PHIL 1102 (3) or DOUG PHIL 1103 (3) or DOUG PHIL 1151 (3) or DOUG PHIL 1152 (3) or DOUG PHIL 2250 (3) or DOUG PHIL 3300 (3) = UBCV PHIL 100 (6) 2015/05/01 to -
University of Northern BC (UNBC) UNBC PHIL 3XX (3) 2016/09/01 to -
University of the Fraser Valley (UFV) UFV PHIL 3XX (3) 2016/09/01 to -
University of Victoria (UVIC) UVIC PHIL 1XX (1.5) 2016/09/01 to -
Vancouver Community College (VCC) No credit 2017/05/01 to -

Course Offerings

Winter 2021

There aren't any scheduled upcoming offerings for this course.