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Society and the Individual

Course Code: PHIL 1151
Faculty: Humanities & Social Sciences
Department: Philosophy
Credits: 3.0
Semester: 15
Learning Format: Lecture, Seminar
Typically Offered: TBD. Contact Department Chair for more info.
course overview

This course introduces students to philosophical reasoning about social, political and moral existence. Issues and theories raised by such thinkers as Plato, Aristotle, Hobbes, Kant, Mill, Nietzsche and Marx, as well as by contemporary philosophers will be explored. Topics may include: political obligation, social and political liberty, human nature, egoism, relativism, utilitarianism, and autonomy. Students will be encouraged to develop their own thinking about the topics covered. This course is recommended to students who want an introduction to fundamental philosophical ideas as part of their liberal arts education. It will also serve for a foundation for further work in Philosophy.

Course Content

A. What is Political and Social Philosophy?  What is Ethics?

B. Sample Problems:

  1. Foundation of Political Authority  (e.g., natural law, social contract, utilitarian position, Marxist-Leninist view, anarchism).
  2. Limits of Political Authority (e.g., civil disobedience, loyalty, paternalism, freedom of the individual).
  3. Human Nature (e.g., the views of Plato, Aristotle, Hobbes, Rousseau, Hume, Mill, Marx and Nietzsche, as well as of  contemporary thinkers).
  4. Personality and Society  (e.g., the classical view, such as Plato; psychoanalysis and politics; sociological  perspectives).
  5. Social Control (e.g., the views of Plato, Mill and Marcuse).

C. Sample Problems:

  1. What is the role of reason and emotion in developing a personal moral philosophy of life?  (e.g. views of Plato, Hume, Kant, Nietzsche and Sartre).
  2. What are the kinds of moral theories and the basic issues which they disagree over? (Attitude theories, e.g., subjectivism, relativism, divine command theories; benefit theories, e.g., egoism, utilitarianism; deontological theories, e.g. Kantian Formalism).
  3. What is the relation between prudential reason and moral reason? (e.g., views of Plato, Hobbes, Hume,  Marx, Baier, Singer).           
  4. To what extent and in what way are moral self-realization and self-determination possible? (e.g., views of Plato, Kant, Nietzsche, Marx, Marcuse, Ogilvy).
  5. What is moral goodness?  Is it reducible to other kinds of goods or is it a special sort of good?  Also what is the relation between right action and good consequences?  (e.g., views of Plato, Aristotle, Hume, Kant, Mill, Moore, Perry, Ross).
  6. What contribution does recent work in sociobiology (and more generally in moral psychology) make to our understanding of altruistic behaviour? (e.g., views of Wilson, Singer).

Methods of Instruction

The course will employ a variety of instructional methods to accomplish its objectives, including some of the following:

A combination of lecture and discussion.  Some class sessions may involve formal lecture for the entire time (allowing time for questions) in which case a later class session will be devoted to a discussion of the lecture and reading material.  Other class sessions may involve a combination of informal lecture and structured discussion.  Discussion of the issues will be encouraged throughout the course.

Means of Assessment

Evaluation will be based on course objectives and will be carried out in accordance with Douglas College policy. The instructor will provide a written course outline with specific criteria during the first week of classes.

An example of a possible evaluation scheme would be:

Any combination of the following which equals 100%:

Tests, Quizzes and Short Assignments             20% - 50%
Written Class Presentations, Essays, Essay Exams             20% - 60%
Instructor’s General Evaluation
(e.g., participation, attendance,
homework, improvement, extra-credit,group work)
             0% - 20%

Learning Outcomes

At the conclusion of the course the successful student will be able to:

  1. Identify and explain principal questions of political, social and moral philosophy that are covered in the course.
  2. Demonstrate an understanding of some of the major schools of thought that have arisen in attempt to answer the  questions and issues covered in the course.
  3.  Apply fundamental techniques of logical analyses and construction to topics covered in the course.
  4. Reason and reflect philosophically upon the types of traditional and contemporary philosophical viewpoints on topics covered in the course.
  5. Contrast and compare different philosophical perspectives (eg. contemporary and traditional, libertarian and socialist) on specific topics or issues covered in the course.
  6. Systematically formulate and present their own thinking on specific topics covered in the course.

course prerequisites


(Recommended: PHIL 1101, 1102 or 1103)

curriculum 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 schedule and availability
course transferability

Below shows how this course and its credits transfer within the BC transfer system. 

A course is considered university-transferable (UT) if it transfers to at least one of the five research universities in British Columbia: University of British Columbia; University of British Columbia-Okanagan; Simon Fraser University; University of Victoria; and the University of Northern British Columbia.

For more information on transfer visit the BC Transfer Guide and BCCAT websites.


If your course prerequisites indicate that you need an assessment, please see our Assessment page for more information.