Undergraduate

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Course Descriptions

Core and Major Prescribed Electives | General Education Requirement (GER)
 
HY1001 Introduction to Philosophy (Major Core/GER UE – 3 AUs)
Pre-requisites: nil
(NOTE: Students who take HY1001 Introduction to Philosophy should not take HY8001 Philosophy for Everyone)
 

This course is an introduction to selected problems of enduring philosophical importance. We consider such issues as whether it can be rational to believe inthe existence of God; the possibility, foundations, and limits of human knowledge; whether or not states of mind—e.g., conscious thoughts, emotions,sensations, etc.—are purely physical states of the brain/body, and nothing more; what it means for a person to have an “identity.” Topics may also include competing perspectives on whether or not human beings have free will, skepticism about morality, proposed standards of morally right conduct, and the nature of a just society. Students will learn a variety of concepts developed to clarify these matters. They will also be exposed to diverse philosophical perspectives, including both Western and non-Western approaches. In addition, students will be challenged to articulate well-reasoned answers to the main questions of the course.


HY1002 Logic and Paradoxes (Major Core/GER UE – 3 AUs)
Pre-requisites: nil
(NOTE: Students should not take HY8002 Logic and Critical Thinking after having taken HY1002 Logic and Paradoxes).

This course is an introduction to the basic concepts and techniques of modern logic, as well as applications of logic to classic philosophical problems and paradoxes. Many age-old philosophical problems are deceptively simple but are in fact quite complicated, and we can easily get confused. The first step towards rational and independent thinking is to clear away such confusions. Symbolic logic is a powerful set of techniques that are used by modern philosophers to think clearly about these problems. The core of the class will consist of a sequence where students are introduced first tomodern propositional logic, and then to predicate (first order) logic, using a natural deduction style proof system. Along the way, we will discuss some classic paradoxes such as the liar paradox, Zeno’s paradox, and Russell’s paradox, as well as applications of logic to philosophical problems such as the ontological argument for the existence of God. Students will acquire concepts and techniques for thinking clearly and independently about these problems, and will then be able to apply them to a wide range of problems, not just in philosophy.


HY2002 Moral Philosophy (Major Core/GER UE – 3 AUs)
Pre-requisites: nil

Morality has always been an important matter in human society, especially in our multi-cultural age. What is the nature of morality? What makes an action right or wrong? How do we think ethically? This course introduces students to these and related issues. It covers major moral theories with particular reference to the contemporary world.


HY2003 Chinese Philosophy (Major Core/GER UE - 3 AUs)
HY2903 Chinese Philosophy (Major PE – 3 AUs)

Pre-requisites: nil

This course introduces the thought of major figures in the Chinese philosophical tradition and examines primary texts (in English translation) in the schools of Confucianism, Daoism, Mohism and Buddhism. Drawing on ideas from these Chinese thinkers, the course also investigates the treatment of fundamental issues in Chinese philosophy, such as virtue, freedom, reason, reality, knowledge, love, harmony, and the good life. These subjects are studied for both their historical and modern significance.


HY2004 Indian Philosophy (Major Core/GER UE – 3 AUs)
HY2904 Indian Philosophy (Major PE– 3 AUs)

Pre-requisites: nil

This course introduces the various systems in Classical Indian thought. The course challenges students to think about epistemological, metaphysical and ethical questions through these historical schools. Particular emphasis will be placed on analysing arguments from the original text, constructing and evaluating strengths of relevant objections. Students will develop high level critical thinking and writing skills by examining these historical texts. Students will also be challenged to think about the richness of philosophical issues that were developed thousands of years ago and how these issues still apply to our everyday experience today.


HY2005 Justice, Society, and the State (Major PE/GER-UE - 3 AUs)
Pre-requisites: nil

This course explores some fundamental problems in political philosophy. We will examine classic texts written by thinkers who lived centuries ago, as well as influential works by contemporary philosophers. All these writings should be appreciated as offering very good answers to difficult moral questions about government, rights, justice, and citizenship. However, as the student will see, the authors often disagree with one another, and no single philosopher's view of things is beyond criticism. The student's task will be to evaluate the various perspectives and form a reasoned opinion as to how the problems of the course are best resolved.


HY2008 Environmental Ethics (Major PE/GER UE – 3AUs)
Pre-requisites: nil
(NOTE: This course is mutually exclusive with HY0301 Environmental Philosophy. Students taking this course shall not take HY0301 and vice versa)
 

This course examines ethical issues raised by ecological problems and environment-related concerns in today’s world, with a focus on rethinking the relationship between human beings and nature. The course will introduce philosophical theories and religious reflections about nature, from different perspectives, including non-Western as well as Western. It will investigate various inter-related questions ranging from the ethical to the metaphysical—for instance “Do we have an obligation to natural objects?”; “If there should be an environmental ethics, what kind of ethics should it be?”; etc. Through this course students will learn various concepts and theories on the subject; they will develop anability to carry out philosophical inquiry and to independently think through a variety of moral issues. Students will have opportunities to develop and express their own views on these issues. They will also have opportunities to rethink, revise, or reinforce their views.


HY2010 Ancient Philosophy: The Examined Life (Major Core/GER UE – 3 AUs)
Pre-requisites: nil
 

The Western intellectual tradition began in Ancient Greece, where philosophers such as Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle formulated and pondered fundamental questions that are still centrally important in contemporary philosophy. A course on Ancient Philosophy, covering the philosophy of Ancient Greece, Rome, and other regions of the ancient world, would deepen students’ understanding of the history and foundations of this tradition. It will also give students experience with reading, understanding, and criticising difficult but profound texts. It will allow them to the develop analytical tools, not to mention the patience, that will be essential when students are confronted with problems to which there are no immediate answers.


HY2012 Modern Philosophy: Reason and Experience (Major Core/GER UE – 3 AUs)
Pre-requisites: nil
 

This course introduces the canonical thinkers (Descartes, Locke, Spinoza and Hume) in philosophy of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The course challenges students to think about epistemological and metaphysical questions through these historical thinkers. Key questions include, “What is the self?” “What the source of knowledge?” “Can we know the world as it is?” etc. Particular emphasis will be placed on analysing arguments from the original text, constructing and evaluating strengths of relevant objections. Students will develop high level critical thinking and writing skills by examining these historical texts and be challenged to think about the richness of philosophical issues that resulted from the new modern science.


HY2014 Love (Major PE/GER UE – 3 AUs)
Pre-requisites: nil
 

Love is one of the most important components of the good life. This course introduces students to a variety of philosophical themes on the subject of love by reading texts from ancient to contemporary. The readings, class lectures, and class discussions will provide a foundation for understanding love in various perspectives. Students are encouraged to develop their own philosophy of love,which will be presented, written about, and debated in class.


HY2015 Happiness (Major PE/GER UE – 3 AUs)
Pre-requisites: nil
 

Happinessis usually taken as the ultimate goal of life. But what is happiness? This course introduces the student to a variety of philosophical themes on the subject of happiness by reading texts from ancient to contemporary. The readings, class lectures, and class discussions will provide a foundation for understanding happiness in various perspectives. Students are encouraged to develop their own philosophy ofhappiness, which will be presented, written about, and debated in class.


HY2016 Friendship (Major PE/GER UE – 3 AUs)
Pre-requisites: nil
 

“Friendship” introduces the nature of friendship through different historical thinkers as well as contemporary theories. The course challenges students to think about the necessary components of a friendship and the importance of friendship in becoming an ethical person. Particular emphasis will be placed on analysing arguments from the original text, constructing and evaluating strengths of relevant objections. Students will develop high level critical thinking and writing skills by examining historical text and contemporary writing. Students will be challenged to think about “friendship” as a philosophical issue but draw practical significance from studying it.


HY2017 Philosophy and Film (Major PE/GER UE – 3 AUs)
Pre-requisites: nil
 

Philosophy and Film explores major issues in philosophy through the use of film. The course will challenge students to think about films in a different way: not as passive entertainment, but rather as useful thought experiments for conveying important ideas. By combining readings with select films, students will engage with traditional topics in philosophy, such as God and religious belief, our knowledge of the external world, personal identity, the mind-body problem, free will, and morality. Students will develop the ability to extract philosophically interesting arguments and ideas from films, and think critically about their implications.


HY3001 Existentialism: Freedom, Being, Death (Major PE/GER UE – 3 AUs)
Pre-requisites: nil
 

Existentialism is an influential, but also very controversial movement in Western philosophy. The ideas of existentialist thinkers have disseminated throughout the humanities—including theology, literature, and the arts. With passion and eloquence, existentialists grapple with many deep problems and anxieties related to human existence. For instance: is it possible to reconcile faith in God with uncertainty about the existence of God? If God does not exist, can human existence have any meaning at all? How should we cope with the inevitability of death? Given that we are free beings, are there any standards—rational, moral, or otherwise—by which to evaluate how we ought to think, feel, and behave? In pondering these issues, existentialists challenge some of the most fundamental assumptions of the Western philosophical tradition. Their conclusions will startle and provoke those who seek a better understanding of the human condition.


HY3003 World Religions (Major PE/GER UE – 3AUs)
Pre-requisites: nil

World Religions consists of a systematic study of religious traditions that have had a major impact on the world, traditions such as Hinduism, Buddhism,Confucianism, Daoism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The course will focus primarily on belief systems in these different traditions, although it will also include some discussion of concrete religious rituals, institutions, and structures. While each religion will be approached as a coherent whole, the orientation of the course will be comparative, attempting to show what religions share and where they commonly disagree. Students will both achieve a basic understanding of a variety of religious traditions and learn how to better approach religious diversity.


 
 

This course gives students a unique opportunity to explore profound questions about religion and faith in a philosophical framework. Students will be challenged to assess arguments supporting theism and atheism. They will be asked to take a reasoned stance on whether religious faith can be, or even should be, rationally justified by evidence. They will consider whether science and religion are compatible, or whether one discredits the other. And they will contemplate whether the fact of religious diversity furnishes evidence against the capacity of any particular religion to make true claims about the nature of God, the cosmos, the human condition, and the afterlife. Finally, in light of the fact that there are a multitude of religions that make incompatible claims, we examine whether religions can be worthy of our adherence even if some of their fundamental tenets are false. The course will conclude with a reflection on the important roles that religion can play in people’s lives, apart from being a source of truth-claims. These issues are among the great questions that have roiled the human mind. In Faith and Reason, students will confront them head-on in an intellectual environment that will demand both analytical rigor and mutual respect.


HY3005 Great Ideas and Innovations (Major Core/GER UE – 3 AUs)
HY3905 Great Ideas and Innovations (Major PE – 3 AUs)

Pre-requisites: nil
 

Where do great ideas and innovations come from? What are some examples of great ideas and innovations from history, and how did they arise? How are new ideas and artifacts created? Philosophy provides a unique perspective from which to examine the origin of great ideas and innovations. This course examines the ideas of philosophers such as Plato and Locke on the origins of ideas and innovations, as well as the role of thought experiments in opening up new unconsidered possibilities. It will also present case studies of great ideas, such as the work of Galileo, Copernicus, Darwin, as well as the origin of various technologies such as computing. Students will be encouraged to explore various great ideas and innovations on their own as well.


HY3010 Philosophy of Science (Major Core/GER UE - 3 AUs)
HY3910 Philosophy of Science (Major PE – 3 AUs)

Pre-requisites: nil
 

This course provides a broad overview of the major philosophical issues associated with science to students without a background in philosophy. It introduces the views on the distinctive features of science and scientific progress espoused by such influential philosophers as Popper, Kuhn, and Lakatos. It also examines issues related to causation, confirmation, explanation, scientific inference, scientific realism, and laws of nature. 


HY3011 Minds and Machines (Major PE/GER UE– 3 AUs)
Pre-requisites: nil
 

What kind of thing is the mind? Can a computer be a mind? If we build an incredibly complicated and a powerful computer that does everything a mind does, would it be a mind? Can a computer be conscious? These are the kinds of questions that philosophers of mind have asked, and have attempted to answer. This class will cover the basic positions that philosophers have taken with regard to the mind, such as dualism, behaviorism, and functionalism. It will further consider the computational theory of mind in some detail, as well as critiques of this theory, and then explore the issues of consciousness and intentionality.


HY3012 Philosophy of Technology (Major Core/GER UE – 3 AUs)
HY3012 Philosophy of Technology (Major PE – 3 AUs)

Pre-requisites: nil
 

This course is an introduction to the philosophy of technology. Technology affects almost every aspect of our lives, and it has rich philosophical implications that have been explored by philosophers going back to Plato and Aristotle. Its increasing significance in the twentieth century led to the development of various theories about technology and its significance. This course explores epistemological, ethical, and metaphysical issues surrounding technology and engineering. Some questions considered include: How does technology change what it means to be human? What is technological or engineering knowledge, and how does it differ from scientific and other kinds of knowledge? What kinds of ethical problems arise due to the development of technology?


HY3017 Philosophy and Music (Major PE/GER UE – 3 AUs) Pre-requisites: Nil
 

This course introduces philosophical questions about music at an advanced level. Throughout this course, students will explore the following questions: Why were music and philosophy at a high tension in ancient Greek but not in early China? Why was music regarded as not just an enjoyable entertainment but an indispensable part of understanding human nature in both traditions? Why do we find music to be deeply moving and even profound? What are the main issues in the contemporary discussions of music and philosophy?


HY4002 Knowledge and Reality (Major PE/GER UE – 4 AUs)
Pre-requisites: nil

Knowledge and Reality is a survey of fundamental questions about the nature of knowledge, the nature of the world and the interactions between the two. The course challenges students to reflect both on what knowledge is, how it is different from true belief, and to what extent knowledge is possible. On the metaphysics side the course will investigate questions such as what it takes for claims about possibility and necessity to be true, or for two descriptions of situations to refer to two distinct possibilities versus being different descriptions of the same possibility. The connections between epistemology and metaphysics will be emphasised and students will learn how to tackle questions such as what commitment to a certain theory entails interms of commitment to the entities that the theory postulates. All the while, students will develop their skills in argumentative writing and critical thinking.


 

This course is an introduction to the philosophy of language. The philosophy of language is the study of the properties and workings of natural human language. It is a “core” branch of contemporary analytic philosophy, in the sense that concepts developed by philosophers of language have proven useful in many other areas of philosophy (including metaphysics, logic, philosophy of science, philosophy of religion, and ethics). The course will focus on three linguistic phenomena. We examine reference, and ask how a linguistic expression can refer to things in the world. In addition, we study the nature of linguistic meaning, and ask how a verbal noise or written mark acquires meaning. Furthermore, we explore pragmatics, and analyse the various uses of language exercised by speakers in everyday life.


HY4110 Special Topics in Philosophy of Science (Major PE/GER UE – 4 AUs)
Pre-requisites: nil
 

Course to be offered by both regular and visiting faculty in Philosophy, to be conducted in a seminar style. Each course is to focus on one special area and is taught through extensive reading of selected key texts in the subject and intensive discussions in the class. Students will be required to write review essays or/and research papers and to make presentations in class. Students will gain better understanding of the specific topics through the combination of close reading, critical thinking, intensive discussion and debates, and rigorous training in writing and presentation.


HY4111 Special Topics in Ethics (Major PE/GER UE – 4 AUs)
Pre-requisites: nil
 

Course to be offered by both regular and visiting faculty in Philosophy, to be conducted in a seminar style. Each course is to focus on one special area and is taught through extensive reading of selected key texts in the subject and intensive discussions in the class. Students will be required to write review essays or/and research papers and to make presentations in class. Students will gain better understanding of the specific topics through the combination of close reading, critical thinking, intensive discussion and debates, and rigorous training in writing and presentation.


Course to be offered by both regular and visiting faculty in Philosophy, to be conducted in a seminar style. Each course is to focus on one special area andis taught through extensive reading of selected key texts in the subject andintensive discussions in the class. Students will be required to write review essays or/and research papers and to make presentations in class. Students will gainbetter understanding of the specific topics through the combination of close reading, critical thinking, intensive discussion and debates, and rigoroustraining in writing and presentation.


HY4113 Special Topics in Chinese Philosophy (Major PE/GER UE – 4 AUs)
Pre-requisites: nil
 

Course to be offered by both regular and visiting faculty in Philosophy, to be conducted in a seminar style. Each course is to focus on one special area and is taught through extensive reading of selected key texts in the subject andintensive discussions in the class. Students will be required to write review essays or/and research papers and to make presentations in class. Students will gain better understanding of the specific topics through the combination of close reading, critical thinking, intensive discussion and debates, and rigorous training in writing and presentation.


HY4118 Independent Study I (Major PE/GER UE – 4 AUs)
 
Pre-requisites: nil
 

Course offered to satisfy special needs of individual students in areas of interest of a faculty member or members. It is usually taught at an advanced level, with intensive reading and writing. The student will meet with the faculty member periodically as progress requires. Methods of assessment are to be determined by the faculty member. Students will gain in-depth knowledge in an area of philosophy and improve his/her reading and writing skills as well as ability to engage in philosophical research.


HY4119 Independent Study II (Major PE/GER UE – 4 AUs)
Pre-requisites: nil
 

The course is offered to satisfy special needs of individual students in areas of interest of a faculty member or members, and only to students who have satisfactorily completed HY9418. It is taught at an advanced level, with intensive reading and writing. The student will meet with the faculty memberperiodically as progress requires. Methods of assessment are to be determined by the faculty member. Students will gain additional in-depth knowledge in an area of philosophy and further improve his/her reading and writing skills as well as ability to engage in philosophical research.


HY4021 Practical Rationality (Major PE/GER UE – 4 AUs)
Pre-requisite: HY2002 Moral Philosophy
 

Practical rationality is a core topic that straddles moral philosophy and epistemology. The first part of the course covers the philosophical foundations of the theory of rational decision making. It surveys important features in decision theory and game theory, and looks at recent developments and controversies in these theories. The second part of the course examines broader issues in practical rationality, such as the connection between reasons and rationality, the rational permissibility of time biased preferences, and the rational analysis of concepts related to prudent choice behavior (such as procrastination and temptation). 


HY4023 Metaethics(Major PE/GER UE – 4 AUs)
Pre-requisite: HY2002 Moral Philosophy

Metaethical inquiry aims to address a number of interrelated semantic, metaphysical, psychological, and epistemological questions about the nature of ethics. In this course we will address the following questions: What do ethical judgments mean? Are they true or false? If they are true or false, in virtue of what? If they are true or false, can knowledge of them be had? How, or why not? If they are not true or false, what status do they have? The goal of this course is to explore the answers that have been given to these questions by the most influential writings in metaethics.


HY4025 Ethics and Public Policy (Major PE/GER UE – 4 AUs)
Pre-requisite: HY2002 Moral Philosophy

Public policy is any institution, norm, or rule created by a government to guide people’s behavior. The study of public policy raises significant ethical questions. In particular: to what ends should citizens’ behavior be guided, and by which means should a government guide such behavior? When might a public policy intervention by the government in the affairs of private individuals be unethical? Ethics and Public Policy will survey a number of areas in which public policy has been used to address social and political issues: crime, immigration, health, safety, inequality, religion, and the family. Students will question, debate, and reflect on the ethical principles which favor or disfavor the implementation of various public policies.


HY4037 Kant (Major PE/GER UE – 4 AUs)
Pre-requisite: HY2012 Modern Philosophy

Immanuel Kant is one of the most important modern philosophers, and his philosophy has had an immense impact on succeeding generations of philosophers. His most important work is widely acknowledged to be the Critique of Pure Reason, or the First Critique. This course will focus on a reading of the First Critique, and examine the most important features of Kant’s philosophy, as well as its relation to the central questions of philosophy.


HY4110 Special Topics in Philosophy of Science (Major PE/GER UE – 4 AUs)
HY4120 Special Topics in Philosophy of Science II (Major PE/GER UE – 4 AUs)

HY4130 Special Topics in Philosophy of Science III (Major PE/GER UE – 4 AUs)
Pre-requisites: nil

Courses to be offered by both regular and visiting faculty in Philosophy, to be conducted in a seminar style. Each course is to focus on one special area and is taught through extensive reading of selected key texts in the subject and intensive discussions in the class. Students will be required to write review essays or/and research papers and to make presentations in class. Students will gain better understanding of the specific topics through the combination of close reading, critical thinking, intensive discussion and debates, and rigorous training in writing and presentation.


HY4111 Special Topics in Ethics (Major PE/GER UE – 4 AUs)
HY4121 Special Topics in Ethics II (Major PE/GER UE – 4 AUs)
HY4131 Special Topics in Ethics III (Major PE/GER UE – 4 AUs)

Pre-requisites: nil

Courses to be offered by both regular and visiting faculty in Philosophy, to be conducted in a seminar style. Each course is to focus on one special area and is taught through extensive reading of selected key texts in the subject and intensive discussions in the class. Students will be required to write review essays or/and research papers and to make presentations in class. Students will gain better understanding of the specific topics through the combination of close reading, critical thinking, intensive discussion and debates, and rigorous training in writing and presentation.


HY4112 Special Topics in Philosophy (Major PE/GER UE – 4 AUs)
HY4122 Special Topics in Philosophy II (Major PE/GER UE – 4 AUs)
HY4132 Special Topics in Philosophy III (Major PE/GER UE – 4 AUs)

Pre-requisites: nil

Courses to be offered by both regular and visiting faculty in Philosophy, to be conducted in a seminar style. Each course is to focus on one special area andis taught through extensive reading of selected key texts in the subject andintensive discussions in the class. Students will be required to write review essays or/and research papers and to make presentations in class. Students will gain better understanding of the specific topics through the combination of close reading, critical thinking, intensive discussion and debates, and rigoroustraining in writing and presentation.


HY4113 Special Topics in Chinese Philosophy (Major PE/GER UE – 4 AUs)
HY4123 Special Topics in Chinese Philosophy II (Major PE/GER UE – 4 AUs)
HY4123 Special Topics in Chinese Philosophy III (Major PE/GER UE – 4 AUs)

Pre-requisites: nil

Course to be offered by both regular and visiting faculty in Philosophy, to be conducted in a seminar style. Each course is to focus on one special area and is taught through extensive reading of selected key texts in the subject andintensive discussions in the class. Students will be required to write review essays or/and research papers and to make presentations in class. Students will gain better understanding of the specific topics through the combination of close reading, critical thinking, intensive discussion and debates, and rigorous training in writing and presentation.


HY4114 Special Topics in Logic (Major PE/GER UE – 4 AUs)
HY4124 Special Topics in Logic II (Major PE/GER UE – 4 AUs)

Pre-requisites: nil

Course to be offered by both regular and visiting faculty in Philosophy, to be conducted in a seminar style. Each course is to focus on one special area and is taught through extensive reading of selected key texts in the subject andintensive discussions in the class. Students will be required to write review essays or/and research papers and to make presentations in class. Students will gain better understanding of the specific topics through the combination of close reading, critical thinking, intensive discussion and debates, and rigorous training in writing and presentation.


HY4115 Special Topics in Buddhist Philosophy (Major PE/GER UE – 4 AUs)
Pre-Requisite: HY2003 Chinese Philosophy

Buddhist Philosophy is extremely diverse, changing over its 2,500 year history and adapting it has spread across cultures. This course provides an in depth examination of a specific theme, problem, time period, or school of Buddhist philosophy. The course will involve close readings of primary texts and discussion and analysis of philosophical issues. Possible topics include Chan and Zen Buddhism, Buddhist arguments against the self, Buddhism in China, Yogacara Buddhism, and so on.

 

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