First year courses

Student on campus
First year students: Welcome to the University of Waterloo!

This is a quick guide to first-year Philosophy courses for first year students and upper year students looking for an elective.

In these upside-down times it is easy to wonder what you really know, or what you should believe, or what is the right thing to do...

PHIL 101 - Challenging Ideas: An Introduction to Philosophy

We’ll look at how a few important Western philosophers, authors, and artists have approached these questions with an eye to thinking more clearly about the choices we all make as we navigate our lives.

Instructor: Carla Fehr

Mode: In-person

If you are interested in the questions: Do human beings really have free will? What makes knowledge different from mere beliefs or opinions?...

PHIL 110A - Introduction to Philosophy: Knowledge and Reality

This course will introduce students to the discipline of philosophy by examining a variety of central issues in metaphysics (theory of reality) and epistemology (theory of knowledge). Topics in metaphysics will include the question of God's existence, the issue of free-will and determinism, relation between the mind and the body, and issues in individuation and identity (including personal identity).

Topics in epistemology will include the debate between rationalism and empiricism, the problem of skepticism, our knowledge of the external world, the problem of induction and the nature of scientific reasoning. Students will be encouraged to react critically to the reading material and lecture content and to formulate their own arguments for supporting or opposing the views of the particular philosophers in focus.

Instructor: TBD

Mode: Online

If you are interested in the values that should guide us in living and acting well.

PHIL 121: Moral Issues

This course explores several pressing moral issues, and considers some of the ways that the tools of Philosophy can help us to better understand and address those issues. Topics will include: global poverty and inequality, climate change, structural racism and implicit bias, the use of non-human animals, and at least one topic to be chosen collaboratively by the students in the class.

The aim of the course is not to defend any particular conclusion on these moral issues. Rather, the aim is to help students to think more clearly about some of the most pressing moral issues of our times, and to learn to develop and defend their own moral views.

Mode: Remote/online

If you would like to improve your reasoning and critical thinking skills...

PHIL 145 - Critical Thinking

All of us are (mostly) entitled to our own opinions. But not all opinions are equal. Just because we believe something, that doesn’t make it so. Opinions that are based on empirical evidence are better than ones that are not. Opinions that are based on good inferences are better than ones that are not.

Critical thinking is about how to reason with evidence and how to develop good inferential practices. In this course, we will look at what counts as good thinking and what counts as bad thinking, how to think well, how to decide what to accept, reject, or suspend judgment about, in a variety of contexts.

Instructor: TBD

Mode: Online