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Comparative Philosophy of Being




Admission Requirements

The usual LUC prerequisite for this course is either History of Philosophy or Introduction to Political Philosophy, but students who wish to enrol on the strength of another background in philosophy should contact the course instructor before course allocation. This course is usually a prerequisite for the 300-level course on Comparative Ethics.


This course focuses on the ways in which diverse philosophical frameworks have conceived of the fundamental concept of the human being. Resting on the premise that all ethical positions must somehow relate to the question of what it means to be human, this course takes us through a range of answers to this question and encourages us to explore the various ways in which these answers can give rise to different ethical positions (which will be explored in the 300-level course on Comparative Ethics). Sources are drawn from distinct intellectual traditions from varied regions and periods—from Mozi to Descartes to Heidegger, from metaphysics to metaethics to philosophy of mind—to give us a sense of how to compare different philosophical standpoints.

Course Objectives

As we contemplate past philosophical meanderings about what it is and means to be human, alongside coming to formulate our own thoughts on the matter, we should expect to achieve:

  • a clear understanding of the central themes, concepts, and traditions related to philosophy of being;

  • a deep appreciation of the range and diversity of the sources of three main branches of philosophy, namely: metaphysics, epistemology, and ethics;

  • a keen awareness of the interconnections among different branches and fields of philosophy, as well as their dialogue with disciplines beyond the humanities;

  • a critical capacity for reading and analysing philosophical texts; and

  • a rigorous faculty for constructing and presenting philosophical arguments.

Mode of Instruction

Seminars (two approximately 2-hour sessions per week, Weeks 1 – 7) will form the main body of this course, and a blackboard site will support our in-class discussion. Do check our course site regularly for up-to-date reading assignments, multi-media material, and announcements. For further details of how the course will proceed, see sections below on “Assessment” and “Weekly overview”.


In-class participation: 20%
Ongoing assessment of your individual engagement with the course material, including your constructive analysis and evaluation of your peers’ philosophical ideas in the essay workshop in Week 7.

Five short papers: 40%
Continuous assessment of the progress, especially the clarity and precision, of your philosophical thinking and writing, through short papers of 500 – 600 words each, one due per Weeks 2 – 6. You will be graded on this cumulative portfolio of 2500 – 3000 words over this five-week period.

Final essay: 40%
Final assessment of your analysis, articulation, and appreciation of the course themes, including your incorporation of formative feedback from Weeks 1 – 7, through an essay of 2500 – 3000 words due in Week 8.


There is no set textbook for the course. Required readings will be made available on BlackBoard. While some of the primary texts, from which excerpts are assigned for the course, are in the public domain, you may wish to purchase your own hard copies for future reference and reflection.

Contact Information

Dr. Cissie Fu at [].

Weekly Overview

Week 1 – Being: Existence and Continuity
Week 2 – Mind: Rationalism and Consciousness
Week 3 – Body: Physicalism and Materialism
Week 4 – Desire: Freedom and Choice
Week 5 – Agency: Self-Deception and Bad Faith
Week 6 – Selflessness: Altruism and Nihilism
Week 7 – Non-Being: Death and Nothingness
Week 8 – [no classes]

Preparation for first session

Please read Nausea by Jean-Paul Sartre (in English, or in the original French). If you have trouble locating the text, please e-mail the instructor in good time.