Download a printable copy of the syllabus in Microsoft document format here.



PHL 243: Philosophy of Human Sexuality               

Time and location: Tuesdays, 6-9 p.m., Sidney Smith 2118                           



Instructor: Dr. Donovan Miyasaki                                                

Office Hours: Wednesdays, 9-11 a.m., 215 Huron St, 9th Floor, Room 916

            (other days or times can be arranged by appointment)               


Phone: 416-923-6845                                                                   


Course Website:


Course Description


In this course we will examine a number of philosophical views of sexuality from Plato to the present.  Key topics will include the nature and purpose of sex, sexual morality and politics, and sexual roles and gender.  Some of the many questions we may discuss include: What is the purpose of sex?  What’s makes a sexual act “perverse”?  What makes a sexual act immoral?  Is homosexuality unnatural or immoral?  Is sexual orientation an essential part of who we are, or is it a “social construction”?  What’s sexual “objectification,” and is it wrong?  Are romantic love and masculine sexuality inevitably harmful to women?  Readings will be drawn from a variety of contemporary and historical sources, and may include thinkers such as Plato, Kant, Freud, and Simone de Beauvoir.




Course reader, available at Alicos Copy Centre, 346 Bloor St W (1/2 block west of Spadina Ave.)




10%    Course Participation            Forum posts due by midnight, December 6th

15%    First Essay (3-4 pp)              Due October 11

30%    Second Essay (4-6 pp)        Due November 15               

45%    Final Exam                             TBA


Extensions and Excused Absences


The penalty for late assignments is 2% per day, including weekends.  Extensions and excused absences will be granted only in clearly extenuating circumstances.  (Ordinary scheduling and workload issues are your responsibility and consequently do not count as extenuating circumstances.)  The request must be made in advance whenever possible and appropriate documentation will be required.  Requests based on medical reasons must include a fully completed medical form.  The physician must state the duration of the condition, state whether or not it interfered with the student’s ability to complete course work, sign or stamp the form, and include personal contact information.

Description of Assignments


1. Course Participation, total of 10%


Lecture Attendance, 5%

Attendance is required.  For each unexcused absence, you will lose one percentage point of your final grade, up to a maximum penalty of -5%. 


Discussion Group Attendance, 3% (3 meetings, 1% per meeting)

I will divide the class into four discussion groups.  Each group will meet three times during the term.  The meetings will be held during the third hour of class (see the course schedule for each group’s meeting dates).  In the case of excused absences, you may make arrangements with the instructor to attend another group’s meeting for make-up credit. 


Online Forum Participation, 2%

During the term, each student must post at least one message in the course discussion board’s “Argument Library” thread.  Posts must be made by midnight on the last day of class.  There’s no required length (a short paragraph is fine), but it should be a thoughtful and substantive post critically addressing a course topic.  Please see my forum post entitled “how to use the Argument Library” for additional instructions.


2-3. Essays, total of 45% (first essay: 15%, second essay: 30%)


Two brief critical essays on assigned topics.  In each essay, students will be required to clearly explain and critically evaluate a philosophical argument from the readings.  Essays should be double-spaced, with 1 inch margins, and 10-12 point font.  Please do not include a separate cover sheet.  Essays must be handed in during class in order to be counted as received on-time.  Late essays may be emailed.  The penalty for late papers is 2% per day, including weekends.


For essay-writing help and information on grading criteria, please see the course website.  You should also download the handouts on proper source documentation and avoiding plagiarism in the Handouts section of the course website.



4. Final Exam (2 hours, 45%)


The exam will include two equally weighted sections.  In the first section you will be asked to provide brief answers (usually 4-5 sentences) to content questions about the readings we have studied.  In the second section, you will be asked to write a short essay on one of two or more provided topics.  For the essay question, you will need to explain an author’s position, explain the author’s reasons for holding such a view, and critically evaluate the author’s views.


Please note that the faculty deadline for the submission of term work is the last day of class.  Extensions beyond this deadline may be granted only if it does not interfere with the submission of grades.  Otherwise, students must petition through their College Registrar.

Tentative Course Schedule


Discussion Group Meetings:


Group A (last names beginning with the letters a-f), weeks 2, 6, 10

Group B (g-l), weeks 3, 7, 11

Group C (m-r), weeks 4, 8, 12

Group D (s-z), weeks 5, 9, 13


Week Date    Reading


1          9/13    Introduction to the course


2          9/20    Discussion meetings begin. 

                        Plato, selection from Phaedo (lines 63e-67b)

                        Begin Symposium (read to line 198)


3          9/27    Plato, finish Symposium (from line 198 to the end)

                        Thomas Aquinas, “The Purpose of Sex”


Sexual Purpose and Perversion


4          10/4    Sigmund Freud, Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis, chapters 20-21

                                    “The Dissolution of the Oedipus Complex”           

                                    “On the Universal Tendency to Debasement in the Sphere of Love”


5          10/11  FIRST ESSAY DUE

                        L. Nathan Oaklander, “Sartre on Sex” and “Sartre Lexicon”

                        Jean-Paul Sartre, selections from Being & Nothingness


6          10/18  Thomas Nagel, “Sexual Perversion”

Robert Solomon, “Sexual Paradigms”


Sex and Morality


7          10/25  Alan Goldman, “Plain Sex”

                        Immanuel Kant, “Duties towards the Body in Respect of Sexual Impulse”

                        Irving Singer, “The Morality of Sex: Contra Kant”


8          11/1    Susan Mendus, “Marital Faithfulness”

                        Frederick Elliston, “In Defense of Promiscuity”

Sexual Orientation


9          11/8    Jeff Jordan, “Is It Wrong to Discriminate on the Basis of Homosexuality?”

                        Frederick Elliston, “Gay Marriage”


10        11/15  SECOND ESSAY DUE

                        Edward Stein, “Essentialism and Constructionism in Sexual Orientation”

                        David Halperin, “Is There a History of Sexuality?”


Sex, Gender, and Society


11        11/22  Martha Nussbaum, “Objectification”

                        Mane Hajdin, “Sexual Harrassment in the Law: the Demarcation Problem”     


12        11/29  Igor Primoratz, “What’s Wrong with Prostitution?”

                        Simone de Beauvoir, The Second Sex: “Introduction” and “The Woman in Love”


13        12/6    Shulamith Firestone, “Love: A Feminist Critique”

                        Elizabeth Rapaport, “On the Future of Love”


December 12-21: Final Examination Period