Sex, Love & Friendship (PHIL*1030) | College of Arts

Sex, Love & Friendship (PHIL*1030)

Code and section: PHIL*1030*01

Term: Winter 2021

Instructor: John Russon


Other people play many important roles in our lives, but it is in intimate interpersonal relationships that they affect us most directly and powerfully.  In this course, we will use the works of some of the greatest philosophers in history to try to deepen our understanding of these relationships; simultaneously, we will use the themes of sex, love and friendship as a way to introduce the discipline of philosophy itself.

We will begin with two of the greatest philosophers the world has every produced, Plato and Aristotle.  The ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle (384-322 BC) was, among other things, reputed to be the teacher of Alexander the Great.  With Aristotle, we will ask what the distinctive nature of human beings is--what is it that distinguishes us from other animals?  With that in mind, we will investigate what it takes for us to have a flourishing and fulfilling life and, in particular, we will investigate the nature and role of friendship in human development.  We will then turn to Plato (c. 429-347 BC)--Aristotle's own teacher--to look further at the distinctive nature of human fulfillment, focusing especially on our highest pursuits of truth, beauty and goodness.  With Plato, we will then investigate the nature of our erotic life and its special role in our fulfillment.
After Reading Week, we will focus on two provocative and powerful thinkers from the twentieth century, Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) and John Berger (1926-2017).  With Freud, we will investigate the pivotal role sexuality plays in our psychological development.  We will focus first on the way complex issues of psychological and interpersonal life shape the very way we experience and inhabit our bodies.  We will then explore the relationship between politics and our psychological and sexual health.  With Berger, finally, we will look further at this intersection of politics and sexuality.  We will look especially at the political significance of the sexualized portrayals of women in art and advertising.  This will allow us to develop a critical perspective on both politics and sexuality, and point the way towards what is involved in healthy sexuality.

This course will have two components: asynchronous delivery of online lectures and synchronous, scheduled meetings of (mandatory) discussion sections.

Course Outline


The University of Guelph resides on the land of the Between the Lakes Treaty No. 3, the territory of the Mississaugas of the Credit. This land is part of the Dish with One Spoon, a covenant between Indigenous nations to live peaceably on the territories of the Great Lakes region. We recognize that today this gathering place is home to many First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples and acknowledging them reminds us of our collective responsibility to the land where we learn, live and work.