Spring 2018 - PHIL 120W D100

Moral Problems (3)

Class Number: 2879

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Mo 12:30 PM – 2:20 PM
    SSCB 9200, Burnaby

  • Exam Times + Location:

    Apr 14, 2018
    12:00 PM – 3:00 PM
    GYM CENTRAL, Burnaby



A critical examination of a range of questions and problems we confront as moral agents, such as: the nature and scope of our moral responsibilities, the source of our moral and civil rights, and the role of moral emotions, like resentment, love and forgiveness. Students with credit for PHIL 120 may not take this course for further credit. Writing/Breadth-Humanities.


This course introduces students to moral philosophy by examining controversies in public policy that continue to divide the opinions of citizens of Canada and other states.

They include:

  • Abortion
  • Pornography 
  • Date rape
  • Indigenous Land Claims
  • Compensation for Historical Injustice
  • Famine Relief and Global Justice
  • Immigration and Refugees
  • Recreational Drugs

The lectures describe the relevant legal background before proceeding to examine proposals for what the law should be. The course-reader helpfully contains two papers on each topic that defend opposing points of view.

The course is organized around one, two-hour lecture and one tutorial each week for a total of three hours. Students are expected to contribute to discussion in tutorial and will be required to read 1-2 papers or book chapters each week.


PHIL 120W may be applied towards the Certificate in Liberal Arts, the Writing Requirement, and the Breadth-Humanities Requirement.

The general aim of the course is for students to learn how to:
- Identify a thesis and its supporting arguments in philosophical materials and other relevant sources
- Engage with those arguments in respectful discussion with peers
- Construct written arguments and anticipate replies to those arguments
- Engage with the moral foundations of the law and policy using philosophical arguments and methods

This course is excellent preparation for: law school, graduate school in philosophy, public policy degrees, or business school, or for anyone intending to participate in public policy debates.

The course is strongly recommended for students intending to pursue a Philosophy Major or Minor (especially with the Law and Philosophy concentration), or the Certificate in Ethics.


  • Ten single paragraph reflections (1% deducted per missed assignment)
  • One essay and one revision, 500 words 20%
  • One essay and one revision, 700 words 20%
  • One final paper, 1500 words, no revision 30%
  • One short final exam (30 questions, 1 hour) 30%


Papers (but not reflections) must conform to the model described in the document “How Your Papers are Graded” and the document “Plagiarism and Academic Dishonesty” – both available on Canvas.

Please consult the Course Policies document on Canvas (covering issues ranging from special accommodation for student needs to academic dishonesty).

No Nonsense Paper Policy:
In the interest of preserving a level playing field students submitting late papers without prior arrangement or a doctor's note will be penalized. Students caught plagiarizing or otherwise cheating will normally be recommended for suspension from the university.



Contemporary Debates in Applied Ethics, Cohen and Wellman (Eds.) (Wiley Blackwell) 2nd Edition, ISBN 9781118479391 (First edition is OK)

Other materials available from the SFU Library (e.g. using the PHILPAPERS or JSTORR databases)

Registrar Notes:

SFU’s Academic Integrity web site http://students.sfu.ca/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating.  Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the University community.  Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the University. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the University. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html