Spring 2018 - PHIL 314 E100

Topics in Logic I (3)

Deontic Logic

Class Number: 2930

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    We 5:30 PM – 8:20 PM
    WMC 3220, Burnaby

  • Exam Times + Location:

    Apr 22, 2018
    7:00 PM – 10:00 PM
    WMC 3210, Burnaby

  • Prerequisites:

    One of PHIL 110, 210 or 310, or with the approval of the instructor or department.



An examination of one or more topics such as: philosophical logic; deontic logic; the logic of knowledge and belief; the logic of preference; tense logics; foundations of set theory; recursive functions; the history of logic. May be repeated for credit.


Selected Topics: Deontic Logic

This course provides a basic introduction to logical tools that find applications in the domain of ethics (with an emphasis on metaethics), moral theory, law, and other normative disciplines. In short, “deontic logic” is the formal logic of normative statements. Formalization allows one to precisely systemize various beliefs and to uncover hidden paradoxes and inconsistencies among those beliefs. Suppose that we can successfully formalize a set of intuitively plausible principles regarding a set of ethical concepts and in so doing uncover an inconsistency. Deciding how best to resolve the paradox requires going beyond the formal properties of the concepts in question and inquiring into the content of those concepts. That is, we need to engage with some first-order normative theorizing. For instance, what are we to do if there are different sources of value that are fundamentally incommensurable with each other? By making it possible to treat first-order normative reasoning as a formal system, the tools we propose to examine will give us an enhanced capacity to address such subtle questions.

We will address questions about the nature of normative entailment, about criteria for the coherence of system of norms, and about idealization involved in the treatment of preferences and utility. The introduction of such concepts and methods into ethics and metaethics is a stimulating approach that presents new challenges and opportunities. Due to the nature of the field, the course will give an introduction to some basic concepts and methods of modal logic.

The lectures will present the material in a clear and engaging way. Students are expected to attend classes and participate.


  • Acquire a working knowledge of the basic concepts of modal logic
  • Develop a technical understanding of the specificity of deontic logic
  • Compare the formal properties of different approaches to the logic of norms
  • Improve one’s capacity to make conceptual nuances in ethics and moral philosophy


  • The evaluations include homework assignments, exams, and one optional term paper. The term paper option is to accommodate students who might be somewhat insecure about their mathematical skills and wish to use their essay writing skills to hedge their bets, and it is also an excellent opportunity to explore interesting themes in philosophical logic. Thus, two options are available for the nature and weights of the course requirements. Students will be expected to announce to the instructor which option they have selected by the end of the first month of class.



 No textbook required.

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