Spring 2018 - PHIL 321 D100

Topics in Moral Philosophy (3)

Anti-Theory & Care Ethics

Class Number: 10107

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Tu 11:30 AM – 2:20 PM
    BLU 10021, Burnaby

  • Prerequisites:

    One of PHIL 120W (or equivalent), 121, 220, 221 or ENV 320W.



An advanced investigation of central issues and theories in moral philosophy. In any given term, the course may focus on a general theory or concept or concern, for example meta-ethics, utilitarianism, or theories of rights. Sometimes it will focus on a particular problem or problems, such as medical ethics, moral personhood, or free will and moral responsibility. May be repeated for credit.


Selected Topics: Alternative Ethics: Anti-Theory and Feminist Ethics of Care

In the 1960s and 70s, a few philosophical voices began to question dominant orthodoxy by claiming that traditional moral theories lack any authority over ordinary human lives.  These moral Anti-Theorists (such as Bernard Williams, Annette Baier and Susan Wolf) argued that Kantian, utilitarian and contractualist theories provide models of moral thinking that are far too abstract to be of any real use.  However, it wasn’t long before these very concerns were to produce a new kind of moral theory: the Ethics of Care.  Feminist philosophers such as Nel Noddings and Virginia Held argued that a renewed focus on ethics as a fundamentally relational enterprise which has caring at its core could solve the problems which so vexed the anti-theorists.  In this course, we will dig deep into this dialectic, examining both the attack on traditional moral theory and the relational response.


Students taking this course will have the opportunity to gain an articulate, insightful and nuanced understanding of alternative perspectives on traditional moral theory.  Moreover, they will be encouraged to think and write critically about the aims of philosophy and about the ways in which moral philosophy’s heavily gendered past might have distorted the moral-theoretical enterprise.


  • 1st Paper 25%
  • Midterm 25%
  • Final paper 40%
  • Participation ( grade assigned on the basis of in-class discussion) 10%


Written work for this course will be submitted via Turnitin, a third party service licensed for use by SFU. Turnitin is used for originality checking to help detect plagiarism. Students will be required to create an account with Turnitin, and to submit their work via that account, on the terms stipulated in the agreement between the student and Turnitin. This agreement includes the retention of your submitted work as part of the Turnitin database. Any student with a concern about using the Turnitin service may opt to use an anonymous identity in their interactions with Turnitin. Students who do not intend to use Turnitin in the standard manner must notify the instructor at least two weeks in advance of any submission deadline. In particular, it is the responsibility of any student using the anonymous option (i.e. false name and temporary e-mail address created for the purpose) to inform the instructor such that the instructor can match up the anonymous identity with the student.



 Noddings, Nel: Caring, A Relational Approach to Ethics and Moral Education (ISBN-10: 0520275705)
ISBN: 1285874323

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