Spring 2018 - PHIL 329 D100

Law and Philosophy (3)

Class Number: 10109

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    We 9:30 AM – 12:20 PM
    WMC 3253, Burnaby

  • Exam Times + Location:

    Apr 12, 2018
    3:30 PM – 6:30 PM
    AQ 3003, Burnaby

  • Prerequisites:

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



Explores in detail classic problems in the law using the methods and resources of philosophy. Topics may include: the philosophy of punishment and theories of moral responsibility; charter equality rights and the nature of social equality; constitutional interpretation and the philosophy of language; the assessment of evidence and formal epistemology; the intellectual origins of the theory of natural law and natural rights. Students with credit for PHIL 333 in Spring 2016 cannot take this course for further credit.


This course will focus on the nature of criminal culpability and its implications for our practices of blame, excuse, and punishment.  Our approach will be guided by two methodological ideas: the intersection of philosophical and jurisprudential perspectives and the use of pathological or marginal cases to study the limits of responsibility and excuse.

We will begin by looking at familiar and attractive general conceptions of responsibility in both moral philosophy and criminal law.   We will pay particular attention to ideas about criminal responsibility – including the role of responsibility in retributivist conceptions of punishment, the elements of criminal responsibility (e.g. actus reus, mens rea, justification, excuse, and mitigation), and jurisprudential conceptions of responsibility and excuse.  Of particular interest in these debates is the concept of moral luck, the idea that people can be held accountable for things that are largely outside of their control.

We then move from general theory to applied responsibility, focusing on specific affirmative defenses, including: insanity, duress, self-defence, and provocation.  We will also look at the debates surrounding how to interpret the “reasonable person standard.”


Note: Students with credit for PHIL 333 in Spring 2016 cannot take this course for further credit.

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.

This course is required for students doing a Philosophy Major or Minor with a concentration in Law and Philosophy.

PHIL 329 may also be applied towards the Certificate in Ethics: Theory and Application



  • Presentation 10%
  • Midterm exam 20%
  • Final exam 25%
  • 2 Papers (first 20%, second 25%) 45%




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.



 Readings will be available on Canvas.

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