Summer 2018 - PHIL 120W D100

Moral Problems (3)

Class Number: 4608

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Mo, We 11:30 AM – 12:20 PM
    RCB IMAGTH, Burnaby

  • Exam Times + Location:

    Aug 14, 2018
    12:00 PM – 3:00 PM
    Location: TBA



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.


The Moral Community: Its Scope and its Limits

This course is intended to introduce students to contemporary – and controversial – moral problems. No prior experience in philosophy is necessary, only a desire to discuss and to think about the following issues:  

  • Is it wrong to eat animals?
  • Is pornography harmful to women? To men? To both? Or is pornography harmless?
  • Is abortion morally permissible?
  • Is it better for there to be fewer people who are better off?
  • Do individuals have a right to hate speech or should hate speech be prohibited?
These issues are difficult and complex, but our primary aim in this class is to reflect upon and approach them with intellectual honesty, rather than come to a consensus about how to solve them. To help us with this aim, we will learn about key ethical theories and concepts and understand how to pick out a good argument from a bad one. Lastly, we will focus upon developing and improving the skills necessary for success in university and beyond, namely the ability to think critically, to read with a careful eye, to listen to others, and to write clearly.


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

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.


  • First paper, with revisions 15%
  • Midterm exam 20%
  • Second paper 25%
  • Final exam 30%
  • Short writing assignments 10%


For all assignments written outside of the classroom:
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.



All readings are available online or will be posted on Canvas. No textbook is required.  

Department Undergraduate Notes:

Thinking of a Philosophy Major or Minor? The Concentration in Law and Philosophy? The Certificate in Ethics? The Philosophy and Methodology of Science Certificate?
Contact the PHIL Advisor at   More details on our website: SFU Philosophy

Registrar Notes:

SFU’s Academic Integrity web site 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.