Summer 2018 - PHIL 221 D100

Ethical Theory (3)

Class Number: 7068

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Mo 2:30 PM – 4:20 PM
    SWH 10051, Burnaby

    We 2:30 PM – 3:20 PM
    WMC 3255, Burnaby

  • Exam Times + Location:

    Aug 11, 2018
    3:30 PM – 6:30 PM
    Location: TBA

  • Prerequisites:

    One of: PHIL 100W (or equivalent), PHIL 120W (or equivalent), PHIL 121, PHIL 144, PHIL 150 or PHIL 151.



An examination of the major ethical theories, including deontology, consequentialism and virtue ethics. Applications of theses theories and related topics in value theory may also be discussed.


The purpose of this course is to introduce philosophy majors and minors to key ethical and meta-ethical concepts and debates. Readings will be drawn from historical and contemporary sources.

In the first half of the class, we will focus on normative ethics. Normative ethics attempts to provide systematic account of how we ought to live and what it takes to be a good person. Suppose someone says, “It is wrong to hurt an innocent child.” A normative ethical theory aims to explain what makes this action wrong and why. We will discuss three normative theories, namely utilitarianism, deontology, and virtue ethics.

The second half of the class will focus on meta-ethics. Meta-ethics attempts to inquire into the nature and status of ethical claims. Consider again the claim: “It is wrong to hurt an innocent child.”  Our aim will be to evaluate this so-called ethical claim (and others like it) by asking the following questions (among others): what, if anything, do ethical claims mean? That is, what does it mean to say that something is wrong (or right?) What kind of evidence would justify ethical claims? Do such claims have a truth value? Are ethical claims intrinsically motivating? Are ethical claims objective in some sense?


This course has two specific aims. The first aim is to introduce students to contemporary ethical and meta-ethical theory and to guide them toward developing a critical and philosophically informed understanding of these theories. The second aim is to improve the skills that are 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.


  • Two papers, worth 20% and 25% respectively 45%
  • Comprehensive final exam 35%
  • Short writing assignments 20%


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.



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

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.