Summer 2018 - PHIL 322 D100

History of Ethics (3)

Class Number: 4640

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Mo 12:30 PM – 2:20 PM
    WMC 2220, Burnaby

    We 12:30 PM – 1:20 PM
    WMC 2220, Burnaby

  • Prerequisites:

    One of PHIL 120W (or equivalent), 121, 150, 151, 220 or 221.



An examination of an issue or selection of issues in the history of moral or political philosophy. Historical readings will be the primary focus and may include important figures such as Aristotle, Hobbes, Locke, Hume, and Kant.


Hume, Smith, and Kant

In this course, we will examine and critically compare the ethical thought of David Hume, Adam Smith, and Immanuel Kant.  Hume, as many know, was a sentimentalist: he believed that morality is ultimately grounded in our feelings, emotions, or passions.  Kant, on the other hand, was a rationalist: he argued that if sentimentalism is true, morality is impossible, and that we had to see moral commands as arising from human reason.  Adam Smith is a fascinating and under-appreciated bridge between the two thinkers: while appearing to accept Hume’s sentimentalism, he argued that moral commands arise from a psychological mechanism he called the impartial spectator.  In this class, we will trace this historical narrative, with an eye to an all-important, perennial philosophical question: what, exactly, is this alleged distinction between emotion and reason?


If you are taking this course as part of your Philosophy Major, please note that it can count towards the Ethics requirement OR the History of Philosophy requirement (your choice), but not both.


  • Two mid-sized papers, worth 40% and 45% repectively 85%
  • Participation (grade assigned on the basis of in-class discussion) 15%



Hume, David, An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals  ISBN-10: 0915145456

Smith, Adam, The Theory of Moral Sentiments ISBN-10: 0865970122

Kant, Immanuel, Grounding for the Metaphysics of Morals: with On a Supposed Right to Lie because of Philanthropic Concerns .   ISBN-10: 087220166X

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.