Fall 2019 - PHIL 321 E100

Topics in Moral Philosophy (3)

Ethics and Capitalism

Class Number: 10747

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    We 4:30 PM – 7:20 PM
    BLU 10011, 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.


Ethics and Capitalism

This course aims to develop your ability to analyze and evaluate ethically complex problems arising in the global capitalist market economy. You will learn to identify the underlying structure of ethical arguments and critically assess them. We will examine the positive and negative impacts of capitalist ideology on society and consider the future of the free market from an ethical point of view. In doing so, we will look at moral benefits and drawbacks of competing economic systems such as Marxist economics and Buddhist economics. We will examine the concepts of justice and fairness in the distribution of wealth and opportunity, as well as the impact of commodification and consumerism on the welfare of humanity. We will also analyze practical moral issues in the contemporary workplace such as freedom of expression and discrimination in hiring. We will examine ethical issues arising from AI and automation, advertising and marketing, as well as the impact of business and consumer activities on the environment. We will end the term by looking at business and culture, examining issues in international business.


PHIL 321 may be applied towards the Certificate in Ethics: Theory and Application (see our website for more details).

General aim of this course: 
1. Recognizing key concepts, articulating their meaning and placing them in their appropriate context 
2. Identifying key arguments placing them in their appropriate context with respect to authorship
3. Presenting formally, the relevant arguments that we consider in class in premise to conclusion format 
4. Articulating the key themes found within the class in a well structured essay 
5. Critically analyzing and criticizing various arguments for soundness and validity 
6. Critically comparing various theories showing their strengths and weaknesses and critically extending arguments to novel cases and problems not found within the text

This course is excellent preparation for: law school, graduate school in philosophy, public policy degrees, business school, or for anyone wishing to participate in public deliberation with their fellow citizens.


  • Weekly Reading Assignments (5) 15%
  • Active Participation 10%
  • First Paper 20%
  • Second Paper 25%
  • Third Paper 30%



Honest Work: A Business Ethics Reader edited by Ciulla, Martin and Solomon 4th Edition
ISBN: 9780190497682

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 philmgr@sfu.ca   More details on our website: SFU Philosophy

Registrar Notes:

SFU’s Academic Integrity web site http://www.sfu.ca/students/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