Summer 2019 - PHIL 825 G100

Selected Topics in Social and Political Philosophy (5)


Class Number: 4708

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Tu, Th 4:30 PM – 6:20 PM
    WMC 3251, Burnaby



Selected Topics: Rights

[Note: this course is to be taught concurrently with PHIL 421W.]   

Important note regarding enrollment: All seats are reserved for Philosophy Graduate students. Enrollments from other departments will be considered only upon submission of the Graduate Course Add Form, and with instructor's permission. All such enrollments will be done in or after the first week of classes.

This course will focus on contemporary philosophical work on rights.  Questions discussed will include:  

  • What are rights?
  • What might give rights their distinctive moral force, and why have some authored doubted that this is possible?
  • Are there moral rights, independent of our political structures, or do we only have the rights that we develop via our political institutions?
  • What is the relationship between negative rights (rights that others refrain from treating you in particular ways – e.g., a right not to be murdered) and positive rights (rights to be provided with something – e.g., a right to housing)?  Does one type of right take priority?
  • When someone has a right, does this mean that someone else has a corresponding duty to ensure that right is fulfilled?  Can someone have a right if it’s unclear who has a duty to ensure the right is fulfilled (as with some positive rights)?
  • What sets human rights apart from other types of rights?
  • Can we have human rights that are universal, without engaging in cultural imperialism?  


Successful completion of this course will satisfy the “Value Theory Stream" distribution requirement toward the MA degree for Philosophy graduate students.


  • Short Reading Response Assignments and Quality of Participation 15%
  • Presentation 15%
  • Final paper, including a paper proposal and a first draft (3,000-5,000 words) 70%



All readings will be available on the course website.

Graduate Studies Notes:

Important dates and deadlines for graduate students are found here: The deadline to drop a course with a 100% refund is the end of week 2. The deadline to drop with no notation on your transcript is the end of week 3.

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.