Fall 2020 - PHIL 221 D100

Ethical Theory (3)

Class Number: 4020

Delivery Method: Remote


  • Course Times + Location:

    Mo 12:30 PM – 2:20 PM

    We 12:30 PM – 1:20 PM

  • 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 these theories and related topics in value theory may also be discussed.


Some of the things we do and care about seem to matter, morally speaking. For example, it seems that some actions are morally wrong. That is, from the point of view of morality, there are some actions that we should not do. Other actions appear to be morally right, or morally required. We may think that these actions are obligatory. Some states of affairs seem to be good, while others appear to be bad. But is it true that some actions are morally wrong; others, morally right? If so, what makes an action morally wrong, or morally right? What explains the fact—if it is a fact—that an action has the moral status it has? Is it true that some states of affairs are good; others, bad? What explains their goodness or badness? Indeed, what is it for something to be good or bad? This course offers an introduction to various ethical and metaethical theories that attempt to answer such fundamental questions about ethical life.


PHIL 221 is a required course for the Philosophy Major. It may also be applied towards the Certificate in Ethics.

The aim of this course is two-fold:

  1. to develop a working familiarity with the strengths and weaknesses of some of the most important views and theories in ethics, and—to some extent—in metaethics.
  2.  to develop your writing and analytic skills by paraphrasing and evaluating various arguments, understanding their objections, and presenting good arguments for your views.


  • Two short papers (1200 words, 30% each) 60%
  • Final exam 30%
  • Attendance and participation 10%


Course delivery: remote, synchronous. Online presence is required during scheduled lecture time.


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.



Remote learning for this semester requires a computer or tablet, camera, microphone, and internet access. Headsets are advisable but not necessary. Students have access to free Office 365 or Adobe Creative Cloud found here https://www.sfu.ca/itservices/remote-study-work-resources.html. If students do not have reliable access, they should inform their instructor and contact the IT desk to see if a loaner computer can be arranged. There is one computer lab on campus for limited access. Classes will be conducted on Zoom. It is recommended that students use broadband wired or wireless (3G or 4G/LTE) internet connection, with bandwidth of at least 1.5Mbps (upload and download).


The Ethical Life: Fundamental Readings in Ethics and Moral Problems, Fourth Edition (2018), edited by Russ Shafer-Landau. Oxford University Press. ISBN: 9780190631321

The Fundamentals of Ethics, Fourth Edition (2018), by Russ Shafer-Landau. Oxford University Press. ISBN: 9780190631390

E-copies of both textbooks are available online through VitalSource.

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


Teaching at SFU in fall 2020 will be conducted primarily through remote methods. There will be in-person course components in a few exceptional cases where this is fundamental to the educational goals of the course. Such course components will be clearly identified at registration, as will course components that will be “live” (synchronous) vs. at your own pace (asynchronous). Enrollment acknowledges that remote study may entail different modes of learning, interaction with your instructor, and ways of getting feedback on your work than may be the case for in-person classes. To ensure you can access all course materials, we recommend you have access to a computer with a microphone and camera, and the internet. In some cases your instructor may use Zoom or other means requiring a camera and microphone to invigilate exams. If proctoring software will be used, this will be confirmed in the first week of class.

Students with hidden or visible disabilities who believe they may need class or exam accommodations, including in the current context of remote learning, are encouraged to register with the SFU Centre for Accessible Learning (caladmin@sfu.ca or 778-782-3112).