Summer 2020 - PHIL 120W D100

Moral and Legal Problems (3)

Class Number: 4534

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Mo 2:30 PM – 4:20 PM

  • Exam Times + Location:

    Aug 14, 2020
    12:00 PM – 3:00 PM
    Location: TBA



A critical examination of a range of moral and legal issues we confront in our dealings with the state and our fellow human beings, such as: Is it wrong to break the law? Should pornography and recreational drugs be illegal? Do animals have rights? Is there a duty to admit immigrants? Are there duties to the world's poor? Are indigenous peoples owed reparations? Students with credit for PHIL 120 may not take this course for further credit. Writing/Breadth-Humanities.


This course will examine ethical problems that arise in the law and in our daily lives. Examples of questions discussed include:

• Is eating meat wrong?

• If we face a choice of career paths, what priorities should we have? Is it better to choose a career that does good directly or to make a lot of money and donate it? Must we pick a career with the aim of “giving back”?

• Is it morally bad to break the law?

• Can a joke be unethical? When?

• Are politicians’ lies justifiable when they bring about good results?

• How should an ethical person approach romantic relationships?

**This course will meet over Zoom during the scheduled class period.**


PHIL 120W may be applied towards the Certificate in Liberal Arts, the Writing Requirement, and the Breadth-Humanities Requirement.

This course is designed to help students to:

-Carefully read philosophical texts, identify the core thesis being defended, and explain the argument the author uses to support that thesis

-Analyze and engage with those arguments, respectfully and thoughtfully, both in writing and in conversation

-Identify potential objections to philosophical arguments and consider ways to reply to those objections

-Develop and revise clearly-written and well-argued papers

-Become familiar with philosophical work on a variety of moral and legal problems, and reflect carefully on that work

This course is excellent preparation for: law school, graduate school in philosophy, public policy degrees, or business school, or for anyone intending to participate in public policy debates.

The course is strongly recommended for students intending to pursue a Philosophy Major or Minor (especially with the Law and Philosophy concentration), or the Certificate in Ethics.


  • Quality of Course Engagement (Quality of Active Participation in Tutorials + Argument Map + (Optionally) Quality of Class Worksheets) 10%
  • One 350-word argument explanation 2.5%
  • One 500-word argument critique 2.5%
  • One 850-word paper 25%
  • One 1,500-word paper 40%
  • Final Exam 20%


This course will meet over Zoom during the scheduled class period.


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.



The lecture and tutorials will meet over Zoom during the scheduled class period. Students will need a microphone and high-speed internet access that will allow them to view live video and contribute to discussions and class activities over audio. A camera is optional. Technical specifications for compatibility with Zoom are available here:


All readings will be available on the course’s Canvas page.

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.


Please note that all teaching at SFU in summer term 2020 will be conducted through remote methods. Enrollment in this course 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.

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 ( or 778-782-3112) as soon as possible to ensure that they are eligible and that approved accommodations and services are implemented in a timely fashion.