Fall 2021 - PHIL 221 D100

Ethical Theory (3)

Class Number: 7478

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Sep 8 – Dec 7, 2021: Mon, 12:30–2:20 p.m.

    Sep 8 – Dec 7, 2021: Wed, 12:30–1:20 p.m.

  • Exam Times + Location:

    Dec 10, 2021
    Fri, 7:00–10:00 p.m.

  • 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. Some states of affairs seem to be good, while others appear to be bad. But is it true that some actions are morally wrong? Is it true that some actions are morally right or required? 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 and 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. The first is 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. The second is 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: in person.


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.



  1. The Fundamentals of Ethics, 5th Edition (2020) by Russ Schafer-Landau. ISBN: 9780190058319
  2. The Ethical Life, 5th Edition (2020) edited by Russ Schafer-Landau. ISBN: 9780190058241

E-copies of both textbooks are available through the SFU Bookstore.

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

New elective grade policy : P/CR/NC, pilot project for Spring/Summer/Fall 2021. List of exclusions for the new policy. Specifically for Philosophy: 

  • Students can use a P or CR to satisfy any requirement for a major, joint major, honours, or minor in Philosophy (with the exception of Honours tutorials).
  • Students can use a P or CR to satisfy any prerequisite requirement for any PHIL course.
  • Students can use a P (but not a CR) to satisfy any requirement for the Ethics Certificate, or the Philosophy and Methodology of Science Certificate.
  • Philosophy Majors and Honours students can use a P (but not a CR) to satisfy any WQB requirement.

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 2021 will involve primarily in-person instruction, with approximately 70 to 80 per cent of classes in person/on campus, with safety plans in place.  Whether your course will be in-person or through remote methods will be clearly identified in the schedule of classes.  You will also know at enrollment whether remote course components will be “live” (synchronous) or at your own pace (asynchronous).

Enrolling in a course acknowledges that you are able to attend in whatever format is required.  You should not enroll in a course that is in-person if you are not able to return to campus, and should be aware 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 may need class or exam accommodations, including in the context of remote learning, are advised to register with the SFU Centre for Accessible Learning (caladmin@sfu.ca or 778-782-3112) as early as possible in order to prepare for the fall 2021 term.