Spring 2021 - PHIL 221 D100

Ethical Theory (3)

Class Number: 2209

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.


The purpose of this course is to introduce students to key ethical and meta-ethical concepts and debates. Readings will be drawn from historical and contemporary sources.

In the first half of the class, we will focus on normative ethics. Normative ethics attempts to provide systematic account of how we ought to live and what it takes to be a good person. Consider the claim: “It is wrong to hurt an innocent child.” A normative ethical theory aims to explain what makes this action wrong and why. We will discuss three normative theories, namely utilitarianism, deontology, and virtue ethics.

The second half of the class will focus on meta-ethics. Meta-ethics attempts to inquire into the nature and status of ethical claims. Suppose again that someone says, “It is wrong to hurt an innocent child.” Our aim will be to evaluate this so-called ethical claim (and others like it) by asking the following questions: what, if anything, do ethical claims mean? That is, what does it mean to say that something is wrong (or right?) What kind of evidence would justify ethical claims? Do such claims have a truth value? Are ethical claims intrinsically motivating? Are ethical claims objective in some sense?


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


  • Three papers (30% each) 90%
  • Participation – this will be measured in terms of class attendance (5%) and quality of contributions to class discussions (5%). 10%


Course delivery: remote, synchronous. Online presence is required during scheduled lecture time. There is no final exam in this course. 


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 with a cameraand a microphone, and reliable internet access in order to attend class. Headsets are advisable but not necessary. Students have access to free Office 365 or Adobe Creative Cloud found here . 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. 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). Online platform: we will use Zoom.


There is no required textbook. All readings will be posted on Canvas.

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 spring 2021 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).