Spring 2021 - PHIL 329 D100

Law and Justice (3)

Class Number: 2194

Delivery Method: Remote


  • Course Times + Location:

    Tu 11:30 AM – 2:20 PM

  • Prerequisites:

    One of PHIL 120W (or equivalent), 121, 220, 221, ENV 320W, or with permission of instructor.



Explores in detail the relationship between the law and theories of justice. Topics range over: the philosophy of punishment, theories of moral responsibility, charter equality rights, and theories of distributive justice. Students with credit for PHIL 333 in Spring 2016 cannot take this course for further credit.


Rights in Conflict

This is an intermediate level course in law and philosophy whose focus is conflicting basic rights. Constitutional documents, like Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms, normally list various claims which all citizens are said to enjoy as a matter of “fundamental right”. A problem with “fundamental rights,” however, is that they often conflict. In this course, we examine some interesting examples of rights in conflict. We will read some of the relevant jurisprudence (how judges have resolved the conflicts in question), and also consider how philosophers, freed from the constraints of fidelity to a constitution, recommend resolving those tensions. Issues vary from term to term in response to the news cycle but may include:

  • Religious freedom vs protection from discrimination
  • Freedom of expression vs equal opportunities to influence the political process
  • The right to dignity: does it include the right to a place to live?
  • Strict equality vs positive discrimination for the members of indigenous peoples
  • Freedom of movement vs public health (in the time of Covid)
  • Property vs democracy

The course is organized around one three-hour meeting each week. I will do my best to make “Zoom philosophy” bearable. During each meeting lectures will be broken up by periods during which we read passages together on a white board, as well as periods during which students will enter smaller chat rooms to discuss some assigned breakout questions. So students are expected to contribute to class discussion. We will cover between 1-2 papers each week. For your convenience, all the required readings will be available on Canvas.


The general aim of the course is for students to learn how to:

  • Identify a thesis and its supporting arguments in philosophical materials and other relevant sources
  • Engage with those arguments in respectful discussion with peers
  • Construct written arguments and anticipate replies to those arguments
  • Conduct limited independent research
  • Acquire familiarity with some jurisprudence
  • Engage with the moral foundations of the law and policy using philosophical arguments and methods

This course is excellent preparation for: law school, graduate school in philosophy, public policy degrees, or business school, or for anyone wishing to participate in public deliberation with their fellow citizens.

PHIL 329 is required for students doing a Philosophy Major or Minor with a Concentration in Law and PhilosophyIt may also be applied towards the Certificate in Ethics: Theory and Application


  • One short assignment (from a total of two); the first due no later than week 4 and the last due no later than week 10, 600 words max) 10%
  • One short research paper (1200 words) due prior to Lect. Week 8 30%
  • One longer research paper (2500 words) due prior to Lect. Week 13 50%
  • Participation – comprising contributions to class discussions or to private Zoom discussions 10%


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


I understand that during the Covid-19 crisis students may confront a variety of serious obstacles. I will do my best to accommodate you. But please contact me in advance for any accommodation you may require, if you can.  Also, please consult the university policy on Academic Dishonesty.



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 . 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).


All materials will be available from the Library or on Canvas. There is no course reader or text.

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).