Fall 2022 - PHIL 120W D100

Moral and Legal Problems (3)

Class Number: 7708

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Sep 7 – Dec 6, 2022: Tue, 2:30–4:20 p.m.

  • Exam Times + Location:

    Dec 9, 2022
    Fri, 11:59–11:59 p.m.



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 offers an introduction to contemporary moral issues. Questions to be considered include:

  •  Is abortion morally permissible?
  •  Is it wrong to eat meat?
  •  Do healthcare practitioners have the right to conscientious refusal?
  •  Do we have any obligation to the environment and future generations?

In this course, we will consider some of the strongest arguments in favour of positive and negative answers to the questions. Our aim is to arrive at reasoned positions on each issue by critically evaluating these arguments. Along the way, we consider the nature of morality, particularly whether it is objective, in some sense of the term, or subjective, in some sense of the term.


By the end of the course, students should be able to:

  •  Identify and reconstruct arguments in favour and against controversial views in moral philosophy
  •  Come to reasoned positions on some of these issues
  •  Understand some philosophical puzzles in moral theory
  •  Express their views and positions, both orally and in writing
  •  Engage in respectful philosophical debates with their peers

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

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.

Videos: Why Study Philosophy? and Meet our professors!


  • 1 short paper (750 words) with revision 20%
  • 1 short paper (750 words) with no revision 15%
  • 1 longer paper (1200 words) with no revision 25%
  • Final exam (multiple choice and short answers) 30%
  • Participation (in tutorial) 10%


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.



All readings will be made freely available online.


Your personalized Course Material list, including digital and physical textbooks, are available through the SFU Bookstore website by simply entering your Computing ID at: shop.sfu.ca/course-materials/my-personalized-course-materials.

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 in place from Spring 2021 to Summer 2023. 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 website 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