Fall 2022 - PHIL 322 D100

History of Ethics (3)

Class Number: 7899

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Mo 2:30 PM – 5:20 PM
    WMC 3253, Burnaby

  • Prerequisites:

    One of PHIL 120, 120W, 121, 150, 151, 220, 221, 270, SDA 270, ENV 320W, or REM 320W.



An examination of an issue or selection of issues in the history of moral or political philosophy. Historical readings will be the primary focus and may include important figures such as Aristotle, Hobbes, Locke, Hume, and Kant.


For several millennia the organization of human societies has included states and governments: institutions which claim a monopoly over the use of violence in a particular territory. Reflecting on this feature of the human condition, Rousseau observed that, “Man is born free but everywhere is in chains”. He goes on to ask, what (if anything) provides a moral justification for arrangements in which individuals are governed by coercive states? Rousseau’s question brings into focus some central preoccupations of Western moral philosophy during the Enlightenment period. It presumes that all people possess certain natural rights (like freedom) which are self-evident, and which require no justification. It assumes that states are artificial creations whose justification depends on satisfying a standard for legitimacy. Revolt and revolution may be justified in states which fall short of that standard.

In this intermediate level course, we examine influential philosophical treatments of the relationship between individuals and the state during the Western Enlightenment: a period during which the kings of both England and France were deposed and executed during political revolutions. This term we will examine:

We will rely on primary texts, though I will also introduce and direct students to more recent scholarly interpretations.


PHIL 322 is one of the electives for the Philosophy Major or Minor with a Concentration in Law and PhilosophyIt may also be applied towards the Certificate in Ethics: Theory and Application.  
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 to anticipate replies to those arguments
  • Conduct limited independent research
  • 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.



  • 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 (2000 words, due prior to Lect. Week 13) 50%
  • Participation (comprising contributions to class or to office hour discussions) 10%


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.



All course materials are available online from at least one of the following sources: the SFU Library, the Web, SFU Canvas. There is no course reader or text. (I include links to PDFs for the core texts above.)


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