Spring 2022 - PHIL 320 D100

Social and Political Philosophy (3)

Class Number: 7361

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Fr 9:30 AM – 12:20 PM
    WMC 3533, Burnaby

  • Prerequisites:

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



An examination of an issue or selection of issues in social and political philosophy. Contemporary or historical readings or a mixture of these will be used. Possible topics include: justice, the law and legal systems, sovereignty, power and authority, democracy, liberty and equality. Sometimes the course will focus on the views of historically important political philosophers, such as Plato, Aristotle, Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Burke, Bentham, Mill and Marx.


Domination and Surveillance. Commentators predict that the constitutional right to obtain an abortion in the USA will soon vanish; women will lose a measure of control over their bodies. Observers note that the Chinese state has harnessed AI to collect information about its member with an unprecedented degree of thoroughness. The first is an example of domination: the degree to which a person may be interfered without their consent. The second is an example of surveillance: the degree to which information may be collected about a person without their consent. Many people believe that governments may wrong their citizens by either dominating or by surveilling them. Do these wrongs differ in fundamental ways from wrongs which consist in depriving people of their income, or their means of subsistence and other material goods? Many philosophers think so. They argue that domination or surveillance or both, when practiced by the state against its citizens, are a distinctive kind of wrong. There is a range of opinion regarding the source of those wrongs.

In this intermediate-level course in political philosophy, we examine different philosophical perspectives on the morality of domination and surveillance by the state of its citizens. The exact focus may differ each term. Topics may include:

  • Rights of self-ownership
  • The meaning of personal autonomy
  • The meaning of liberty
  • Domination vs subordination vs differences in social status
  • The moral significance of privacy
  • The meaning of civic equality (the equality of citizens)
  • The moral significance of diversity and dissent in public life The idea of public reason
  • The civic virtues that are suitable for pluralistic societies

We cover between 1-2 philosophy papers each week with an emphasis on contemporary materials. For your convenience, all the required readings will be available on Canvas.


PHIL 320 may be applied towards the Concentration in Law and Philosophy, and 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 lecture Week 8) 30%
  • One longer research paper (2500 words, due prior to lect. Week 13) 50%
  • Participation (comprising contributions to class or to office hour discussions) 10%


Course delivery: in person


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 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

New elective grade policy : P/CR/NC, pilot project for 2021 and Spring 2022. 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 spring 2022 will involve primarily in-person instruction, with safety plans in place.  Some courses will still be offered through remote methods, and if so, this 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 spring 2022 term.