Summer 2022 - PHIL 326 D100

Topics in Law and Philosophy (3)

Legal Epistemology

Class Number: 4013

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Tu 11:30 AM – 2:20 PM
    AQ 5030, Burnaby

  • Prerequisites:

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



Explores in detail classic problems in the law using the methods and resources of philosophy. Topics may include: problems in professional ethics facing lawyers; philosophical issues in international law and human rights; constitutional interpretation and the philosophy of language; the assessment of evidence and formal epistemology; the intellectual origins of the theory of natural law and natural rights; or others. Students may repeat this course for further credit under a different topic.


Selected Topics: Legal Epistemology (previously offered as "Legal Guilt & Punishment") - IMPORTANT: students that have taken the Fall 2019 offering of PHIL 326 with the topic "Legal Guilt & Punishment" may NOT take this course for further credit. It will be considered a repeat. 

Legal practice in Canada and in the United States appeals to a wide variety of epistemological concepts and principles. It involves the ideas of proof, evidence, doubt, testimony, expertise, reasoning and so on. This course questions various epistemological issues raised by Canadian and American legal practices. We will especially focus on various legal standards—i.e. beyond reasonable doubt, preponderance of the evidence, and the reasonable person standard—and the philosophical issues that arise from them. Questions to be discussed may include:

  • How do courts reason about causation?
  • Why does evidence have probative value?
  • Are there any good reason to exclude probative evidence in a court of law?
  • Should legal standards of proof be sensitive to practical factors?
  • Do epistemic notions like sensitivity, safety, reliability, knowledge, and justification have legal import?


PHIL 326 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. This course can be repeated for credit under a different topic. 

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

  • Identify and reconstruct philosophical arguments
  • Write upper-level undergraduate philosophy papers
  • Conduct independent research
  • Engage with fundamental philosophical issues in law using philosophical arguments and methods


  • Two short assignments 10%
  • Leading two breakout sessions 5%
  • Short midterm paper (no more than 1200 words) 30%
  • Final term paper (no more than 2000 words) 45%
  • Attendance 5%
  • Contribution to class discussion 5%


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 accessible online.

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   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 web site 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.


Teaching at SFU in summer 2022 will involve primarily in-person instruction.  Some courses may be offered through alternative methods (remote, online, blended), and if so, this will be clearly identified in the schedule of classes. 

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, online, or blended courses 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 ( or 778-782-3112) as early as possible in order to prepare for the summer 2022 term.