Fall 2023 - PHIL 120W D100

Moral and Legal Problems (3)

Class Number: 5767

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Sep 6 – Dec 5, 2023: Thu, 4:30–6:20 p.m.

  • Exam Times + Location:

    Dec 16, 2023
    Sat, 7:00–10:00 p.m.

    Dec 16, 2023
    Sat, 7:00–10:00 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 will examine ethical questions that arise in the law and in our daily lives. You’ll learn about what contemporary philosophers have said about these issues and work on developing and supporting your own positions. Examples of topics discussed include:

  • the ethics of romantic relationships and sexual attraction
  • whether negative emotions, like anger, can be morally valuable
  • freedom of speech and the ethics of cancel culture
  • how we should balance privacy against other values like innovation or national security
  • whether living ethically should be our top priority



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.

This course is designed to help students to:

  • Carefully read philosophical texts, identify the core thesis being defended, and explain the argument the author uses to support that thesis
  • Analyze and engage with those arguments, respectfully and thoughtfully, both in writing and in conversation
  • Identify potential weaknesses of philosophical arguments and consider ways to reply to those objections
  • Develop and revise clearly-written and well-supported papers
  • Become familiar with philosophical work on a variety of moral and legal problems, and reflect carefully on that work
Videos: Why Study Philosophy? and Meet Our Professors!


  • Quality of Course Engagement (Quality of Active Participation in Tutorials + Argument Map + Class Worksheets) 10%
  • One 350-word argument explanation 2.5%
  • One 500-word argument analysis 2.5%
  • One 850-word paper 25%
  • One 1,500-word paper 35%
  • Final Exam 25%


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 available on the course’s Canvas page.  There are no textbooks to purchase.


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 philcomm@sfu.ca   More details on our website: SFU Philosophy

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


Students with a faith background who may need accommodations during the semester are encouraged to assess their needs as soon as possible and review the Multifaith religious accommodations website. The page outlines ways they begin working toward an accommodation and ensure solutions can be reached in a timely fashion.