Spring 2023 - PHIL 120W D100

Moral and Legal Problems (3)

Class Number: 7164

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Tu 2:30 PM – 4:20 PM
    RCB IMAGTH, Burnaby

  • Exam Times + Location:

    Apr 15, 2023
    12:00 PM – 3:00 PM
    SSCC 9000, Burnaby

    Apr 15, 2023
    12:00 PM – 3:00 PM
    SSCC 9001, Burnaby

    Apr 15, 2023
    12:00 PM – 3:00 PM
    SSCC 9002, Burnaby



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 provides an introduction to moral philosophy through an examination of various moral, legal, and political problems and puzzles. We will be particularly interested in examining the kinds of moral principles that ought to guide public policy and decision-making. Topics may include:

  • Is it ever permissible to sacrifice the good of the few for the sake of the many?
  • What is the extent of a person’s right to self-defence?
  • Is there a moral right to abortion?
  • Is there a moral duty to alleviate the suffering of distant people?
  • Do health care practitioners have the right to conscientious refusal?
  • Is it possible to wrong a person by doing something that makes them better off?



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.

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

  • Identify an author’s main thesis and the supporting argument for that thesis;
  • Engage with those arguments in a critical and respectful manner, both in writing and in discussion with peers;
  • Construct arguments in support one’s own view;
  • Understand central concepts and theories in moral theory;
  • Understand some philosophical puzzles in moral theory.

This course is excellent preparation for law school, public policy degrees, business school, or for anyone intending to participate in public policy debates.

Videos: Why Study Philosophy? and Meet Our Professors!


  • Skills Development Assignment 45%
  • Take-home final exam (essay questions) 20%
  • In-person final exam (multiple-choice) 20%
  • Participation 15%


Course delivery: In person.


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.



Course materials and assignments will be distributed and collected via Canvas, an online Learning Management System; students are thus expected to have access to a computer from which to access readings, and to upload assignments.


All course readings will be freely available on Canvas in compliance with Canadian copyright law.


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

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