Spring 2024 - PHIL 321 D100

Topics in Moral Philosophy (3)

Feminism:Sex and Autonomy

Class Number: 7300

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Jan 8 – Apr 12, 2024: Wed, 9:30 a.m.–12:20 p.m.

  • Prerequisites:

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



An advanced investigation of central issues and theories in moral philosophy. In any given term, the course may focus on a general theory or concept or concern, for example meta-ethics, utilitarianism, or theories of rights. Sometimes it will focus on a particular problem or problems, such as medical ethics, moral personhood, or free will and moral responsibility. May be repeated for credit.


Topics in Moral Philosophy: Feminist Perspectives on the Self, Sex, and Autonomy

Feminist philosophers highlight the significance of autonomy across various domains of human activity, including, perhaps especially, in the domain of sex. In this context, threats and harms to autonomy are often taken to be distinctive in their kind from other threats and harms to autonomy. The purpose of this course is to begin to develop an answer to the question "what makes sexualized threats and harms to autonomy distinctive as a kind of harm"? To answer this question, we will begin by considering more broadly why it is that feminists value autonomy, its relationship to self, and, more particularly, the self as a sexual being. From there, we will turn to considering particular sexualized threats to autonomy (objectification, adaptive preferences, sexual violence), what and how it is that they harm. We will conclude by reading Susan Brison's Aftermath: Violence and the Remaking of a Self.

This course explores these topics from a primarily anglo-American analytic philosophical perspective. This is a perspective that seeks to uncover and assess our own or others’ assumptions, in this case, assumptions about the self, sex, and autonomy. We may then assess whether these assumptions are true or false, and whether the practices that are based on these assumptions are good or bad, right or wrong, etc. Two of the principal methods of philosophy used to investigate and assess assumptions are critical analysis and argumentation.

Through in-class discussion and assignments, students will develop their skills of accurately articulating and charitably evaluating an author's claims by constructing their own arguments. Assignments are intended to help students improve the clarity, precision, and concision of their thought and writing, while developing awareness of their audience and how to succeed in communicating to that audience. Students should also acquire an increased understanding of the positions and views within the umbrella of feminist philosophy of the self, sex, and autonomy.


PHIL 321 may be applied towards the Certificate in Ethics and the Concentration in Law and Philosophy.
This course may be repeated for credit if the topic is different, but not in the same term.  



  • Active Participation: this includes, but is not limited to, attending class, listening respectfully, asking good questions and participating in discussion in a way that reflects familiarity with, and conscientious consideration of, the readings. 15%
  • Short (~300 words) Reading Responses: (7x5%) max submission 1/week. You must submit at least 3 reading responses by the fifth week of class (one week skip), the remainder may be submitted by the last week of class (two weeks skip). You cannot submit more than 7 reading responses. These responses are meant to develop and demonstrate your understanding of the material. Submit a concise paraphrase of a pivotal portion of the reading and explain how it relates to the author's overall claim before briefly raising a critical question about an element (premise) of the reasoning at work in the portion that you paraphrase. Responses are due by 11:59pm the night before the class in which that reading will be discussed. 35%
  • In-class reflections (~200 words) (3x5%): At the end of some classes, students will be given 20 minutes to write a reflection on the reading and class discussion for that week. These reflections are intended to extend the dialogue created through the class discussion. Students may use this opportunity to identify something they may not have understood, to raise further questions or objections that were not addressed, or to respond to aspects of the dialogue where they think a meaningful contribution could be made. Students may submit four in class reflections and only have their three best marks counted. 15%
  • Term Paper Outline: Students will submit an outline for their paper a week after paper topics for the term are distributed so that they can receive and integrate feedback from their outline into their final paper. 10%
  • Term Paper (2000-2250 words) 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.



With one exception, readings will be available online via the course website. A copy of Susan Brison's Aftermath (ISBN: 0691016194) has been ordered and will be available for purchase at the bookstore. This reading is also available online through the SFU library.


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