Fall 2020 - PHIL 321 D200

Topics in Moral Philosophy (3)


Class Number: 8363

Delivery Method: Remote


  • Course Times + Location:

    Th 11:30 AM – 2:20 PM

  • Prerequisites:

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


Selected Topics: Bioethics: Theory and Decision-Making in a Clinical Setting

Important notes: Students that are enrolled in PHIL 321 section D100 can not enroll in section D200 (a student can only do one section of PHIL 321 in the Fall term, not both). Students that took PHIL 321 D200 in Summer 2020 with the same topic (Bioethics) can not take this course for additional credit (it will be considered a repeat). 
When a physician and a patient disagree over a certain course of medical treatment, who should ultimately decide? What is informed consent and why is it so important? What makes clinical trials ethical? Medical professionals, patients, and their loved ones are routinely confronted with ethical challenges within a healthcare setting. Bioethics is a relatively new discipline that aims to understand and address these challenges. We will begin by considering the theoretical foundations of bioethics and the complexity of moral reasoning within a medical setting. From there, we will consider some of the central ethical issues within a medical context, including how to maintain and uphold the well-being and dignity of patients, autonomous decision-making, the rights and responsibilities of medical professionals, patients, and their loved ones, and justice and fairness in healthcare. This course is intended for philosophy students, as well as those considering a career in health sciences.


PHIL 321 may be applied towards the Certificate in Ethics and the Concentration in Law and Philosophy. This course may be repeated for credit in a different term if the topic is different. 



  • Three 5-page papers, worth 30% each 90%
  • Participation: this will be measured in terms of class attendance (5%) and quality of contributions to class discussions (5%). 10%


Course delivery: remote, synchronous. Online presence is required during scheduled lecture time.


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.



Students are required to have a computer or a tablet with a camera and a microphone, and reliable internet access in order to attend class. Headsets are advisable but not necessary. If students do not have reliable access, they should inform their instructor and contact the IT desk to see if a loaner computer can be arranged. There is one computer lab on campus for limited access. It is recommended that students use broadband wired or wireless (3G or 4G/LTE) internet connection, with bandwidth of at least 1.5Mbps (upload and download). Online platform: We will use Zoom.


No textbook required. All readings are available online or pdfs will be posted on Canvas.

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

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 fall 2020 will be conducted primarily through remote methods. There will be in-person course components in a few exceptional cases where this is fundamental to the educational goals of the course. Such course components will be clearly identified at registration, as will course components that will be “live” (synchronous) vs. at your own pace (asynchronous). Enrollment acknowledges 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. To ensure you can access all course materials, we recommend you have access to a computer with a microphone and camera, and the internet. In some cases your instructor may use Zoom or other means requiring a camera and microphone to invigilate exams. If proctoring software will be used, this will be confirmed in the first week of class.

Students with hidden or visible disabilities who believe they may need class or exam accommodations, including in the current context of remote learning, are encouraged to register with the SFU Centre for Accessible Learning (caladmin@sfu.ca or 778-782-3112).