Spring 2020 - PHIL 221 D100

Ethical Theory (3)

Class Number: 7785

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Mo 12:30 PM – 2:20 PM
    RCB 8100, Burnaby

    We 12:30 PM – 1:20 PM
    RCB 8100, Burnaby

  • Exam Times + Location:

    Apr 19, 2020
    12:00 PM – 3:00 PM
    AQ 3153, Burnaby

  • Prerequisites:

    One of: PHIL 100W (or equivalent), PHIL 120W (or equivalent), PHIL 121, PHIL 144, PHIL 150 or PHIL 151.



An examination of the major ethical theories, including deontology, consequentialism and virtue ethics. Applications of these theories and related topics in value theory may also be discussed.


The primary goal of this course is to introduce students to key ethical and meta-ethical concepts and debates. Readings will be drawn from historical and contemporary sources.

Most of the course will focus on normative ethics. Normative ethics attempts to provide systematic account of how we ought to live and what it takes to be a good person. Consider the claim: “It is wrong to hurt an innocent child.” A normative ethical theory aims to explain what makes this action wrong and why. We will discuss a variety of moral traditions drawing from both historical and contemporary sources.

In the last part of the course, we will turn to meta-ethics. Meta-ethics attempts to inquire into the nature and status of ethical claims. Suppose again that someone says, “It is wrong to hurt an innocent child.” Our aim will be to evaluate this so-called ethical claim (and others like it) by asking the following questions: what, if anything, do ethical claims mean? That is, what does it mean to say that something is wrong (or right?) What kind of evidence would justify ethical claims? Do such claims have a truth value? Are ethical claims intrinsically motivating? Are ethical claims objective in some sense?


PHIL 221 is a required course for the Philosophy Major. It may also be applied towards the Certificate in Ethics.


  • Short, low-stakes writing assignments 20%
  • Two papers (25% and 30%) 55%
  • Final exam (see note below) 25%


NOTE: Due to Covid-19 pandemic, final exam is switched to take-home exam


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 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