Spring 2020 - PHIL 421W E100

Advanced Topics in Ethical Theory (4)


Class Number: 7776

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Tu, Th 4:30 PM – 6:20 PM
    AQ 5009, Burnaby

  • Prerequisites:

    two 300 level PHIL courses; it is strongly recommended that students have taken some prior course in moral theory.



A highly focused, advanced examination of a selection of topics in normative or meta-ethics. May be repeated for credit. Writing.


Selected Topics: Privacy

[Note: this course is to be taught concurrently with PHIL 825.]  

This course will explore philosophical work on ethical and political debates surrounding privacy. Questions discussed will include the following:

•Why might privacy be valuable? If people are harmed by privacy losses, what exactly is the harm?

•How should privacy be weighed against competing values like journalistic freedom, public safety, or government transparency?

•Should public figures be entitled to less privacy than the rest of us?

•Is the subjects’ consent sufficient to ensure that data collection is ethical? What conditions are necessary for meaningful consent to data collection?

•Are some legal approaches to data privacy paternalistic? And is some paternalism appropriate in this area?

•Should the European Union’s “right to be forgotten” be adopted more widely?

•Do we, in some sense, own data that is about us? When others profit from collecting data about us, should we be entitled to share in those benefits?

•Should we have a right to privacy in public spaces, or is it always permissible to record people’s public behavior?


PHIL 421W may be applied towards the Writing Requirement (and the upper division Writing Requirement for Philosophy Majors). This course may be repeated for credit if the topic is different.

The course is excellent preparation for: graduate school in philosophy, public policy degrees, law school, business school.


  • Short Reading Response Assignments and Quality of Participation 15%
  • Presentation 15%
  • Final paper, including a paper proposal and a first draft (3,000-5,000 words) 70%



All readings will be available on the course website.

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