Summer 2021 - PHIL 320 D100

Social and Political Philosophy (3)

Class Number: 4045

Delivery Method: Remote


  • Course Times + Location:

    Tu 11:30 AM – 2:20 PM

  • Prerequisites:

    One of PHIL 120W (or equivalent), 121, 220, 221 or ENV 320W.



An examination of an issue or selection of issues in social and political philosophy. Contemporary or historical readings or a mixture of these will be used. Possible topics include: justice, the law and legal systems, sovereignty, power and authority, democracy, liberty and equality. Sometimes the course will focus on the views of historically important political philosophers, such as Plato, Aristotle, Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Burke, Bentham, Mill and Marx.


The social contract is a turning point of justification by which social order and social institutions are determined by a political community rather by divine right. The concept of a social contract does this by articulating the ways in which persons may have, and for what reasons, entered a civil society. In this latter usage, the idea of social contract captures the ways in which institutional arrangements are just or legitimate by appeal to the agreement of the members of a community.  

As a survey course we will trace the history of an idea and we will seek to understand why the idea has generated such a wealth of critical discussion. We begin with Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, moving on to contemporary social contract theorists Robert Nozick and John Rawls. We will find the social contract used to justify liberal arrangements as diverse as the egalitarian liberalism of John Rawls to the Libertarian liberalism of Robert Nozick. We will then undergo a survey of various critiques of the notion of a social contract and of the tradition as well, paying special attention to Feminist and Race based critiques.   


  1. Recognizing key concepts, articulating their meaning and placing them in their appropriate context
  2. Identifying key arguments placing them in their appropriate context with respect to authorship
  3. Presenting formally, the relevant arguments that we consider in class in premise to conclusion format
  4. Articulating the key themes found within the class in a well structured essay
  5. Critically analyzing and criticizing various arguments for soundness and validity
  6. Critically comparing various theories showing their strengths and weaknesses and critically extending arguments to novel cases and problems not found within the text

PHIL 320 may be applied towards the Concentration in Law and Philosophy, and the Certificate in Ethics: Theory and Application


  • One Essay 35%
  • Take Home Midterm 25%
  • Take Home Final Exam 35%
  • Participation: measured in terms of three online reflection assignments 5%


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




It will be necessary that the student have a computer and a reliable internet connection (dial-up or high speed modem suffice) to download lectures; submit assignments; and complete reflection assignments to satisfy participation requirements (done via Canvas as well).


Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan, ed. by Edwin Curley, Hackett, 1994.

John Locke, Two Treatises of Government, student edition, Cambridge Press, 1998.

Jean-Jacque Rousseau, The Basic Political Writings, Translated by Donald A. Cress, Hackett, 1987.

Charles Mills, The Racial Contract, Cornell University Press, 1999.

John Rawls, selections from Theory of Justice, (available on canvas)

David Hume, On the Original Contract, (available on the internet)

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   More details on our website: SFU Philosophy

New elective grade policy : P/CR/NC, pilot project for Spring/Summer/Fall 2021. 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, 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 web site 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.


Teaching at SFU in summer 2021 will be conducted primarily through remote methods, but we will continue to have in-person experiential activities for a selection of courses.  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 ( or 778-782-3112).