Fall 2022 - PHIL 329 B100

Law and Justice (3)

Class Number: 7714

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Sep 7 – Dec 6, 2022: Thu, 2:30–4:20 p.m.

  • Exam Times + Location:

    Dec 12, 2022
    Mon, 12:00–3:00 p.m.

  • Prerequisites:

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



Explores in detail the relationship between the law and theories of justice. Topics range over: the philosophy of punishment, theories of moral responsibility, charter equality rights, and theories of distributive justice. Students with credit for PHIL 333 in Spring 2016 cannot take this course for further credit.


Moral Luck in Criminal Culpability

In one of baseball’s most memorable moments, Hall of Fame pitcher Randy Johnson obliterated an unlucky bird when it flew directly into the path of his fastball (google it). Imagine that instead of a pitch, the bird flew into the path of an assassin’s bullet, thereby preventing the bullet from reaching its target. Even if the would-be assassin were apprehended, he could only be charged with attempted murder, which carries a significantly lower sentence than murder. While this scenario may seem far-fetched, the general phenomenon is ubiquitous—every day, drivers take unnecessary risks by speeding or running stop-signs; people in corporations, laboratories, and government offices sign off on things to which they ought to put a stop, bend the rules, or take unnecessary risks for the sake of convenience, profit, or misplaced generosity. Typically, such untoward actions go unnoticed and unsanctioned (or, at most, mildly sanctioned), but on those rare occasions where they cause significant harm, significant punishment tends to follow. Yet for the thwarted assassin, the reckless driver, and the negligent official, the difference in whether or to what extent one is punished is due wholly to external factors outside of the agent’s control. This feature of our familiar societal blaming practices runs contrary to the pervasive belief that we ought only to be morally assessed for what is in our control. This phenomenon whereby our moral appraisals, such as how much blame or punishment a person deserves, depends on factors outside of one’s control is known as the problem of moral luck. In this course we will take a deep dive into the nature of moral luck and what it reveals about the nature and legitimacy of our blaming practices, especially within criminal law. After approaching the topic from a theoretical perspective, we will turn to a critical investigation of certain specific doctrines within Canadian criminal law where moral luck is especially prevalent.


PHIL 329 is required for students doing a Philosophy Major or Minor with a Concentration in Law and PhilosophyIt may also be applied towards the Certificate in Ethics: Theory and Application



  • Essay 1* 25%
  • Essay 2* 25%
  • Midterm exam* 15%
  • Final exam* 25%
  • Online engagement 10%
  • In-person participation 5%
  • (*The assignment that you receive the lowest mark on out of these four will count for 5% less.) -5%


Course delivery: Blended. 
Roughly 50% will be in-person (the B100 section, see schedule), and 50% online (the B101 section, via Canvas). The online component will consist of short videos, online discussion, and low-stakes quizzes. The online component is all asynchronous.



All readings will be available on Canvas.


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 philmgr@sfu.ca   More details on our website: SFU Philosophy

New elective grade policy : P/CR/NC, pilot project in place from Spring 2021 to Summer 2023. 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, honours, 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 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