Spring 2023 - PHIL 326 D100

Topics in Law and Philosophy (3)

Land and Colonization

Class Number: 7172

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Tu 11:30 AM – 2:20 PM
    WMC 3533, Burnaby

  • Prerequisites:

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



Explores in detail classic problems in the law using the methods and resources of philosophy. Topics may include: problems in professional ethics facing lawyers; philosophical issues in international law and human rights; constitutional interpretation and the philosophy of language; the assessment of evidence and formal epistemology; the intellectual origins of the theory of natural law and natural rights; or others. Students may repeat this course for further credit under a different topic.


 Selected Topics: Land and Colonization  

During the early modern period, many Western states engaged in land grabs of unprecedented proportions, racing each other to appropriate the resources and territories of indigenous peoples. The universal adoption of the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (with Canada being one of the last states to ratify in 2016) symbolizes a willingness to address that historical legacy. But the moral issues surrounding the response to colonialization are highly complex.

In this intermediate-level course, the focus will be restricted to moral rights over land and territory. We will investigate some general theories of territorial rights found in the Euro-American philosophical tradition and unpack their implications for the territorial claims of indigenous peoples. Topics and readings may vary each term between historical figures (e.g., Grotius, Locke, Pufendorf, Kant) and contemporary sources. Since I have no professional training in the philosophies of indigenous peoples their theoretical perspective(s) will not be represented in this course.


PHIL 326 is required for students doing a Philosophy Major or Minor with a Concentration in Law and Philosophy, or the Business, Philosophy and the Law Joint Major.  It may also be applied towards the Certificate in Ethics: Theory and Application. This course can be repeated for credit under a different topic. 

The general aim of the course is for students to learn how to:

* Identify a thesis and its supporting arguments in philosophical materials and other relevant sources

* Engage with those arguments in respectful discussion with peers

* Construct written arguments and to anticipate replies to those arguments

* Conduct limited independent research

* Become acquainted with different theories of territorial rights and their implications for the land claims of indigenous peoples

This course is excellent preparation for: law school, graduate school in philosophy, public policy degrees, business school, or for anyone wishing to participate in public deliberation with their fellow citizens.


  • One short assignment (from a total of two; the first due no later than week 4 and the last due no later than week 10, 600 words max) 10%
  • One short research paper (1200 words, due prior to Lect. Week 8,) 30%
  • One longer research paper (2000 words, due prior to Lect. Week 13) 50%
  • Participation (comprising contributions to class or to office hour discussions) 10%


I understand that during the Covid-19 crisis students may confront a variety of serious health obstacles. I am sympathetic and will do my best to accommodate you. Please contact me in advance for any accommodation you may require if you can. Also, please consult the university policy on Academic Dishonesty.



   All course materials are available free online from at least one of the following sources: the SFU Library, the Web, SFU Canvas. There is no course reader or text.


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 philcomm@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