Summer 2023 - PHIL 812 G100

Selected Topics in Logic I (5)

Deontic Logic

Class Number: 4256

Delivery Method: Blended


  • Course Times + Location:

    May 8 – Aug 4, 2023: Tue, 5:30–8:20 p.m.



Selected Topics: Deontic Logic

[Note: this course is to be taught concurrently with PHIL 467W.]

Important note regarding enrollment: All seats are reserved for Philosophy Graduate students. Enrollments from other departments will be considered only upon submission of the Graduate Course Add Form, and with instructor's permission. All such enrollments will be done in or after the first week of classes.

This course provides a basic introduction to logical tools that find applications in the domain of ethics (with an emphasis on metaethics), moral theory, law, and other normative disciplines. In short, “deontic logic” is the formal logic of normative arguments. Formalization allows one to precisely systemize various beliefs and to uncover hidden paradoxes and inconsistencies among those beliefs. Suppose that we can successfully formalize a set of intuitively plausible principles regarding a set of ethical concepts and in so doing uncover an inconsistency. Deciding how best to resolve the tension requires going beyond the formal properties of the concepts in question and inquiring into the content of those concepts. That is, we need to engage with some first-order normative theorizing. For instance, what are we to do if there are different sources of value that are fundamentally incommensurable? By making it possible to treat first-order normative reasoning as a formal system, the tools we propose to examine will give us an enhanced capacity to address such subtle questions.

We will address questions about the nature of normative entailment, about criteria for the coherence of system of norms, and about idealization involved in the treatment of preferences, utility, and reasons. The introduction of such concepts and methods into ethics and metaethics is a stimulating approach that presents new challenges and opportunities. Due to the nature of the field, the course will begin with an introduction to some basic concepts and methods of modal logic. We will then move to applications to normative reasoning, including conditional obligations, conflicting obligations, supererogation, the role of chance, and (time permitting) the Hohfeldian analysis of rights.

Students are required to attend classes and participate.


Successful completion of this course will fulfill the logic requirement towards the MA degree for Philosophy graduate students.

* Acquire a working knowledge of the basic concepts of modal logic

* Develop a technical understanding of the specificity of deontic logic

* Compare the formal properties of different approaches to the logic of norms

* Improve one’s capacity to make conceptual nuances in ethics and moral philosophy


  • Assignments (6): 5% each 30%
  • Participation to online discussions: 10% for merely doing it, and 10% for the quality of the contributions 20%
  • Term paper: 12-15 pages 50%


Course delivery: blended, in person and online, as follows:

* 3 hours of regular in-person seminar

* 1 hour for online discussions of the material



The core material about deontic logic per se will be delivered in class during lectures. Furthermore, a set of readings in PDF will be distributed to students.


No textbook required. A set of readings in PDF will be distributed to students.


Your personalized Course Material list, including digital and physical textbooks, are available through the SFU Bookstore website by simply entering your Computing ID at:

Graduate Studies Notes:

Important dates and deadlines for graduate students are found here: The deadline to drop a course with a 100% refund is the end of week 2. The deadline to drop with no notation on your transcript is the end of week 3.

Registrar Notes:


SFU’s Academic Integrity website 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.


Students with a faith background who may need accommodations during the semester are encouraged to assess their needs as soon as possible and review the Multifaith religious accommodations website. The page outlines ways they begin working toward an accommodation and ensure solutions can be reached in a timely fashion.