PHIL 120W Introduction to Moral Philosophy

Fall Semester 2011 | Day


INSTRUCTOR  Sam Black, WMX 5608



  • Exploring Ethics, 2nd ed, Steven M. Cahn (Ed.), (Oxford, 2010) ISBN 978-019975751-0



This course gives students a basic introduction to the philosophy of right and wrong. We begin by examining how philosophers address various ethical problems. Sample topics include: Is terrorism wrong? Do animals have rights? Should pornography be made illegal?

Rather than solving moral problems in isolation, many philosophers claim that moral problems can be resolved by appealing to very general, all-purpose criteria, called moral theories. We will study several moral theories, including: Kantian, social contract, utilitarian, and virtue ethical theories.

Some philosophers argue that the claims often made on behalf of morality are overblown. They doubt that there are any moral duties, or alternatively, they doubt that people have good reason to do the right thing. We end the course by engaging with some of these skeptical arguments.

As an additional bonus, this course is writing intensive. Special efforts will be made to help students acquire the basic mechanics of essay writing: mechanics that will be extremely useful throughout their academic careers, and beyond. Students will therefore be required to revise their essays in response to feedback, as well as hand in low stakes writing assignments. This course is an excellent choice if this is your first term at SFU.


FORMAT  Two lectures and one tutorial per week



  • Ten single paragraph reflections (1% deducted per missed assignment)
  • One essay and one revision, 500 words - 20%
  • One essay and one revision, 700 words - 20%
  • One final paper 1500 words, no revision - 30%
  • One short final exam - 30%


Note: PHIL 120 has no prerequisites, and may be applied to the Certificate in Liberal Studies, the W-requirement, and the Breadth/Humanities requirement.

Note: No Nonsense Paper Policy: In the interest of preserving a level playing field, students submitting late papers without prior arrangement or a doctor's note will be penalized. Students caught plagiarizing or otherwise cheating will normally be recommended for suspension from the university.