PHIL 120W Introduction to Moral Philosophy

Summer Semester 2013 | Day | Burnaby


INSTRUCTOR: Evan Tiffany, WMC 5652 (etiffany at


The primary goal of this course is to provide a theoretical background and vocabulary that enables philosophical thought about a variety of moral issues. By the end of the course, students should acquire an understanding of traditional moral theories such as utilitarianism, deontology, contractarianism, and virtue-ethics; as well they should gain an appreciation of the need for moral principles and the role of principles in moral decision-making. This aim will be facilitated by examining the different theories in the context of concrete problems such as homelessness, animal welfare, privacy, hate speech, criminal justice, and the allocation of scare resources and the distribution of income. A central theme to emerge from these investigations concerns how to balance the public good with individual rights and social justice. Secondarily, this course is designed to teach students how to perspicuously and succinctly express and defend their views in writing. While we will be concerned with interpreting and defending moral views, the basic tools learned here can be applied anywhere; the ability to set up a problem, succinctly state one’s position, accurately and fairly interpret someone else’s position, and cogently defend one’s own position against objections are invaluable skills to have in any domain.


  • R. Shafter-Landau, The Fundamentals of Ethics (Oxford University Press)
  • R. Shafter-Landau, Ed., The Ethical Life (Oxford University Press)
  • i>clicker *


  • Participation  10%
  • 3 Papers  10%, 15%, 25%
  • Midterm exam  15%
  • Final exam  25%
  • All papers must be submitted to Turnitin. Failure to do so will result in a failure to complete the course requirements, and may result in failing the course.

Prerequisites: Philosophy 120 has no prerequisites and may be applied towards the Certificate in Liberal Arts, the W-requirement, and the Breadth/Humanities requirement.

* As you may know, i>clickers can be used in different classes.  If you already have one, don’t buy another.  If you don't already have one, buy one knowing that you can use it in other courses.  That said, you do not need to own the one you use, but you do need one (the same one) that you can bring to every lecture.  Once term is underway, you will go on-line to link the clicker to your student id to receive credit for its use in this class.  So, borrowing one is fine, but it is your responsibility to ensure you have it when you need it (every lecture) and that you have logged on to link (“register”) it for this class.  You cannot share one with somebody registered in this class—in any given class, a particular clicker can be linked to only one student.  However you get your clicker, it must have a visible original serial number on the back in order for you to link it to your student id.