PHIL 120W Introduction to Moral Philosophy

Fall Semester 2013 | Day | Burnaby


INSTRUCTOR: J. Warriner, WMC 5607 (jwarrine at


Ethicists ask: how should we act? For example, is it always wrong to lie? We tend to think so. But, suppose a lie prevents some people from being murdered. Is it wrong to lie in this circumstance? We also tend to think that it’s wrong to kill human beings. If so, is it wrong to abort a fetus, given that a fetus is a human being? What about killing animals? Is there a moral difference between killing humans and killing animals? In this course, we will consider these questions, among others. We will consider several ethical theories, including divine command theory, utilitarianism, deontology, and virtue ethics. To aid in understanding these theories, we will reflect on some central ethical problems, including abortion, female genital mutilation, and the treatment of animals. In addition, we will consider some interesting positions that challenge the project of formulating “universal” ethical theories in the first place.


  • The Ethical Life: Fundamental Readings in Ethics and Moral Problems, Second Edition, Russ Shafer-Landau (ed.), Oxford University Press, 2011, ISBN: 978-0199773527
  • In addition, there will be required readings posted on Canvas. 


  • First paper, 600-900 words, with revisions - 15%
  • Second paper, 1200-1500 words - 25%
  • Mid-term exam - 20%
  • Final exam - 30%
  • Low stakes writing assignments - 10%

 All written assignments must be submitted to, which is a plagiarism-detection website.

Prerequisites: Philosophy 120 has no prerequisites and may be applied towards the Certificate in Liberal Arts, the W-requirement, and the Breadth/Humanities requirement. The course is a prerequisite for the upper division philosophy courses needed to complete an Ethics Certificate ( ).