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PHILOS 1B03 Philos,Law&Society

Academic Year: Fall 2015

Term: Fall

Day/Evening: D

Instructor: Prof. Wil Waluchow


Office: University Hall 302

Phone: 905-525-9140 x 23465


Office Hours: Thursdays, 11:30-12:30, or by appointment

Course Objectives:

Course Description

An introduction to philosophy through an examination of a variety of issues in moral, political and legal philosophy. Topics to be discussed include: the role of The Canadian Charter of Rights in our constitutional democracy; terrorism, torture and the rule of law; the legal enforcement of morality; legal restrictions on hate speech and pornography; assisted suicide.

Course Format

There will be two 50-minute lectures per week plus one 50-minute tutorial. Assessment will be based on two essays (maximum five pages each), tutorial participation, and a final examination.


By the end of the course, you should have a sense for what philosophical problems are, and have formed and defended your own views on at least some of them. In addition, by the end of this course you should have improved your ability to:

  • Read and understand difficult and challenging texts
  • Appreciate the many dimensions of some of the most fundamental moral, political and legal issues facing our society
  • Critically assess the strengths and weaknesses of arguments
  • Formulate and defend your own arguments and ideas
  • Write clearly, concisely and effectively in support of your claims

Textbooks, Materials & Fees:

Course Text

Law and Morality: Readings in Legal Philosophy, 3rd edition, Dyzenhaus, Moreau and Ripstein (eds), (Toronto: U of Toronto Press, 2008)

Course Website

I will be using a course website on Avenue to Learn ( to post regular updates and information about the course, copies of material distributed in class (including Power Point slides), supplementary readings and essay questions. I strongly encourage you to check in regularly.

Method of Assessment:

Assessment for this course will be based on two essays, a final examination, and tutorial participation. You will also be expected to attend tutorials regularly and to contribute to discussion.

  1. Essays (50%)

You will be asked to write two essays for this course, each of which should be 4–5 pages in length (12 pt. font, double-spaced, regular margins, not including bibliography). The purpose of the essays is to provide you with an opportunity to engage with the material covered in class in more depth and to express and defend your own thoughts about it, while developing your skills in critical thinking and writing. The essays will each count for 30% of your final grade. Further information about the essays, and expectations for them, will be provided in class and on the course website.

2. Final Exam (40%)

The final examination for this course will be two hours in length. It will consist of a combination of short answer questions and essay questions. The examination will cover material spanning the entire term, but some emphasis will be placed on material covered in the latter half of the course.

3. Tutorial Attendance and Participation (10%)

There will be weekly tutorials for this course, beginning in the second week of classes. Each tutorial group will contain a maximum of 25 students. Tutorials provide you with an invaluable opportunity to explore, question and discuss ideas and arguments introduced in class in a way that is simply not possible in large lectures. Since critical discussion of ideas is integral to philosophy, tutorials form an essential part of this course.

Those who attend tutorials “regularly” will receive the full 8/10 for attendance. “Regularly” does not mean always: you may miss up to three tutorials across the term without any penalty (no explanation or documentation required). Each further missed tutorial will result in a deduction of 1/10 (i.e. 1% of your final grade). The remaining 2/10 will be awarded on the basis of the quality of your contributions to discussion, as determined by your TA.

Summary and weights:

Essay 1: Due Wednesday, Oct 14, 11:59 PM; 20%

Essay 2: Due Wednesday, Nov 18, 11:59 PM; 30%

Final Exam: During Scheduled Exam Period; 40%

Tutorial Attendance and Participation: 10%

Please Note the Following Policies and Statements:

Academic Dishonesty

You are expected to exhibit honesty and use ethical behaviour in all aspects of the learning process. Academic credentials you earn are rooted in principles of honesty and academic integrity.

Academic dishonesty is to knowingly act or fail to act in a way that results or could result in unearned academic credit or advantage. This behaviour can result in serious consequences, e.g. the grade of zero on an assignment, loss of credit with a notation on the transcript (notation reads: "Grade of F assigned for academic dishonesty"), and/or suspension or expulsion from the university.

It is your responsibility to understand what constitutes academic dishonesty. For information on the various types of academic dishonesty please refer to the Academic Integrity Policy, located at

The following illustrates only three forms of academic dishonesty:

  1. Plagiarism, e.g. the submission of work that is not one’s own or for which other credit has been obtained.
  2. Improper collaboration in group work.
  3. Copying or using unauthorized aids in tests and examinations.

Email correspondence policy

It is the policy of the Faculty of Humanities that all email communication sent from students to instructors (including TAs), and from students to staff, must originate from each student’s own McMaster University email account. This policy protects confidentiality and confirms the identity of the student.  Instructors will delete emails that do not originate from a McMaster email account.

Modification of course outlines

The University reserves the right to change dates and/or deadlines etc. for any or all courses in the case of an emergency situation or labour disruption or civil unrest/disobedience, etc. If a modification becomes necessary, reasonable notice and communication with the students will be given with an explanation and the opportunity to comment on changes. Any significant changes should be made in consultation with the Department Chair.

McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF)

In the event of an absence for medical or other reasons, students should review and follow the Academic Regulation in the Undergraduate Calendar Requests for Relief for Missed Academic Term Work. Please note these regulations have changed beginning Fall 2015. You can find information at If you have any questions about the MSAF, please contact your Associate Dean's office.

Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities

Students who require academic accommodation must contact Student Accessibility Services (SAS) to make arrangements with a Program Coordinator. Academic accommodations must be arranged for each term of study. Student Accessibility Services can be contacted by phone 905-525-9140 ext. 28652 or e-mail For further information, consult McMaster University's Policy for Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities.

Academic Accommodation for Religious, Indigenous and Spiritual Observances

Students requiring academic accommodation based on religion and spiritual observances should follow the procedures set out in the Course Calendar or by their respective Faculty. In most cases, the student should contact his or her professor or academic advisor as soon as possible to arrange accommodations for classes, assignments, tests and examinations that might be affected by a religious holiday or spiritual observance.

Topics and Readings:


Other Course Information:

Further Notes

1. 5 marks (out of 100) will be deducted from Essay grades for every 100 words in excess of the prescribed limit.

2. 5 marks per day (out of 100) will also be deducted for late Essays. Exceptions will be made only if you have legitimate medical or personal/compassionate reasons. If you find yourself in such a situation, take your documentation to your Dean of Studies. In due time they will send us a memo. Full details on McMaster’s policies regarding requests for relief for missed academic work can be found at

3. In this course we will be using a web-based service ( to reveal plagiarism. Students will be expected to submit their work electronically to via Avenue to Learn. Students who do not wish to submit their work to must notify the instructor for permission to submit a hard copy instead. No penalty will be assigned to a student who does not submit work to All submitted work is subject to normal verification that standards of academic integrity have been upheld (e.g., on-line search, etc.). To see the Policy, please go to

4. You must submit your essays electronically, using the “Dropbox” tool on Avenue to Learn. Please make sure that you choose the correct folder for your tutorial group. Comments and grades will be returned to you electronically, through Avenue.

5. Your essays should include your name and your TA’s name, be in 12-point font and double-spaced, and have regular sized margins. The question you are answering in the paper should be clearly identified. Please number all pages (this makes commenting easier). Please submit only in one of these two file formats: MS Word or pdf.

6. Essays must not be submitted to the Philosophy Department Office. They must be submitted directly via Avenue to Learn. Be sure to keep your own electronic copies of all work submitted.

7. The scale used by the Registrar's Office will be used to convert number grades to final letter grades.

8. Course evaluations: Students will be asked to complete course evaluations at the end of the term.

9. If you require assistance in developing your writing skills, or in developing strategies for taking tests and examinations, the Centre for Student Development may be of some help to you.