PHIL 1100.03E -- Legal Thinking
Summer, 2002

Instructor: Prof. C. MacDonald
Department of Philosophy
Messages: 494-3810

Marker: Robbie Moser (

Time: Mon, Tue, Wed, Thu, 10 am - 12:15 pm
Place: Rm. 1130, FASS Bldg.

Should the state have the power to end the lives of dangerous criminals? Shall we leave people free to make up their own minds regarding abortion? Should the state attempt to prevent human cloning? Does the government have a duty to take from the rich to give to the poor, or is that unfair to the rich? 

Legislation enacted in these areas will dramatically affect how we live. But, who's to decide? People often say this as a way of avoiding decisions about controversial issues involving conflicts of interests and values. In many cases, however, some decision must be made. This course studies the application of reason in the resolution of such controversies. Laws and legal cases will be used to study this process of practical reasoning.

In this introduction to social and legal philosophy we will study these problems by looking at Canadian laws, cases and social policies. After an introduction to moral theory and a brief introduction to legal thinking, we will examine 6 important moral-legal issues, organized around 3 key ethical categories: Life & Death, Nature, and Justice. The object of the course is not just to provide information about the law, but also to provide the basis for thinking critically about the application of the law in these controversial areas.

Marking Scheme:

Quiz: 5%
Essay 1 (300 words) 5%
Essay 2 (400 words) 10%
Essay 3 (600 words) 15%
Essay 4 (800 words) 20%
Essay 5 (900 words) 20%
Exam: 25%
Total: 100%

Texts & Readings
Contemporary Moral Issues 4th edition, by Cragg and Koggel, (1997)

Unofficial Course Website:

Topics & Reading Schedule: (May 30-June 20)

Date Topic(s) Readings

Assignments Due


May 30

Intro to Ethics & Legal Thinking None  
June 3 Life & Death: Abortion Ch 2 Intro (41-45), English (73-79), Morgentaler v. The Queen (46-55) Essay 1 (Abortion)
June 4 Life & Death: Abortion Sherwin (94-107)  
June 5 Life & Death: Capital Punishment Ch 3 Intro (110-112), Brudner (156-169)  
June 6 Life & Death: Capital Punishment Amsterdam (169-174)  
June 10 Nature: Environmental Ethics Ch 9 Intro (464-467), Cragg & Schwartz (472-486) Essay 2 (Cap. Pun.)
June 11 Nature: Environmental Ethics Regan (503-513)

Quiz (covering everything up to & including Regan)

June 12 Nature: Cloning Baird (@ Campus Copy or on-line)
(We will also look at The Federal Government's Bill C-65, "an Act Respecting Assisted Human Reproduction," especially the Act's list of Prohibited Activities. See also Health Canada's Press Release concerning the new Bill. Copies of these last 2 items will be distributed in class.) You can download a Word document with the relevant bits of the Bill here.
June 13 Nature: Cloning MacDonald (@ Campus Copy or on-line)  Essay 3 (Env.) (note: deadline changed from June 12)
June 17 Justice: Poverty Ch 8 Intro (418-421), Govier (433-443) Essay 4 (Cloning)
June 18 Justice: Poverty International Covenant (422-425), State of Human Development (425-432)  
June 19 Justice: Aboriginal Rights Ch 7 Intro (360-362), Trudeau (363-364), Erasmus & Sanders(365-370) Essay 5 (Poverty)
June 20 Justice: Aboriginal Rights Stevenson (402-414)



Important note about Academic Honesty:

Dalhousie University defines plagiarism as the presentation of the work of another author in such a way as to give one's reader reason to think it to be one's own. Any time you use someone else's words or ideas you must give that person credit. Plagiarism is a form of academic fraud.

Plagiarism is considered a serious academic offence which may lead to loss of credit, suspension or expulsion from the University, or even the revocation of a degree.