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Queen's University

Graduate Courses                                     

Course Offerings for 2015-16:


PHIL 802 Moral Philosophy I 3S

R. Kumar Winter Term 

In this seminar, we will closely read several papers by Joseph Raz concerned with the nature of rational and socially embedded agency. Questions to be discussed include the relationship between reasons and values, the dependence of values on social forms and practices, the nature of practical reasoning and the role of well-being in practical thought, the distinctiveness of moral reasons, objectivity and relativism in practical thought, and aspects of responsible agency. Readings will mainly be drawn from the papers collected in Raz's Engaging Reason(1999) and his From Normativity to Responsibility(2011).


PHIL 803 Moral Philosophy II 3S

K. Gordon-Solmon Fall Term 

When is it morally permissible for one human being to kill another?  Many people believe that killing a   person is permissible when doing so is necessary to save one’s own life.  But surely this isn’t always   the case.  It would be wrong, for example, to use an innocent bystander as a human shield against   an oncoming bullet.   Some philosophers also claim that it would be wrong to shoot down a human   projectile (who’s been involuntarily shot of a cannon, say), even knowing the force of the impact will   be fatal to you. In this course, we'll focus on the range of arguments that have been advanced in the   contemporary literature on the ethics of self- (and other-) defense.   Readings will be by Jeff   McMahan, Mike Otsuka, Jonathan Quong, and Victor Tadros (among others).

Evaluation will be based on one seminar presentation (20%), a submitted final paper question and   prospective bibliography (5%), and a final paper (75%).


PHIL 805  Social and Political Philosophy I: The Frontiers of Citizenship        3S

(Cross-listed with 4th year course PHIL405)

W. Kymlicka  Fall Term

"Citizenship" has arguably been the central organizing concept for advancing claims of justice in the past century. Demands for women's rights, gay rights, disability rights, children's rights, minority rights – even animal rights - have all been rearticulated as struggles for new forms of citizenship. All of these cases challenge inherited ideas of what defines the attributes of a (good) citizen, and in much of the popular debate and academic literature, attempts to extend citizenship to some of these groups are sometimes seen as diluting the fundamental values of citizenship. This course will explore the frontiers of citizenship. In particular, it will explore whether citizenship should be understood, not in terms of some static list or threshold of capacities or virtues, but rather as a process of what Jim Tully calls “citizenization” – the attempt to restructure social and political relationships on the basis of democratic values of consent, participation, trust, membership and autonomy rather than on the basis of force or paternalism or exclusion. Viewed this way, the task of citizenship is to enable all members of society to have a say in matters that affect them, and to thereby contribute to the democratic governance of the larger society, even if they do not participate in the particular ways or in the particular spaces envisaged in classical citizenship theory. The course will explore what we gain, and we might potentially lose, in opening up citizenship theory to radically diverse forms of belonging and participation.


PHIL 806  Social and Political Philosophy II                       3S

(Cross-listed with 4th year course PHIL406)

C. Sypnowich  Winter Term



PHIL 809  Colloquium in Political, Legal and Moral Philosophy         3S

TBA Fall Term (Mon 2:30 - 5:30 p.m.)



PHIL 820  Ethical Issues I 3S

(cross-listed with 4th year course PHIL 420)

U. Schuklenk, Fall Term



PHIL841  20th Century Philosophy I              3S

(Cross-listed with 4th year course PHIL441)

P. Fairfield  Fall term



PHIL845  Major Figures I:  The Unknown Descartes             3S

(Cross-listed with 4th year course PHIL445)

M. Smith Fall term

Descartes is best known as a defender of dualism; in the Meditations, he seems to rip the human person into two halves, the mind on the one hand and the body on the other. But can mind and body be sewn back together again? Much less well-known is Descartes’s later attempt to account for the wholeness of the embodied human person, a project that begins with Descartes’s exchange of letters with Princess Elisabeth of Bohemia (which we will read), and culminates in his last book, The Passions of the Soul. We will examine the Passions in detail, and explore Descartes’s account of agency, embodiment, ethics, happiness, and love.


PHIL846  Major Figures II

A. Mercier  Winter Term 



PHIL850 Epistemology I                 3S

D. Bakhurst Winter Term

A study of a range of contemporary epistemological questions, particularly in application to issues in philosophy of education.  Topics may include: the epistemology of testimony and its relevance to teaching and learning; education as initiation into an epistemic community; critical thinking and responsiveness to reasons; second-person thought and understanding; epistemic dependence and autonomy; the epistemology of disagreement; education and epistemic virtue; education and the cultivation of self-knowledge.


PHIL852 Metaphysics I     3S

(Cross-listed with 4th year course PHIL452)

H. Laycock Winter Term

Since the very earliest days, metaphysics – and in particular ontology – have been intimately related to logic.  But in this sense, logic is not a mechanical exercise.  Rather, it is an enquiry into the basic structural features of assertions about ‘what there is’.  And following the rise of modern logic, W.  V. Quine gave a surprisingly simple answer to this question.  To be, he said, ‘is to be the value of a variable’.  But what exactly does this mean?  In this course, we’ll begin at the beginning, with the philosophers of the ancient world, from the pre-Socratics to Aristotle.  Aristotle’s presence continues to be felt – and primarily through two ideas: his doctrines on the primacy of individual ‘substances’, structured material bodies, and on their internal nature, as compounds of matter and form.  In contemporary philosophy, such ideas are raised to the level of analytical enquiries into concepts, where concepts themselves are thought of as reflected in the meaning of words like ‘object’, ‘matter’, ‘event’, ‘time’, and so on.  Now, therefore, metaphysics is inseparable from both logic and the philosophy of language. The course will consist largely in the study of writings in the analytical metaphysics of the past 50-100 years.

PHIL 863  Metaphysics II:  The Metaphysics of Mind      3S

(cross-listed with 4th year course PHIL 463)

D. Knight Winter term

Our focus this year is on the metaphysics of mind.  In particular, we will examine the debates around personal identity and the self.

We start with the usual suspects (Descartes, Locke, Butler, Reid, Hume) and examine how their arguments have been challenged and/or developed by Bernard Williams, Derek Parfit, Sydney Shoemaker, Thomas Nagel, John Perry, Christine Korsgaard, Marya Schechtman, and others.

Questions will include:  Is there a criterion of personal identity — say, memory?  (Consider Christopher Nolan’s Memento.)  Or perhaps there is a bodily criterion?   What role is played by Locke’s notion of “consciousness” — more familiar to us as “self-consciousness”?  If our account of personal identity is in some significant way a psychological account, what should that entail?  What counts as the unity of a person?  Does the continuing identity of persons actually matter?  Why should we care if we die but an exact duplicate carries on our tasks and relationships?  Is Parfit’s idea of “survival” really what we should be aiming for, not identity after all?  What is this thing we call (our) “self”?

Students should expect to write comment sheets on a regular basis, make a seminar presentation and contribute to seminar discussions, and write a final essay.


PHIL 864  Topics in Philosophy of Mind          3S

(cross-listed with 4th year course PHIL 464)

S. Leighton Winter Term

This course will look at recent work within the philosophy of the emotions, with particular concern for the contributions of Peter Goldie.  Our goal will be to explore some of the debates on the status of emotions subsequent to the work of William James, and then to consider more closely the work of Goldie.  Each of these components will take roughly half the length of the class.


PHIL870  Philosophy of Science    3S

J. Mozersky  Fall Term



Kingston, Ontario, Canada. K7L 3N6. 613.533.2000