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Queen's University

Graduate Courses                                     

Course Offerings for 2014-15:


PHIL 802 Moral Philosophy I 3S

R. Kumar Winter Term (Wed 6:30 - 9:30 p.m.)

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 (Wed 6:30 - 9:30 p.m.)

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 806 Social and Political Philosophy II:

Justice, Human Rights, and Equality of Opportunity               3S

A. Macleod Winter Term (Wed 8:30 - 11:30)

In addition to discussing various approaches (legal, economic, liberal, libertarian, utilitarian, “meritarian,” contractarian, egalitarian, etc.) to the articulation and defense of principles of justice, this seminar will explore both (a) the role played by considerations of justice in the justification of human rights and (b) the question whether there is a version of the equal opportunity ideal that can accommodate the defensible elements in otherwise rival accounts of justice.

Discussion will be based on handouts and on selections from books and articles. Members of the seminar will be urged to submit brief comment sheets on the weekly topics and readings. While the final grade will be assigned principally on the basis of a term paper, seminar participation and revised comment sheets may also contribute to determination of the grade.


PHIL 810  History of Philosophy:

An Introduction to Indian Philosophy               3S

(cross-listed with 4th year course PHIL 410)

R. Murty Fall Term (Thurs 8:30 - 11:30)

This course presents a short introduction to the major topics under the heading of Indian philosophy.  Beginning with the Vedic and Upanishadic philosophy, we discuss the philosophy of the Bhagavadgita.  We compare this with the evolution of Buddhism and then discuss the traditional six systems of philosophy, namely, Nyaya, Vaisesika, Samkhya, Yoga, Purva Mimamsa and Vedanta.  This study then brings us to the modern period and we survey the essential philosophies of Vivekananda, Aurobindo, Tagore, Gandhi, Krishnamurti, and Radhakrishnan.

Recommended texts:

M. Ram Murty, Indian Philosophy, An Introduction, Broadview Press ISBN 978-1-55481-035-2

A Sourcebook in Indian Philosophy, edited by S. Radhakrishnan and C.A. Moore, Princeton University Press ISBN 0-691-01958-4


PHIL 820  Ethical Issues I 3S

(cross-listed with 4th year course PHIL 420, but taught separately)

S. Sismondo, Winter Term (Tues 2:30 - 5:30)

This course will concern ethical issues to do with pharmaceuticals.

The first cluster of issues are sparked partly because of drug companies’ efforts to promote high levels of drug consumption in wealthy populations. For example, these companies make great efforts to shape scientific knowledge about their products, and to transfer that knowledge to researchers, physicians, and potential consumers. Their actions in this domain raise many ethical issues worth discussing, issues about, for example: the bounds of cosmetic pharmaceuticalization, conflicts of interest and appropriate ways of dealing with it, integrity in research, and the enrolment of research subjects.

However, simultaneously there are populations in which there are low levels of consumption of “essential medicines”. In those populations, health would be served by reshaping access to drugs, whether via markets or states. The burden of disease is so large that it seems ethically necessary to ensure that at least some drugs are available for free (or very close to free) for a large number of people.


PHIL 831 Ancient Philosophy I:

Emotion, Appropriateness and Context in Plato and Aristotle                3S

S. Leighton Winter Term (Tues 11:30 - 2:30)

This course will be concerned with Aristotle on the nature, place (or places), appropriateness and inappropriateness of emotion and particular emotions.  While the main focus will be ethical or moral appropriateness, we will also consider emotion(s)’s suitability to rhetoric, the theatre, and so forth.  Because Aristotle’s thought is so highly indebted to Plato’s, the first few weeks will look at the same matters in Plato. This proves interesting on its own, and of benefit to understanding Aristotle.

Works to be considered include Plato’s Phaedo, Republic, Ion and Philebus, as well as Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, Rhetoric, Poetics and Politics.


PHIL846  Major Figures II

(cross-lised with 4th year course in PHIL446)

P. Fairfield  Winter Term (Tues 8:30 - 11:30)

This seminar course examines two of Friedrich Nietzsche’s major works, Beyond Good and Evil and The Will to Power in English translation. Major themes to be discussed include the critiques of philosophy and morality, interpretation, the will to power, the eternal return, perspectivism, and Nietzsche as stylist. We will also read an article by Babette Babich by way of introduction to the course and David Allison’s Reading the New Nietzsche.


PHIL851 Epistemology I:

New Thinking About Knowing                  3S

(Cross-listed with 4th year course PHIL451)

M. Smith Fall Term (Mon 11:30 - 2:30)

This term, the focus of our seminar will be on the important linkages between epistemic and socio-political concerns. We will discuss social epistemology, issues concerning objectivity and value, epistemic responsibility and the epistemology of ignorance, epistemic injustice and oppression, and other aspects of knowledge and ignorance that have critical bearing on human life.

Our main text will be the exciting recent book by José Medina, The Epistemology of Resistance (Oxford U.P., 2013), in which we find a sophisticated and fruitful account of epistemic virtues and vices, privilege and oppression, and the crucial epistemic role of resistance in epistemology. The thesis is that better knowing will contribute to more just, less oppressive life.

In addition to Medina’s book, we will also read and discuss other current work in epistemology—for instance by Elizabeth Anderson and Miranda Fricker—on related themes, which will allow us to develop a well-rounded picture of how epistemology should serve toward justice.


Seminar. Students will be expected to have done the readings carefully and thoroughly in advance, and be prepared to discuss them.


TBA, but we’ll settle on some combination of comment sheets, seminar presentation, and final research paper.


PHIL852 Metaphysics I     3S

(Cross-listed with 4th year course PHIL452)

H. Laycock Fall Term (Tues 2:30 - 5:30)

The idea that the structure of a sentence can reflect or illuminate the structure of reality is expressed clearly in Aristotle's Categories. The idea is carried forward in contemporary work in the philosophy of language, logic and ontology. In this course, the relationship between these fields of study is examined in relation to the influential thought of Frege, Quine, the linguist Otto Jespersen, and philosophers who have explored Jespersen's groundbreaking idea of the difference between 'the world of countables' and 'the world of uncountables'.


PHIL 854  Topics in Feminist Philosophy:

Special Topic:  Sex Work                      3S

(cross-listed with 4th year course PHIL 454)

J. Davies Winter Term (Thurs 11:30 - 2:30)

For feminists, commercial sex is a hot topic—contentious and divisive. In this country it is an especially timely topic. The Supreme Court repealed key sections of the Criminal Code of Canada in December 2013 and the possibility of new legislation criminalizing the purchase of sex by December 2014 looms large.  Whether new laws come into effect or not, changes in the “sex industry” seem likely.  Who will this hurt? Who benefits? How can we tell? The need for research and reflection is pressing.

In addition to political philosophy and policy questions, sex for pay raises meta-ethical issues and questions in epistemology and the philosophy of social science.  Is sex for pay inherently or contingently exploitive, subordinating or alienating (in a Marxist or any other sense)? Can commercial sex be a site of enhanced or diminished agency? Is it necessarily immoral (as Kant thought)? What’s in a name—“prostituted person”, “hustler” or “sex worker”? What is presupposed in “human trafficking” versus “migrant labour” discourses? How is social and epistemological situatedness relevant? Who is in a position to know the answers to these questions?  Is experience or political engagement necessary?

Since the course will run as a seminar, regular preparation and participation are essential. Students will be encouraged to develop philosophical skills and insights through collaborative research and solo writing projects.  There will be opportunities for students to enhance their presentation skills and to practice sharing constructive criticism.  The instructor will present introductory lectures to frame and contextualize readings, issues and methods.  Our analyses will draw on the tools of intersectionality theory as well as feminist, critical race, disability and queer theorists, attending carefully to the political economy of commercial sex (especially under global neoliberalism). Assignments include a take-home midterm, a brief seminar presentation and final paper.


PHIL859  Philosophy of Language I    3S

(cross-listed with 4th year course PHIL459)

N. Salay  Winter Term (Mon 2:30 - 5:30)

What is meaning?  How do we communicate our meaning(s)?  How are word meanings related to thoughts?  These questions will guide our reading and discussion throughout the term.  Part I of Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations will serve as our touchstone.  Where appropriate and helpful to the group, we will augment this core reading with more contemporary pieces, especially from the perspective of embodied cognitive science.


PHIL864  Topics in Philosophy of Mind:

Special Topic:  Phenomenal Realism                     3S

(cross-listed with 4th year course PHIL464)

L. Maclachlan  Winter Term (Mon 11:30 - 2:30)

The manifesto of phenomenal realism is: "Immediate experience and the present in which it is enjoyed is as real as it gets".  This creed has been dominant throughout the history of philosophy, but today comes into conflict with an aggressive materialism that seeks to downgrade or eliminate conscious experience.  The term "Phenomenal Realism" comes from David Chalmers, who is prepared to confront materialism.  Phenomenal realism had a focus in the Cartesian cogito, but it was also fundamental in British Empiricism.  Even Kant begins the Critique of Pure Reason with the claim that all our knowledge begins in experience.  Obviously, a discussion of phenomenal realism will tackle the perennial problem of the mind and the body, but through its reference to the present, it is also directly involved in the problem of relating McTaggart's A-series and B-series within the philosophy of time.  Moreover, since the theory does not claim that nothing is real except immediate experience, what is not immediately experienced must be known through representation.  This introduces our third major problem: the problem of how representation is possible.  How can we acquire knowledge of what lies beyond immediate experience?

Much of the hostility to phenomenal realism is due to the collapse of traditional empiricism and its more recent re-incarnation in the theory of sense-data.  We shall examine Bradley's attack on empiricism and the theory of the association of ideas and shall consider the alternative account of immediate experience that Bradley provides.  We shall also work through ideas in David Chalmers' recent book The Character of Consciousness.  Another important source of ideas is The View from Nowhere, by Thomas Nagel. I shall also be using some material from my own book The Enigma of Perception, although this will be of limited help in our exploration of the new territory.


PHIL 893  Ethics and the Environment 3S

(cross-listed with 4th year course PHIL 493)

Mick Smith Fall Term (Thurs 11:30 - 2:30)

This course will engage with a number of key environmental issues such as biodiversity and extinction, preservation or conservation, environmental and social justice, eco-feminism, deep ecology, bioregionalism and ecological restoration drawing on a number of philosophical traditions in ethics, hermeneutics, political philosophy, pragmatism, philosophy of science and phenomenology. The aim is to provide both an overview of the variety of topics that can be encompassed within environmental philosophy and to encourage participants to develop critical and innovative approaches to questions of direct practical import. While the focus will generally be on our ethical relations to non-human entities and our understanding and interpretation of these relations we will be particularly concerned to examine the ways in which our ethical evaluations might be informed by and inform our understandings of particular places/environments.


PHIL 897  Ethics and Animals 3S

(cross-listed with 4th year course PHIL 497)

W. Kymlicka Fall Term (Mon 8:30 - 11:30)

Animal Rights and the Frontiers of Citizenship

This course sits at the intersection of two recent developments in political theory: the first is the demand by animal rights theorists to include animals as full members of the moral community; the second is the trend towards using "citizenship" as the central organizing concept for advancing claims of justice (reflected, for example, in the way that demands for women's rights, gay rights, disability rights, children's rights, minority rights etc have all been rearticulated as movements for new forms of citizenship).  Given these two trends, it is natural to consider whether the claims of animal rights can also be articulated in terms of citizenship.  In this course, we will examine to what extent citizenship theory can illuminate some of the central moral issues that arise in human-animal relations, and conversely, to what extent the case of animals can illuminate the strengths and limits of different conceptions of citizenship. In particular, the case of animals forces us to reconsider traditional assumptions about the capacities required for citizenship (eg., capacities for rational deliberation or public reason); about our conceptions of political agency, participation and representation; and about the nature of political communities (eg., the rules of membership, territorial boundaries, etc).


Kingston, Ontario, Canada. K7L 3N6. 613.533.2000