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Queen's University

Graduate Courses                                     

Course Offerings for 2014-15:


PHIL 802 Moral Philosophy I 3S

R. Kumar Winter Term

What is it for one person to morally wrongs another? Is it a mistake of some kind not to care whether one wrongs others? Can we hold others responsible for wronging us, and if so, what does that involve? Do the intentions with which a person acts make a difference to whether he has wronged another? T.M. Scanlon subtly explores these, and other questions, in his books, What We Owe to Each Other and Moral Dimensions.  Together, they articulate the most important systematic non-consequentialist account of morality currently on offer. We will discuss both books in this seminar, with the aim of understanding the unity of Scanlon's account of moral reasoning.


PHIL 803 Moral Philosophy II 3S

K. Gordon-Solmon Winter 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 806 Social and Political Philosophy II 3S

A. Macleod Fall Term

Distributive Justice. An exploration of some central questions of distributive justice. Topics (with sample questions within brackets): The Domain of Distributive Justice (How are judgments about just conduct, just institutions , and just states of affairs related?) Justice and Law (Is consistency in the application of unjust laws a form of justice?) Distributive Justice and the Market (Can meaningful judgments of justice be made about market-determined distributions of wealth, power and opportunity?) Distributive Justice and Utilitarianism (Is there a viable utilitarian perspective on issues of distributive justice?) Justice and Rights (What role do considerations of distributive justice play in the justification of rights?) Justice and Libertarianism (How far is the voluntariness of the transactions to which individuals and groups are parties the key to justice in society?) Justice and Democracy (What is the relationship between just institutional arrangements and institutional arrangements that receive democratic endorsement?) Justice and Contractarianism (What light do hypothetical contract arguments throw on the nature of justice?) Justice and Equality (Could equality of opportunity be all that justice requires?) Justice and Incentives (Is there an objection from the standpoint of justice to incentive-providing economic inequalities?) Justice and Desert (What contribution do notions of desert or merit make to our understanding of what is involved in treating people fairly?) Justice and Efficiency (Are justice and efficiency competing values, subject to trade-off? Liberty and Equality (Does justice call for the claims of liberty and equality to be balanced?).

Discussion will be based on handouts and on selections from books and articles. Members of the class will be required to submit short weekly comment sheets on assigned topics and readings. Some agreed proportion of these will be worth 50% of the final grade. The other 50% will be allocated on the basis of a term-paper.


PHIL 807 Social and Political Philosophy III  3S

(Cross-listed with 4th year course PHIL 407)

J. Bickenbach Fall Term

This course will examine recent debates about the relationship between liberal democracy and the claims of ethnocultural groups. In the past, most Western liberal-democratic states adopted policies that attempted to either assimilate or exclude ethnic minorities. In the past forty years, however, we have seen a significant change in attitudes, and a movement towards greater recognition and accommodation of ethnic diversity – a trend that is often described as the rise of “multiculturalism”. But what is the relationship between liberal-democratic values and multiculturalism? Defenders of multiculturalism often argue that the recognition of ethnocultural diversity is fully consistent with liberal values of freedom and equality, and indeed contributes to their fuller realization. Critics argue that multiculturalism jeopardizes these core values. In this course, we will examine this debate both at the theoretical level and in relation to a number of specific cases, including claims raised by immigrant groups, substate national minorities, and indigenous peoples, both in Canada and around the world. Issues to be discussed include the relationship between cultural membership and individual freedom; the relationship between individual rights and group rights; the role of religion in a secular state; the relationship between multiculturalism and feminism; the definition of citizenship, popular sovereignty and self-determination; and the rectification of historical injustices.


PHIL 810  History of Philosophy I 3S

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

R. Murty Fall Term



PHIL 820  Ethical Issues I 3S

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

U. Schuklenk Winter Term

This bioethics course has run successfully for a number of years. Our schedule in terms of class topics will be discussed and jointly decided on during our first class. It is imperative that you think carefully about the question of what bioethical issues you'd like to work on during this term. I will cover the first few weeks in terms of seminar presentations to ensure that you will have sufficient time to prepare your own presentation on the topic of your choice. Topics typically covered include global health ethics, human enhancement, international research ethics, end-of-life decisions, as well as a wide range of other issues. 

There is no required textbook for this course. A reading list consisting mostly of journal articles will be distributed prior to our second class. It will be your responsibility to source those articles via the University Library. I will ensure that each required journal article will be accessible to you. 

The success of this course depends on you reading the required readings prior to each class. This will be reflected in the grading scheme. It emphasizes three components: class participation, the quality and style of your presentation and your final paper.  

You are strongly encouraged to contact me prior to the course to discuss possible class/essay/presentation topics. I can be reached at .


PHIL846  Major Figures II

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

P. Fairfield  Winter Term

This seminar examines Martin Heidegger's Being and Time, which we shall read in its entirety, followed by hisDiscourse on Thinking. Topics include phenomenology and hermeneutics, temporality, art, language, death, Heidegger's conception of "thinking," and the distinction between Being and beings. Assessment will be based on one essay and one seminar presentation.


PHIL851 Epistemology I     3S

(Cross-listed with 4th year course PHIL451)

M. Smith Fall Term

The traditional, and tiresome, task of epistemology has been to take ‘S knows that p iff ____’ and then try to fill in the ‘____’ with necessary and sufficient conditions. This course will not be about that.

Instead, we will investigate a number of recent and fruitful pathways for thinking about knowing, largely inspired by feminist epistemology and philosophy of science. We will look at questions of social epistemology (e.g. how is collective knowledge made? How do we make knowledge together? And who is “we” anyway?); questions of epistemic justice and injustice (e.g. whether political justice requires epistemic justice); questions of the making and unmaking of ignorance; questions of the role of metaphor in knowledge-making; and others.

Readings for the seminar will include work by Catherine Z. Elgin, Miriam Solomon, Sally Haslanger, Miranda Fricker, and others. (We may also read some relevant fiction.)


PHIL852 Metaphysics I     3S

(Cross-listed with 4th year course PHIL452)

H. Laycock Fall Term

Analytical metaphysics in the 20th and 21st Centuries is heavily influenced by logical ideas stemming from the work of Frege, and increasingly too by developments in the field of Linguistics. Among the most influential philosophers in this tradition is Quine, with his famous semi-mathematical maxim 'To be is to be the value of a variable'. But there are opposing and more traditional currents going back to the process-philosophy of Whitehead and also to the  philosophy of ancient Greece, especially the 'hylomorphic' thought of Aristotle. This is a course in modern analytical metaphysics, including ontology, but we will be situating contemporary approaches in a broader context. Among the questions to be addressed is the question of the nature of metaphysics itself, as it is currently conceived. Again, what is a metaphysical category? How is metaphysics related to logic, and what is the status of logic anyway? What is an object? What (if anything) is a universal? What is mereology? What is the role of reference in metaphysics? What is the importance of identity?  We shall be reading the work of a number of contemporary writers who address these and related questions.


PHIL 854  Topics in Feminist Philosophy 3S

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

J. Davies Winter Term

Special Topic:  Sex work

For feminists, sex work is a hot topic—contentious and divisive. In this country it is an especially timely topic. Challenges to the criminality of activities related to sex work are now before the Supreme Court of Canada.  But even if existing anti-sex work laws are repealed, there is plenty of room for new regulation. The need for reflection on what is at stake is pressing.

As well as applied ethical and policy questions, sex work also raises meta-ethical issues and questions about  epistemological authority.  Among those we will consider is whether sex work is inherently (or perhaps just contingently) exploitive and alienating (in a Marxist or any other sense); whether it can be a site of autonomy or necessarily involves its violation (as Kant thought); and whether the question of consent is perhaps a red herring within a culture of female subordination (as Catharine MacKinnon thinks).  What‘s in a name—prostitute, whore, or sex worker? Victims of human trafficking or migrant labourers? Who is in a position to know the answers to these questions?  Is experience necessary? Also, how is sex work gendered and does it matter?  Though most prostitutes are female and most customers are men, there are male and transgendered prostitutes and straight female and queer customers, as well as women who in one way or another live off the avails (i.e. “pimp”).  Do these variations make a difference that affects how gender shapes sex work and vice versa?  Do these variations challenge our assumptions about how we know, explore and express sexual and other parts of personal identity?  How do we consider the impact of racism, colonialism, transphobia, and the capitalist production of poverty on the buying and selling of sex without undermining the agency of those who engage in it? Are there any philosophical revelations to be had by looking at the perverse relation between the marginalization of sex workers and desires for the exotic?

Since the course will run as a seminar, preparation and participation are essential. Students will be encouraged to develop philosophical skills and insights through (optional) collaborative research as well as (mandatory) solo writing projects.  There will be opportunities for students to enhance presentation skills, and their ability to productively share critical and constructive feedback.  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 sex work (especially neoliberal globalization). 


PHIL859  Philosophy of Language I    3S

(cross-listed with 4th year course PHIL459)

N. Salay  Winter Term

We will be working through a central text in the philosophy of language, something hot off the presses, and reading related papers when a deeper understanding of the central text seems to call for it.  Stay tuned for more details.


PHIL864  Topics in Philosophy of Min    3S

(cross-listed with 4th year course PHIL464)

L. Maclachlan  Winter Term



PHIL 873 Philosophical Logic 3S

(cross-listed with 4th year course PHIL 473)

A. Mercier Fall Term

PREREQUISITE:  PHIL361/3.0 or permission of the instructor.
  **This course should be of interest also to linguistics majors, who will be admitted to the course by permission of the instructor.**
This year's 873 will exceptionally be a course dedicated to various issues in Formal Philosophy and Montague Semantics (also called Montague Grammar).  Part philosophy of language, thought and cognition, part formal logic, this is basically a course on everything you need to know to understand most philosophical formalisms, such as required for serious analysis of language, mind, and thought, as well as pretty much anything else that is formalized in philosophy (although it is not a replacement for solid grounding in logic --for that, see PHIL 361 and 362). We will look at:

(1) logical and ontological categories in natural language

(2) basic concepts and notation of set theory (one language useful to the analysis of natural language semantics)

(3) properties of functions, cardinalities and recursion in natural language

(4) properties of relations, orderings and structures in natural language

(5) elements of Formal Grammar Theory: generative grammars, categories and categorial grammars

(6) Boolean algebras and morphisms in the logical analysis of natural language

and (time permitting)

(7) the uses of lambda abstraction, and

(8) the rudiments of intensional logic


PHIL 893  Ethics and the Environment 3S

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

Mick Smith Fall Term

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

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