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Queen's University

200 Level Courses

Course Offerings for 2015-16:


PHIL 201/3.0 Philosophy and Medicine    3L/S

S. Sismondo  Winter Term (Wed 4:00 - 5:30; Fri 2:30 - 4:00)

PREREQUISITE: Completed 30.0 or more units.

This is a course about diseases, evidence and the practice of medicine. Working closely with empirical examples, we will look at some of the big questions concerning medicine. Topics we will discuss may include:

• What is a disease? How does medicine recognize and diagnose diseases, and how does it decide what counts as treatments for them?

• Given the wide variation of medicine in time and place, what is medicine? Do we finally have it basically right, and if so, how do we know?

• How should we understand current alternative medicine movements and their knowledge claims?

• What is a placebo? Does the placebo effect challenge our standard conceptions of medicine?

• How is medicine shaped by the fact that healthcare is a large part of modern economies? What happens to medical knowledge and practice when big business becomes involved?


PHIL 203S/3.0  (Online Course) Science and Society

M. Smith Winter Term

This course is offered through Continuing and Distance Studies.  For more information on the content of this course, please go to the following website: 

PLEASE NOTE:  Students who have second-year standing/30 units can be registered in this course if space is available.  Please contact and include your full name and student number.   


PHIL 204/3.0 Life, Death, and Meaning 3L

M. Vossen  Winter Term  (Tues 8:30 - 10:00; Fri 10:00 - 11:30)

PREREQUISITE: 6.0 units in PHIL.  PLEASE NOTE:  Students who have second-year standing/30 units can be registered in this course if space is available.  Please contact and include your full name and student number.   

Questions of life’s meaning have elicited profound responses from a diverse group of thinkers, from philosophers classical and contemporary, from theological perspectives, and from works of literature. This course is about examining the merits of such responses. Topics to be discussed may include:

  • What is being asked when one asks “what is the meaning of life?”

  • What can be known of death, and should such knowledge shape how one lives?

  • Can impermanence, alienation, boredom, or worldly injustice render living meaningless?
  • In the sense that life has meaning, is such meaning discovered or invented? Is meaning conferred through one’s relationships with others, through becoming fully a human being, or in realizing one’s place in a social or cosmic order? Can one invest one's life with meaning? How?


PHIL233/3.0  Greek Philosophy 3L

T. Doppelt  Winter Term (Wed 1:00 - 2:30; Fri 11:30 - 1:00)

PREREQUISITE:  A GPA of 2.60 in 6.0 units in PHIL or CLST.

EXCLUSIONS:  no more than 1 course from PHIL232; PHIL233.

Students in PHIL 233 will engage with some of the most foundational and important arguments from ancient Greek philosophers including Plato, Aristotle, Parmenides, and Heraclitus. These arguments and our discussions of them will be concerned with questions such as:

  • What is the universe made of? Is everything made of the same substances? How do things fundamentally interact?
  • Is there more than one thing? If no, what is the one thing? If yes, how many things are there, and what kinds of things are they?
  • Does anything really change, or is change all there is? If nothing really changes, how can we explain the appearance of change? If everything is always in flux, how can we grasp the nature of anything?
  • What can we know? How can we be certain that we know what we think we know? What is the difference between knowledge and opinion?

  • What is justice? What is goodness? Is there a relationship between justice in the state and justice in the soul? What sort of life counts as a good life? Can we live a good life in an unjust state?

These questions, and the broad philosophical themes under which they fall will serve to both guide and unify the course. By thinking carefully about these questions and studying the arguments of the ancient Greek attempts to answer them, students will gain an appreciation for the genesis, development, and legacy of ancient Greek philosophical methodology and forms of argumentation.


PHIL 247/3.0 Practical Ethics       3L/S

P. Smolenski  Fall Term (Mon 11:30 - 1:00; Thurs 1:00 - 2:30)

PREREQUISITE: 6.0 units in PHIL.  PLEASE NOTE:  Students who have second-year standing/30 units can be registered in this course if space is available.  Please contact and include your full name and student number.   

Practical ethics is a linking discipline that seeks to bridge the gap between theory and practice. While normative ethics is about abstract principles that can enable us to make decisions, it may not be possible to simply apply these abstract principles in any straightforward way to particular problems and policies. Conflicts may arise between our abstract principles, and given the depth and complexity of some of the problems we face today, it may not be clear on what's the right thing to do. By drawing on the insights gained from traditional ethics, practical ethics looks to investigate pressing and concrete issues that we face in contemporary societies.

This course will encourage students to test, and perhaps even challenge, some of their most deeply held ethical beliefs to see if they can withstand philosophical scrutiny. Possible topics may include: terrorism, torture, and the ethics of war and the use of nuclear weapons; whether we have any duties to distant strangers, and future generations; climate change ethics; privacy in the digital age; corporate responsibility and potential conflicts with general morality; should parents be required to vaccinate their children; and whether there is anything money can't buy.


PHIL 250/6.0 Epistemology and Metaphysics 3L/S

J. Miller Fall/ M. Smith Winter Term (Mon 1:00 - 2:30; Wed 11:30 - 1:00)

PREREQUISITE: (A GPA of 2.0 in 6.0 units in PHIL) or (A grade of B- in 3.0 units in PHIL and level 2 or above in a COGS plan). 

Fall term:

What is there?  What exists?  What can we know of what there is?  What is it to know, anyway?  These questions will form the locus of our studies in the fall semester.  Our approach to them will be historical.  We will look at a variety of texts from ancient philosophy, starting with the earliest thinkers and ending with Aristotle.  We will see how answers to the questions evolved through time and indeed, how the questions themselves changed.  Reading closely some of the most important works from ancient philosophy, students should acquire a solid understanding of some central problems in metaphysics and epistemology by the end of the semester.

Winter term:

In the second term, we will explore contemporary material on some selected themes in epistemology and metaphysics, including personal identity and the concept of a person, freedom of the will, knowledge and justification, social epistemology, and other exciting topics of current philosophical concern.


PHIL 256/3.0 Existentialism 3L

D. Knight, Fall Term (Mon 8:30 - 10:00; Thurs 10:00 - 11:30)

PREREQUISITE: 6.0 units in PHIL.

Nietzsche announced the death of God.

Dostoevsky observed, “if God does not exist, …man is in consequence forlorn, for he cannot find anything to depend upon either within or outside himself." 

Sartre replied, "Man is condemned to be free; because once thrown into the world, he is responsible for everything he does" 

Existentalism raises urgent and puzzling questions about our existence as humans.  What if the world is fundamentally absurd — literally, without meaning? How should we live in light of this discovery?  Is it possible to will one’s own freedom?  What does it mean to live “authentically” — both in oneself and with others?  What does it mean to be responsible for everything we do?

We will consider the philosophical and literary roots of existentialism in the late nineteenth century through its full-blown emergence in France in the period immediately following the end of World War Two (Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Albert Camus, Jean Wahl).  We will also consider the relationship between philosophical existentialism and existentialist literature, between feminism and existentialism, between existentialism and postmodernism, as well as existentialism’s continuing cultural impact — recognizable in the novels John Barth and Paul Auster, the work of Woody Allen and Terence Malick, and films such as Fight Cluband Groundhog Day


PHIL 257/6.0 Ethics 3L/S

S. Leighton/ R. Kumar Fall-Winter Term (Tues 4:00 - 5:30; Thurs 2:30 - 4:00)

PREREQUISITE: A GPA of 2.0 in 6.0 units in PHIL. 

Passion, Virtue and Happiness:

Term one addresses the moral philosophy of Plato and Aristotle.  Their central question concerns how one should live, and leads us to consider what living well is, whether it requires being a good and virtuous person, and what these are.  Other matters to be considered include, the challenge of moral skepticism, the appropriate roles for the passions, reason, good and bad fortune.

The format of the course will be lecture-discussion.  The aim is to promote reflection on the above matters, and will include trying to come to grips with sometimes difficult texts, the philosophical visions offered, particular claims made, the arguments meant to support them, and (as far as we can tell) the truth about these matters, and the reasons why.

The basis for evaluation will be a mixture of in class exams, and written assignments.


Reason, Value and Moral Obligation:

Term two:  People attach a great deal of importance to doing the morally right thing. They feel guilty if they fail, and they  blame others when others fail. What explains why people take living morally to be so important? Would we all live better lives if we ceased to care about doing so? Further, though people want to do the morally right thing, they often disagree about what that is. What makes it the case that a certain way of acting is the morally right thing to do? Is it some kind of truth that can be discovered through reason? Or is something the morally right thing to do because of how people feel about? We will explore  some of the most important answers to these questions as through the careful examination of the work of Hume, Kant, Mill, Nietzsche, Moore, Ayer, Steveson and Foot.


PHIL 259S/3.0 (Online Course) Critical Thinking

N. Salay Fall Term

This course is offered through Continuing and Distance Studies.  For more information on the content of this course, please go to the following website:  

In this class you will learn how to think critically; you will learn how to evaluate arguments, claims, beliefs, and so on as well as how to make solid arguments of your own.  You will learn how to think clearly, a powerful skill indeed.  Since the complement to thinking clearly is writing clearly, this critical thinking course also includes a writing component.  Many of the assignments require short essay or paragraph-style answers.  These will be marked on content, grammar, and style.  


PHIL 261/3.0 Philosophy of Mathematics: Adventures in the Abstract    3L/S

M. Smith Fall Term  (Mon 4:00 - 5:30; Wed 2:30 - 4:00)

PREREQUISITE: Completed 30.0 or more units.

Our exploration will be organized around four questions that a satisfactory philosophy of mathematics should answer. First, what is (pure) mathematics about? What is its subject matter? Second, how is mathematical knowledge possible? Does it depend on experience, or is it purely rational or conceptual? Third, how can we explain the applicability of mathematics in science and in everyday life? Finally, what logic is suitable for mathematical thought? Is there just one right logic, or might there be several? What does it mean to say that a mathematical truth has been proved?

We will examine replies to these questions in the work of mostly contemporary philosophers. No background in mathematics is required.


PHIL 273/3.0 Continental Philosophy, 1800-1900       3L

P. Fairfield Fall Term (Tues 2:30 - 4:00; Fri 4:00 - 5:30)

PREREQUISITE: Completed 30.0  or more units.

This lecture course provides an analysis of key figures and texts in nineteenth-century continental European philosophy. We shall study key works by Søren Kierkegaard, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Wilhelm Dilthey. Major themes will include existentialism and hermeneutics. While existentialism is a twentieth-century term, its roots as a philosophical movement lie in the writings of Kierkegaard and Nietzsche in particular. Nietzsche and Dilthey were major figures in hermeneutics or the philosophy of interpretation, and their respective contributions to this field will be a focus in this course. Additional themes will include the critique of modern epistemology and metaphysics, religion and religious morality, and the conditions and limits of human knowledge. The format will be lecture with discussion.


PHIL 276/3.0 Critical Perspectives on Social Diversity  3L

K. Videchak   Winter Term  (Mon 8:30 - 10:00; Thurs 10:00 - 11:30)

PREREQUISITE: 6.0 units in PHIL at the 100-level or permission of the Department. 

This introductory course will cover key philosophical issues in areas such as gender equality, race theory, sexuality, class distinction, and other social categories where oppression is found. Discussions will likely include current inequalities between the sexes, the endured injustice of Black people and Aboriginals, issues in New-Age Feminism and rape culture, and attitudes and obligations of persons relative to social ranking. The goal of the course is twofold: firstly, to introduce and discuss differing perspectives on these topics, and secondly, to think critically about them in accordance with philosophical principles. 

This course is lecture-style, but class participation is both welcomed and encouraged in order to advance philosophical understanding and development. Individuals will be assessed through a combination of written assignments and essays, class participation, and a final exam. 

NOTE:  The course is intended to prepare students for upper level courses in feminist philosophy and the philosophy of culture.


PHIL 296/3.0 Animals and Society 3L

A. Pepper Winter Term  (Mon 11:30 - 1:00; Thurs 1:00 - 2:30)

PREREQUISITE: Completed 30.0 or more units.



Kingston, Ontario, Canada. K7L 3N6. 613.533.2000