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Queen's University

400 Level Courses

Course Offerings for 2015-16:

Please note when prerequisites list level 4 as a requirement, this means the 4th year of your program.  It does not mean admitted to Honours. 


PHIL 405/3.0 Current Issues in Social and Political Philosophy I        3S

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

PREREQUISITE: Level 4 and registration in a PHIL Major or Medial plan and (a minimum GPA of 2.60 in PHIL250/6.0 and PHIL257/6.0) and (6.0 units in PHIL).

"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 406/3.0  Current Issues in Social and Political Philosophy II:            3S

The Egalitarian Conscience                                                                         

C. Sypnowich Winter Term  (Mon 8:30 - 11:30)

This is a course about the concept of equality in light of the philosophical contribution of the late G.A. Cohen, who until recently was the Chichele Professor of Social and Political Theory at All Souls College, Oxford.  One of the most original, incisive and influential political philosophers of our time, Cohen has left a corpus of work vital to the flourishing of the discipline.

It might be said that equality is something everyone believes in; virtually all political philosophies across the spectrum claim to be egalitarian, be it in their insistence on individuals’ equal rights to liberty and property or the importance of redistributing wealth more equally.  We are all egalitarians now, we can proclaim, in the rather triumphalist mood that characterised many commentaries on the occasion of the millennium.  However, the concept of equality has also been challenged by a number of factors: the collapse of the Soviet Union and societies of ‘state socialism’; the rise of right-wing critiques of the welfare state, and controversy within egalitarian debate itself.

Cohen’s intellectual career, shaped by personal conviction and philosophical commitment, has confronted and illuminated many of these challenges.  This course looks at the idea of equality in light of contemporary debates, drawing on the work of Cohen, the philosophical context of his work and recent interpretations of his ideas, including the instructor’s recent work, both published essays and an excerpt from her manuscript ‘Equality Renewed,’ which is to a significant extent inspired by Cohen’s contribution.


1) Sypnowich, Christine (ed.) The Egalitarian Conscience: Essays in Honour of G.A. Cohen (Oxford University Press 2006)

2) Articles to be distributed electronically

3) Chapters from G.A. Cohen, Rescuing Justice and Equality (Harvard U.P., 2008)

Course structure :

This is a seminar, so it is imperative that students come to class prepared to talk about the course material.  The first couple of classes will be structured around lectures given by the instructor, with discussion.  Thereafter classes will be structured around students’ comment sheets to prompt discussion.  Comment sheets consist of a two-page, double-spaced short paper that sets out and analyses one or both of the readings.  Students should be prepared to discuss the comment sheet with the class.  Comment sheets will be submitted at the end of the class to be marked. 

Assessment :

1)     50% based on the best five of six comment sheets;

2)     50% based on the final essay


PHIL 420/3.0 Ethical Issues I 3S

U. Schuklenk, Fall Term  (Tues 8:30 - 11:30)

PREREQUISITE:  Level 4 and registration in a PHIL Major or Medial plan and (a minimum GPA of 2.60 in PHIL250/6.0 and PHIL257/6.0) and (6.0 units in PHIL). 

Canada's Supreme Court ruled this year that the criminalisation of assisted dying violates our Charter rights. Our federal and provincial governments must now come up with a regulatory regime during the next few months. - Medical non-governmental organizations such as Doctors without Borders, MSF, have considered offering experimental agents that had previously only been tested in animals to patients with Ebola Virus Disease. - 

Ethical challenges arising out of issues such as these two will be on the agenda of this course. I will offer lecture style introductions to these and other bioethical issues during the first few weeks of this course, you will take over during the remainder of the course. You will be able to choose bioethical issues of your choice, there is no fixed course schedule. We will discuss and determine the course agenda during our first meeting. It is in your best interest to reflect on your interests prior to our first class.

Your final grade comprises of these components: a final substantial essay based on your course presentation, your course presentation, your class participation and a weekly discussion question that you must email to me prior to a scheduled class that demonstrates that you have done your required readings. 

There is no course reader for this course, we will rely on journal articles or other resources that are available free-of-charge to you thru the University library.

You are strongly encouraged to contact me during summer to discuss possible essay/presentation topics. 


PHIL 441/3.0  20th Century Philosophy I     3S

P. Fairfield, Fall Term  (Wed 11:30 - 2:30)

PREREQUISITE:  Level 4 and registration in a PHIL Major or Medial plan and (a minimum GPA of 2.60 in PHIL250/6.0 and PHIL257/6.0) and (6.0 units in PHIL). 

The topic of this course is phenomenology. We shall begin by studying a couple of essays by Edmund Husserl, the founder of the phenomenological movement, and proceed to an in-depth analysis of Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s monumental work, Phenomenology of Perception (1945). Major themes include perception, embodiment, temporality, and the critique of dualism, among others. Participants in this seminar will offer one presentation and write one paper.


PHIL 445/3.0 Major Figures I:  The Unknown Descartes    3S

M. Smith, Fall Term  (Tues 2:30 - 5:30)

PREREQUISITE:  Level 4 and registration in a PHIL Major or Medial plan and (a minimum GPA of 2.60 in PHIL250/6.0 and PHIL257/6.0) and (6.0 units in PHIL). 

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.


PHIL 452/3.0 Current Issues in Metaphysics I 3S

H. Laycock Winter Term  (Wed 2:30 - 5:30)

PREREQUISITE:  Level 4 and registration in a PHIL Major or Medial Plan and (a minimum GPA of 2.60 in PHIL250/6.0 and PHIL257/6.0) and (6.0 units in PHIL). 

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 463/3.0 Metaphysics II:  The Metaphysics of Mind

D. Knight Winter Term  (Fri 11:30 - 2:30)

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 464/3.0 Topics in Philosophy of Mind   3S

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

PREREQUISITE: Level 4 and registration in a PHIL Major or Medial plan and (a minimum GPA of 2.60 in PHIL250/6.0 and PHIL257/6.0) and (6.0 units in PHIL).

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 in general, as well as our understanding of particular emotions.


Kingston, Ontario, Canada. K7L 3N6. 613.533.2000