B.A., M.A. (McMaster), Ph.D. (Bristol)
PROFESSOR & QUEEN'S NATIONAL SCHOLAR
More than 2000 years ago Aristotle described politics as a normative practical science. He believed that politics was the most authoritative of all the sciences (prescribing which sciences ought to be studied) because the central concern of politics is the good of humans. This ancient conception of the discipline inspires Colin's current research which integrates ethics and political philosophy with the empirical findings of evolutionary biology, genetics and psychology. Aspiring to help bridge the gap between the biological sciences and political theory, Colin is interested in how our species’ evolutionary history impacts (for better and worse) our ability to flourish, as both individuals and collectively as societies. Three general (related) topics encapsulate his current research:
(1) Our susceptibility to late-life morbidity and mortality.
The leading cause of disease and death in the world today is evolutionary neglect. Because the force of natural selection does not apply to the post-reproductive period of the human lifespan, aged persons are highly susceptible to the chronic diseases of aging, like cancer, heart disease and stroke. In an aging world perhaps no other field of scientific research is as important to the health prospects of today’s populations as biogerontology. This science might enable us to eventually modify the biological clocks we have inherited from our Darwinian past, thus permitting humans to enjoy more years of disease-free life. Colin’s research focuses on the social and political obstacles that impede aging research and the aspiration to decelerate the rate of aging.
(2) Our potential for happiness.
Political scientists have long asked the question: "Why vote?" But this question presupposes a more fundamental question: "Why do anything?" This latter question requires us to consider what kind of animal humans are. The ultimate (or evolutionary) causes of human behaviour have typically been ignored by political scientists who invoke rational choice theory or focus on the proximate causes of political behaviour. Colin's interest in these topics seeks to integrate political theory with the recent findings of evolutionary biology and positive psychology. Aristotle argued that we are a "political" animal; and Socrates famously claimed that "the unexamined life is not worth living". These sage insights from Ancient Greece actually possess a great deal of empirical plausibility. And Colin's current research explores the similarities between love, play and politics, the goal of which is to help bring to the fore the different range of activities, relationships, institutions, habits and dispositions that a good society ought to cultivate and celebrate if it is to flourish in the twenty-first century.
(3) Ideal and Nonideal theory.
What is political theory? What are the evaluative criteria by which we judge success or failure in the field? And why is it important for us to do political theory? Colin’s interest in these methodological issues informs both his teaching and research. He is interested in how political theory can both enhance and hinder our capacity for practical deliberation. As the instructor of a required, full-year course on the history of political thought (POLS 250), Colin believes it is imperative that a student of politics study how different theorists have attempted to link the “realm of ideas” to the “realm of governing human affairs”. Theory can help a student re-experience the past (via a survey of the history of ideas) as well as pre-experience the future by simulating different potential collective futures. The latter is a central focus of his seminar “Science and Justice”, which aspires to develop the diverse skills needed to address the ethical and social challenges posed by advances in the biomedical sciences.
Colin is a political theorist and philosopher and a Queen's National Scholar. Before joining the department in July 2008, Colin held full-time academic appointments at Waterloo University, Oxford University, the University of Manchester, Birmingham University and Aberdeen University in Scotland. He received his PhD from Bristol University in England in 1999. Colin has published 4 books and approximately 30 papers in academic journals in political science, philosophy, bioethics, law, science and medicine.
Justice, Democracy and Reasonable Agreement (Basingstoke: Palgrave MacMillan, 2007).
An Introduction to Contemporary Political Theory (London: Sage Publications, 2004).
Virtue Jurisprudence (co-edited with Lawrence Solum) (Basingstoke: Palgrave MacMillan, 2008.
Contemporary Political Theory: A Reader (editor) (London: Sage Publications, 2004).
(in Political Science)
"Play and Politics" (forthcoming) Journal of Political Science Education
"Virtue Epistemology and the "Epistemic Fitness" of Democracy" Political Studies Review (2012)
"Justice in Ideal Theory: A Refutation" Political Studies (2007)
"Dualism, Incentives and the Demands of Rawlsian Justice" Canadian Journal of Political Science (2005)
"Making Deliberative Democracy a More Practical Political Ideal" European Journal of Political Theory (2005)
"Taxation and Distributive Justice" Political Studies Review (2004)
"Equality and the Duty to Retard Human Aging" Bioethics(2010)
"Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis, Reproductive Freedom, and Deliberative Democracy" Journal of Medicine and Philosophy (2009)
"Genetic Justice Must Track Genetic Complexity" Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics (2008)
"Aging Research, Priorities and Aggregation" Public Health Ethics (2008)
"Justice in the Genetically Transformed Society" Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal(2005)
"Biogerontology and the Intellectual Virtues" (forthcoming) Journal of Gerontology: Biological Sciences
"Positive Biology" as a New Paradigm for the Medical Sciences" Nature's EMBO Reports (2012)
"Global Aging, Well-Ordered Science and Prospection" Rejuvenation Research (2010)
"Why Aging Research?" Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences (2010)
"Framing the Inborn Aging Process and Longevity Science" Biogerontology (2010)
"A Tale of Two Strategies: The Moral Imperative to Tackle Ageing" Nature’s EMBO Reports (2008)
"Why the NIH Should Create an Institute of Positive Biology" (forthcoming) Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine.
"Towards a More Inclusive Vision of the Medical Sciences" QJM: An International Journal of Medicine (2009)
"Has the Time Come to Take on Time Itself?" British Medical Journal (2008)
"Preparing for Our Enhanced Future" Journal of Medical Licensure and Discipline (2007)
"Normative Theorizing about Genetics" (forthcoming) Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics
"Patriarchy and Historical Materialism" Hypatia (2011)
"Mind the Gap: Senescence and Beneficence" Public Affairs Quarterly (2010)
"Gene Patents and Justice" Journal of Value Inquiry (2007)
"Historical Materialism and Supervenience" Philosophy of the Social Sciences (2005)
"Justice and a Citizens’ Basic Income" Journal of Applied Philosophy (1999)
"The Institutional Theory of Legal Interpretation" University of Toronto Law Journal (2008)
"Civic Liberalism and the ‘Dialogical Model’ of Judicial Review" Law and Philosophy (2006)
"The Social Character of Freedom of Expression" Canadian Journal of Law and Jurisprudence (2001)
"Public Reason, Neutrality and Civic Virtues" Ratio Juris: An International Journal of Jurisprudence and Philosophy of Law (1999)
POLS 857 - Science and Justice (Winter term)
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