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David Langlois

Master's Philosophy, 2006

The Accidental Philosopher


by Deborah Melman-Clement

Dave Langlois didn't exactly have a lifelong love of philosophy.

The Oakville native was more interested in enjoying campus life and making new friends than he was in pondering complex ethical questions when he came to Queen's as an undergraduate. "I actually came to Queen's because of the location," he recalls. "I didn't know what I wanted when I was in high school, and I chose Queen's because it's in Kingston, which is close to home, but not too close to home."

Langlois' Queen's career began inauspiciously. "In my first couple of years, I skipped a lot of classes and didn't do too well," he says. But that all changed in his third year, when he enrolled in Rahul Kumar's upper-year ethics class. "I signed up for it for all the wrong reasons," he says. "It only met once a week and it was at a certain time of the day. It had nothing to do with the course itself."

The course proved a pleasant surprise. "I loved it," Langlois says. "It was the most challenging course I ever took. " In fact, he enjoyed the challenge so much that he stayed an additional year to earn his Master's degree in Philosophy. Once in the Master's program, Langlois found himself drawn to the study of normative ethics and practical reason. "In my undergrad years, I was very interested in applied ethical questions," he recalls. "I was interested in understanding our duties toward animals and toward each other and toward impoverished countries."

He enrolled in courses that promised to answer those questions, but found the answers unsatisfying. "Rahul's courses were the first ones I really enjoyed. They were more fundamental than other classes. They were about morality and values, which made it possible to think about the more specific questions in a clearer, deeper way."

Langlois looks back fondly on his experiences at Queen's. "Grad school at Queen's was pretty much perfect for me," he says. "When I started, I really wasn't sure if I wanted to do it professionally. The first thing that attracted me to the program was that it gave me a chance to think about it more carefully to see if I really wanted to do it. At Queen's, I was afforded the opportunity to really think it through."

Part of that had to do with the department's relatively small size. "One of the great things about Queen's is that I had pretty much unmitigated access to the professors," he explains. "I was able to talk with my profs whenever I wanted to." In fact, Langlois had no shortage of people to talk shop with. "My fellow grad students were also great to talk to," he says. "We'd spend our time talking and doing philosophy together," he says.

Today, Langlois continues to spend his time doing philosophy, as he works toward a doctorate in the discipline at Harvard. "I got caught up in meta-ethics and practical reason when I was at Queen's," he says, "and I'm still working on those questions now."

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