Philosophy has been taught at Queen's since the University's first classes were offered in 1842, and the Department has played a prominent role in the evolution of the institution. The Department has offered graduate degrees for over one hundred years. Its first Ph.D. (in 1896) was also the first to be awarded in philosophy in Canada.
Today, the Department of Philosophy at Queen's University is recognized internationally for its research excellence in political philosophy and cognate fields like normative ethics, applied ethics (especially animal ethics and bioethics) and legal philosophy. It also has strengths in continental philosophy, early modern philosophy, ancient philosophy, history of philosophy, metaphysics and epistemology, philosophy of language, and philosophy of science. The Department’s faculty include nine members of the Royal Society of Canada (eight fellows and one member of the College of New Scholars, Artists, and Scientists), the Ontario Research Chair in Bioethics, and Canada Research Chairs in Political Philosophy and the Philosophy of Law. In addition to impressive faculty and outstanding students, the Department is home to an increasing number of research groups and projects, and many recurring and special events. Visit the pages linked below to learn more about the Department’s members and activities.
Philosophy History: John Watson
One of the most distinguished figures in Queen's University's early history was the philosopher John Watson, after whom Watson Hall, home to the Department of Philosophy, is named. Born in Glasgow, Scotland, and having studied Theology at the University of Glasgow, Watson arrived at Queen's in 1872, and served as head of the Department of Philosophy for the next 52 years, retiring in 1924. Watson had an enormous influence on the development of the Queen's curriculum; in addition to teaching philosophy, he introduced the disciplines of Economics, Political Studies, and Psychology to the University. He was the first Queen's professor to make a name for himself in the scholarly world and was the first philosopher in Canada to achieve an international reputation. He was an unusually progressive thinker and an early advocate of the admission of women to university. In one of his last books, The State in Peace and War (1919), he urged world governments to be based on tolerance and multicultural integration.