Graduate Courses

*Note that students in the M.A. in Political and Legal Thought (PLT) program may enrol in PLT-designated courses offered by any of the program’s collaborating units (Philosophy, Political Studies, and Law). Philosophy Ph.D. students interested in enrolling in theory courses offered by Politics or Law should speak to the graduate coordinator (currently Professor Deborah Knight) about doing so.

Fall 2024

PHIL 804
Social and Political Philosophy
Fall - IN PERSON
Christine Sypnowich

Course description coming soon!

PHIL 810
History of Philosophy I
Fall - IN PERSON
Ram Murty

Course description coming soon!

PHIL 820
Ethical Issues I
Fall - IN PERSON
Udo Schuklenk

Course description coming soon!

PHIL 840
20th Century Philosophy I
Fall - IN PERSON
Lisa Guenther

Course description coming soon!

PHIL 841
20th Century Philosophy
Fall - IN PERSON
David Bakhurst

Course description coming soon!

PHIL 867
Hermeneutics 
Fall - IN PERSON
Paul Fairfield

Course description coming soon!

PHIL 873
Topics in Philosophy of Logic
Fall - IN PERSON
Adele Mercier

Course description coming soon!

PHIL 893
Ethics and the Environment
Fall - IN PERSON
Mick Smith

Course description coming soon!

PHIL 990
Pro Seminar
Fall - IN PERSON
Meena Krishnamurthy

Course description coming soon!

Winter 2025

PHIL 812
Topics in Philosophy of Culture
Winter - IN PERSON
Dolleen Manning

Course description coming soon!

PHIL 802
Moral Philosophy
Winter - IN PERSON
Kerah Gordon-Solmon

Course description coming soon!

PHIL 841
20th Century Philosophy II
Winter - IN PERSON
Josh Mozersky

Course description coming soon!

PHIL 864
Philosophy of Mind
Winter - IN PERSON
Elliot Paul

Course description coming soon!

Fall 2023

PHIL 805             
Current Issues in Social and Political Philosophy
FALL – IN PERSON
Instructor: Will Kymlicka

Topic: Interspecies Politics

There is growing recognition of animals’ moral status both within moral philosophy and at the level of public opinion. However, the growing recognition of animals’ moral status has not translated into any real change in their political status. Animals are not represented in politics, are not seen as political actors or as political stakeholders, and are essentially ignored when political decisions are made. They also remain almost entirely invisible within political philosophy. Whenever political philosophers discuss the core concepts of our field - democracy, representation, deliberation, legitimacy, accountability, citizenship, the people, the public sphere, claims-making, the demos, popular sovereignty, and self-government – animals are ignored. This course will explore why it has proven so difficult to translate moral status into political status, and what this tells us about the nature and purpose of “politics”. We will also explore recent efforts to theorize what an “interspecies politics” would look like, and to reimagine our relations with animals as political relationships.

PHIL 806             
Current Issues in Social and Political Philosophy
FALL – IN PERSON
Instructor: Meena Krishnamurthy

Topic: Martin Luther King, Jr. Now

With the resurgence of racism across the globe there is renewed interested in the political philosophy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. This course is an attempt to rediscover King’s ideas by shedding light on three of the most important and misunderstood elements of King’s mature thought: his analysis of racism and its causes; his political theory of direct action and civil disobedience; and his understanding of the place of ethical virtues in activism and social life. In interpreting King’s political philosophy, we will consider the work of leading critics and interpreters. We will also consider the relevance of King’s philosophy for Canadians by considering it in relation to Canadian anti-racist struggle. Among other things, we fill focus on the actions taken by the Wet'suwet'en land defenders, the movement to remove John A MacDonald statues and to defund/abolish the police.

Assessment: Weekly discussion questions, at least one class presentation/video; 2 papers or 1 longer paper.

PHIL 809 (This course is co-taught with POLS 858)      
Colloquium in Political, Legal, and Moral Philosophy
FALL – IN PERSON
Instructor: Gregoire Webber and Jean Thomas

This Colloquium course explores new work in legal and political philosophy. Once every two weeks, a legal, moral, or political philosopher will present a paper falling within the general boundaries of the Colloquium’s ambit.

In alternate weeks, students will meet with the Colloquium convenors (Professors Thomas and Webber) to prepare for the forthcoming session, examining the paper in depth. Students registered for the course will include law students and graduate students in philosophy and political studies.

PHIL 810-001             
Topics in the History of Philosophy
FALL – IN PERSON
Instructor: Ram Murty

Topic: An Introduction to Indian Philosophy

We will study primarily yoga philosophies that deal with epistemology and the philosophy of the mind. The six systems of Indian philosophy offer a framework through which the mind and its functions can be studied. We will focus on three of these systems: Samkhya, Yoga and Vedanta as well as the Bhagavadgita and study the writings of Vivekananda, Aurobindo, Radhakrishnan and Moore that pertain to these themes expanding on the Yoga philosophies in its widest sense.

PHIL 810-002             
Topics in the History of Philosophy
FALL – IN PERSON
Instructor: Jeffrey Collins

Topic: The History of Philosophical and Political Thought

This course will explore the history of political thought both methodologically and topically. Readings will include primary texts and secondary historical treatments. The chronological focus will be on the formative early modern period. Topics will vary by year, but may include: theories of sovereignty; natural law and natural rights; international law; theories of colonization; slavery; religious governance and toleration; resistance theory; gender and politics.

PHIL 841-001         
20th Century Philosophy
FALL – IN PERSON
Instructor: Joshua Mozersky

Topic: The Origin and History of Analytic Philosophy

This course is an in-depth study of analytic philosophy’s birth, development, and influence on 20th Century thought.  We begin with a brief overview of 19th Century views on the nature of mathematics and mathematical knowledge.  We then turn to the pivotal works of Frege on the foundations of arithmetic, and its extensions to his theories of meaning and thought.  Next, we take a look at the ideas of Russell and Wittgenstein that took off from Frege’s works.  We end with an examination of some of the most influential analytic works from the middle and later 20th Century, with an eye toward understanding the strengths, limits and prospects of the movement.

PHIL 841-002         
20th Century Philosophy
FALL – IN PERSON
Instructor: Lisa Guenther

Topic: Phenomenology

Phenomenology is a philosophical practice of reflecting on the transcendental structures that make lived experience possible and meaningful.  It begins by bracketing the natural attitude, or the naïve assumption that the world exists apart from consciousness, and “reducing” this everyday experience of the world to the basic structures that constitute its meaning and coherence.  In this sense, phenomenology points us in a critical direction.  But where classical phenomenology remains insufficiently critical is in failing to give an equally rigorous account of how contingent historical and social structures also shape our experience, not just empirically or in a piecemeal fashion, but in a way that is so fundamental, we could call it quasi-transcendental.  Structures such as patriarchy, white supremacy, and heteronormativity permeate, organize, and reproduce the natural attitude in ways that go beyond any particular object of thought.  They are not things to be seen, but rather ways of seeing, and even ways of making the world that go unnoticed without a sustained practice of critical reflection to make them visible.  In this seminar, we will learn the basic concepts of classical phenomenology and explore the possibilities for critical phenomenology in the work of Frantz Fanon, Sara Ahmed, Gayle Salamon, Alia Al-Saji, and others.   

Presentation (20%)

10 Weekly Discussion Posts (total 20%)

Participation (10%)

Final Paper (50%)

PHIL 845         
Major Figures I
FALL – IN PERSON
Instructor: Paul Fairfield

Topic: Gabriel Marcel

This is a seminar course for graduate students on two major works in English translation by the French philosopher of existence Gabriel Marcel (1889-1973): The Mystery of Being volume 1, Reflection and Mystery, and volume 2, Faith and Reality. These texts were published in 1951 and based on Marcel’s Gifford Lectures at the University of Aberdeen in 1949-50. These volumes present in a relatively systematic way most of the major themes in Marcel’s thought, from being and having to human dignity, the individual against the mass, technology and modernity, creative fidelity, and the distinction between a problem and a mystery. We may supplement these with one or two other books by Marcel, depending on students’ interests. Marcel was among the preeminent French philosophers of his era, and my reasons for offering a seminar on this thinker include his enduring relevance for our times and my own enthusiasm for his work.

PHIL 846         
Major Figures II
FALL – IN PERSON
Instructor: Elliot Paul

Topic: Descartes

This is a seminar on Descartes’s epistemology or theory of knowledge, with a special focus on his central notion of clarity. What does it mean to perceive things clearly? Is Descartes right that we can perceive certain things more clearly through the pure intellect or understanding than we can through the senses? When a perception is completely clear, Descartes thinks it is thereby indubitable, infallible, and provides certain knowledge. What does he mean by these claims, and to what extent is he correct?

In addition to Descartes’s most celebrated work, the Meditations on First Philosophy, we will read selections from his Rules for the Direction of the Mind, the Discourse on the Method, the Principles of Philosophy, the Passions of the Soul, and his correspondence.

While our primary task will be the interpretive one of figuring Descartes’s views, we will also consider how his views might be brought to bear upon certain debates in contemporary epistemology.

PHIL 866        
Topics in the Philosophy of Art
FALL – IN PERSON
Instructor: Deborah Knight

Topic: Philosophical Aesthetics

This course will address topics in philosophical aesthetics such as questions of taste and judgement, the nature of aesthetic concepts, and how these apply to areas such as the natural environment, the human environment, and the everyday.

Texts/Readings Course readings will be available through Queen’s Library’s E-reserves and linked to our OnQ site.

Assessment will be based on assignments such as weekly comment sheets, a seminar presentation, and a final essay.

PHIL 893       
Ethics and the Environment
FALL – IN PERSON
Instructor: Mick Smith

This course will engage with key environmental issues such as biodiversity and extinction, climate change, conservation, eco-feminism, deep and radical ecology, ecological restoration etc. drawing on various philosophical traditions in ethics, hermeneutics, political philosophy, ontology, and phenomenology. The aim is to provide both an overview of the variety of topics that can be encompassed within environmental philosophy and to encourage participants to develop critical and innovative approaches to questions of direct practical import. While the focus will generally be on our ethical relations to non-human entities and our understanding and interpretation of these relations we will be particularly concerned to examine the ways in which our ethical evaluations might be informed by, and inform, our understandings of particular places/environments.

Winter 2024

PHIL 803             
Moral Philosophy II
WINTER – IN PERSON
Instructor: Kerah Gordon-Solmon

Topic: Current Themes in Moral Philosophy

This seminar will be built around works in progress primarily by leading moral philosophers.  It will consist of five units, two sessions each.  A unit’s first session will concentrate on one or more canonical papers on a particular topic.  Its second session will focus on a draft manuscript by a philosopher working on that topic, who will attend as our guest to discuss their work with us.

Schedule:

January 9 — Introduction

January 16 — EASTERN APA (no class)

January 23 — background reading for our session with Dan Muñoz

January 30 — Daniel Muñoz (UNC Chapel Hill)

February 6 — background reading for our session with Tom Dougherty

February 13 — Tom Dougherty (UNC Chapel Hill)

BREAK WEAK

February 27 — background reading for our session with Saba Bazargan

March 5 — Saba Bazargan (UC San Diego)

March 12 — background reading for our session with Jordan MacKenzie

March 18 (Monday) 6:30pm — Jordan MacKenzie (Virginia Tech)

March 26 — background reading for our session with Johann Frick

April 2 — Johann Frick (UC Berkeley)

PHIL 812             
Topics in the Philosophy of Culture
WINTER – IN PERSON
Instructor: Dolleen Manning

An examination of major issues in the philosophy of culture. Possible topics to be studied include: the history of the philosophy of culture; the relationship between culture and identity or the self; the relationship between culture and progress; and various forms of cultural relativism.

PHIL 820            
Ethical Issues I
WINTER – IN PERSON
Instructor: Udo Schuklenk

We will discuss in each class a limited number of specific topics in bioethics. Typically, in this course, the topics are student-initiated. We have, in past installments of this course, covered a wide variety of issues, ranging from gender reassignment to the criminalisation of HIV transmission to standards of care in a trial, global health aid obligations and MAiD for patients with refractory depression.

You are encouraged to work on a topic/question that is of genuine interest to you, and focus on that, both in your classroom presentation as well as in what will be your only major written piece of work, namely an extended essay (5000 words for PHIL420 students, 6000 words for PHIL820 students). In the essay you are required to defend a clear thesis, reviewing arguments without taking and defending a stance won’t cut it.

I will cover the first 3-4 weeks with lectures and readings, after that it will be your turn.

The structure of each class is: 20-30 min presentations per topic (by me or you), rebuttal (10-15 min by students assigned that task in advance), general classroom discussion. The required readings will be agreed on in advance of the class. The objective of these presentations is to ‘test-run’ your essay arguments. The presentation will be on the same topic as your essay.

Reconsider taking this course if presenting content and subjecting yourself to a lively discussion of your views might pose a challenge you’d rather not face.

Reconsider taking this course if the thought of having to write a coherent 5000 or 6000 word argument in support of a position you need to defend/argue for might not be your thing.

Everyone else: come on in. The course is usually enjoyed by those taking it.

In case you’d like to get a head-start, contact me during the summer term to lock in your topic and presentation date. I operate a first come first served policy. You can reach me at  udo.schuklenk@pm.me

Texts/Readings: Given that we will have readings based on the essay topics/questions you wish to address, there won’t be a prescribed text. We typically pick one or two peer reviewed journal articles to study in preparation for a given classroom presentation. You will access those prescribed readings journal articles using library resources.

Assessment Essay: 40% of overall grade

Presentation: 20% of overall grade

Rebuttal: 15% of overall grade

Weekly Required Readings Question: 10% of overall grade

Classroom participation: 15% of overall grade

PHIL 821 (This course is co-taught with CUST 807)           
Ethical Issues II
WINTER – IN PERSON
Instructor: Lisa Guenther

Topic: Abolition and Decolonization

In this seminar, we will study some key abolitionist (and) decolonial texts in the context of recent blogs, podcasts, and webinars on current movements to defund and abolish police and prisons. The aim of the course is to situate our present moment in relation to a longer arc of decolonial abolitionist praxis (understood as the relation between theory, action, and reflection) in order to recover and co-create methods for dismantling carceral-colonial institutions and building freer, healthier, and more just communities. Throughout the semester, we will reflect on the map as a colonial instrument of domination, but also as a creative tool for navigating oppressive structures and sketching concrete alternatives to the world that slavery and colonialism have built. We will also activate our collective power to dream, not as an escapist fantasy but as a critical research method that moves beyond an analysis of what is wrong with the world to experiment with ways of making it better.

PHIL 851       
Current Issues in Epistemology
WINTER – IN PERSON
Instructor: Sergio Sismondo

Topic: Conspiracy Theories

We’re going to study conspiracy theories. What makes some narratives conspiracy theories? What, if anything, makes conspiracy theories different from other narratives about power in our societies? We’ll be approaching the topic assuming that we can reasonably study the causes of the credibility of conspiracy theories using the same tools and intellectual resources as we might study the causes of the credibility of any other kind of belief. This means that we’ll be approaching conspiracy theories with a combination of generosity and critical analysis. Some background reading should help us to do this.

This is a seminar course. Students will be responsible for becoming experts on particular conspiracy theories, and for teaching their peers about those theories.

Texts/Readings: multiple readings, mostly available online

Assessment: Evaluation will be based on a combination of a seminar presentation, class participation and a final research paper.

PHIL 851       
Current Issues in Metaphysics
WINTER – IN PERSON
Instructor: Henry Laycock

What were once referred to as The Elements have become known more recently as the elements and compounds of chemistry. The roles of these substances, not only in the constitution of our bodies and the condition of our planet, but also in the evolution of the cosmos, are central to all three distinct if connected studies. The ancient pre-Socratic notion of an element is very close, for all intents and purposes, to the current notion of a ‘pure chemical’ (or substance – in effect, the notion of an ‘element’, so-called, or compound). Indeed, in identifying water as just such a kind of stuff or ‘element’, the pre-Socratics were already 25% correct. What the ancient notion of an element rules out, among stuff in general, is nothing but the mixtures (for which there are, of course, no theoretical or law-like principles). However, what the pre-Socratics were about, in these endeavours, was not the philosophy of chemistry; that science did not yet exist. Rather, it was an early form of metaphysics, or maybe, more appropriately, metachemistry – an attempt to elucidate the ontic category that such things as water, gold and salt exemplify. Perhaps the most profound attempt to to understand the general category such substances represent is that of Anaximander, who speaks of the Apeiron , ‘the unbounded’ or ‘the Boundless’. Unfortunately however, as things turned out historically, the pre-Socratic efforts were effectively undermined by Aristotle, for whom concrete individual things – and not the stuff they are composed of – becomes the fundamental level of reality. Ironically, a kind of Aristotelian doctrine continues to dominate in analytical philosophy, and even in the abstract form of logic. One consequence of this is that the notion of a substance in an everyday and scientific sense cannot be understood or ‘admitted’ to the realm of ontic categories. Water, the liquid we both drink and swim in, becomes a mere abstraction. But this situation calls for serious re-thinking, not only of what the realm of ontic categories actually contains, but also of just what is wrong with the dominance of an atomistic logic of concrete individual things – what Quine refers to as the ‘canonical notation’. This rethinking was begun by Otto Jespersen, the distinguished Danish linguist, whose work marks the beginning of a much-needed re-examination and philosophical re-thinking.

Assessment: Class participation and an essay.

PHIL 870
Topics in the Philosophy of Science
WINTER – IN PERSON
Instructor: Catherine Stinson

Topic: Modeling Approaches to Social Epistemology

Social Epistemology investigates the epistemic effects of social interactions and social systems. This course will introduce a set of formal methods (game theory, cellular automata, network epistemology models, epistemic landscape models) that have recently become popular tools in this field, and some of the questions that have been explored using these methods. Topics to be covered include the dynamics of scientific communities (are there benefits to diversity? how should labour be divided?), the emergence of unfairness (what conditions lead to racial segregation? why is sexism so prevalent?), the pursuit of democracy (what are the properties of the best democracies? how informed do voters need to be?), and the impact of online misinformation (how does vaccine hesitancy spread?, are there effective methods for reducing the spread of fake news?).

No previous experience with programming or formal methods is expected, however willingness to learn is necessary. Projects will be done in groups that include computing students, political philosophy students, and philosophy of science students.

PHIL 989
Clinical Practicum in Biomedical Ethics
WINTER – IN PERSON
Instructor: David Campbell

Note: Application Required

The Clinical Practicum in Biomedical Ethics is intended for graduate students in philosophy (especially senior PhD students) who are interested in learning about a career in clinical ethics and how bioethical principles and issues are applied in a health care setting. Students will learn about the role of clinical ethics and learn about the real life ethical issues and challenges that clinicians, managers, staff and patients deal with on daily basis. Students will have the opportunity to shadow the Kingston Health Sciences Centre Ethicist and join him and on hospital rounds, ethics consults, debriefs, organizational meetings, and educational activities. Students will learn about specific ethical issues including consent and capacity, substitute decision-making, medical assistance in dying, end of life issues, moral distress, and trauma informed care. Through course readings, discussion and hospital based observation and experience, students will have the unique opportunity to see applied ethics in action.