Department of Philosophy



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Douglas Jay with Victoria JayThe Philosophy Department had a special visitor this week when 92-year-old former instructor (Charles) Douglas Jay, came with his granddaughter, Victoria Jay (a second-year Concurrent Education student at Queen’s), and son, Garth Jay, to see the campus.

The visit was well timed, coming on the heels of Remembrance Day, as Doug taught returning Second World War veterans in 1946-7.  He was hired at the tender age of 20, having just completed his BA in Philosophy and History at the University of Toronto.  (Doug’s father was a minister who was posted in different tiny communities, so Doug, educated in one-room schoolhouses, managed to get ahead in his studies and finish high school early.)

Doug taught 300 former servicemen, and a handful of largely female undergraduates, newly arrived from high school, the Ethics and Philosophy courses that were then compulsory for all students.

The veterans were not unkind to this green, very young professor.  However, Doug remembered one time when he was teaching Logic and the difference between possibility and probability, he encountered some resistance.  One former soldier complained of the agony of trying to learn the material, and how he didn’t see the point, since most people thought and acted illogically.  But Doug persuaded the student that knowing such distinctions was important if you were going to try to understand the world!

Although he was hired by George Humphrey, then the head of the joint Philosophy and Psychology department, Doug met Humphrey only once during the year, even though they shared an office in the back wing of Summerhill, then home to the joint department.  Humphrey was on leave most of the year, before taking up the Chair in Experimental Psychology at Oxford University.  The one encounter Doug recalls was when his lecture notes were spread out on Humphrey’s desk, for which Doug apologized.  But Humphrey rebuked Doug, not for commandeering his desk, but for the poor quality of paper Doug was using, exhorting him to use the finest paper available for writing one’s lectures.  Doug explained that given that this was his first foray into lecturing, he was unlikely to keep his notes.  But Humphrey said, “Not at all, I’ve kept my notes from my first year teaching and use them still”!

Doug, Garth and Victoria enjoyed tea and conversation with former Head of Department and Professor Emeritus, Alistair Macleod (who knows much of the history of the department), another former Head, Professor David Bakhurst, and the new Head of Department, Professor Christine Sypnowich.

Doug said he had fond memories of his year in Kingston and at the university.  “Queen’s gave me my initiation!” he exclaimed.  Doug went on to an illustrious career, getting his PhD from Edinburgh, and teaching philosophy, ethics and theology at the University of Toronto, where he also became Principal of Emmanuel College and founder of the School of Theology.  Charles Douglas Jay has the Order of Canada.

As for Victoria, she says she’s “loving Queen’s,” and this recent connection between past and present has made her appreciate the tight-knit community all the more.

Christine Sypnowich, Douglas Jay, Victoria Jay, Garth Jay and Alistair Macleod